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Telegram App Adopts Disappear Messages Like Snapchat

July 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Telegram, which gained notoriety for its encrypted messaging service, just upped its privacy game for users.

The app now lets you send your friends “self-destructing” photos and videos that disappear after a few seconds, the company said in a recentblog post. How long it takes for the media to go away depends on how long you set the timer for.

If this update sounds all too familiar, that’s because it’s similar to Snapchat’s ephemeral pictures and video. Snapchat isn’t unfamiliar to having its features cloned by other apps, however. In the last year, Facebook has rolled out a similar feature to Instagram, WhatsApp and its the Facebook app.

While self-destructing messages are automatic on Snapchat, Telegram requires you to set a timer (anywhere from one second to a minute) telling it when to work its magic before you send the selected media, which can only be viewed on the devices used to send and receive it. The feature doesn’t work on its Web platform.

The app’s latest move, billed as a way to improve privacy, may come at a bad time, given some governments believe the app offers a safe haven for terrorists to spread extremist ideas and plot attacks. After troubles in Russia, Telegram last week found itself banned in Indonesia, where authorities said they detected “thousands of communication activities [on Telegram] leading to terrorist activities.”

 

Does Windows 10 Support Intel’s Atom Chip

July 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

While most people expected that Windows 10 would last a while, it appears that some Intel users will not get feature updates.

ZDNet’s Ed Bott has written that systems built around Intel’s Clover Trail Atom processors are blocked from installing Windows 10 Version 1703, known as the Creators Update.

For those with the memory of goldfish, Intel’s Clover Trail Atom processors are generally low-cost, low-power machines released between 2012 and 2015. The devices that the chips are installed would end up broken or at the bottom of the wardrobe. However if you do try to install Windows 10 on the machine you will get the message that “the chip is no longer supported on this PC”.

Clover Trail machines were shipped with Windows 8 or 8.1. If their owners had kept Windows 8.1, they’d be eligible for the regular 5+5 support policy, with security updates ceasing on October 1, 2023. But the machines were deemed compatible with Windows 10 and hence eligible for the free upgrade that Microsoft offered to Windows 8.1 users for the first year of Windows 10’s release.

What is starting to look like happening is that rather than Windows 10 lasting on your machine forever, Vole is tying its software upgrades to hardware improvements. So your current computer might be able to run future versions of Windows 10, but Vole will not let you upgrade it until you get a better chip.

Each Windows 10 update will receive security fixes for just 18 months. Version 1607, the latest that these Clover Trail machines can install, will drop out of support in early 2018. After that date, they’ll cease to receive any patches at all.

The following Intel Clover Trail processors are currently not supported on Windows 10 Creators Update: Atom Z2760, Atom Z2520, Atom Z2560 and Atom Z2580.

However the issue is not because of an evil pact between Vole and the hardware industry. Clover Trail’s GPU was a non-Intel GPU designed by Imagination Technologies which has made driver development and support a nightmare.

Later Atom processors used Intel’s own GPU designs, a move that should simplify their ongoing support.

Courtesy-Fud

T-Mobile Continues Winning Streak, Adds 1.3M New Customers

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The nation’s third-largest mobile carrier said it added 1.3 million net new customers in the second quarter, aided largely by the 786,000 new phone customers on a post-paid plan, or who pay at the end of the month. The figure topped at least one Wall Street firm’s expectations.

The numbers underscore the fact that despite the rival carriers throwing themselves at you for your business, T-Mobile continues to win over new customers. The heightened pressure has resulted in more deals for consumers, including Sprint offering a year of service for free(excluding taxes and fees), and its prepaid arm Virgin Mobile going with an all-iPhone model with a rate of $1 for the first year of service. AT&T is throwing its DirecTV Now streaming service into its unlimited plan for $10 extra. Likewise, it was the first full quarter that Verizon offered its unlimited plan.

T-Mobile, conversely, has been relatively tame and quietly raised the price of its One Plus unlimited plan by $10, matching the price of Verizon’s $80 unlimited data plan.

Unlike in previous quarters, T-Mobile is the first of the big carriers to report results, so we won’t know for sure how well it fared relative to its competitors. The company has consistently outstripped its rivals in subscriber growth, leading the industry for 14 straight quarters.

One weak spot during the second quarter was T-Mobile’s prepaid business, which only saw 94,000 new customers, potentially because of the Virgin plan. T-Mobile sells prepaid service through its MetroPCS brand.

“MetroPCS continues to perform strongly, but we chose not to respond to irrational offers from some of our competitors during the second quarter,” T-Mobile said in its earnings report.

T-Mobile posted a second-quarter profit of $581 million, or 67 cents, compared with a year-ago profit of $225 million, or 25 cents a share. Revenue rose 10 percent to $10.2 billion.

Analysts, on average, estimated T-Mobile would earn 38 cents a share and post revenue of $9.8 billion, according to Yahoo Finance.

Amazon Jumps Into Social Media Shopping With Spark Launch

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc has rolled out a social feature called Spark that encourages members to showcase and purchase products on its platforms, the retail giant’s first clear move into the world of social media.

Spark, which is currently only available for Amazon’s premium paying Prime members, encourages users to share photos and videos, just like popular social media platforms Instagram and Pinterest. The new feature publicly launched on Tuesday for use on mobile devices that use Apple’s iOS operating system.

Spark users can tag products on their posts that are available on Amazon and anyone browsing the feeds can instantly find and purchase them on the platform. Users can also respond to posts with “smiles,” equivalent to Facebook’s “likes.”

“We created Spark to allow customers to discover – and shop – stories and ideas from a community that likes what they like,” said an Amazon spokeswoman.

“When customers first visit Spark, they select at least five interests they’d like to follow and we’ll create a feed of relevant content contributed by others. Customers shop their feed by tapping on product links or photos with the shopping bag icon.”

Amazon has also invited publishers including paid influencers and bloggers to post on Spark. Their posts are identified with a sponsored hashtag.

Intel’s Core X Appears To Be In High Demand

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel seems to have made a mistake over the demand for its eight- and 10-core Core X processors for the high-end desktop market.

Word on the street is that you can’t get your paws on eight- and 10-core Core X processors for love or money.

Part of the issue is that the Skylake-X-based Core X chips were based on the same chips Intel sells to its data-centre customers in the form of Xeon Scalable Processors. These punters are given more priority as data-centre customers generally dramatically outnumber the high-end desktop processor customers.

Another thought is that there is a suspicion that the chip’s launch was rushed and there was not enough time to build inventories of some of these Core X chips. As are result Intel did not get enough of the chips to distributors.

Like most rumors it brings up other questions – is Intel having difficulty making enough Core X chips?

Core X was being seen as an aggressive move by Intel, which validated the chips at much higher speeds out of the box than it had done with previous high-end desktop chips. But this has caused Intel a bit of a headache as it has to certify each of the 10 cores found on the 7900X runs at 4.3GHz. In the old days Intel had to deliver 22 percent less.

Intel claimed that the 14-nanometer+ technology used to build the 7900X is about 12% faster than the 14-nanometer technology used to build the 6950X. But to squeeze those sorts of numbers out of the 7900X must have had few design problems.

Then there is the matter of the price, which thanks to AMD has to be lower than it what it could previously got away with. Intel sells the 7900X for $999, while the older 6950X sold for around $1,700. This means that demand for the chip is higher/ All this means that Intel is being required to make more chips which are actually trickier to make.

All this plays into AMD’s hands as it is a lot easier to compete with Intel if it has nothing to sell.

Courtesy-Fud

Will WhatsApp Face Competition From Amazon

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Just when you thought the messaging app market couldn’t get any more crowded, along come the rumors that Amazon wants a piece of the action.

According to AFTV News, Amazon has begun surveying customers about the new messaging service to gauge which features are most important them.

Called Anytime, the rumored app will apparently be a one-stop-shop focused on voice and video calls, alongside a photo sharing feature with @mentions, as well as some highly-original real-time filters for photos and video with “special effects and masks.”

So yes, that will almost definitely mean more basic dog-eared AR seflies *eyeroll emoji*.

If the rumors are true, the service would also keep chats private and allows users to “encrypt important messages like bank account details”, allowing them to converse with businesses, make reservations, and – in true Amazon style – virtually shop until they drop.

“Based on the images I’ve been provided, Anytime by Amazon seems to be an all-in-one feature rich service that could even rival social networks,” the AFTV report stated. “[It] will also provide tasks that can be done in groups, like playing games, listening to music, and ordering food.”

There’s no word on how long the app will take to get into the phone-wielding hands of the masses, but a customer said the survey implied it was “a ready product”.

Are you surprised that Amazon is making a move on the messaging app market? We’re certainly not. The firm is desperate to get in on any kind of action these days in its plan to take over the world and be the go-to for everything.

Don’t be shocked when the company launches its own dating service, where we would expect you could get a dinner date with Alexa as part of a Black Friday deal.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is Virtual Reality To Expensive For The Masses

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The current generation of virtual reality is not dead, but it’s not exactly full of life, either. What once was a pulsating buzz has faded into the background of an industry, not because there are newer, shinier toys to play with, but simply because for all the newness and shine of VR, there has been little evidence that a significant audience exists for the experiences we can deliver at this time.

Earlier this week, Oculus instituted a temporary $200 price cut of the Rift, dropping the headset and its Touch controllers to a $400 bundle that comes packed with seven free games (including Lucky’s Tale, Medium, Toybox, and Robo Recall) and an Xbox One controller for good measure. That’s in addition to the $200 price cut Oculus rolled out in March for the headset and Touch combo, meaning the company has slashed the price by 50% in just four months.

On its own, this could actually be an encouraging sign, but taken in context of the rest of the news coming out of the VR sector, it’s more concerning than convincing. For one, Oculus looks to be bringing up the rear among the three major high-end VR options on the market, despite being a first mover and having the significant financial backing of Facebook. Through the first half of this year, tracking firm Superdata put the Rift’s installed base at just 383,000 units, compared to HTC Vive’s 667,000 units and PlayStation VR’s 1.8 million.

Even ignoring its relative sales position, Oculus is already in a tough spot in the enthusiast VR fight, technologically a step behind the more expensive Vive, but still more expensive (when considering the cost of a VR-capable PC) and less mass market than the PSVR. That’s a difficult problem for marketing anything, doubly so when what you’re selling is an experience that by its nature needs to be experienced to be fully understood, triply so when you’re drastically scaling back the number of demo units in retail locations where interested customers could get their first taste of VR.

I also question Oculus’ decision to shutter its in-house Story Studio, which was set up with Pixar veterans to show how VR could shift the medium of film as much as it could games. The studio’s Henry won an Emmy in 2016. Its follow-up, Dear Angelica, premiered at Sundance earlier this year to rave reviews and has been submitted for Emmy consideration at this year’s awards, which are still a few months away. In short, Story Studio was exactly the sort of investment in a potentially disruptive medium you would expect a company with long-term ambitions to keep. Instead, they cut it loose, with head of content Jason Rubin essentially saying it was time for external filmmakers to pick up the narrative VR ball (albeit with some $50 million in funding from Oculus).

There’s a bit of a theme there. Just a couple months before closing Story Studio, Rubin pointed out for GamesIndustry.biz at GDC that Facebook–and by extension, Oculus–isn’t a content creation company.

“Facebook’s not a media company,” Rubin said. “So there may be a day where Facebook says we’re going to head towards our core competency… That’s why I don’t have internal teams. I have exactly one group of three people besides Story Studios because that didn’t exist outside.”

Facebook didn’t pay $2 billion for Oculus in 2014 because it wanted to make games. It wanted VR to be a popular thing it could leverage for its social network. If HTC Vive or Sony or Microsoft can make VR work better than Oculus, that still gets VR where the social network wants it to be. That’s not ideal for Facebook, but after the Rift’s slow start, the hundreds of millions it already owes in court judgments, the hundreds of millions more it might be made to pay in the future, and seeing the face of the VR revolution leave under a cloud of controversy, one could understand if the company’s commitment to VR began to waver.

Speaking of the competition, I’m not terribly optimistic with what they’re bringing to the table. Sony’s PSVR is leading the pack, but I’m still skeptical whether the company’s interest in the hardware will be any longer lasting than its support for Vita, or Wonderbook, or PlayStation TV, or Move, or EyeToy, or stereoscopic 3D. Sony’s E3 conference featured some promising games in Polyarc’s Moss, two titles from Until Dawn developer Supermassive, and Skyrim VR, but little that stands out as a system-seller the way that Resident Evil 7, or even the prospect of last year’s Batman and Star Wars VR experiences might have. When asked at E3 about whether that lineup would boost PSVR adoption, Sony’s Jim Ryan was unsure.

“I think we are still really just learning about VR,” Ryan said. “When hopefully we meet in a year’s time, I will be able to give you a better answer to this question. It still won’t be a perfect answer, but I’ll know more.”

That’s not exactly an overwhelming vote of confidence from PlayStation’s chief marketer. I’m not sure I want to bet the future health of VR on Sony’s continued support for a market that is (for now, at least) peripheral to its core business.

The situation with HTC and the Vive underscores another issue when trying to establish an emerging field like VR. Vive launched at the cutting edge, but since then has rolled out object tracker peripherals and a wireless adaptor, respectively giving developers more options and addressing a key complaint around high-end VR. In both cases, they would be better served as being part of the core hardware package rather than optional add-ons for what is already the most expensive option on the market. For the next generation of VR, perhaps they’ll be standard.

But who will invest in the next generation of enthusiast VR–on either the consumer side or the manufacturer side–if this generation disappoints? How long does a VR generation need to be before someone who spent $800 on a Vive (not to mention the cost of a VR-capable PC) feels they got their money’s worth and would re-up for a successor? How many great games does it need to have? How many generations does an HTC or Facebook need to take a bath on before the business turns around and justifies the continued investment?

Then there’s Microsoft, which will enter the fray this holiday season with its “mixed reality” VR headsets for Windows that are cheaper and require less of a set up than Oculus or Vive, but appear to make compromises on the technical side to get there. It’s telling that even with Microsoft launching the high-end, VR-capable Xbox One X this year, it is foregoing any sort of console VR push and relying on higher resolutions and better frame rates for Xbox One games as the sales pitch for a One X. Phil Spencer told us at E3 that VR was still years away from the mainstream for gamers, suggesting the company was waiting to launch its console VR until it had a proper wireless solution ready.

At this point, it seems more likely to me that the current enthusiast VR market is an expensive R&D exercise that won’t produce successful systems, but will lay the groundwork for the actual mass market VR, which will instead evolve both in audience and use-cases from the mobile VR world. (We call it mobile VR, but I don’t think I’m alone in having never once seen someone using a mobile VR headset on the subway, in the security line at the airport, or in the waiting room at a dentist.)

A number of the VR developers I’ve spoken to have mentioned wires, price, system-selling software, and installed base as key issues VR needs to tackle to become truly mainstream. As Google Daydream and the Oculus-powered Gear VR have shown, the first two are all but solved problems in mobile VR thanks to the use of existing smartphones. As for the other two, when your system is only $100 or so, the definition of a system-seller changes dramatically, which then has plenty of beneficial implications for the installed base. (Promotions like Samsung giving away Gear VR with new Galaxy phone purchases don’t hurt, either.)

All mobile VR really needs are better interfaces and more powerful phones. The Gear VR motion controller is a good first step for the former, and the latter is improving all the time. If VR is really going to go mass market, doesn’t it make more sense for it to grow not from the high-end early adopter market who would have dropped $600 on a PS3, but from the masses who made a compelling novelty like the $250 Wii a phenomenon?

Courtesy-GI.biz

Premium Nokia 8 Handset May Launch By End Of July

July 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The premium Nokia 8 could get everything from dual cameras to Qualcomm’s fastest Snapdragon 835 chip (the same one that’s in the Samsung Galaxy S8), according to well-known mobile tipster Evan Blass, who also writes for VentureBeat. The phone may even be unveiled as early as July 31, Blass suggests.

If true, this is just what the Nokia brand — once a top-two titan of mobile — needs. After Microsoft sold a company called HMD the rights to use the Nokia mobile name in 2016, the company has released three midrange Nokia Android phones, the Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6, and a throwback to a simple feature phone, the Nokia 3310. The Nokia 8 could help bring some luster back to the flagging brand.

Some rumored Nokia 8 specs include: 5.3-inch screen, 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution (QHD), dual 13-megapixel cameras featuring Zeiss optics, Android 7.1.1 Nougat, Snapdragon 835 processor,  4GB or 6GB of RAM.

The phone is also said to cost around 589 euros, which translates to about $675, £520 or AUD$865. This puts it at a much higher price than the current most expensive option — the Nokia 6.

The Nokia 8 reveal was speculated to take place in a promotional Nokia video in May, but the actual video didn’t show much besides glimpses of the phone’s appearance.

HMD Global, which licenses the Nokia brand name, declined to comment on this story.

Intel Launches ‘Purley’ Xeon To Compete With AMD’s Epyc Processors

July 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has unveiled a new series of ‘Purley’ Xeon server processors based on its new Skylake-SP architecture. 

The new Intel Xeon SP (‘Scalable Platform’) CPUs, which feature up to 28 processor cores per socket and six terabytes of system memory, were unveiled in New York on Tuesday, and the firm claims a 1.65 times performance boost, on average, compared to the prior generation Broadwell-based server CPUs.  

The launch comes just weeks after AMD unveiled its Epyc line of server processors based on the Zen architecture, which offer up to 32 cores per chip. Intel took a dig, naturally, and claims that its top-end Xeon Scalable processor delivers 28 per cent faster performance than AMD’s Epyc 7601. 

Given the higher core count of its new server chips, Intel has created an all-new Mesh architecture design which is claims will offer a “fundamental change” to performance. Unlike the firm’s previous ‘ring’ design (arf), the Mesh architecture arranges the individual cores in a 3D design, offering more direct paths and, in turn, faster performance. 

The new processors, Intel claims, have been designed for growing, and compute-heavy workloads, such as cloud computing, autonomous vehicles, 5G and artificial intelligence, the latter of which will reportedly see a 2.2x performance increase with Xeon Scalable.  

“Data centre and network infrastructure is undergoing massive transformations to support emerging use cases like precision medicine, artificial intelligence and agile network services paving the path to 5G,” said Navin Shenoy, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Data Center Group.

“Intel Xeon Scalable processors represent the biggest data center advancement in a decade.”

The new Xeon SP processors also deliver a 3.1 times performance improvement generation-over-generation in cryptography performance, according to Intel, which has also built its Key Protection Technology onto the chip to deliver enhanced protection to security key attacks.

The Xeon Processor Scalable Family offers four processor tiers, representing different levels of performance and a variety of integration and acceleration options: Copper, Silver, Gold and Platinum. 

Intel says that it has already begun rolling out the new hardware to customers, with the likes of Google Cloud, AWS and AT&T having already bagged some of the 500,000 units shipped out ahead of Tuesday’s official launch. 

Intel’s server-class Purley processors are tipped to power Apple’s upcoming iMac Pro, which is set to be released in December.

Courtesy-TheInq

A Re-organized AT&T To Run Wireless, Media Properties Separately

July 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

AT&T Inc plans to operate its wireless and DirecTV satellite television businesses separately from Time Warner Inc’s media assets following its $85.4 billion acquisition of the entertainment group.

Buying Time Warner gives AT&T control of cable TV channels HBO and CNN, film studio Warner Bros and other coveted media assets. AT&T’s post-merger plans were earlier reported by Bloomberg News.

The deal, announced in October, is seen as a bold move by the telecommunications giant to acquire content to stream over its network. AT&T hopes the programming will give it a competitive edge in a saturated wireless market. The deal also brings a wealth of user data for more targeted advertising.

The reorganization will leave AT&T executives in charge of the combined company. John Stankey, who currently leads DirecTV and other entertainment businesses, will head up the media division and John Donovan, AT&T’s chief strategy officer who oversees technology and operations, will run the wireless business, the source said.

AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson will remain chairman and CEO of the combined company after the deal closes, an AT&T spokesman said.

In an emailed statement, AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook said no decisions on an organizational structure have been finalized and that Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes were still working on them. Time Warner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bob Quinn, AT&T senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, told reporters this week that the company expects to close the merger by the end of the year. “We are just working through the process,” Quinn said, noting it also needs approvals from some international agencies and the

iPhone 8 May Come With Scaled Down Features

July 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The upcoming iPhone 8 may not debut with a complete set of features that Apple has planned. Problems with the iPhone’s rumored wireless charging and facial recognition software could cause Apple to disable these features when the phone arrives in stores, according to Fast Company.

June was allegedly a tough month for Apple’s iPhone team, according to the report. With Apple’s usual iPhone reveal likely falling sometime in September, the team is reportedly ironing out the wrinkles in time for the phone’s launch. One of Fast Company’s sources reported “a sense of panic in the air.”

The iPhone 8 (which is what we’re calling the phone for now) is said to receive a major redesign that will debut features never before seen on an iPhone. Apple’s inability to ready these features for launch could lead to impatience if buyers experience a serious delay. Samsung’s slow release of the Bixby Voice app on the Galaxy S8 is a clear example.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Apple delayed a feature release, either. Last year’s iPhone 7 Plus‘s Portrait Mode wasn’t enabled until after the phone went on sale. Fast Company reported that if Apple can’t get its new technology working smoothly in time, it may similarly ship the iPhone 8 with the right hardware built-in and activate it later on when the software is ready.

There have been persistent rumors that Apple might delay the iPhone 8 sale date due to issues with the fingerprint sensor.

 

Password Sharing A Revenue Nuisance For TV Streaming Services

July 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Streaming TV services grapple with password sharing. More than one-fifth of young adults who stream shows like “Game of Thrones” or “Stranger Things” borrow passwords from people who do not live with them, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, a finding that suggests media companies are missing out on significant revenue as digital viewership explodes.

Twenty-one percent of streaming viewers ages 18 to 24 said they had accessed at least one digital video service such as Netflix Inc, HBO Now or Hulu by using log-in credentials from someone outside their household at some time. Overall, 12 percent of adults said they did the same thing.

 Subscription revenue is likely to come under scrutiny starting next week when TV industry players begin reporting quarterly earnings. Netflix, the dominant streaming service, releases its results on Monday.

Up to now, Netflix and other streaming networks have accepted some password-sharing, but they may face pressure from investors to change course if new sign-ups slow substantially, Wall Street analysts said. Revenue growth at Netflix is projected to drop from 31 percent in this year’s second quarter to 19 percent in the second quarter of next year, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“If Netflix goes from a 30 percent revenue growth story to a 10 percent story, there is absolutely going to be more focus on their leaving money on the table,” said Justin Patterson, an analyst with Raymond James.

Spotify Inks Licensing Deal With Sony Music

July 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Spotify has pulled together a licensing deal with a second major label, Sony Music Entertainment, according to media reports, setting the stage for a U.S. stock market listing by the music streaming leader.

Recently valued at $13 billion, Sweden’s Spotify is planning a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange later this year or in early 2018, sources told Reuters in May.

Sony agreed to reduce royalties that Spotify must pay in return for the streaming service restricting new albums to paying subscribers for two weeks before offering access to free users, the Financial Times reported, citing a single source.

Sony’s top artists include Adele, Beyonce and Shakira.

Spotify is also in talks with Warner Music Group , Billboard reported.

Favorable royalty terms are crucial for Spotify to attain profitability and to make it a viable long-term holding for investors.

The company reported a 349 million euro ($400 million) operating loss, a 47 percent increase on a year earlier, even as revenue grew 50 percent to 2.93 billion euros.

In April, it signed a multi-year licensing deal with Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, with a similar two-week release window for new albums and a break on the royalties Spotify pays Universal.

It also signed up digital agency Merlin, on behalf of more than 20,000 independent labels.

Last year, Universal held a 28.9 percent share of global music label revenue, Sony Music generated 22.4 percent and Warner 17.4 percent. Independent labels made up the remaining 31.3 percent, MIDiA Research data showed.

Spotify has fended off competition from rival Apple Music, with nearly double the number of paying subscribers.

In March, Spotify said it had more than 50 million paying subscribers and 140 million active users, including free listeners. Apple reported 27 million music subscribers last month, up from 20 million in December.

The company has faced boycotts from some top music artists who have complained its free services undercut the value of their work but the major label licensing deals have gone some way toward easing these tensions, according to analysts.

Spotify declined to comment. Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group did not respond to requests for immediate comment.

With The Success Of The Switch Has Nintendo Changed It’s Gaming Strategy

July 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Two years ago, Nintendo looked like a company faced with a common dilemma; change, or die. Its strategy of sticking firmly to the traditional platform holder business model while trying to skirt around the Teraflop arms-race between Sony and Microsoft had gone magnificently in the Wii era, but as Sony fixed a generation’s mistakes and reclaimed its crown with the launch of PS4, Nintendo faltered.

The Wii U had perhaps the most disappointing commercial performance of any console from a major player in the industry’s history; meanwhile, assessments of the 3DS could not ignore the fact that, while selling very well in its own right, the handheld significantly underperformed its forebear, the DS.

This happened against a background of Nintendo’s actual creative output firing on all cylinders. Critics and (diminished) audiences loved the company’s games; indeed, it was clear from the output on the Wii U and the 3DS that the firm’s long-term future as a creative powerhouse was secure, with big, bold titles from new young creators taking centre stage and wiping away any fears raised by Shigeru Miyamoto’s musings about retirement plans. The problem wasn’t software quality; the problem was that the platforms on which that software was appearing seemed to be in terminal decline.

It’s a little early to announce the halting of that decline just yet – if the Switch really does end up beating the Wii U’s lifetime sales in its first year on the market, then we can talk about that – but the narrative has certainly changed since Switch stormed onto the market. Between the success of the new console and the voracious demand (matched to anaemic supply) for the NES Classic and its just-announced SNES successor, the story of Nintendo now isn’t about decline at all. Rather, some of the more excitable commentators are already wondering aloud about the return of the Wii boom years, and even the more moderate voices are being swept along in the enthusiasm.

The call for Nintendo to “change or die” has largely disappeared, since the company seems to be on track to prove that it can survive without changing very much at all, thank you very much. Without the “or die” clause, it’s an exhortation that loses much of its power, and with the loss of that power goes all of the attention that was formerly being paid to Nintendo’s most tangible effort to change: its commitment to smartphone games, through a long-term deal with Japanese mobile game firm DeNA.

Last year, that was all anyone wanted to talk about in relation to Nintendo. Pokemon Go, although not a Nintendo title, was the phenomenon of last summer and seen as proof of the incredible prospects for Nintendo IP on smartphones. The arrival of the firm’s own games on mobile was so hotly anticipated that notorious videogame curmudgeons Apple even changed the way the iOS App Store worked especially to allow “pre-orders” of Super Mario Run. A success in downloads but a poor performer in revenue terms, Mario Run was soon followed by a well-received successor, Fire Emblem Heroes, which performed much better commercially, though still without troubling any of the big beasts of mobile gaming in their roosts atop the revenue charts.

Then Switch launched, and it felt like the whole world lost interest in Nintendo on smartphones. The company has at least two smartphone games in the pipeline this year, and on paper they should be generating a lot of buzz; Animal Crossing is arguably the company’s best-loved casual franchise and its ‘play a little every day’ structure is a perfect fit for mobile, and it’s reportedly to be followed by a Zelda mobile title later this year. Yet you could hear a pin drop in coverage of these upcoming games, while the appearance of even a logo for a resurrected franchise in the company’s E3 broadcast has generated acres of coverage and discussion.

This is not, in itself, surprising. The games media has struggled for a decade with the fact that the huge audience that plays mobile games simply isn’t interested in reading about or discussing games in the same way as the console and PC audience. What’s a little more concerning, though, is that Nintendo itself hasn’t had much to say about mobile games of late. Audiences are fascinated by the Switch and the Classic consoles right now; the billion-dollar question (quite literally) is whether Nintendo itself has also lost some of its interest in smartphones as its more traditional business has returned to health.

To be clear, I’m not implying that Nintendo is about to abandon its deal with DeNA or stop working on mobile titles. The toothpaste is out of the tube and can’t be squeezed back in; Nintendo is a smartphone developer now, and it will remain such in future. This is, rather, a question of focus and priorities – and corollary to that, a question of how much flexibility and latitude Nintendo’s mobile teams will have to play with its IP.

It wouldn’t be entirely surprising if the success of Switch had rekindled opposition to mobile within Nintendo to some degree. The business approach of Super Mario Run, which was more like a classic Shareware game than a modern F2P title, spoke not just to a desire to experiment in the space, but also to a deep-rooted suspicion and dislike of the F2P mechanics which dominate mobile games. That Fire Emblem Heroes ended up using F2P systems was partially down to being a game more suited to those systems, but it also suggested that Nintendo was learning from its mistakes in this new arena.

It seems probable, however, that many of Nintendo’s designers (who are unusually powerful within the company, compared to most other firms in the industry) were not terribly enamoured of the lessons they were having to learn. When it was a matter of ‘do this or the company is finished’, they might have begrudgingly worked within the confines of the F2P model that has proven so successful elsewhere; with Switch selling faster than the firm can produce consoles, the argument that this is not necessary will have welled up again.

This is more than just the old “but I don’t like F2P” argument, which is tired and dull and has done the rounds so very many times. In Nintendo’s situation, there’s a genuine case to be made regarding how much they’re willing to risk the future to secure the present. The resistance to F2P within the company comes in part from discomfort with the sharper practices that are clear in the business models of some other mobile gaming firms, but also from a genuine desire to protect the value of its IP.

Nintendo, after all, is essentially a vault of extremely valuable IP which both provides the secure foundation for the firm’s existing business, and relies on that business to maintain its value and relevance. Safeguarding that IP – perhaps the second most valuable library in the world, after the Walt Disney Company’s vast holdings – is absolutely crucial to Nintendo’s long-term future. The responsibility to pass the IP library on to the next set of hands in better condition than it was received is something that senior staff at the company take extremely seriously.

If Nintendo really has improved its fortunes in the console market, and the mobile space is now seen as an interesting new venture rather than a lifeline from drowning, the calculation changes entirely. Mobile may not lose focus (not much, anyway; a little is perhaps inevitable), but the push to accept F2P systems with which its designers aren’t entirely comfortable has lost its inexorable nature. How Nintendo engages with mobile in general and F2P in particular is now going to be on its own terms.

One consequence of that is likely to be that Nintendo’s games, while successful and profitable, never really challenge the top of the mobile revenue charts – which tend to be occupied by games that take an approach to F2P that, in Nintendo’s eyes at least, is likely to damage the IP by association. (It’s notable that for all the revenue flowing through mobile gaming, the only IP created in the space that seems to have any broad value beyond fuelling direct sequels is Angry Birds, a game that wasn’t F2P in its original incarnation.)

Nintendo’s experiment with mobile isn’t over by any means, and in the long term it remains a hugely important. It still wants to succeed, but the parameters of the experiment have changed. For the resurgent Nintendo, mobile must now match the company’s needs, and not the other way around.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Toshiba Launches 4-bit NAND Flash Memory

July 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Toshiba has announced the latest generation of 3D flash memory, the 4-bit-per-cell, quadruple-level cell (QLC) technology NAND flash memory.

Thanks to the QLC technology, which features a 64-layer stacked cell structure, Toshiba managed to hit the world’s largest die capacity of 768Gb/96GB. This also enables a 1.5TB (terabyte) device with a 16-die stacked architecture in a single package, which is also a 50 percent increase in capacity per package compared to the earlier generation.

Since QLC NAND flash suffers from the same, if not worse issues as the MLC NAND, which is how to push data into a single cell without affecting the reliability and performance, it remains to be seen if SSDs based on QLC NAND flash memory will actually hit the cost/performance sweet spot.

We suspect that these drives will mostly be focused on data centers, where lower power consumption and footprint are a premium, but eventually we will see it in other markets.

According to Toshiba, samples of the QLC device started shipping earlier in June to SSD and SSD controller vendors for evaluation and development purposes while further samples will be showcased at the upcoming Flash Memory Summit 2017 in August.

Courtesy-Fud

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