Slumping demand continues to take its toll on the memory chip industry. Micron, the largest U.S. maker of memory chips, said earlier this week that it has been particularly affected by decreased demand for specialty DRAM products, and as a result it plans to phase out 200mm wafer manufacturing operations in its Boise, Idaho facility.
"This action will reduce employment at Micron's Idaho sites by approximately 500 employees in the near term and as many as 2,000 positions by the end of the company's fiscal year," Micron said in a statement. "The company has sufficient manufacturing capacity remaining and does not expect any disruption in product supply required for customer needs."
Micron went on to say that these latest job cuts were not anticipated and not part of the 15 percent global workforce reduction it announced last October.
The chip maker said it will continue to operate its 300mm research and development fabrication facility at the Boise site. Financially, Micron expects cash restructuring charges to be in the vicinity of $50 million, which Micron says will generate a gross annualized operating cash benefit of $150 million.
Microsoft has posted a video demonstrating its Situated Interaction project, which the company says "aims to enable a new generation of interactive systems that can reason about their surroundings and embed interaction deeply into the natural flow of everyday tasks, activities, and collaborations."
To show off the technology in a possible real-world application, researcher Dan Bohus introduces a virtual receptionist he says is capable of free-flowing conversation. In the video, a realistic looking woman appears on screen and immediately recognizes everyone within view of the camera and tracks their poses, such as whether an individual is facing the screen or looking around elsewhere. Combined with which direction the microphone picks up sounds, the clothes worn by the 'actors,' and other variables, the virtual receptionist is able to figure out which individuals are in a group together.
The demonstration is pretty impressive, marred only by the woman's voice. This undoubtedly will improve over time, but as far as the video goes, we're reminded of the old Dr. Sbaitso program for DOS, a virtual psychiatrist app that came with some Sound Blast soundcards in the early 1990s.
View the video here, then hit the jump and tell us what you think.
Forget about a woman scorned - Hell hath no fury like Intel and Nvidia going at each other, both in and out of the courtroom. After being sued by Intel last week over a Nehalem chipset license, Nvidia president and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang responded by saying the suit was "clearly an attempt to stifle innovation to protect a decaying CPU business." And in a related press release, Huang pointed out how much better Nvidia's Ion platform is compared to Intel's current three chip design.
Now a week later, the latest episode of "As the Chipset World Turns" has Intel reportedly slamming Nvidia's Ion platform. According to news and review site Bit-Tech, Intel is sending out a document titled "Nvidia Ion Competitive Positioning Guide," which includes everything Intel sees wrong with the platform.
Traditionally a console-focused publisher, Square Enix has finally decided to bestow its, er, unique sensibilities upon Steam’s ever-growing masses.
On April 9, the Japanese mega-publisher will drop add its first drop – a JRPG called The Last Remnant – to Steam’s bucket, with promises of more to come.
"We are excited to offer the millions of Steam customers online access to Square Enix titles beginning with our major action RPG, The Last Remnant," said John Yamamoto, president and chief executive officer of Square Enix."Square Enix is committed to delivering the best quality titles to PC gamers and distribution on Steam is one of the many steps we are taking to increase accessibility for fans in North America and PAL territories."
We think it’s great that Steam’s embracing the Japanese side of PC gaming – just so long as it shies away from groping around in this steamy (read: NSFW) region. Thanks in advance, Valve!
When two diametrically opposed sides (Blue? More like Bluh-ewwwww) are forever submerged in the flames of war, an arms race is only natural. Miniguns, automated sentry rockets, curative edible devices – war is hell, but when the robots rise up and squash our silly conflict with a cold, metallic fist, they’ll have some damn fine gear with which to do it. However, one man doesn’t need any of that conflabbed technology; put him on the bus with a baseball bat and a crisp, refreshing beverage and he’ll come back with straight-A’s – in ass-kicking.
He’s the Scout, and with his brand new update, he’s more ready than ever to back up his big talk. Or he will be, anyway, after a bit of unlocking.
First up, after a mere ten achievements, you’ll nab the Force-A-Nature, which is a shotgun that – along with walloping your foes something fierce – forcefully coaxes enemies right out of your personal bubble and, if you’re lucky, into all kinds of fun environmental hazards.
Five achievements later, the Sandman will show up on your doorstep. It’s a bat. It hits things. Mostly baseballs. Go stand on the wrong end of a batting cage to find out what it does.
And finally, after a lifetime (read: 20) of achievement, you’ll be able to kick back with a crisp, refreshing beverage. Well, until you drink said beverage. Then, with “several hundred times the daily recommended allowance of sugar” screaming through your veins, you’ll be ready to “dodge bullets like they ain’t even there!” (Note: Post-digestion hangovers are perfectly normal. Really, it happens to everyone. If you don’t get them, you’re probably not cool.)
So yeah, there’s the update. Go download it. Tell ‘em Maximum PC sent you. You won’t get anything, but any publicity is good publicity, we think.
Microsoft Research's latest chance to shine is this week's TechFest 2009. Microsoft Research has a long list of innovations, including the Microsoft Surface touch-sensitive interface, the Unwrap Mosaic video editor, the Songsmith music composing utility, Image Composite Editor, and many more. TechFest serves two purposes: it makes sure that everyone at Microsoft can tap into what's being developed at Microsoft Research, and it acts as a sort of high-tech equivalent to an auto show, demonstrating the concepts that might (or might not) make their way into future products from Redmond.
This year's TechFest features projects as varied as combining multiple cell phone videos to create a high-res version; using digitized books on video DVD to create a high-capacity, low-cost library and school resource for developing countries, and ways to create Augmented Reality, which overlays digital data with real-world information, to name just a few.
So, how important are Microsoft Research projects to Microsoft's future? As Microsoft Research head Rick Rashid sees it, the investment Microsoft makes in research is "really about an investment in survival." What do you think is the coolest concept at this year's TechFest? Join us after the jump and tell us about your favorites.
Who in the right mind wouldn’t want to save $100 on the purchase of a brand new iPhone? Goodness knows I would, but now it looks like members of Best Buy’s Premier Silver Reward Zone are getting that perk with the purchase of any 8GB or 16GB model of Apple’s big seller.
Still, other non-premier Rewards Zone members will have the option to take half a c-note off of the retail price, which isn’t too shabby. Keep in mind that this is in addition to other discounts that will be given when you sign up for a new plan.
So you’re not a member of the Rewards Zone and you’re looking to cash in? Looks like you’re out of luck. This promotion is only for members that joined before the 21st of this month (when the deal began). If you are a member, you have until the 28th.
Look what the mail truck dragged in! After first announcing the X8 in early September (where we got our first look and photos of the mouse), Microsoft has finally shipped the latest addition to the Sidewinder gaming mouse family. The X8 adopts Microsoft’s proprietary Bluetrack technology, which empowers it with 4000 DPI tracking resolution (scalable from 500) and the ability to work on almost any surface. We tested this claim on five different surfaces, from a rough wood desk to Styrofoam board and even coarse carpet. The mouse worked fine (though understandable not perfectly smooth) on all of our test surfaces, and only failed when we tried moving it over glass.
The shipping version doesn’t differ much from the pre-production model we fondled back in September, and retained the nice grip and smart button placement that we liked from our first hands-on. The included rechargable battery was a cinch to install, and tethering the mouse to the thin magnetic cord didn’t hinder our sweeping mouse movements. The wireless receiver is built into a clunky puck-like disc that sits on your desk, which ensures that you get better reception than if the receiver was hidden on a USB key behind your PC. The X8 still feels big for some hands, but our initial impression is that this is a winner. We’ll post our full review soon, but for now, enjoy these sexy unboxing and handling photos.
When we heard today that Apple was releasing a beta version of Safari 4, which they boast is up to 4 times faster than the previous version, it got us thinking about the new browser wars. More than ever, it seems like every new release from each of the contenders brings with it a bevy of new features and performance upgrades. Although we're excited to put Safari 4 through the paces, right now we're more excited about the next version of Firefox.
Here at Maximum PC, we like Firefox an awful lot. Its mix of stability, speed, expandability and open source warm-fuzzies easily earned it a spot on our recent list of the 32 essential Windows apps. And right now, because we like Firefox an awful lot, it should come as no suprise that we’re excited about Firefox 3.1, the upcoming update from Mozilla. Many of our readers have tried the 3.1 beta, but for those who haven’t, we’re going to take a minute to explain the changes that will impact your browsing experience when the update lands.
We'll cover both the new frontend features, like private browsing, as well as the under-the-hood stuff that'll make a difference to you. Read on to find out all about what you can expect!
A major theme of this year’s TechFest—the conference for Microsoft’s researchers to show off all their coolest projects—has been human-computer communication. Of all the demos we’ve seen so far, we think the Commute UX in-car dialog system, seen in this video, is the most likely to actually impact our lives within the next, say, five years.
Commute UX is an advanced speech recognition system designed for use in cars. In the video, Principal Architect Ivan Tashev shows off how it can be used to quickly and smartly (based on incomplete information) select a song to play from an onboard MP3 player. It can also manage your cell phone, allowing you to dial a contact by voice (yawn), or even to dictate a reply to a text message (!). Finally, Tashev demonstrates how the car’s user manual can be integrated into the system, allowing you to ask questions about the operation of your vehicle, a feature that will be especially useful in rental cars.
We may have exaggerated a little in the title; Commute UX isn’t going to help you fight crime, or even keep you company on the long, lonely road. Still, it does look like it could be an incredibly practical technology for controlling the peripheral elements of your automobile. Stay tuned for coverage of other new technologies shown at TechFest!