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Is The Linux Desktop Gaining In Popularity

November 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Linux fanboys were dancing in the streets when NetMarketShare’s desktop operating system analysis, which showed Linux leaping from 2.5 percent in July, to almost five percent in September.

The news was seen as living proof that 2017 was the year of the Linux desktop and that things would only get better for next year.

Sadly, though, it was all a terrible mistake Vince Vizzaccaro, NetMarketShare’s executive marketing share of marketing has said that the reported Linux share was incorrect.

“We are aware of the issue and are currently looking into it”, he said.

According to the US federal government’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP) that shows desktop Linux, as usual, hanging out in “other” at 1.5 percent.

Windows, as always, is on top with 45.9 percent, followed by Apple iOS, at 25.5 percent, Android at 18.6 percent, and macOS at 8.5 percent.

The figures are US-based so they over emphasis Apple. Linux tends to do better in poorer parts of the world where people must justify spending money on more important functions such as power, stability rather than just the logo on the case.

The article does, however, acknowledge that Linux’s real market share is probably a little higher this month.

Courtesy-Fud

Will Ransomware Reach Epidemic Levels In 2018

November 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Sophos expects that ransomware will become a fully fledged epidemic in 2018.

While 2017 has already seen some major outbreaks, Sophos believes that ransomware will continue to grow in 2018, affecting more companies and platforms. Cybercrooks, it said, are becoming more sophisticated.

Throughout 2017, there have been a string of global IT security crises, from WannaCry to NotPetya. According to Sophos, attackers have been able to perfect their ransomware delivery techniques to cause such outbreaks.

While most ransomware hits Windows users, the report found that other platforms aren’t immune. Attackers have also been targeting mobile devices, particularly Android.

Ransomware, the firm says, is a “vexing problem” for businesses. Generated in May 2017, WannaCry was the biggest ransomware to affect customers – beating previous leader Cerber, which appeared in early 2016.

WannaCry made up 45.3 per cent of the ransomware tracked by Sophas, with Cerber accounting for 44.2 per cent.

Dorka Palotay, a researcher at the firm, said cybercriminals will likely launch more complex ransomware attacks in the future.

“For the first time, we saw ransomware with worm-like characteristics, which contributed to the rapid expansion of WannaCry,” he said.

“This ransomware took advantage of an old Windows vulnerability to infect and spread to computers, making it hard to control,” he added.

“Even though WannaCry has tapered off and Sophos has defenses for it, we still see the threat because of its inherent nature to keep scanning and attacking computers.

“We’re expecting cyber criminals to build upon WannaCry and NotPetya and their ability to replicate, and this is already evident with Bad Rabbit ransomware, which shows many similarities to NotPetya.”

The report also explored the rise and fall of NotPetya, which made headlines in June 2017. Sophos said this attack was far less damaging than WannaCry, and it suspects cybercriminals were merely “experimenting”.

“NotPetya spiked fast and furiously before taking a nose dive, but did ultimately hurt businesses. This is because NotPetya permanently destroyed data on the computers it hit. Luckily, NotPetya stopped almost as fast as it started,” said Palotay. “

“We suspect the cybercriminals were experimenting or their goal was not ransomware, but something more destructive like a data wiper.

“Regardless of intention, Sophos strongly advises against paying for ransomware and recommends best practices instead, including backing up data.

Android ransomware is also on the rise, according to the research. The report has revealed that the number of attacks on users using Google’s mobile platform grew month-on-month during 2017.

The firm said that by the end of the year, its systems will have identified an estimated 10 million suspicious Android apps. In comparison, 8.5 million were processed in 2016.

Rowland Yu, a SophosLabs security researcher focusing on mobile malware, said: “In September alone, 30.37 per cent of malicious Android malware processed by SophosLabs was ransomware.

“One reason we believe ransomware on Android is taking off is because it’s an easy way for cybercriminals to make money instead of stealing contacts and SMS, popping ups ads or even bank phishing which requires sophisticated hacking techniques.

It’s important to note that Android ransomware is mainly discovered in non-Google Play markets – another reason for users to be very cautious about where and what kinds of apps they download.” 

Courtesy-TheInq

Will Broadcom Acquisition Attempt Of Qualcomm Succeed

November 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has surged $61.81 on a rumor that some people close to the matter have heard that Broadcom is thinking about being bought.

From what we know, this is unlikely to happen and even if you look at Broadcom’s balance sheet, Qualcomm without the NXP acquisition has a market cap of $91.23 billion. Broadcom was bought by AVGO.

Avago Technologies bought Broadcom back in late May 2015 for $37 billion and the company today has a market cap of $117.707 billion –  simple mathematics demonstrate that Broadcom/AVGO would not be able to afford Qualcomm, but let’s wait and see what happens.

However, some sort of joint venture or merger would not be out of the question. Qualcomm has had quite a few success stories with previous mergers, including Atheros which helped Qualcomm a lot in the Wi-Fi and network portfolio.

Over the last two decades, Qualcomm made at least 43 acquisitions and if you ask Fudzilla, we would rather say that Qualcomm could snap Broadcom AVGO up and not the other way around.

Since the companies are doing similar things in the network space, there are likely to be a lot of concerns with regulatory agencies all over the world.

It is not every day that your stock jumps from $54.84 to $61.82 or 12.71 percent in a day. 

One good thing for Qualcomm is that Wall Street finally realized that despite the Apple dispute, Qualcomm is worth much more than was yesterday or the day before.

Courtesy-Fud

Windows 7 Still Microsoft’s Most Popular OS

November 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Windows 7 lost a few more users last month as its share of the overall Windows universe slipped a bit closer to 50%.

But if the veteran operating system were a person, it would be that party guest who stayed well past welcome, lingering long after everyone else has left, after the hosts have, in fact, gone to bed. And there Windows 7 would sit, talking without a listener, making itself at home, feet up on the coffee table.

According to metrics vendor Net Applications, Windows 7’s user share in October was 46.6%, a decline of six-tenths of a percentage point. More notable during these times of migration, the operating system ran 51.4% of all Windows machines during the same stretch, a month-to-month drop of seventh-tenths of a point. (The second percentage is larger because Windows was detected on 90.8% of the world’s PCs, not 100%; the remainder ran macOS or a Linux flavor.)

October’s decline was only half that of September, but was still the third largest of 2017.

The continued weakening of Windows 7’s user share – five months of declines and counting – is a promising sign, as the operating systems faces a deadline: Microsoft has set Windows 7’s retirement for Jan. 14, 2020, now little more than 26 months away. The faster Windows 7 relinquishes its user share, the less the chance that businesses will find themselves running unpatched, and thus, vulnerable, machines. No one wants a repeat of the panicky last few months of Windows XP’s lifespan, when companies blew through IT budgets scrambling to purge the obsolete OS.

Yet Windows 7 remains behind the pace set by XP . With 26 months to go before its April 2014 retirement, XP accounted for 49.4% of all Windows PCs, or two points lower than Windows 7’s share in October. Things could be worse: In August, Windows 7 was three points behind XP’s tempo. But the lack of progress in matching XP’s slide toward irrelevance must be disheartening to Microsoft, which continues to sing Windows 10’s praises, and even assert that Windows 7 is not only old and tired, but simply not up to the tasks required of it.

Meanwhile, Windows 10 did see a bump in user share last month of two-tenths of a point, ending October at 29.3%. When only Windows systems are counted, its share of that pool was 32.8%, within shouting distance of the one-in-three milestone. Computerworld calculated that, with the 12-month trend in Net Applications’ data, Windows 10 should pass the 33.3% line during December.

Are Notebook Sales On The Decline Again

November 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Notebook sales are continuing to fall faster than Donald Trump’s popularity with global shipments of notebooks (excluding detachable 2-in-1 models) declined 4.2 percent on year to 40.79 million units in the third quarter of 2017.

According to Digitimes Research beancounters weakening demand in the consumer sector and a corporate reorganization at Asustek Computer offset gains resulting from better-than-expected Chromebook sales and brisk sales of gaming models in China.

Notebook shipments are expected to see a boost in the fourth quarter as it is traditionally a peak season, fueled by year-end holiday sales and Double Eleven online shopping day in China.

Google is flat out promoting Chromebooks in the consumer market, and Microsoft and other brands are pushing notebook sales, including leasing, in the business sector.

Global notebook shipments are expected to reach 41.72 million units in the fourth quarter, up 2.3 percent on quarter and 0.5 percent from a year earlier.

The slow pace of the shipment growth for the fourth quarter indicates that the current rebound in the notebook market is toast.

HP has maintained its leading market position and see its shipments reach a new high in the fourth quarter, powered by brisk sales both in the consumer and business sectors. Lenovo is second as its shipments will resume momentum following the completion of its recent management reshuffle.

Dell gets the bronze as it ships over 60% of its products to the business segment, where the sector growth is lower than that for the consumer market.

Fruity cargo-cult Apple has seen its shipments decline in the fourth quarter mostly because it could not be bothered releasing new products.

Asustek Computer will see shipments rebound in the fourth quarter, outracing Acer to capture the fifth position.

Courtesy-Fud

Does Virtual Reality Have Unlimited Potential

November 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Virtual reality, exciting as it may be for enthusiasts, is a technology that has yet to truly take hold with the masses, let alone transform people’s daily lives in the way that smartphones have. First, 2016 was supposed to be the “Year of VR.” Then, in 2017, we’ve heard over and over about the trough of disillusionment from VR developers. But that’s okay, because these early VR developers believe that they can become the leaders of a VR space that one day will be mainstream.

Certainly, that’s what Oculus VP of Content Jason Rubin thinks and it’s why his company continues to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the ecosystem. If you ask Rubin to respond to analysts’ assessment that VR’s so-called trough is becoming more of an abyss, he’ll tell you why comparisons to other technologies, like Kinect, simply aren’t valid.

“I tried to explain this in my keynote [at Oculus Connect] in a few sentences and I think I utterly failed to get the point across,” Rubin tells me. “When I said that VR gets compared to other technologies, each technology is different. I would suggest the easiest explanation I can give to a type of technology that VR gets compared to that is exactly wrong to compare would be 3D TV. 3D TV, when it came out, you could understand exactly how good 3D TV could get… It’s two cameras sitting next to one another. It’s still not real 3D yet. It’s stereoscopic, but you can’t move your head and see behind things. So I could say right then and there I am not spending a dollar extra on 3D. And, for that reason, none of the networks wanted to make 3D content…So you saw the entire potential of that device in the moment it was launched and you could easily dismiss it. 

“Let’s look at VR. I can tell you that there is a world in which VR acts a little bit more like a holodeck than it does today. That is way out of our timeline, but if you talk to Michael Abrash about what VR could be in his lifetime or the next lifetime, you start to get into some weird discussions, because VR could be, literally, anything. There is nothing that can come after VR because VR could simulate anything.

He continues, “VR’s potential is literally infinite because as we go from, as Mark [Zuckerberg] said, admittedly bulky goggles to smaller glasses to tricking your inner ear to getting into haptic and touch, you can imagine a world in which VR can do literally anything you can imagine. So, if we judge VR on today’s market, we are making a mistake. Even if the trough of disillusionment is deeper than many analysts might have wanted it to be, or they’re making that momentary discussion, this is silly… Can we imagine a world where there’s no screen door effect? Yes. Can we imagine a world where it’s not heavy? Yes. Can we imagine a world where there’s more content? Yes. So, unlike 3D TV, in exactly the opposite way, it has infinite potential. Not limited potential. Infinite potential. The question is, how long will it take to get there?”

Some have used the discontinuation of the Kinect from Microsoft not only as a reminder of the demise of traditional motion gaming ushered in by the Wii, but as a cautionary tale for technology that just doesn’t resonate on a large enough scale.

Rubin dismisses any Kinect comparisons as well: “Kinect was not as easy to understand as 3D TV. So I cannot look at Kinect and say, ‘Well, that’s [like] 3D TV.’ When I looked at Kinect first, I thought, ‘Huh, this could do some interesting stuff.’ But it was also not [something with] infinite potential because, ultimately, all it can do is track one or more bodies and put the information that those one or more bodies was transmitting onto a screen.

“So Kinect looked great, reached its potential quickly, and then the additional potential failed to deliver. And developers looked at Kinect – and I was there, I remember I was talking to Microsoft about building a Kinect game at one point very early on – and two years later it was pretty clear to everyone that this was not going to be the future. We had reached the potential. So, while Kinect started looking like VR, it very quickly reached its potential. I will tell you as we sit here today, whether this generation of VR, or a next generation of VR, one generation of VR will take over the world. That’s infinite potential. And that’s why I don’t like any of these analogies. They all fall flat for me.”

An analogy he does like, however, is one that Intel’s Kim Pallister shared with me recently. And that is the VR space is still searching for its Wii – a headset that sacrifices some performance for a much more attractive price and accessibility. When Oculus Go launches next year at $199 – $100 more than Gear VR, with which it’ll share a library – Rubin believes the standalone headset could be the answer to the Wii question.

“The perfect product market fit is the right hardware quality with the right price point and the right software to drive it,” he says. “I would suggest that VR is on the path to finding that perfect product.”

Go is far from perfect, but Rubin believes it will offer consumers a good balance between price and performance. “That $199 buys you a significant amount of capability,” he offers. “First of all, it’s fully contained. It doesn’t need a phone to plug into it. So, right off the bat, if you happen not to be a Samsung phone user… it doesn’t require you to switch to Android from iOS or switch to Samsung from another Android marketplace. In being all-in-one, it also allows you to take it on and off quickly. It won’t draw on your phone’s battery. Updates, carrier things, other stuff like that are taken care of much more cleanly because it’s not doing double duty as a phone and a VR device.

“The lenses are fantastic. They’re our latest technology. They’re amazing. If you try it, you will know I’m not exaggerating. The ergonomics are fantastic. When you take apart a phone and you take the pieces you need for a VR device out and distribute it around a headset appropriately, the weight isn’t slung all the way out at the end of your nose, so it feels better. [Gear VR] is still a great way of getting VR inexpensively. But if you’re a big VR enthusiast and you use it often or if you don’t have a Samsung device, Oculus Go gives you an opportunity to jump into the market. So our addressable market at low price point radically improves.”

The other major hardware announcement at Oculus Connect was the company’s Santa Cruz headset – an all-in-one HMD that offers six degrees of freedom and hand-tracking (as compared with 3DOF on Gear/Go) but Oculus isn’t revealing it as a consumer product just yet. Similar to the multiple dev kit iterations that Rift went through following its Kickstarter reveal, it appears that Santa Cruz is going to continue to be tweaked by the engineers on the team. One thing is clear, though: barring a technological miracle, there’s no way Santa Cruz will be able to replicate the exact high-end VR experience that Rift provides.

“To be completely honest, that [power equation] is still a part of our research,” Rubin notes. “That’s what we’re doing. We’re looking at the marketplace that it would come into. We’re looking at the capabilities that are needed to run inside-out tracking, because all of that has to be in the device. We’ll make that decision. Having said that, anyone with a mild amount of technical expertise, could pretty quickly determine that the power usage, the cooling, and the other demands of the PC min spec even that we’ve taken on Rift is not likely to show up in a portable device in the immediate future.”

There’s no doubt that committing to VR remains a risky proposition for many studios still. EVE Valkyrie dev CCP Games just exited VR altogether, and while this interview was conducted prior to that news, Rubin sees a light at the end of this chaotic VR tunnel. Studios may rise and fall around VR in the next few years, but those who manage to stick around may be amply rewarded.

“The chaos and excitement is creating a lot of failure that will eventually lead to success,” Rubin stresses. “So if a company or three or five or ten are struggling, that is the business. They understand that. They may complain, but that’s the world we live in. They’re betting on the long-term success of the hardware, and their ability to be the Naughty Dog, the Zynga, the Rovio, whatever, of VR. There are companies now that are succeeding if you look at the numbers, making million dollar, multi-million dollar titles.

“That did not exist a few years ago. They could not [invest that much]. A few hundred thousand dollars, maybe you could make your money back. Could you make a million dollar title? Probably not. But if you just read across the press, there are companies out there that are self-sustaining and they’re making titles that are a few million dollars… As we continue to make more and more [games with larger budgets], we bring more consumers into the marketplace. As we keep our price reasonable, we bring more people into the marketplace. That allows $2 million games to become $3 million games, etc, etc. As long as we stay ahead of that curve, and continue to expand the size and scope of the products we’re making, we will continue to make the ecosystem larger and larger, and that will bring more and more people in and that makes developers more likely to succeed on their own.”

For that reason, Oculus has been funding games by investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the ecosystem. But it’s clear that Oculus would rather see the ecosystem become self-sustaining. At that point, then we’ll truly see some AAA efforts on digital storefronts.

“If we pull this off – and I intend to – in the long run, we will be able to back away, and there will be companies like EA and Activision and Take-Two and everyone else that are putting $100 million into VR games and making their money back without any input from us,” Rubin adds. “That is the eventual success state. When we reach that point, to wrap this into some of the other questions you asked, some of those people will also want to do non-game things, and that will lead to opportunities to create the next Uber of VR or the Airbnb of VR or whatever strikes the people.”

There’s been a fair amount of controversy surrounding Oculus’ exclusives, but to Rubin it’s the competition that’s not doing VR any favors. “Again, if you’re not investing in the ecosystem, you are not driving VR’s success. You are coming along for the ride,” he states.

These days, Oculus closely scrutinizes every project before it commits to funding rather than looking to fund every small developer that comes knocking at its door.

“If a team comes to Oculus with a $1 million title or so, the question we ask ourselves is, ‘Do we need to finance this?’ That title can make its money back,” he says. “Especially, when we don’t fund it, they can put it out on multiple VR platforms, which we’re all for. It just increases the odds of making their money back. As Microsoft and others enter the marketplace, that is good for VR, because it is yet more pieces of hardware out there. Unfunded content that comes out for all of them has a better chance of making its money back.

“The shape of what we fund will change as that window of investment that can pay off gets larger and larger every year as the consumer base grows. And it may be that we continue to stay ahead of that to the point where we’re funding very expensive games and very expensive non-games. If we get to that point where we’re spending twice what we’re spending now on an average title, the only way we’ve gotten there is the average self-invested title is significantly larger too, because it can afford to make that investment and get a return on its investment. I’m not looking to retire anytime soon. But I do think we’ll get there some day.”

As Rubin alludes to, non-games could very well become a large chunk of Oculus’ business in the future. Right now, Oculus is a games-first company, but clearly social platform software and enterprise software for various industries is gaining in importance. And with the new VR interface for Oculus (called Dash) that allows you to control all your programs within VR, thereby eliminating the PC monitor, it’s conceivable that Oculus could become more like Microsoft – gaming would be just a slice of the corporation.

“Games were a big part of the launch of the [Apple] App Store because it was a low hanging fruit and it was obvious. But, in the long run, there is no question that, when we reach a billion people [in VR], games will be A use case, not THE use case,” Rubin says. “Social will be a massive use case…So will applications and utilities, because we all have things to achieve in our life. Seems to me, since I’ve been alive, every year we get more things we need to achieve in our life. So if we find a technology that makes some of those things easier, faster, or more efficient, we will adopt it. And that is exactly what drove mobile phone usage. It’s in your pocket. Look at how much easier I can do x, y, or z, and you immediately start doing it. By definition, as a computer platform, we will do all of those things. But we will start with entertainment and move towards them. By the way, we announced our enterprise partner program, so we are already taking steps to broaden.” 

One of the problems that content producers may have with VR is that it’s such a young technology that keeps evolving. It’s effectively changing faster than some studios can keep up with. This, too, will stabilize, Rubin promises.

“As a long-term developer of content… the most frustrating and exciting times always happen at the same point,” he says. “It is frustrating because there is so much change. So as a developer, creative, or other app creator, you are frustrated by how much things are changing and how rapidly they’re changing. But it’s also the most exciting time because, invariably, that change leads to opportunity and then opportunity leads to success. I can give you an endless number of examples of this. When cartridge based 2D games went CD and 3D, 2D cartridge based character action game makers stuck with 2D because 2D was something they knew and they made hundreds of millions of dollars at that time making those products. My little team at Naughty Dog didn’t have that background, so we joined the frustrating and exciting change to 3D and we watched a lot of companies try and fail at how to get various things into 3D. My company happened to get it right and we created Naughty Dog and billion-dollar franchises. 

“The exact same thing happened at the beginning of mobile,” he continues. “If you remember iPhone 1, iPhone 2 – every resolution of the screens would radically change. The capability of the screens would change. It was crazy town. And we didn’t know what people wanted out of the devices… Again, when Facebook opened up the opportunity for people to make apps on Facebook, nobody knew how to make a social app. [That] created Zynga. Was it frustrating? Oh my God! I actually was working on games back then. I’m sitting in Facebook’s offices [and] I will still say this. They changed the underlying SDK and rule-set on a bi-weekly basis and we were working on stuff that was going to take six months to a year to come out. It was incredibly frustrating and crazy. [But] it created multiple billion-dollar companies.”

VR developers are in the midst of figuring out how to best leverage the medium’s best traits. Titanfall creator Respawn, for example, announced a new project at Oculus Connect that aims to depict the realism of being a soldier. Rather than simply glorify the violence the way some shooters do today, Respawn wants to make you feel the tension and fear that someone on the battlefield must endure.

very empathetic,” Rubin notes. “I would also add that it may be that if you experience certain things in VR, it will teach you a lesson about what that would be like in real life. And so everything is a lesson and a learning. I will also say that Respawn is very aware of what they make. They’re good citizens. So judge us when the product comes out.”

Respawn’s title isn’t due until 2019, but as we’ve seen with the VR marketplace itself, patience is a virtue.

“The one thing I have no control of at Oculus is bringing software through production any faster. And it pains me,” Rubin laments. “All the Crash [Bandicoot games] were made in a year. Jax took two years. Two years is aggressive these days. At some point, it’s going to be a lifetime to bring out software. I hope we can figure out a better way. But, yes, unfortunately, it will take a little while, but the payoff will be there when we finish.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Microsoft Makes Upgrades Simpler With ‘Subscription Activation’ Feature

November 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has upped the Windows subscription ante by allowing enterprise IT to dispense with the traditional wipe-and-image OS deployment method in favor of an automatic-on-reboot metamorphosis from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise.

The new feature, dubbed “Subscription Activation,” works with Windows 10 1703 – the April 2017 feature upgrade – or later, and requires access to Azure Active Directory (AAD). (The more common, on-premises Active Directory will serve in a pinch, as long as it’s synced with AAD.) It also, more obviously, demands a subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise, such as those included in the Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 plans, or the newer Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 deals.

Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, saw one sure-fire advantage to Subscription Activation. “The place that is interesting [to me] is for businesses repaving PCs when they get them,” said Miller in a recent interview. “Say you get a new Surface, but it’s just running [Windows 10] Pro, because OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] cannot ship Enterprise.”

Typically, IT personnel take that new device, wipe the Windows 10 Pro operating system from the system, then load the corporation’s customized Windows 10 Enterprise image onto the personal computer. Subscription Activation makes all that moot.

Will PC Sales Ever Make A Comeback

October 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Beancounters at Gartner have been adding up some numbers and reached the conclusion that sales of traditional PCs are still falling.

Things might pick up next year, but PC sales have continued to fall and analyst always say “things will get better next year.”

Gartner said that PC shipments will drop by nearly eight percent this year, and another 4.4 percent in 2018. By 2019, 16 million fewer traditional PCs and notebooks will be sold than were shipped this year.

However, much of this will be offset by the rise in spending on high-end notebooks so that the overall PC market will by 2019 be at pretty much the same level it was last year.

Tablets — defined by Gartner as basic and utility ultramobile devices — will also decline over the period to 2019.

But despite the declines in traditional PC sales, Gartner said it was a misconception that everyone has gone mobile, noting that its own research found that users depend just as much on PCs or tablets as they do on smartphones. One big difference between smartphones and PCs is that people are replacing their handsets much more regularly.

Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner Atwal said: “Users holding onto their PCs for longer remains a major issue for the PC market. In contrast, users continue to replace their smartphone quite frequently.”

Business PC shipments could return to growth by the end of this year, driven by faster Windows 10 replacement in many regions — especially in Western Europe.

“Despite the fact that prices have been rising due to higher component costs, Windows 10 replacements have kept the PC market relatively stable through 2017,” said Atwal. “We estimate that the PC market (desk-based, notebook and ultramobiles) is set to return to 0.8 percent growth in 2018,” he continued. According to Gartner, this trend would be driven by growth in Russia and China.

Courtesy-Fud

Will Microsoft Put The Surface To Rest

October 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft will drop its Surface laptop line-up by 2019, if remarks made by Canalys CEO Steve Brazier are to be believed.

As reported by The Register, which attended the Canalys Channels Forum, Brazier said that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a “software guy, a cloud guy”, hinting that the firm’s bork-ridden Surface laptops and tablets are likely to go the same way as the firm’s all-but-defunct smartphone division.

“The Surface performance is choppy; there are good quarters and bad quarters, overall they are not making money. It doesn’t make sense for them to be in this business,” Brazier remarked.

“When the capital expenditure challenge that Satya Nadella has taken Microsoft down becomes visible to Wall Street, everyone will ask him ‘Why have you gone to a low margin business?'”

Brazier has a point. Last quarter, Microsoft’s Surface revenue was down 2 per cent, and dropped a massive 26 per cent year-on-year in the previous quarter. The devices have been plagued with issues, too, which Microsoft has blamed on Intel’s Skylake chips.

Passing the buck didn’t stop Consumer Reports yanking its “recommended” label from the Surface line-up, though. It slammed the hardware “significantly less reliable than most other brands” after finding that one in four Surface owners were being plagued with  “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.”

Brazier’s predictions were backed up by Gianfranco Lanci, corporate VP and COO of Lenovo, who joined the Canalys CEO on stage.

“Microsoft is making a lot of money on cloud, making a lot of money on Windows and Office, but losing a lot of money on devices,” he said.

“Frankly speaking, it is difficult to see why they should keep losing money. For them it is a very difficult exercise to run hardware products business, they need to be careful about every single detail as the margin on this is so thin.”

Courtesy-Fud

Windows Phone Appears To Meet Its End

October 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Bill Gates ditched his Windows phone. HP is halting production of its flagship Windows handset. Now Microsoft has finally seen the writing on the wall — there aren’t enough people using Windows 10 Mobile or enough apps to make it viable.

Corporate vice president of Windows 10 and head of Microsoft’s “PC-Tablet-Phone” division, Joe Belfiore, said on Twitter Sunday that Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 Mobile with bug fixes and security updates, but new features and hardware are no longer front and center.

Microsoft is no upstart in the mobile space. It produced versions of its software for mobile devices for more than 20 years — starting with Windows CE for personal digital assistants in 1996, and later with Windows Mobile in 2000.

But the ecosystem has struggled since the launch of Apple’s iOs in 2007 and Google’s Android operating system (launched in 2008). According to the most recent sales figures from Kantar Worldpanel, Windows phones account for just 1.3 percent of the market in the US, bested only by BlackBerry at 0.3 percent. Compare that with Android’s 64 percent share of new phone sales and 34 percent for iOS (figures that are closely matched in the UK and Australia).

Microsoft has attempted to leverage its legacy in the PC space to push further into mobile — Windows 10 Mobile was billed as the “everywhere OS” that would let users shift seamlessly between desktop, tablet and mobile.

But users have long complained that the lack of apps on Windows Mobile devices is a deal breaker.

While Belfiore said Microsoft has tried “very hard” to provide incentives for app developers to get apps onto Windows Mobile, the “volume of users is too low for most companies to invest” in the ecosystem.

Does Virtual Reality Devices Have A Future

October 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Analyst at IDC have been shuffling their tarot decks and reached the conclusion that AR and VR are going to continue to grow like crazy – despite the fact that other analysts are not so sure.

IDC is forecasting the combined augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headset market to reach 13.7 million units in 2017, growing to 81.2 million units by 2021 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56.1 percent. VR headsets will account for more than 90 percent of the market until 2019 while AR will account for the rest. In the final two years of forecast, IDC expects AR headsets to experience exponential growth as they capture a quarter of the market by the end of the forecast.

Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers said that AR headset shipments today are a fraction of where IDC expects them to be in the next five years, both in terms of volume and functionality. “AR headsets are also on track to account for over US$30 billion in revenues by 2021, almost double that of VR, as most of the AR headsets will carry much higher average selling prices with earlier adopters being the commercial segment. Meanwhile, most consumers will experience AR on mobile devices, although it’s only a matter of time before Apple’s ARKit- and Google’s ARCore-enabled apps make their way into the market.

“AR headsets are also on track to account for over US$30 billion in revenues by 2021, almost double that of VR, as most of the AR headsets will carry much higher average selling prices with earlier adopters being the commercial segment. Meanwhile, most consumers will experience AR on mobile devices, although it’s only a matter of time before Apple’s ARKit- and Google’s ARCore-enabled apps make their way into consumer grade headsets.”

While AR headsets are poised for long-term growth along with a profound impact on the way businesses and consumers compute, VR headsets will drive a near-term shift in computing. Recent price reductions across all the major platforms, plus new entrants appearing in the next month, should drive growth in the second half of 2017 and will help to offset a slow start to the year. Screenless viewers such as the Gear VR will continue to maintain a majority share throughout the forecast, although the category’s share will continue to decline as lower-priced tethered head-mounted displays (HMDs) gain share over the course of the next two years. Meanwhile, IDC is predicting that standalone HMDs will gain share in the outer years of the forecast.

Tom Mainelli, vice president, Devices and AR/VR at IDC said: “Virtual reality has suffered from some unrealistic growth expectations in 2017, but overall the market is still growing at a reasonable rate and new products from Microsoft and its partners should help drive additional interest in the final quarter of this year. As we head into 2018 we’ll see additional new products appearing, including standalone headsets from major players, and we expect to see a growing number of companies embracing the technology to enable new business processes and training opportunities.”

Courtesy-Fud

Can The Latest Version Of Internet Explorer Be Exploted

October 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The latest version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) browser carries a serious bug that leaks whatever you type into the address bar.

The bug, disclosed by security researcher Manuel Caballero earlier this week, allows the website the user is currently visiting to view any text they type into the browser’ address bar, with that text becoming readable as soon as they hit the enter key.

“When a script is executed inside an object-HTML tag, the location object will get confused and return the main location instead of its own,” Caballero wrote. “To be precise, it will return the text written in the address bar so whatever the user types there will be accessible by the attacker.”

As noted by Ars Technica, as well as web addresses, this flaw could also expose search queries, since IE allows them to be typed into the address bar and then retrieved from Bing or other search services.

Caballero, in his damning exposé, said it’s likely that Microsoft is trying to get users off of Internet Explorer and onto its Edge web browser, hence why it’s making the latter more secure. 

“Imagine what black hats can do right now: they can stay in your browser even if you navigate to a different site, which gives them plenty of time to do ugly stuff like mining digital currencies while abusing of users CPUs,” he wrote. “Also, IE has its popUp blocker is completely broken and nobody seems to care.”

However, Internet Explorer remains the most popular version of Microsoft’s browser, with 17 per cent of the global market compared to Edge’s six.

Microsoft acknowledged the bug and said that it a fix likely will arrive in its next Patch Tuesday release.

“Windows has a customer commitment to investigate reported security issues, and proactively update impacted devices as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said. “Our standard policy is to provide solutions via our current Update Tuesday schedule.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Imagination Builds A Neural Network

September 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Imagination Technologies has been showing off its standalone hardware IP neural network accelerator which is powered by its PowerVR architecture implementation for neural networks.

The tech means that companies can build SoCs for mobile, surveillance, automotive and consumer systems can integrate the new PowerVR Series2NX Neural Network Accelerator (NNA) for high-performance computation of neural networks at very low power consumption in minimal silicon area.

Neural networks such as Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) and Long Short Term Memory networks (LSTMs) are enabling an explosion in technological progress across industries. Neural Network Accelerators are a fundamental class of processors, likely to be as significant as CPUs and GPUs, both of which Imagination already delivers.

They could end up being used for photography enhancement and predictive text enhancement in mobile devices; feature detection and eye tracking in AR/VR headsets; pedestrian detection and driver alertness monitoring in automotive safety systems; facial recognition and crowd behavior analysis in smart surveillance; online fraud detection, content advice, and predictive UX; speech recognition and response in virtual assistants; and collision avoidance and subject tracking in drones.

There is a serious need for this particular type of technology.

According to the January 2017 Embedded Vision Developer Survey conducted by the Embedded Vision Alliance, 79 percent of respondents said they were already using or were planning to use neural networks to perform computer vision functions in their products or services.

A broader range of companies will be able to develop products and services with neural networks. Imagination customers are already developing and deploying NN based systems into markets including security, mobile, automotive and a set-top box.

Jeff Bier, founder of the Embedded Vision Alliance, said: “Numerous system and application developers are adopting deep neural network algorithms to bring new perceptual capabilities to their products.

In many cases, a key challenge is providing sufficient processing performance for these demanding algorithms while meeting strict product cost and power consumption constraints. Specialized processors like the PowerVR 2NX NNA, designed specifically for neural network algorithms, will enable deployment of these powerful algorithms in many new applications.”

As neural networks become increasingly common, dedicated hardware solutions like the 2NX NNA – which provides an 8x performance density improvement versus DSP-only solutions – will be required to achieve the highest possible performance with the lowest possible power and cost. In addition, neural networks are traditionally very bandwidth hungry, and the memory bandwidth requirements grow with the increase in size of neural network models.

This introduces significant challenges for SoC designers and OEMs in designing a system that can provide the required bandwidth to the NNA. The PowerVR 2NX can minimize bandwidth requirements for the external DDR memory to ensure a system is not bandwidth limited in terms of performance. Widespread availability of dedicated hardware like the PowerVR 2NX NNA will allow for further development of applications based on these neural network technologies.

PowerVR 2NX was designed from the ground-up and Imagination says that it can provide the highest inference/mW IP cores to deliver the lowest power consumption. It can also manage the industry’s highest inference/mm2 IP cores to enable the most cost-effective solutions.

It runs on a low bandwidth with support for fully flexible bit depth for weights and data including low bandwidth modes down to 4-bit and can manage a performance of 2048 MACs/cycle in a single core, with the ability to go to higher levels with multi core.

Chris Longstaff, senior director of product and technology marketing, PowerVR, at Imagination, said: “Dedicated hardware for neural network acceleration will become a standard IP block on future SoCs just as CPUs and GPUs have done. We are excited to bring to market the first full hardware accelerator to completely support a flexible approach to precision, enabling neural networks to be executed in the lowest power and bandwidth, whilst offering absolute performance and performance per mm2 that outstrips competing solutions. The tools we provide will enable developers to get their networks up and running very quickly for a fast path to revenue.”

The PowerVR 2NX NNA is available for licensing now.

Courtesy-Fud

Trello Add Native Desktop Project Management App

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Trello subscribers can now access the project management tool directly from their desktop after the launch of native Windows and Mac apps.

The software had previously been browser-based only, meaning that Trello boards could easily get lost amid a multitude of browser tabs.  The company said in a blog post that the desktop app should make the software simpler to use, since Trello has added a navigation sidebar to help keep track of boards in a similar fashion to channels on collaboration tools such as Slack.

Other features include “more granular” keyboard shortcuts and desktop notifications. Those using the latest Mac Book Pro laptops will also be able to open boards and create new cards from the Mac’s Touch Bar.

A desktop presence is an important option for collaboration or productivity tools, said Gartner research director Larry Cannell. “To be successful, workers need to be using them on a day-to-day or minute-by-minute basis,” he said.  “Why should Outlook and a web browser be the only apps open on a desktop? For teams using Trello, this will be a welcomed addition.”

The company also announced Wednesday that Trello boards and cards can now be embedded in separate applications, including Bitbucket, Dropbox Paper and Confluence Cloud.

“By embedding Trello cards and boards inside the apps you use to plan, work, and communicate, teams can stay connected and see who’s doing what (and what needs to get done) without switching apps,” the company said in a blog post.

According to Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research, the addition of features such as the desktop app shows how Trello’s technology has evolved since its acquisition by collaboration software provider Atlassian for $425 million earlier this year.

“The big picture here is how Trello – and the entire Atlassian portfolio for that matter – is evolving,” said Castañón-Martínez.

“The company is enhancing its products with new features that allow users to be more effective with their work; for example, interacting with other users across other Trello boards and across other applications. This enables them to get more work done in one place rather than jumping around between applications.”

He called creation of the desktop app a “natural progression” for Trello.

“It is evolving from an application into a workspace,” he said. “The benefit for the end user will be that it enables them to work with less distractions. Jumping between applications is a productivity-killer.”

Is Virtual Reality Poised To Take Off

September 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Virtual reality may be growing at a slower pace than many would like, but its enthusiastic supporters remain staunch in their belief that VR is still going to take off. Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games and a Carnegie Mellon professor, is one such person. His studio’s VR puzzle title I Expect You To Die (IEYTD), which launched last December, just recently passed the $1 million revenue mark. GamesIndustry.biz caught up with Schell following the news to learn more about his VR development experiences and to gain some perspective on where he sees the VR/AR business headed.

“We’ve learned so much. The experience has confirmed our theories that making games specifically designed for the strengths of the medium is absolutely the right thing to do,” he says.

“IEYTD works because we focused on protecting player immersion as much as possible: making sure in-game and out of game player body poses are proprioceptively aligned, ensuring there is a depth of interactive sound effects, and playtesting much more than for a normal game, so that you can respond to everything that players try to do in the game. The best part is that our experience confirmed for us that VR is amazing, and that people want great experiences in it.”

IEYTD is one of a handful of VR success stories, but even “success” at this stage in VR’s infancy when installed bases are so low, doesn’t mean profitability is guaranteed. Schell is not deterred, however.

“We don’t generally share specifics of internal budgets, but it was more than a million — so, not quite profitable yet on a pure cash basis, but when it comes to lessons learned, and some of the other projects this has brought our way, this has been a very profitable project indeed,” he explains.

During GDC 2016, Schell gave a talk outlining his 40 predictions for VR/AR, and one of those was that by 2017 we’d see 8 million high-end VR headsets sold, with Oculus Rift at 3 million, PSVR at 4 million and Vive at 1 million. Clearly, the actual numbers are going to fall way short of these predictions, and a big part of that is a result of price. Even with the price cuts we’ve seen this year so far on the respective headsets, the devices are too expensive for many. It’s only a matter of time before that changes, though, and then Schell sees the market really picking up. He likens it to the early computer era.

“The numbers are slower than I anticipated, and this is partly because prices are higher than I anticipated. But the growth is absolutely happening,” he says. “What will create a tipping point will be a combination of price drops with a hit title, probably a social multiplayer title.

“We are in a time like when home computers first arrived in 1978. At that time, we had the Atari 800 and the Apple II, and they each cost over $1,000, and people said, ‘Yeah, pretty cool, but too expensive — these home computers will never take off.’ A few years later, and we had the Commodore 64 at $299, and it sold ten times the number of units as the Apple II. Price will really be the driving factor. There are already hundreds of great studios making interesting content. When the prices get low enough, we’ll see the growth curve take off.” While a number of Schell’s other predictions will undoubtedly not hold up, there are some that the designer is not afraid to double down on. The social ramifications of VR is one of those.

“My confidence in the power of social VR continues to grow,” he notes. “Games like Rec Room are proving that out, and social VR is now the prime focus for our next wave of VR titles. The sense of physical proximity to a real person while you hear their voice and see their body language is powerful in a way that no other medium can touch.”

Schell is also still a believer in Nintendo doing something in the space. Thus far, publicly at least, the house of Mario has avoided committing to VR/AR, but Schell thinks that Nintendo is working on a standalone device behind closed doors. And if a company with Nintendo’s weight gets behind VR, that can only help make the technology more mainstream and more accessible. That said, it’s not vital for Nintendo to get in the game for VR to succeed.

“With Nintendo’s passion for invention, they must be working on a VR device with a unique Nintendo spin,” Schell muses. “Certainly they can help make VR more mainstream, but they don’t need to. There are already dozens of headset manufacturers, and more on the way, and exciting tech and price breakthroughs are being announced every few weeks.”

While many people have predicted a far larger and more impactful market for augmented reality, especially as companies like Apple and Google get involved, the differences between the related technologies are beginning to blur. Additionally, when it comes to pure gaming use cases, Schell stresses that VR will remain the better tech for hardcore gamers.

“One prediction I am definitely rethinking is my prediction that VR and AR headsets would remain very separate entities. I am coming to believe that as VR headsets start to sport stereo cameras, that having video pass-thru AR experiences on VR headsets will actually become the dominant form of AR, because it will be cheaper and have a wider field of view,” he says.

“When it comes to games, I more and more think that VR is to AR as console is to mobile… That is to say, VR will be more for the hardcore gamers who want deep, immersive experiences, and AR will be more for casual gamers who want lighter, less immersive experiences. AR may have more users in the long run (provided it can find some killer apps), but VR will be where the best gaming experiences are.”

The unfortunate state of actual reality, when you consider global politics, terrorism, climate change and more, could also be a factor in virtual reality’s favor. As Schell says, “In troubled times, people are always looking for places to escape to. The Great Depression was the best thing that ever happened to Hollywood. When people are frustrated with how the news cycle makes them feel, their appetite for fantasy experiences vastly increases.”

As VR does become more popular in the mainstream, Schell thinks the media may start drumming up stories to point fingers at the tech in much the way that news outlets blamed video game violence for real-world crimes. “The media likes to scare us about anything that is new, because we always want to know about the dangers of new things, so it is good business to feed our fears. I can’t say I’m worried about it, but it is certainly inevitable. Horror movies about VR gone wrong will be a hot ticket in the summer of 2019,” he says.

One area of the VR industry that is hard to predict is the arcade or location-based segment. Vive has made a big push with its Viveport Arcade, particularly in China, but VR arcades may not necessarily be a more natural fit than VR in the home, as some have said.

“There is room for VR in arcades; I am sure of this because I helped developed the Aladdin’s Magic Carpet VR experience that ran continuously at DisneyQuest in Walt Disney World for nineteen years! However, VR in arcades has many challenges,” Schell says. “The systems are hard to keep clean, and are often too fragile for that environment. These are solvable problems, but not trival ones. Ultimately, people expect a VR arcade experience that is a radical step up from the home experience, and that is expensive to create, especially because there is an expectation of multiplayer gameplay at VR arcades, because people go to arcades to be in social groups. So, developing VR arcade content is very expensive. Arcades are a great intro to the experience while the tech is new, but as the tech matures, it will be much more at home, uh, at home.”

Getting into VR development is not for the faint of heart. Game makers may have to endure some hard times, but the pay off will ultimately be worth it, Schell believes.

“If you are looking for a short-term win, or to just port the same games you’ve been playing for 20 years to VR, go do something else. But if you are ready to invent the most important medium of this century, and you can afford to be a little patient as the rest of the world catches up with your futuristic visions, this is your time,” Schell says.

Courtesy-GI.biz

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