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Qualcomm May Be Facing Anti-Trust Issues Abroad

November 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm can’t really get a lucky break anywhere. The chipmaker has just confirmed that it is facing an anti-trust probe in South Korea.

The company said it had recently received the Korea Fair Trade Commission’s staff-generated case examiner’s report (ER), which starts a process that allows Qualcomm to defend itself.

It seems that the allegation is that the company’s practice of licensing patents only at the device level and requiring that its chip customers be licensed to its intellectual property violate South Korean competition law.

“The ER alleges, among other things, that we do not properly negotiate aspects of our licenses,” Qualcomm said in a statement.

The investigation by the South Korean authorities was first reported in February, but no one confirmed it.

Qualcomm has faced investigations about its business and licensing practices in the U.S. and in the European Commission. It said in February it had settled with China’s National Development and Reform Commission in connection with the agency’s investigation of Qualcomm under the country’s anti-monopoly law.

In China Qualcomm had to pay a fine of $975 million and not condition the sale of baseband chips on the chip customer signing a license agreement with terms that the NDRC found to be unreasonable.

Qualcomm would also offer licenses to its current 3G and 4G essential Chinese patents separately from licenses to its other patents, and present a patent list during negotiations. Under the deal, the company also agreed to calculate royalty fees on 65 percent of the net selling price of the device.

The company on Tuesday defended device-level licensing as an industry norm worldwide and said its patent licensing practices were “lawful and pro-competitive
Samsung, LG and Pantech are key Qualcomm customers in South Korea.

The KFTC in 2009 ordered Qualcomm to pay $208 million for allegedly charging discriminatory royalties and offering conditional rebates in connection with its CDMA technology.



Is Intel Readying It’s Knights Landing Processor?

November 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has started sending out its Knight’s Landing version of Xeon Phi and this one has a 72-core coprocessor solution manufactured on a 14nm process using shiny new 3D Tri-Gate transistors.

The coprocessors use Intel’s’s Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture that stuffs cores into a single chip, which itself is part of a larger PCI-E add-in card solution for supercomputing.

Add-in cards run alongside these engines, such as NVIDIA’s Tesla GPUs to help with the number crunching.

Knight’s Landing succeeds the Knight’s Corner, which has up to 61 cores. Knight’s Landing has double-precision performance which can do more than 3 teraflops and over 8 teraflops of single-precision performance. It also has 16GB of on-package MCDRAM memory, which Intel says is five times more power efficient as GDDR5 and three times as dense.

In making the announcement Charlie Wuischpard, vice president and general manager of HPC Platform Group at Intel said that supercomputing was entering a new era and being transformed from a tool for a specific problem to a general tool for many,”

“System-level innovations in processing, memory, software and fabric technologies are enabling system capabilities to be designed and optimized for different usages, from traditional HPC to the emerging world of big data analytics and everything in between. We believe the Intel Scalable System Framework is the path forward for designing and delivering the next generation of systems for the ‘HPC everywhere’ era.”


Samsung Sells LCD Business

November 19, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Samsung has sold a large LCD display operation in order to concentrate full time on OLED-based products.

A report in Business Korea says that the facility in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, has shut down its L5 line, the fifth generation of LCD displays, and begun selling the equipment to other manufacturers.

The age of the equipment meant it was only suitable for notebook and small monitor displays. With OLED now rolling out in phones such as the recent Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, and big-screen TVs, it seems that the company has decided to make a break with the past.

The Korean manufacturer sold off its fourth generation production line to a Chinese company last year. A spokesman for Samsung Display confirmed: “The company shut down the L5 line last month and is seeking companies that are willing to acquire idle equipment.”

Although the equipment and the products it produces may seem outdated, there is still a huge market for this stuff in lower end electronics. Some analysts believe that there are tens of billions of Korean Won in any sale. Ten billion Won is about £5.6m, which doesn’t sound nearly as much but is still better than poke in the eye.

The Cheonan factory is likely to be converted to make OLED products, with talk of deals for AMOLED phone displays for Huawei and even an acceleration of its on-again-off-again Ernie and Bert relationship with Apple said to be at the heart of the decision to ramp up production.

Samsung still operates three LCD production lines, but analysts question if this is the beginning of a move to OLED production only, and if so, what effect that will have on the company as demand for cheaper LCD screens continues to grow, with production ramping up in China.

Samsung has lost market share in the end user market with recent Galaxy products failing to sell as well as their predecessors. As such these component deals are the lifeblood of the business, with a contract to produce high-end screens for Apple alone worth billions.



Google+ Re-designed and Re-focused

November 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google  hasn’t given up on running a social network. The company gave Google+ a redesign focused on people getting together around shared interests.

When Google+ launched in 2011, it was designed as a competitor to Facebook, focused on connecting people with their friends through a series of “circles.” That proved unsuccessful, but people started using the service to discuss things that they’re passionate about, like books and astronomy. Google has built its new design around promoting both its Community groups and its Collections of user-curated posts about specific interests.

Users can opt into the new design (which appears to be rolling out gradually) by signing into the service on the Web and responding when they get a prompt that offers it. Luke Wroblewski, a product director at Google, said in a post to the social network that Google+ apps for iOS and Android will be out in the near future.

The redesign doesn’t have all the features of the old Google+, so people who rely on things like Events will have to stay on the old design (which they can flip back to with the press of a button). It’s not clear whether Google will bring all of the social network’s functionality forward into the new design, but Wroblewski said the company isn’t done developing the product.

All of this comes as Google has been demoting the social network from its previous place at the center of the company’s products. Earlier this year, it brought cloud-based photo editing and storage capabilities that previously were tied to Google+ into Google Photos, a standalone service. Hangouts, the chat system that used to be tied to Google+, now has its own website.



Intel’s Broadwell E Details Leaked

November 19, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A Chinese website has leaked details about Broadwell-E which sounds pretty plausible.

According toXfastest there will be four new processors under the new High-End Desktop (HEDT) banner for Broadwell.

Of the range, it would appear that the Core i7-6950X is the most interesting.  It has a 10-core CPU with Hyper Threading, which means that it has 20 threads to play with and 25MB of L3 cache.

However the CPU clockspeed is a little on the slow side, running at just 3.0GHz.  This will be a problem with software that is not properly tuned to take full advantage of large core counts and threads. It will be behind the Core i7-6700K which is a quad-core Skylake processor clocked at 4GHz to 4.2GHz on Turbo. The Core i7-6950X has more L3 cache, but it might lose to the Devil’s Canyon Core i7-4790K which can manage 4GHz to 4.4GHz.

For those who like their clockspeed, Chipzilla will release two faster-clocked six-core Broadwell-E processors and an eight-core CPU that strikes a balance between clockspeed and core count. The specs that Xfastest found show:

Intel Core i7-6950X: 10 cores, 20 threads, 25MB L3 cache, 3.0GHz
Intel Core i7-6900K: 8 cores, 16 threads, 20MB L3 cache, 3.3GHz
Intel Core i7-6850K: 6 cores, 12 threads, 15MB L3 cache, 3.6GHz
Intel Core i7-6800K: 6 cores, 12 threads, 15MB L3 cache, 3.4GHz

All of these processors will have a Turbo clockspeed, though information about this is unavailable. All socket LGA2011-v3 CPUs should be compatible with existing X99 Express chipset motherboards.

As far as leaks go, it seems particularly credible to us.  No word of price or release dates yet though.



Is Intel Giving Braswell A New Life?

November 18, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel is refreshing its embedded “Braswell” lineup of Celeron N3000, N3050, N3150 and Pentium N3700 systems-on-a-chip.

Details and model numbers of the SoCs were spotted by spotted by CPU World in a Product Change Notification.

It looks like the new processors will have increased burst frequency for better CPU and GPU performance.

Celeron and Pentium N3xxx SoCs are based on C core stepping, and it seems that Intel is replacing this with D-stepping. The chips will have the numbers N3060, N3160 and N3710. The integrated graphics unit will be rebranded to HD Graphics 405 on the Pentiums, and to HD Graphics 400 on the Celerons.

D-stepping chip samples will appear in a couple of weeks with the first production chips shipped on January 15, 2016.

The embedded N3000 will be refreshed too, although details on that are unavailable.

Chipzilla is planning to release new mobile and desktop models. The desktop SoCs will have a performance boost and a rebranded GPU. The TDP increased from 6 Watt to 6.5 Watt, and they will have the J3060, J3160 and J3710 product numbers.

The desktop Celeron J3060, J3160 and Pentium J3710 models are available at the end of November for samples, and mid-January of 2016 for production parts.



Will AMD Bring Two New GPUs To Market In 2016?

November 18, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMDs’ head graphics guy, Raja Koduri promised that AMD will have two new GPUs out next year.

Koduri was talking to Forbes about how AMD needed to get some new architectural designs and create brand new GPUs into the shops.

He added that this is something that AMD has been pretty pants about lately.

He promised two brand new GPUs in 2016, which are hopefully going to both be 14nm/16nm FinFET from GlobalFoundries or TSMC and will help make Advanced Micro Devices more power and die size competitive.

AMD’s GPU architectures have gotten rather elderly, he said.

AMD also wants to increase its share in professional graphics. Apparently this is so low that any competition it brings Nvidia could significantly help their market share in this high margin business. The company has hired

Sean Burke to help drive this forward. Sean was a president at Flex and Nortek and a senior executive at Hewlett-Packard, Compaq and Dell. For those who came in late he was the father of Dell’s Dimension and Compaq’s Prolinea.

Koduri’s cunning plan is to capture consumer and professional graphics will be by providing fully immersive experiences that range from education and medicine to gaming and virtual reality with plenty of overlap in between.

He is also interested in expanding into “instinctive computing” applications which involve medicine, factory automation, automotive and security. These are computing applications that are more natural to the environment and less obvious to the user and should come as natural user experiences.

Koduri has three make attack plans. The first is to gain discrete GPU market share in 2016 and 2017 as well as win the next generation of consoles, which will be 4K. Ironically the AMD chips in the consoles on the market at the moment can handle 4K but they don’t.

Koduri wants console makers will continue to stick with Radeon IP for their next generation consoles and give Advanced Micro Devices an even bigger advantage in the gaming space.

DirectX 12 in the latest shipping version of Windows does seem to give Radeon GPUs a significant performance uplift against Nvidia, he said.



Apple Pulling The Plug On Beats Music

November 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple is dropping the ax on Beats Music on Nov. 30, shortly after launching the beta of an Android app for its Apple Music streaming service.

The company is now encouraging both Android and iOS users of Beats Music to transition to the Apple Music streaming service, which was launched by the company in June.

After the launch of the Apple Music app for Android phones, it has become easier for Apple to do the inevitable – shut down Beats Music, transition Android users and focus on Apple Music.

“All the pros that curated music for you are still crafting more amazing experiences,” wrote executive Dale Bagwell on a Beats support page. “Plus, on Apple Music, you’ll get even better recommendations based on music you already listen to and love, 24/7 global radio with Beats 1, exciting material from your favorite artist, and more.”

Beats Music subscriptions will be cancelled on Nov. 30, but users have the option to move their picks and preferences over to Apple Music, he added.

The company also provided detailed instructions for users moving from Beat Music to Apple Music on the support page. Apple had said earlier it was no longer accepting new subscriptions for Beats Music and recommended to users to move their current Beats subscriptions over to Apple Music.

Apple unveiled in June the subscription music service, which is priced at US$10 a month with a family service also available for up to six family members for $15 per month. The subscription rates vary in some countries.

The service offers a three-month free trial. Unlike some of its rivals, Apple Music doesn’t offer free music supported by advertisements.



Facebook Tests Disappearing Messages Feature

November 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook has confirmed that it is conducting a small test of a Snapchat-like feature, enabling users to send messages that will automatically disappear.

“We’re excited to announce the latest in an engaging line of optional product features geared towards making Messenger the best way to communicate with the people that matter most,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an email. “Starting today, we’re conducting a small test in France of a feature that allows people to send messages that disappear an hour after they’re sent. Disappearing messages gives people another fun option to choose from when they communicate on Messenger.”

This should sound familiar to Snapchat users who are accustomed to their messages disappearing shortly after they’re sent.

Users can turn the Facebook feature on by tapping an hourglass icon in the upper right corner of the Messenger screen. Tap the hourglass again to turn it off.

Facebook is testing disappearing messages for iOS and Android users in France only. While the feature may be available in more countries over time, Facebook didn’t have any current plans to share.

This may be a good defensive move for the social network.

Facebook has been struggling to retain, or even attract, younger users who are being lured away by apps like Instagram and Snapchat.

To deal with this problem, Facebook tried to buy Snapchat for a reported $3 billion in late 2013. The offer was turned down, though.

Then in early 2014, Facebook tried to go after Snapchat’s users by unveiling a new mobile app called Slingshot. The app was designed to enable users to instantly share photos and videos with multiple friends.

Now that Facebook is taking a different tack, the question is whether it can steal away Snapchat’s user base.






T-Mobile Announces Free ‘Binge On’ Video-streaming Service

November 12, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile announced that it will begin offering free streaming of wireless video to certain T-Mobile customers for services such as HBO, Hulu, Netflix and 21 others.

The service, called Binge On, will be available starting Sunday at no extra charge to T-Mobile’s Simple Choice customers paying for 3GB of data. In addition, the carrier said it doubled the LTE data caps at every level in Simple Choice at no extra cost.

“T-Mobile is un-leashing entertainment and giving customers exactly what they want,” CEO John Legere declared at an event in Los Angeles that was webcast.

He also said that neither the 24 video-streaming services involved nor T-Mobile customers will pay for the service. Binge On is powered by new technology built into T-Mobile’s network, which optimizes video for mobile screens and minimizes data consumption.

In an online FAQ, T-Mobile said its Binge On video quality “looks great” on a phone. The explanation says the service optimizes video quality for smartphone screens and minimizes buffering and maximizes quality.

Analysts had predicted the free video service would be announced today, but some were skeptical that T-Mobile could afford to offer it without leading to widespread LTE network congestion.

Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, said T-Mobile would be using a compression algorithm that reduces video streams to one-third of their original size. Binge One won’t work with encrypted data, such as that from Google and Facebook, he said.

To be eligible for one line with sufficient data to use Binge On, a user would pay $65 a month. That cost would include $50 for one line that includes 2GB of data, but a customer would need to add 4GB more for $15 a month to get above the 3GB minimum for Binge On.


Intel Expands Xeon Family

November 12, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has expanded its family of low-power Xeon D processors to include better support for network and storage in order to speed up the move towards cloud-ready communications.

The fresh Xeon D-1500 products come in nine flavors and are said to offer more performance, energy efficiency, and twice the maximum memory of the previous iteration, making them ideal for dense environments in networking, cloud and enterprise storage, as well as IoT applications, Intel said.

“Billions of devices are becoming connected – from smartphones to cars to factories – and that brings new use cases and service opportunities that drive unprecedented growth in network and storage demands,” explained Intel. “Today’s networks are not designed in a way that allows communications providers to quickly or cost effectively expand their infrastructure.”

Intel believes that for us to take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) and enhance mobile computing experiences, communications networks need to be “re-architected”, with increased programmability and built-in flexibility throughout the infrastructure to handle the anticipated increase in volume and complexity of data traffic.

“Networks are facing extraordinary demands as more devices become connected and new digital services are offered,” said Intel VP of the data center group, Sandra Rivera. “Building intelligence throughout the communications infrastructure and using a standards-based approach offers service providers the foundation to build agile, cloud-ready networks that allow them to expand their services capabilities.”

Intel said that more than 50 vendors are currently building systems using these new Xeon D-1500 chips.

As part of the same networking communications focus, Intel also unveiled a host of Ethernet controllers.

The Ethernet Multi-host Controller FM10000 Family is said to combine Ethernet technology with advanced switch resources for use in high-performance communications network applications and dense server platforms.

With up to 200Gbps of high-bandwidth multi-host connectivity and multiple 100GbE ports, the FM10000 Ethernet controller delivers a better packet processing capability that should help to reduce network traffic bottlenecks within and between servers.

Intel also announced the Ethernet Controller X550 family, a low-power, low-cost 10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity device it said can offer a performance boost to data center servers and network appliances.

Intel first introduced its Xeon D 1500 processor family in March, in what is probably best described as the meeting point between the Xeon E3 and Atom SoCs.

Aimed at powering server, storage and compute applications at the “network edge”, the Xeon D SoCs take the best bits of the E3 and Atom SoCs.



Will AMD Go Back To Black In 2016

November 12, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s EMEA component sales manager Neil Spicer is “confident” his outfit can return to profitability in 2016.

Talking to CRN Spicer said he is sure that profitability will return as long as the company sticks to its principles.

“From a personal stance, I am confident [AMD can be profitable]. I believe we are working with exactly the right customers, and over the last few years we have become much simpler to execute and do business with.”

He said that in order to achieve profit, the company must ensure it is investing in the right areas.

“Moving forwards to 2016, we have to have profitable share growth,” he said. “So it’s choosing the right business to go after, both with the company itself and the ecosystem of partners. There is no point in us as a vendor chasing unprofitable partners.

“We want to focus [in the areas] we are good at – that’s where we are going to invest heavily. That’s things like winning the graphics battle with gaming and so forth, and we want to be part of this Windows 10 upgrade cycle.”

Spicer so far has been a little optimistic this year. He thought that Windows 10 would drive an upgrade refresh, particularly as AMD works so well with the new OS.

He also thinks that the combination of Windows 10, the advent of e-sports – competitive online gaming – and new technology and products AMD is launching, means “PC is an exciting market”.

Of course Spicer was extremely enthusiastic about Zen which he thinks will help its play in the high-end desktop space, and the server area. More cynical observers think that Zen will be AMD’s last roll of the dice.



Is Qualcomm Sinking?

November 11, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Last week’s Qualcomm results confirmed what Wall Street had suspected for a while – Qualcomm is in trouble.

For years Qualcomm has had a licence to print money and had done all the right things at the right time. This put it in a position where almost every smartphone made around the world had Qualcomm somewhere in its insides – especially in Korea and China.

But a string of quarterly financial reports, which indicate a sharp decline in the company’s revenue growth, from 30 per cent three years ago to -14 per cent now.

One of Qualcomm’s biggest problem is MediaTek which has caught up to it and the fact its major customer, Samsung, has begun to use its own chips for new smartphones.

Qualcomm has had difficulty collecting royalties in China and was fined close to $1 billion by the Chinese government for its royalty collection methods.

In fact it looks like some companies that are holding out because China’s smartphone market saturated and they want to defer royalty payments until 2016.

Qualcomm has put a brave face on it. It said that it believes that certain licensees in China are not fully complying with their contractual obligations to report their sales of licensed products.
Meanwhile Qualcomm has been unable to come up with much that is new. It still has $21 billion in cash in the bank but is having to put a great deal of it into R&D to replicate and sustain its competitive advantage.

But its biggest problem will be competition by MediaTek MediaTek is spending a lot of money to catch up. It opened R&D offices in Bangalore, Finland and San Diego. In a year MediaTek’s LTE modems is expected to competitive with Qualcomm’s.

Its new line of chips for higher-end Helio phones will work with most carrier networks in other countries. Right now MediaTek is going through the certification process with telecoms Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile so it can sell its phones on their LTE networks in the U.S.

Until 2013 Qualcomm controlled 95 per cent of the market. But last year its share was down to 66% of the $22.1 billion market, with MediaTek next at 17 per cent.

Next year MediaTek aims to capture more than 40 per cent of the LTE market in China, and many of China’s high-end phonemakers will switch from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon series to MediaTek’s offerings.

However MediaTek will also be raining on Qualcomm’s parade in the US and Europe as the much awaited flood of cheaper and well speced smartphones roll into the first world.
The most likely candidates are Xiaomi, Huawei, OnePlus, Lenovo and Coolpad, and most of these have plans to enter the US market soon, if they’re not already there in some limited fashion. MediaTek will be piggy backing on them.

Emerging markets such as India and Africa also present opportunities for MediaTek, but the potential profits are less than what the U.S. could produce.

But Qualcomm must be worried. Any phone with a MediaTek chip inside it is another nail in its coffin. Already there are muttering amongst its shareholders that the company should flog off its chipmaking business while it can, and just concentrate on making cash out of its patents.



Snapchat Daily Video Viewing Business Booming, Closing In On Facebook

November 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The number of videos viewed each day on Snapchat has tripled since May to 6 billion as the messaging app is erasing the gap with social media giant Facebook Inc, according to a report in the Financial Times that cites people close to the company.

The Financial Times said that Snapchat confirmed the 6 billion figure but had declined to comment further.

Facebook said last week that it had doubled daily video views to 8 billion from 4 billion in April, according to the report, which notes that social networking groups are vying for eyeballs in the fast-growing video segment.

Facebook’s daily video viewing number is made up of both desktop and mobile views while Snapchat’s is entirely made up of smartphone users, the report notes.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said in May that the company plans to have an initial public offering but did not specify when that would happen. In 2013, Snapchat turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook to acquire the company.


Is The Apple Watch Really A Success?

November 10, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The Apple Press is doing its best to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat over the failure of the iWatch to meet the hype.

Today the papers are full of stories claiming that Apple is the “King of the Smartwatch” because it has sold more than its rivals put together. The figure quoted is a speculative seven million .

We are not saying that figure is bad. In fact many smartwatch sellers would only dream of selling that many but it is simply nowhere near what was expected. When Apple announced it was “inventing” the smartwatch the Tame Apple Press confidently predicted 42 million of the things would ship in the first year.

As Apple failed to get the product to market and others popped up analysts started to drop the figures down. At the launch, when it became obvious that the Apple Watch was not shipping with nearly enough functionality, people like an analyst who previously predicted Apple would sell 24 million devices during 2016 has significantly reduced this figure – to 21 million – following the lukewarm reaction. Later, Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves made the predictions in a research note to clients.

He said: ‘Anecdotal evidence suggests Apple Watch demand is slowing quickly’ and predicted sales for 2015 will reach 10.5 million – 500,000 less than his initial estimates.

It can be seen on this basis that seven million is hugely disappointing and it is not surprising that Apple is desperately trying to keep the actual numbers secret.

We estimate that seven million is roughly the same figure of hardcore Apple fanboys who will buy anything the company buys even if they don’t need it. Apparently they are so stupid that they have bought a watch that runs out of battery in 12 hours or have not realized they just need to take their phone out of their pocket to get the same functionality.

Again the Tame Apple Press has another cunning plan to keep people focused on the smartwatch.

It is talking about how more people will flock to the smartwatch when Apple releases all the functionality it promised for the smartwatch the first time.

However they are also ignoring the fact that Apple might equally lose customers because those who saw the first one thought it was complete pants and swore they would never buy another.