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Are Motherboard Shipments Decreasing?

May 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

With the global decline in PC shipments finally showing signs of slowing, motherboard vendors are expecting to see a correlated slowing of overall volume in 2017, with some estimates hovering near 10 percent from last year.

Last month, a market research report from Global Information Inc showed the global volume of motherboard shipments in Q4 2016 dropping 5.2 percent from Q3 and 13.6 percent year-over-year. Total shipments for 2016 were estimated to be less than 50 million units, and this was even forecasted at the beginning of the year. As the fourth quarter approached, vendors said that sales of Kaby Lake motherboards were not living up to expectations, while the overall market remained in a state of weaker demand. The report covered vendors including AMD, ECS, Foxconn, Gigabyte, Intel, Jetway, Microstar, Pegatron, QCI, T&I, and Wistron.

Notebooks, exchange rates and component shortages to blame

According to the latest report, three problems are affecting the ability of motherboard vendors to increase sales numbers. First, sources within the motherboard industry have pointed out that notebooks have gradually taken market share from the build-it-yourself PC market, mainly as a result of “better specifications, smaller form factors, and cheaper prices”. Second, the vendors have experienced a large exchange rate hike over the past two years, from 6.2 percent in April 2015 to 6.8 percent in April 2017. Finally, rising component prices and various component shortages have also contributed to difficulties in production operations. So in order to remain profitable, some vendors have focused on reducing shipments and changing their focus to other product segments, including gaming notebooks and mobile devices.

Sources within the industry note that even while Intel’s Kaby Lake processor lineup and Z200 series chipset have not sold as much volume as anticipated, it is possible that the imminent thread of AMD’s Ryzen 5 and 7 lineups has continued to stimulate prices cuts across the board to keep up on platform sales. Many retailers have now begun offering more serious price cuts when bundled with compatible motherboards, and this trend is expected to continue with the release of AMD’s Ryzen 3 and Intel’s Z300 and X299 series chipsets later this year.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Google Using Chromebooks To Spy On Kids?

May 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Human rights group, the  Electronic Freedom Foundation has complained that Google is continuing to use its Chromebooks to spy on customers.

The main issue, it seems, is the fact that the education system is changing the way it treats the students’ privacy, mostly due to a rollout of low-priced Chromebooks that come with educations services. Often, they are available for a reduced price or even given out for free.

“Educational technology services often collect far more information on kids than is necessary and store this information indefinitely. In fact, they tie personally identifying information, such as kids’ names, birthdays, browsing history, search terms, location data, contact lists, and behavioural information,” the EFF said.

Since most of those customers are under-age school kids, it appears that Google is rather a little too interested in knowing all about them.

The EFF first complained about Google two years ago, and since then, it claims the search engine outfit has not done much to improve its antics.

Now it says that Google still hasn’t shed its “bad guy” image when it comes to the data it collects on underage students.

The company continues to massively collect and store information on children without their consent or their parents’. Not even school administrators fully understand the extent of this operation.

According to the latest status report from the EFF, Google is trying to end students’ privacy without their parents notice or consent and “without a real choice to opt out.”

This, they say, is done via the Chromebooks Google is selling to schools across the United States. It is a shame really because Google’s number one rival for this market is Apple.

The EFF investigated 152 ed-tech services that survey respondents reported were in use in their classrooms. The findings weren’t too great, as most of these services had privacy policies lacking in encryption, data retention or data sharing rules.

One school Chromebook administrator  told the EFF that they’re “putting all [their] eggs in one basket that we’re not in control of. We don’t know where this student data is going.”

Courtesy-Fud

Will ARM On Windows Take Off This Year?

April 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has dropped a huge hint that we will see ARM based PCs in the shops in the fourth quarter.

Qualcomm said the first cellular laptop with Windows 10 and its ARM-based Snapdragon 835 will come by the end of the year.

Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm, said that the Snapdragon 835 will expanding into mobile PC designs running Windows 10, and it’s scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter.

Apparently Qualcomm and Microsoft are flat out getting ARM-based Windows 10 PCs to work. If they pull it off, you should get a thin-and-light device that could be used as a tablet or laptop.

Most of the design cues will come from smartphones and it is being dubbed a cellular PC by Qualcomm and Microsoft.

The device will always be connected to a cellular network with a high-speed modem, much like a smartphone. It will have other wireless connectivity features like Bluetooth 5 and possibly Wi-Gig, which are integrated into the Snapdragon 835 chipset.

The cellular PC could also have a long battery life, considering Snapdragon 835 was designed for smartphones. It will be 4K video capable with a powerful Adreno 540 GPU in the Snapdragon 835.

So far no major PC maker has yet announced an ARM-based Windows PC and we are not expecting to see a flood of the beasts. Suppliers will be cautious because ARM based Windows PCs have not worked well. Windows RT tablets were somewhat mocked.

Dell and HP have expressed interest in cellular PCs but need time to test them. HP wants to see if there’s enough demand for such a device before making a decision.

Microsoft has demonstrated Photoshop running on Snapdragon 835 but it is not clear how much other software will be out there.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Toshiba Out Of The Woods?

April 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Toshiba Corp’s shares finally recovered this week after Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that Apple is considering a multi-billion-dollar investment into the company’s semiconductor chip business.

Back in February, Toshiba revealed that it had been considering a split of its memory chip business into a separate company to help make up for a $6.56 billion write-down of its US nuclear equipment operations. In late December, the company’s shares fell more than 45 percent after revealing that it was balancing a four-part effort to get back to a profitable state.

The following month, Foxconn and TSMC both partnered up to place bids on shares of Toshiba’s memory business in an attempt to challenge Samsung’s dominance of the flash memory market. The collaboration team has been serious about its talks with Toshiba, but is not trying to force anything to happen.

Apple wants 20 percent stake in Toshiba’s chip business

Now, the latest reports from NHK suggests the fruit-themed toymaker also wants more than 20 percent stake in Toshiba’s chip business, while somehow convincing Toshiba to maintain partial stake and keep the business under US and Japanese regulations, according to anonymous sources. Without subverting existing negotiations, the Cupertino company has considered a plan where Foxconn would own around a 30 percent stake of the NAND flash business so as not to interrupt global market competition over Japan’s semiconductor industry.

Prior to Apple’s announcement, Toshiba has so far narrowed down the field of memory unit bidders to four companies, according to sources. They include Broadcom, SK Hynix, Foxconn, and Western Digital.

Attention is now on company auditor, Tokyo Stock Exchange

On Thursday, Toshiba’s shares were down 4.8 percent after declining as much as 8.1 percent during morning trade. Experts have cautioned that the company is now in a warning zone of losing its listed status on the stock exchange, as it faces increased financial risk at its Westinghouse nuclear subsidiary. According to Financial Times, the Tokyo Stock Exchange is now attempting to decide whether the company’s internal controls comply with its listing criteria. Toshiba has proposed several improvements following its $1.3 billion accounting scandal in 2015, but if they are deemed insufficient by the exchange, then its shares could be delisted and the company would ultimately transition into a private entity.

Besides the foreign investor lawsuit that arrived on behalf of its accounting malpractices, Toshiba’s accounts were notable in part because its independent auditor, PwC Aarata, did not certify their accuracy. One analyst at Citigroup claims that Toshiba’s disagreement with its auditor was likely to “heighten concern” about its shares being delisted. Robert Rostan, a former Deloitte auditor, says “It is extremely rare for an independent auditor to not sign off on a client’s accounts, let alone a public industrial giant like Toshiba.”

Despite the financial risk posed by its flagship nuclear projects, Toshiba insists everything on the balance sheets is under control. Aside from a very tangible delisting risk, it will be left to the mercy of Toshiba’s many financial creditors to garner up enough support in solidarity for the weathered company.

Courtesy-Fud

Security Researcher Develops Method To Test For NSA Spying

April 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Wondering lately if your PC has  been infected with a suspected NSA spying implant? A security researcher has come up with a free tool that will find out.

Luke Jennings of security firm Countercept wrote a script in response to last week’s high-profile leak of cyberweapons that some researchers believe are from the National Security Agency. It’s designed to detect an implant called Doublepulsar, which is delivered by many of the Windows-based exploits found in the leak and can be used to load other malware.

The script, which requires some programming skill to use, is available for download on GitHub.

Some security researchers have used Jennings’s script to scan the internet for machines infected with the implant. Their results have varied widely, showing between 30,000 and 100,000 computers with the code on them.

Below0Day, a penetration testing company, has tweeted graphs showing which countries are most affected. The U.S. sits at the top, with 11,000 machines.

Several other countries, including U.K., Taiwan and Germany, have more than 1,500 machines infected.

It’s not clear when these machines were infected with the implant, Jennings said. However, the suspected NSA exploits that deliver Doublepulsar were leaked a week ago, at which point anyone with some hacking skills could start using them.

Security experts are worried that cybercriminals or foreign governments might take the leaked exploits and attack vulnerable machines over the internet. They say computers with older or unpatched Windows systems are particularly at risk. Rebooting a system will remove the implant, but not necessarily any malware associated with it.

Jennings said he developed his script by analyzing how the Doublepulsar implant communicated over the internet to its control server. However, his original intention was to help businesses identify the implant over their networks, not to scan the entire internet for the implant.

“There’s been a lot of discussion on Twitter,” he said. “People are wondering if maybe the script is incorrect, because they are surprised by the number of systems infected.”

However, not one has presented evidence that his computer script is wrong, Jennings said.

“There’s probably a group out there, or many out there, using these exploits to compromise vulnerable machines,” he said.

Older Windows Server systems, especially those running without a firewall, are considered easy to hack with the exploits. Thousands of these machines around the internet appear to be exposed.

Dan Tentler, CEO of security provider Phobos Group, has been looking at the accuracy of the script. He’s already done manual checks on 50 machines that were flagged as infected, and all 50 of them were.

“Usually if you check that many, and the scripting is bad, you would expect to find a handful that were false positives,” he said. “But I’ve found zero false positives.”

It’ll take more time for security researchers to vet the accuracy of the Doublepulsar search results. But Tentler recommends system operators take steps to prevent infection from the recently leaked malware.

Users should install all available patches on their Windows system, he says. Past patches from Microsoft will address the danger, but older operating systems like Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 no longer receive support from the company.

Users can consider upgrading the system to a newer OS. They can also run antivirus products like Windows Defender to help them root out any malware.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 Expected To Do Robust Enterprise Business

April 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Enterprise customers are expected to purchase the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ in large numbers, given the phones’ strong focus on worker productivity as well as security.

IDC analyst Bryan Bassett predicted that “millions” of enterprise customers will buy one of the devices, some of them partly out of the pent-up demand created when the enterprise-focused Note7 was recalled globally after some units overheated and caught fire.

“Samsung won’t have any trouble selling these devices and they will do well with both consumers and businesses,” Bassett said in an interview. “Business users are very eager to get their hands on the S8, especially after the Note7 recalls. They will especially want this slick and gorgeous device.”

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said that up to 65% of all S8 buyers will use them for business and work purposes at least part of the time. Samsung has reportedly set a sales target of 60 million sales of both versions of the S8, compared to sales of 52 million Galaxy S7’s, according to unnamed Samsung sources quoted by The Investor in South Korea.

Both phones, announced March 29, feature rounded edges and corners and an Infinity display that picks up the styling of the S7 Edge. Prices start at $720 for the S8 and about $100 more for the S8+, depending on the carrier. Both run Android 7.0 Nougat.

While individual buyers might pick the device for its looks, the S8 will rely on the latest Knox 2.8 security and management that Samsung has promoted and improved over the past three years.

Both Gold and Bassett said that one of the biggest selling features of Knox to IT managers is that Knox is supported by dozens of enterprise mobility management (EMM) software platforms globally, something that Samsung announced a year ago. Knox can also be used to extend encryption and other security to apps running on a phone, Gold noted.

Microsoft Touts New Power Saving Feature In Windows 10

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is touting operating system-wide power efficiencies in a recent preview of Windows 10, claiming that the technology will reduce notebook battery consumption by 11% on laptops equipped with the newest processors.

The technology, temporarily tagged as “Power Throttling,” was enabled on all copies of Windows 10 Insider build 16176, which Microsoft released Friday. Insider is the beta program Microsoft runs for both enthusiasts and businesses. The latter rely on Insider to learn how the OS will change for the next feature upgrade, as well as for testing the upgrade prior to deploying the final code when it is shipped several months later.

“With ‘Power Throttling,’ when background work is running, Windows places the CPU in its most energy efficient operating modes — work gets done, but the minimal possible battery is spent on that work,” Bill Karagounis, director of program management for Insider, said in a post to a company blog.

The CPU throttling is triggered on an app-specific basis by a detection system Microsoft integrated with the OS, said Karagounis. Like other such technologies, Microsoft’s is meant to recognize foreground tasks — such as active apps — as well as persistent applications, like music streaming applications, then give them full access to the processor. Other apps, or even individual processes within an app, that are classified as “background,” are restricted in how they impact the CPU’s power usage. For instance, they may not be allowed to kick the processor into its higher-frequency, higher-power, higher-consumption mode.

Power Throttling works only on Intel processors with that firm’s Speed Shift, a feature of sixth-generation and later CPUs, including “Skylake” and the newer “Kaby Lake.”

Recognizing that most personal computers are laptops and that battery longevity is a major factor in productivity, Microsoft has aggressively promoted Windows 10’s power savings, notably in the boosterism behind Edge, the OS’s default browser.

The Redmond, Wash. company isn’t working in a vacuum: Other operating systems also try to eke out more battery life by scaling back CPU use. Apple’s iOS, for instance, switches to a low-power mode when an iPhone or iPad battery reaches about 20% capacity. Among other things, the iOS mode halts background app refreshing and stops automatic email fetching.

Microsoft first added Power Throttling to Windows 10 in January, saying that it had turned it on for a subset of Insider-equipped devices as an experiment and promising to provide an update in mid-February. That update never appeared, hinting that Microsoft pulled it from inclusion in the then-upcoming Creators Update, the feature upgrade released April 11.

The first opportunity most users will have to apply Power Throttling will be with 2017’s second feature upgrade. Microsoft has not revealed a release timetable, but most experts expect it to appear this fall.

Mozilla To End Firefox’s Aurora Preview Track

April 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla has announced it will discontinue one of Firefox’s preview tracks that have allowed users to test early versions of the browser before wider deployment.

Companies running Firefox, and testing the browser using the “Aurora” track, will be automatically migrated to the “Beta” channel today.

“It became clear that Aurora was not meeting our expectations as a first stabilization channel,” wrote Dave Camp, director of engineering for Firefox; Sylvestre Ledru, the browser’s release manager; and Ali Spivak, head of developer marketing, in a post to a Mozilla blog.

Mozilla has offered multiple versions of each Firefox edition since 2011, when it began offering four builds — Nightly, Aurora, Beta and Release — each of which was supposed to be more stable than the previous.

“We have more modern processes underlying our [release] train model, and believe we can deliver feature-rich, stable products without the additional 6-8-week Aurora phase,” said Camp, Ledru and Spivak.

In that “train” approach, Mozilla added a new feature to the least stable version, Developer, then when the feature was ready, moved it to the next track, Aurora. As development progressed, the feature would shift to Beta and then finally to Release.

But Mozilla acknowledged that the system had sometimes failed. “The release cycle time has required that we subvert the model regularly over the years by uplifting new features to meet market requirements,” the company admitted in an accompanying FAQ, referring to times when it has had to skip one of the tracks or shorten the time a feature spent on one.

Firefox users on the Aurora channel were to be moved to Beta today, according to the FAQ. Aurora will not be updated after tomorrow, when Firefox 53 is to ship in final, or Release, form.

With Aurora’s disappearance, Mozilla will rely on Beta for the first widespread distribution of each edition of Firefox. To make up for Aurora’s absence, each beta will be rolled out in stages, just as Release has long been, with the idea that if major problems crop up, they do so early on and thus affect only a subset of customers before the spigot is turned off.

Aurora’s elimination will not increase the frequency of Release builds issued or decrease the time between each Release version; the latter will continue to range from six to nine weeks. Nor will the already-slated dates for future versions of Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) change. That edition, designed for enterprises and other large organizations, remains stable for approximately a year. Much like Windows 10’s LTSB (Long-term Servicing Branch), ESR receives only security updates.

Ditching Aurora, however, will let Mozilla move a new feature from inception to final about six to eight weeks faster than before.

Microft Sets Retirement Date For First Windows 10 Release

April 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

True to form, Microsoft has announced May 9 as the date it will issue the final updates for the debut edition of Windows 10 that launched in 2015.

Two months ago, Microsoft had extended support for Windows 10 version 1507 — Microsoft labels feature upgrades by year and month — from March to May, but did not specify the date in the latter month.

The May 9 retirement was quietly announced on several support documents, including the “Windows lifecycle fact sheet,” which lists several kinds of deadlines for various versions of the operating system.

Another document put it plainly. “The time has now come to end servicing for version 1507,” the support document read.

Stopping support for Windows 10 editions — Microsoft released the fourth on Tuesday — is an important part of the company’s software-as-a-service model. The company has pledged to support an individual edition, such as 1507, not for 10 years, as policy required for, say, Windows 7 or 8.1, but only for 18 months or so. That mandate insured Microsoft would not need to craft security patches, fix other bugs or add new features for an increasing number of versions.

By the time Windows 10 1507 slips off the list, it will have been supported for about 21 months. Part of the reason it lasted longer than Microsoft’s stated norm was because the firm issued just one feature upgrade — v. 1607 — in 2016.

The next Windows 10 edition, v. 1511, could be purged from support as soon as early October. That’s because Microsoft has committed to simultaneously supporting just two Current Branch for Business (CBB) builds. At the release of N+2 onto CBB, the company starts a 60-day-or-so countdown. At the end of the 60 days, N drops off the support list. N+1 then becomes N and N+2 morphs into N+1.

Under that policy, N would be 1511, N+1 version 1607 (released in August 2016) and N+2 1703 (this month’s feature upgrade). Version 1703 will likely be promoted to the CBB in four months, or August; two months more would put 1511’s support demise in October.

Users running 1507 must have upgraded to 1511, 1607 or 1703 by May 10 to receive future security patches, and other fixes or enhancements. Windows 10 1507 will not suddenly fail to boot, however, or degrade, as do copies that have not been activated with a product key.

The only exceptions will be customers whose devices are running v. 1507 from the Long-term Servicing Branch (LTSB), a special release track available only to organizations using Windows 10 Enterprise.

Can Apple Succeed Without Imagination?

April 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Imagination Technologies, the leading graphics processing unit supplier for Apple, issued a press statement on Monday saying that the fruit-themed gadget maker will no longer use the group’s intellectual property in new products manufactured 15 months to two years from now.

The development is a major hurdle for Imagination, the British chip designer that has provided PowerVR graphics processors for iPhones, iPads, iPods, Apple TVs and Apple Watches since 2007. The company’s partnership with Apple accounted for roughly half of its annual revenues, in addition to the royalties it had been receiving on account of iPhone and iPad devices. Those royalties, which totaled £60.7 million ($75.8 million) for the year ending April 2016 and £65 million ($81.2 million) for 2017, are set to expire roughly 15 months to two years from now, before Q2 2019.

Apple currently holds more than an eight percent share in Imagination, and become a key investor in mid-2009 after raising its stake to 10 percent. At one point last year, Apple was in the process of holding “advanced acquisition talks” but ultimately decided against a full takeover, according to the Financial Times. Following the talks, Chinese state-owned company Tsinghua then took a three percent stake in the British company.

Last February, Imagination also announced that longtime CEO Hossein Yassaie would be stepping down as part of a major business restructuring operation. This was followed by across-the-board operating cuts by £15 million over the next year into April 2017 – including £2 million from its PowerVR product series.

In its press release on Monday, Imagination states that Apple “has not presented any evidence” to claim that it will no longer require [Imagination technologies], “without violating Imagination’s patents, intellectual property and confidential information. This evidence has been requested by Imagination but Apple has declined to provide it”.

Imagination: Alternative GPU designs will be impossible without patent infringement

In a serious call against disparagement, the British-based R&D company believes that Apple will not be able to produce any substantive GPU alternatives on its own without violating its patents, intellectual property and confidential information. But with a determination to take its mobile graphics in-house, Apple still confidently insists it has an A-series alternative underway for the next generation of product announcements scheduled for 2018.

The original iPhone featured a low-power ARM RISC CPU with assistance from a PowerVR MBX directly descended from Imagination’s Dreamcast GPU. Nine years later, the iPhone 7 came with a custom six-core PowerVR 7X6 GT7600 Plus with OpenCL 2 support and accelerated computer vision technologies.

Apple has already taken several key employees

Imagination’s rebuttals have not appeared without legitimate grievance, however. Back in October, it was revealed that at least 25 of its employees and management personnel jumped ship to Apple over the past two years. Names include notable ex-COO John Metcalfe, Senior Design Manager Dave Roberts, VP of Hardware Engineering Johnathan Redshaw, and Senior Software Engineering Manager Benjamin Bowman – who is now a GPU architect for the Cupertino company. While the list of grievances prior to today’s breakup is not against the law, it is considered a serious exodus of raw talent that is evidently justified in Imagination’s disconcerted press statement.

Following the statement, Imagination shares plunged by nearly 70 percent, leading to its insistence that it has reason to go to court with the Cupertino company if it finds enough evidence to present a case. This decade, several GPU vendors have taken SoC vendors to court, including Nvidia with Samsung and Qualcomm, and an ongoing AMD case against LG, MediaTek, Sigma and Vizio.

Apple, however, has chosen to remain silent when asked for evidence that its in-house technologies would not violate existing patents. The question is whether Apple will choose to license any needed patents – from Imagination or others – or if it is not talking because GPU development is a lot more competitive now that programs aren’t tied to a specific architecture.

As AnandTech notes, there hasn’t been a new major GPU vendor in nearly a decade aside from Qualcomm’s acquisition of ATI’s Imageon brand (now Adreno) in 2009. It will be interesting to see how this development unfolds and the precautions Apple will need to take in hiding technical details of any upcoming graphics developments. Imagination, on the other hand, now has to work much harder in making up for lost revenues and may have some related announcements over the next few weeks.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Word Being Used To Transport Malware

April 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Cybercriminals have been exploiting an unpatched vulnerability in Microsoft Word for the past few months to compromise computers and infect them with malware.

The first report about the attacks came from antivirus vendor McAfee after the company’s researchers analyzed some suspicious Word files spotted a day earlier. It turned out that the files were exploiting a vulnerability that affects “all Microsoft Office versions, including the latest Office 2016 running on Windows 10.”

The flaw is related to the Windows Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) feature in Microsoft Office that allows documents to embed references and links to other documents or objects, the McAfee researchers said in a blog post.

When the rogue documents used in this attack are opened, they reach out to an external server and download an HTA (HTML Application) file that contains malicious VBScript code. The HTA file is disguised as an RTF (Rich Text Format) document and is automatically executed.

“The successful exploit closes the bait Word document, and pops up a fake one to show the victim,” the McAfee researchers said. “In the background, the malware has already been stealthily installed on the victim’s system.”

By searching back through its data, McAfee has tracked down attacks exploiting this vulnerability to late January.

Following McAfee’s report, security researchers from FireEye also confirmed that they’ve been aware of these attacks and exploit for several weeks and have coordinated disclosure with Microsoft.

According to FireEye, the malicious Word documents are sent as email attachments. The company hasn’t provided examples of the malicious emails, but because this is a previously undisclosed, zero-day vulnerability, the attacks are likely targeted toward a limited number of victims.

Both McAfee and FireEye noted that the exploit can bypass most memory-based mitigations included in Windows. That’s because the vulnerability is a logic bug rather than a programming error.

Microsoft is scheduled to release its monthly security updates on Tuesday, but it’s not clear if a patch for this vulnerability will be included. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the meantime, users should be wary of documents received from untrusted sources and should enable the Office Protected View mode because it can block this attack.

Microsoft Unveils Windows Insider Program For Business

April 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Business will finally gain access to their own version of the Microsoft Windows 10 beta program this week. On Friday, Microsoft rolled out the Windows Insider Program for Business, alongside its first post-Creators Update Windows 10 beta.

The program will let business users sign up for beta updates with their Azure Active Directory credentials, rather than a personal Microsoft account. The new feature is designed to provide IT professionals with a path for giving Microsoft business-specific feedback on Windows 10 features. That, in turn, should help business users shape feature development.

Creating a business Insider Program is Microsoft’s response to IT pros’ requests for a connection with the Windows development team. Windows 10 got off to a rocky start with some systems administrators who weren’t thrilled by Microsoft’s policy of only providing cumulative updates to the operating system rather than letting administrators pick and choose which patches to apply.

In a support document, the company said this program isn’t separate from the main Insider Program, but instead a way for businesses to better engage with the existing community of people testing new versions of Windows. In addition, Microsoft believes the new program will help businesses with their internal testing of Windows updates by giving early access to future patches.

Microsoft plans to do more to engage with IT teams in the future, Windows Insider Program chief Dona Sarkar said in a blog post.

Friday’s update starts laying the groundwork for Microsoft’s next major Windows 10 update, which is expected to arrive later this year. It comes four days before the company is slated to roll out the Creators Update, which will bring a flotilla of new features and functionality, to non-beta users.

The new bits released to members of the Windows Insider Program’s Fast ring don’t add much in the way of functionality to Windows 10. For the most part, the release is focused on updates to OneCore, the appropriately named systems at the core of Windows 10.

As is the norm with many Insider releases, there is a fleet of known issues in build 16170. Users can expect to see issues including one bug that prevents Windows Defender from opening when double-clicked. Right clicking it and choosing “open” will still launch the app.

Users who want to avoid bugs can move over to the Windows Insider Program’s Slow ring, which will give users increased reliability in exchange for delayed access to new updates.

 

Windows 10 Users Eager For Creators Update Can Download On April 5th

April 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 users who are eagerly anticipating the next feature upgrade may download it manually starting Wednesday, April 5, nearly a week before the refresh begins reaching PCs via Windows Update.

Windows 10 Creators Update — Microsoft’s name for the first of two upgrades in 2017 — will launch on April 11, when the installation file will be staged on Windows Update and offered to a select group of users. To jump the Windows Update line, people will need to run the Upgrade Assistant, an app that will be available before April 5 on Microsoft’s website.

Microsoft debuted the Update Assistant in August 2016 as a consumer-and-business alternative to Windows Update for grabbing the Anniversary Update, the Windows 10 upgrade also known by the yymm tag of 1607.

Also on Thursday, Microsoft reiterated its roll-out plan for the Creators Update. According to John Cable, director of program management and part of the Windows servicing and delivery team, the first group to receive the feature upgrade will be owners of “newer devices, especially those we tested together with our OEM hardware partners.”

Distribution will slowly expand as Microsoft collects and evaluates incoming telemetry from upgrading devices, and if necessary, deals with issues such as incompatible drivers blocking the update. “We’ll iterate this process over a period of several months,” Cable added.

Last year’s Anniversary Update took about three months to be served to, and installed on, just under 80% of the eligible consumer and business PCs running Windows 10.

Microsoft To Offer Samsung Galaxy S8 Phones With Own Apps Installed

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft will offer for sale Samsung’s newest Android-powered phones, the Galaxy S8 and S8+, in its brick-and-mortar stores later this month.

The phones can be pre-ordered now at Microsoft’s retail outlets — but not online — and will also be available for purchase in the stores beginning April 21, Samsung’s release date for the new, larger models. Microsoft’s prices will be the same as Samsung’s: $750 for the Galaxy S8, $850 for the S8+.

But the Galaxy S8 and S8+ phones sold by Microsoft will not be identical to those offered elsewhere. “A Microsoft customization is applied when the devices are unboxed and connected to Wi-Fi,” a Microsoft spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “This customization ensures customers a best-in-class productivity experience with Microsoft applications such as Office, OneDrive, Cortana, Outlook and more.”

Microsoft has worked hard to craft Android versions of its productivity apps since it spun its mobile strategy away from building and selling Windows-powered smartphones.

The company couched the Galaxy sales as part of that theme. “The new device customization is an example of bringing together Microsoft applications on more devices so customers can work, play and connect from their pockets,” the spokeswoman added.

“I think it’s a pretty smart move,” said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates. “Samsung is probably the No. 1 enterprise supplier of Android smartphones today. And they’re configuring the phone to make sure their products are on it.”

Gold’s point? “This is a preemptive strike against Google,” he said.

Microsoft has always been most interested in its commercial customers, those who contribute the majority of the company’s revenues. Gold emphasized that those thoughts remained uppermost at Redmond.

“Microsoft has two plays in the enterprise, the traditional, where Exchange is the back-end, and then the cloud,” he said, talking of mobile. “Microsoft’s asking, ‘Can I keep them from saying “I can switch to Google,”‘ when they go to the cloud? So, this is a stake in the ground, Microsoft saying, ‘Try our stuff, you’ll like it.'”

Although Gold expects Microsoft to try to sell company app-equipped phones to enterprises in other ways, perhaps by making deals with carriers, which are the usual sellers of smartphones to corporate customers buying in bulk, he is also upbeat about Microsoft’s immediate plans. “In big companies, remember, 30% to 40% of smartphones are BYOD,” Gold said of the “bring your own device” model where businesses support employee-owned phones, tablets and notebooks in the office.

Microsoft’s Samsung deal has been low profile; rather than issue a press release or even publish a post on one of its countless blogs, the company issued a statement. Likewise, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be sold, at least initially, through Microsoft’s limited number of retail stores only.

Is Kingston Leading The SSD Market?

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Kingston Digital, which is the Flash memory affiliate of Kingston Technology, has revealed that it has its paws on 16 percent of the global channel SSD unit market in 2016.

According to beancounters at Forward Insights, which has been analyzing the non-volatile semiconductor industry since 2008 more than 63 million SSDs were shipped worldwide in the channel in 2016 with Kingston accounting for nearly 10.1 million units.

The amount represented 16 percent or second-most in the global market, showing Kingston’s growth as one of the top suppliers of SSDs. The sales channel is comprised of distributors, re-sellers, retail/e-tail, system builders and solutions providers.

Gregory Wong, President & Principal Analyst, Forward Insights said that his  research showed third-party SSD manufacturers accounted for 60 percent of all channel shipments last year as a number of the semiconductor-based vendors de-emphasized their channel business.  

He said : “Although under allocation since mid-Q2 2016, channel shipments as a whole remained strong and Kingston was one of the top leaders in this category.”

Tony Hollingsbee, SSD Business Manager at Kingston, said the desire to switch to SSDs continues to grow as consumers and corporate customers alike see the performance benefits of upgrading from hard-disk drives.

“For nearly 30 years, Kingston’s focus and core sales strength has been with our channel partners worldwide. Our terrific relationship with them has helped make our SSD business grow globally since we shipped our first drive in 2009. The latest results from Forward Insights help validate these efforts and we certainly share this success with our channel partners.”

Courtesy-Fud

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