News en Reinvigorated Monitor Makers See Opportunities in Niche Markets <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/lg_ultrawide_monitor_0.jpg" alt="LG UltraWide Monitor" title="LG UltraWide Monitor" width="228" height="178" style="float: right;" />Monitor market is transforming</h3> <p>For the longest time, it seemed as though the monitor market was frozen in time. While CPUs and graphics cards became increasingly advanced and faster with each new generation, monitor makers were content to stick with Full HD 1080p panels of varying sizes for mainstream users, and 30-inch panels checking in at 2560x1600. Ah, but the landscape is changing, so <strong>don't be shocked if monitor makers test the market with bigger size and higher resolution displays</strong>.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">According to <em>Digitimes</em></a> and whatever "industry sources" it spoke with, panel makers (including those that make touchscreens) are seeing opportunities in the 34-inch WQHD (2560x1440) UltraWide category to be the new high-end option. At present, high-end solutions still consist of 30-inch panels at 2560x1600 and, more recently, 32-inch 4K displays. There are less pixels in a WQHD display, though it's still visually appealing, easier on the GPU for pixel-intensive tasks (primarily gaming), and offers tons of horizontal screen space for those who like that sort of thing.</p> <p>However, that's not the only segment monitor makers will toy with. They will also experiment in niche categories with high-resolution and curved displays taking center stage. These panels will feature wide color gamuts and, in some cases, 10-point touch features.</p> <p>Finally, monitor makers will also push out 24-inch, 27-inch, and 28-inch models with 4K Ultra HD and even 5K resolutions in 2015.</p> <p>In short, it's going to be a wild year for monitors, versus what's mostly been a stagnant market up until recently.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> 4k display Hardware monitor wqhd News Mon, 26 Jan 2015 18:14:15 +0000 Paul Lilly 29315 at IBM Refutes "Ridiculous" Rumor of Heavy Handed Layoffs <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/ibm_1.jpg" alt="IBM" title="IBM" width="228" height="151" style="float: right;" />Setting the record straight</h3> <p>A <em>Forbes</em> report last week indicated that IBM was preparing for a "bloodbath," one that would see the dismissal of about 26 percent of its workforce, or as many as 112,000 employees. That would indeed be a bloodbath, expect that the actual number of pink slips IBM plans to hand out will be much lower. Instead of 112,000 employees being shown the door, <strong>IBM said layoffs will number in the several thousands, or a "small fraction" of what <em>Forbes</em> reported</strong>.</p> <p>By its own admission, IBM doesn't address rumors, a policy that's common in the tech industry. But even with that being the case, the company couldn't help but, well, address the rumor, taking a jab at the <a href="" target="_blank">initial report</a> in the process while offering up a clarification.</p> <p>"IBM does not comment on rumors, even ridiculous or baseless ones," <a href="" target="_blank">IBM told <em>Reuters</em></a> in an email. "If anyone had checked information readily available from our public earnings statements, or had simply asked us, they would know that IBM has already announced the company has just taken a $600 million charge for workforce rebalancing. This equates to several thousand people, a small fraction of what's been reported."</p> <p>The "rebalancing" effort IBM references is intended to make room for incoming employees with new skill-sets. In addition, an IBM spokesperson <a href="" target="_blank">told <em>The Wall Street Journal</em></a> that it currently has around 15,000 job openings as part of the rebalancing process. Areas it's looking for new blood include cloud, analytics, security, and social and mobile technologies.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> ibm jobs layoffs News Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:36:56 +0000 Paul Lilly 29314 at Logitech's $500 ConferenceCam Connect is a Portable All-in-One Solution <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/logitech_conferencecam_connect.jpg" alt="Logitech ConferenceCam Connect" title="Logitech ConferenceCam Connect" width="228" height="176" style="float: right;" />Built for small groups</h3> <p><strong>Logitech today announced its new ConferenceCam Connect</strong>, a portable all-in-one videoconferencing solution with a cylindrical design and flexible compatibility that slips in between the company's entry-level BCC950 ($250) and high-end ConferenceCam CC3000e ($1,000). It works with any computing device with a USB port (PC, Mac, Chromebook) and plays nice with just about every videoconferencing software, such as Microsoft Lync and Skype, Cisco Jabber and WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting, Blue Jeans, and more.</p> <p>The cylindrical design is aimed at making the device more portable and is intended for small groups consisting of 1-6 people. It's more affordable (and flexible) compared to high-end videoconferencing systems built for large rooms, and much more practical for smaller groups than trying to cram everyone in front of a webcam, thus revealing who forgot to put on deodorant - awkward!</p> <p>Logitech's ConferenceCam Connect sports a 90-degree field of view with digital pan and tilt, along with 4x digital Full HD zoom. It also features Zeiss optics with autofocus, a speakerphone with support for both mobile and USB audio calling, Bluetooth, NFC, 360-degree full-duplex sound, and acoustic echo and noise-cancelling technology. Plus it comes with fancy remote.</p> <p><img src="/files/u69/logitech_conferencecam_connect_group.jpg" alt="Logitech ConferenceCam Connect Group" title="Logitech ConferenceCam Connect Group" width="620" height="405" /></p> <p>The <a href=";wt.mc_id=global_news_connect_012015" target="_blank">Logitech ConferenceCam Connect</a> will be available in March for $500 MSRP, or "about the cost of an office chair," <a href="" target="_blank">the company says</a>.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> conferencecam connect logitech video video conference News Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:03:50 +0000 Paul Lilly 29313 at Panasonic Toughbook 31 Now More Rugged, Faster, and Longer Lasting <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/panasonic_toughbook.jpg" alt="Panasonic Toughbook 31" title="Panasonic Toughbook 31" width="228" height="173" style="float: right;" />Two batteries are better than one</h3> <p>We love that laptops are getting slimmer, lighter, and overall more portable than ever before (<a href=";set=vb.503833014&amp;type=2&amp;theater" target="_blank">have a look</a> at Michael Dell introducing a new notebook 25 years ago), but if your work (or pleasure) takes you off the beaten path into some extreme environments, a thin and light machine probably isn't your best bet. That's where systems like <strong>Panasonic's upgraded Toughbook 31</strong> comes in.</p> <p>Key upgrades include an 18-hour battery life (or up to 27 hours with an optional second battery), a new 5th Generation Intel Core i5 5300u vPro processor (3MB cache, 2.3GHz-2.9GHz) with Intel HD Graphics 5500, and a revised design that can now withstand a 6-foot drop and is certified to pass 19 different MIL-STD-810G tests.</p> <p>Other rugged and fancy bits of interest include a magnesium alloy case, sunlight-viewable touchscreen, reinforced locking port covers, and a quick-release hard drive with its own heater for cold weather operation. It all adds up to a system that Panasonic sees being ideal for emergency service professionals, utility workers, and anyone else who needs to be connected in extreme environments.</p> <p>As for the other hardware specs, they include 4GB to 16GB of DDR3L-1600 RAM, 500GB 7200RPM HDD with heater, SSD options (128GB to 512GB), 13.1-inch display with a 1024x768 resolution, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, optional backlit keyboard, USB 3.0 (x1) and USB 2.0 (x3) ports, GbE LAN, and various other odds and ends.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">Toughbook 31</a> won't come cheap -- Panasonic says it will be available in February starting at around $3,700.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> laptop notebook panasonic rugged toughbook 31 News Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:30:20 +0000 Paul Lilly 29312 at Google Explains Decision to Leave 930 Million Android Handsets Unpatched <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/android_builds.jpg" alt="Android Builds" title="Android Builds" width="228" height="171" style="float: right;" />Don't expect a patch for WebView in pre-KitKat Android devices</h3> <p>If you own an Android handset running a version of the open source operating system that predates Android 4.3 KitKat, you won't be the recipient of a patch for WebView, a component of Android that developers use to display web content in their apps. WebView is also the backbone of Android's built-in browser in all versions up to KitKat. Nevertheless, <strong>Google won't spend time plugging up any security holes for WebView in older Android devices because it's "no longer practical."</strong></p> <p>That may seem like sour grapes to anyone who owns one of the more than 930 million pre-KitKat Android devices in the wild, especially since researchers recently discovered a new vulnerability in WebView. Regardless, once notified of the bug, Google made it clear that no patch was coming. More recently, the company offered up an explanation as to why.</p> <p>"Until recently we have also provided backports for the version of WebKit that is used by Webview on Android 4.3 and earlier," Andrew Ludwig, Google's lead engineer for Android security, <a href="" target="_blank">said in a Google+ post</a>. "But WebKit alone is over five million lines of code and hundreds of developers are adding thousands of new commits every month, so in some instances applying vulnerability patches to a 2+ year old branch of WebKit required changes to significant portions of the code and was no longer practical to do safely."</p> <p>In contrast, Ludwig says that one of the improvements in KitKat is that OEMs can quickly deliver updates of WebView provided by Google, and in Android 5.0 Lollipop, those updates are delivered through Google Play, so OEMs can wipe their hands of them completely.</p> <p>"With the advances in Android 4.4, the number of users that are potentially affected by legacy WebKit security issues is shrinking every day as more and more people upgrade or get new devices," Ludwig added.</p> <p>So, what can you do if you own an older Android device to avoid being a sitting duck? Ludwig recommends using an alternative browser, one that's updated through Google Play. There are various options, including Chrome (supported on Android 4.0 and up) and Firefox (supports Android 2.3 and up).</p> <p>Image Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Flickr (Travis Wise)</a></p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> android Google mobile Security Software WebView News Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:00:12 +0000 Paul Lilly 29311 at Build 9926 Arrives with Some More Pages from Windows’ Next Chapter <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="" alt="Windows 10 Build 9926" title="Windows 10 Build 9926" width="228" height="195" style="float: right;" /></h3> <h3>Fast and slow rings receive January build simultaneously</h3> <p>A couple of days after its much talked about “Windows 10: The Next Chapter” event and over two months after the last official preview release, Microsoft on Friday <strong>rolled out a new Windows 10 Technical Preview build to the Windows Insider Program</strong>. A lot has changed from the last build, with the <a href="" target="_blank">January Technical Preview containing many new features and apps</a> (including some that are a bit too incipient to be of any real use at this stage).</p> <p>This latest build (<a href="" target="_blank">download</a>) includes: Cortana integration; Continuum interface with separate desktop and tablet modes; a new Start Menu that metamorphoses into Start Screen in tablet mode; a new Settings app that has, among other things, a Control Panel-esque homepage; and finally a more convenient way to connect to wireless audio and video devices via the new Action Center. Build 9926 isn’t short on new apps, either. They include new versions of Photos, Maps and the Windows Store (in beta; old version also present), as well as an all-new Xbox app.</p> <p>A lot of what is in this build can be seen in action in the following video walkthrough of Windows 10 features by Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group:</p> <p><iframe src="//" width="620" height="320" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p><em>Follow Pulkit on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p> build 9926 january technical preview operating system OS Software windows 10 windows 10 technical preview News Mon, 26 Jan 2015 01:42:01 +0000 Pulkit Chandna 29309 at After Windows, Google Discloses Three Zero Day Bugs in OS X <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="" alt="Google Project Zero" title="Google Project Zero" width="228" height="95" style="float: right;" />Apple remains silent</h3> <p>Having recently <a href="" target="_blank">ruffled Microsoft’s feathers</a> by (responsibly) disclosing three unpatched vulnerabilities in Windows to the general public, Google’s Project Zero team has now turned its attention to the other side of the PC-Mac divide. The outfit recently spilled the beans on <strong>three zero-day vulnerabilities in Apple’s OS X operating system.<br /></strong></p> <p>It is not that Google’s bug hunters have trained their guns on OS X all of a sudden, as part of some sort of balancing act. The Project Zero team privately notified Apple about the three bugs in October and, as is its standard operating procedure, gave the latter 90 disclosure-free days in each case to come up with a fix. The 90-day responsible disclosure deadline in each of the three cases expired earlier this week and as a result the vulnerabilities are now out in the open. </p> <p>Unlike Microsoft, Apple hasn’t uttered a single word on the whole issue.&nbsp; This probably owes to the fact that the company has already fixed the bugs. According to <a href="" target="_blank">iMore</a>, all the vulnerabilities in question have already been fixed and the patches are part of OS X 10.10.2, which is currently in beta.</p> <p>Do you think Microsoft should take a leaf out of Apple’s book and <a href="" target="_blank">just concentrate on fixing bugs</a>, or do you agree with the former that Google’s refusal to extend the disclosure deadline “feels less like principles and more like a 'gotcha'”? Or are you one of those people who would like Google — a company that has chosen to <a href="" target="_blank">leave 60 percent of all Android users to twist in the wind</a> by refusing to fix a bug in the default Android browser — to focus on plugging holes in its own products with the same zeal with which it adheres to the disclosure deadlines?</p> <p><em>Follow Pulkit on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p> android apple bugs Google OS X project zero team responsible disclosure Software Windows zero day News Mon, 26 Jan 2015 01:28:34 +0000 Pulkit Chandna 29308 at Fujitsu Expands Enterprise Mobile PC Lineup with Broadwell Models <!--paging_filter--><h3>Tablets and laptops powered by 5th generation Intel Core processors</h3> <p>Earlier this week, Fujitsu joined many other PC vendors around the world in <a href="" target="_blank">announcing new mobile PC models built around 5th generation Intel Core processors</a>. The <strong>Broadwell-powered models announced by the Japanese company include both tablets and notebooks</strong>, and they all mean business.</p> <p>These new models include the 14” Lifebook U745 ultrabook, 13.3” Stylistic Q775 tablet, and a couple of Lifebook T series convertibles with 180-degree rotatable displays.</p> <p><img src="/files/u46168/20150120-q775.jpg" alt="Fujitsu Broadwell Lineup" title="Fujitsu Broadwell Lineup" width="620" height="406" /></p> <p>Weighing a shade under 2.2 pounds, the Stylistic Q775 sports a full HD anti-glare display, and comes with a choice of the latest Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB SSD storage. Optional upgrades include the company’s PalmSecure palm-vein sensor, detachable keyboard dock and 3G/LTE connectivity. According to the company, the device is capable of lasting around 9 hours on a single charge.</p> <p>Next up is the Lifebook U745, which is a 0.75” thick ultrabook that tips the scales at 2.5 pounds. Inside its slender magnesium-encased frame there is enough room for a 5th generation Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, 4GB of RAM (up to 12GB) and up to 512GB solid-state storage. The screen on this 14-incher is an HD+ (1600x900 ) anti-glare display (touchscreen optional).</p> <p>The 13.3”&nbsp; Lifebook T935 and 12.5” T725 are both convertibles that feature touchscreens that can be rotated 180 degrees in either direction and come standard with a stylus. But don’t make the mistake of thinking of them as the same device in two different sizes. Not only is the T935 bigger of the two, but it is also the higher-end model. Take, for instance, their displays. While the T725 is limited to a 1366x768 display, the T935 comes with the option of either a WQHD (2560x1440) or a full HD (1920x1080) display. Likewise, when it comes to battery life, the T935 fares much better with around 13 hours and 20 minutes of battery life on a single charge to the latter’s 10 hours and 30 minutes. However, the T725’s “multi-bay design” means that it can “configured with a super-multi drive or with an internal battery for about 16-hour runtimes.”</p> <p>The T935, T725, and U745 are all set to hit the market in February, with the Q775 arriving the following the month. No word on pricing yet.</p> <p><em>Follow Pulkit on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p> 2-in-1 broadwell Fujitsu Hybrid intel lifebook notebook tablet windows 7 windows 8.1 News Mon, 26 Jan 2015 01:01:19 +0000 Pulkit Chandna 29307 at North Carolina Could be Google Fiber’s Next Stop <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="" alt="Google Fiber Event Invite" title="Google Fiber Event Invite" width="228" height="204" style="float: right;" />A formal announcement is said to be imminent</h3> <p>In February 2014, Google invited 34 cities across nine U.S. metro areas to work with it to “explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber”. It was originally supposed to announce the names of the cities next in line for its Gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service in December, but eventually chose to postpone that announcement until early 2015. Although there has yet to be any official announcement, there are reports that <strong>Google could shed light on its immediate Fiber expansion plans in the next few days.</strong></p> <p>According to recent reports, an official announcement might come next week at <a href=";utm_source=pulsenews" target="_blank">special Google events in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina</a>. Apparently, invites for the said events have already been sent to many officials. While the purpose of these events remains unclear, many believe they will see the confirmation by Google of these two areas as the next two places to get its Fiber Gigabit internet service. This belief, of course, stems from the fact that both figure on the list of likely candidates for the next leg of Fiber’s roll out.</p> <p>Industry sources that Research Triangle, NC-based tech publication <a href="" target="_blank">WRALTechWire</a> say the service is headed to the Triangle and “construction could begin as early as April”, with Google&nbsp; said to be seeking bids for the construction of the fiber network.</p> <p><em>Follow Pulkit on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> fiber to the home ftth gigabit google fiber north carolina News Mon, 26 Jan 2015 00:40:27 +0000 Pulkit Chandna 29306 at Microsoft Now Says Not All Lumia Phones Will Receive Windows 10 Update <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/windows_10_phone.jpg" alt="Windows 10 Phone" title="Windows 10 Phone" width="228" height="203" style="float: right;" />Microsoft jumped the gun on Twitter</h3> <p>There's a lot of buzz and excitement surrounding Windows 10 at the moment, which is understandable since Microsoft just finished revealing a bunch of extra details at a scheduled press event. However, if you direct your attention to Microsoft's Lumia Conversations blog, there's a bit of a buzz-kill for Windows Phone owners. Specifically, <strong>Microsoft said that not all Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices will see an upgrade to Windows 10</strong>, even though it previously said they would.</p> <p>"We’re making it as easy as possible to get Windows 10. Windows 10 has been designed to run well on today’s Lumia phones. Like any upgrade to a new platform, not every phone will upgrade or support all possible Windows 10 features, and certain features and experiences will require more advanced future hardware," <a href="" target="_blank">Microsoft said</a>. "Our goal is for the majority of the Lumia phones running Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 to join the Windows ecosystem along with an expected hundreds of millions of PCs, tablets and other devices running the next generation of Windows."</p> <p>Back in November of last year, Microsoft was saying something different on its Lumia Twitter account.</p> <p>"There will be Windows 10 upgrades for all Windows Phone devices. And will we will release new Windows 10 models in the future!," Microsoft tweeted, adding an smiley emoticon for good measure.</p> <p>It's not clear which devices won't see an upgrade to Windows 10, only that some won't make the cut. That's disappointing, both because Microsoft set a contrary expectation two months ago, and also because this isn't the first time owners of older Windows Phone owners have been left behind when a new OS came out.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> lumia microsoft mobile operating system OS smartphone Software windows 10 windows phone 8 News Fri, 23 Jan 2015 17:54:04 +0000 Paul Lilly 29304 at Pricing for 240GB Solid State Drives Could Fall to $70 in 2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/apacer_ssd.jpg" alt="Apacer SSD" title="Apacer SSD" width="228" height="211" style="float: right;" />Apacer exec expects another free fall in SSD pricing</h3> <p>Solid state drives may never reach the tantalizing price-per-gigabyte ratio that mechanical hard disk drives enjoy, though that's okay, we're willing to pay a premium for performance. However, that premium might not be finished shrinking. We already saw NAND flash memory pricing take a nose dive, which in turn led to more affordable SSDs, and now <strong>we hear that the cost of SSDs could drop even lower this year</strong>.</p> <p>According to <em>Digitimes</em>, Apacer Technology general manager CK Chang believes prices for 256GB SSDs will fall below $70 in the second half of 2015, while prices for 128GB SSDs will hit $40. At present, 256GB SSDs street for around $100 -- there's an <a href="" target="_blank">Apotop model</a> on Newegg that's priced on sale for $90, while the rest of the 256GB models sell for $100 or more -- and 128GB models go for $60 and up.</p> <p>The reason for the predicted drop in price once again relates to NAND flash memory. Upstream chip vendors have transitioned to 14nm, 15nm, and 16nm, and in doing so, production costs have come down. According to Chang, this will lead to lower priced SSDs.</p> <p>As for Apacer, the company shipped about 4 million SSDs in 2014, accounting for 30 percent of its more than $318 million in revenue.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Build a PC Hardware Solid State Drives ssd storage News Fri, 23 Jan 2015 16:45:49 +0000 Paul Lilly 29303 at Google's Schmidt Predicts the End of the Internet (as You Know It) <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/eric_schmidt_2.jpg" alt="Eric Schmidt" title="Eric Schmidt" width="228" height="130" style="float: right;" />"The Internet will disappear" - Eric Schmidt</h3> <p>Could you imagine if the suits in charge at Google one day decided that enough was enough, and pulled the plug on all of the company's services, like Gmail and search? While it wouldn't be the end of the Internet, it would certainly be a major inconvenience for many. However, t<strong>hat's not what Google's Eric Schmidt meant when he recently predicted that that the Internet would disappear</strong>. So, what was he talking about?</p> <p>Schmidt was asked at the end of a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, for his prediction on the future of the web.</p> <p>"I will answer very simply that the Internet will disappear," Schmidt said, <a href="" target="_blank">according to <em>The Hollywood Reporter</em></a>. "There will be so many IP many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won't even sense it. It will be part of your presence all the time."</p> <p>He's really talking about the evolution of the Internet. He gives a somewhat vague example of walking into a room "and with your permission and all that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room." Maybe you'll be wearing a <a href="">HoloLens</a> or perhaps your room will be filled with IoT devices. Either way, Schmidt essentially sees the Internet becoming less of a conscious thing, though we think that will go right out the window the first time your ISP suffers an outage.</p> <p>Schmidt also sees a great opportunity for tech firms to take advantage of the changing landscape, though he doesn't believe it will come at the expense of jobs. To the contrary, Schmidt said that for every job created in the tech sector, there will be seven non-technology jobs that open up.</p> <p>You can watch the <a href="" target="_blank">1-hour discussion here</a> (scroll down).</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> eric schmidt Google Internet web News Fri, 23 Jan 2015 14:00:10 +0000 Paul Lilly 29302 at What Impact Will HoloLens Have on PC Gaming? <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/hololens_holobuild2.jpg" alt="HoloLens Holobuild" title="HoloLens Holobuild" width="228" height="152" style="float: right;" />When physical and virtual worlds collide</h3> <p>Microsoft made a <a href="">handful of revelations</a> during its press event yesterday, such as that <a href="">Windows 10 will be a free upgrade</a> for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users for the first year, and that Cortana is headed to the desktop. But one of the most intriguing things Microsoft talked about was HoloLens, essentially a head mounted display that splatters holograms all over your living room, or wherever you happen to be wearing it. There are several potentially viable applications for this kind of technology, though the one I'm most curious about is gaming.</p> <p>You'd have to be blind, deaf, and dumb, <em>and</em> live under a rock the size of Manhattan to have not noticed the industry-wide push toward virtual reality, especially in the gaming sector. The name that comes to mind, of course, is Oculus and its Oculus Rift headset. Oculus captured the imagination of gamers and developers alike when it solicited funding on Kickstarter, and now that it's owned by Facebook, funding is one thing the project should never have to worry about again. Instead, the big question is when will it be ready for mass consumption, followed by what will the experience be like?</p> <p>So it goes with HoloLens, though let's be careful not to clump the two together. Whereas Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus are VR headsets that cover your entire line of vision so that all you see is a virtual world, HoloLens is different. It's an augmented reality experience, somewhat like Google Glass, though arguably more ambitious. When you wear a HoloLens headset, it fills your real-world environment with virtual objects and overlays, and you can manipulate them. Oh, and in case you're wondering, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is "<a href="" target="_blank">Super excited</a>" about HoloLens, further underscoring that these are different products.</p> <p><img src="/files/u69/hololens_holobuild.jpg" alt="HoloLens Holobuild" title="HoloLens Holobuild" width="620" height="343" /></p> <p>Several applications come to mind, like 3D modeling and virtual exploration. And of course PC gaming -- one of the demos Microsoft is fond of showing is Holobuilder. It looks like Minecraft and works like Minecraft, filling your mapped out environment with blocks and bits and pieces that you can then manipulate. I haven't tried it, nor have I experienced HoloLens in person, though I've done my fair share of reading. You can too, and I'd suggest checking our own <a href="">Jimmy Thang's in-depth impression</a> of HoloLens, along with that <a href="" target="_blank">of our sister site, <em>PC Gamer</em></a>.</p> <p>I agree with Jimmy that HoloLens has the potential to be an all-around transformative technology, but what I wonder is if something like this has the legs to excite developers and gamers alike. I'll go ahead and assume that Microsoft hashes out the hardware challenges so that users don't have to heave a 5-pound battery over their shoulder, and that HoloLens in its finished form will be lightweight, comfortable, and truly wireless. Those are challenges on the design end, and I suspect they'll be figured out.</p> <p><img src="/files/u69/hololens_0.jpg" alt="HoloLens" title="HoloLens" width="620" height="254" /></p> <p>The bigger roadblock is getting game developers on board to create interesting content, and then convincing gamers that there's something here to be excited about. I'm skeptical, mainly because I wonder about the viability of gamers adopting headsets on a mass scale. I have no doubt there will be a niche audience, but what about mainstream users? Will the price be set at a place where gamers at large can afford to join the HoloLens party, or will this be a high-end experience for gamers with higher levels of disposable income?</p> <p>If Microsoft can clear that hurdle, then it needs to get developers to make some games that go beyond Minecraft. For me, it's a bit easier to envision gaming on VR headsets like Oculus Rift as opposed to augmented reality gear like HoloLens, but I'm keeping an open mind about it.</p> <p>My other fear is that gaming will be gimmicky and that the novelty will wear off after the first few titles. If you own a Wii, you know what I'm talking about -- it's fun to flail about in the living room when you first try it, and you'll quickly invite friends over to see what the fuss is about, though after awhile the 'wow' factor diminishes -- I'd much rather pay Skyrim some attention if I only have time for one or the other.</p> <p><img src="/files/u69/populous.jpg" alt="Populous" title="Populous" width="620" height="387" /></p> <p>Still, I'm reminded of Populous and how much fun I had with that game several years ago. I think a modernized version would be a prime candidate for something like this, and since your environment dictates the shape and form of the virtual world that's overlayed on top of it, it would be easy to keep things fresh. A more modern (though still dated) example would be Black &amp; White, another God game that seems like a natural fit.</p> <p>I'm sure there are other potentially fun scenarios, and it will be up to developers to figure them out and then deliver on whatever experience they're shooting for. Though this technology has been around for some time, I consider this new territory, and only by exploring it will we find out if there's something here for gamers to be stoked about.</p> <p>Finally, if not HoloLens, I wonder what other hardware will help shape the future of PC gaming. Don't get me wrong -- I see myself wielding a mouse and keyboard for the foreeable future, but if the HoloLens earns itself more than just a footnote in the history of gadgets, it could inspire a slew of add-ons and peripherals, as well as competing headsets that go beyond the place where HoloLens is currently at.</p> <p>In any event, the short answer, quite simply, is that I don't know what impact HoloLens will have on PC gaming, and while I'm skeptical it will transform the industry, I'm willing to keep an open mind, or at least indulge in some novelty fun (somebody please develop a Populous-type game for this!).</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> augmented reality Gaming holograps Hololens microsoft News Thu, 22 Jan 2015 20:36:31 +0000 Paul Lilly 29298 at Smaller Motherboard Players Regroup to Take on Asus and Gigabyte <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/ecs_mobo.jpg" alt="ECS Mobo" title="ECS Mobo" width="228" height="159" style="float: right;" />Tough times for second tier mobo makers</h3> <p>Asus and Gigabyte dominated the motherboard market in 2014, with Asus coming out slightly ahead of its rival for bragging rights. However, there's more at stake than bragging rights for second tier players. <strong>ASRock, Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS), and Micro-Star International (MSI) all have new strategies for 2015</strong> to help better compete with the big boys, though not all may survive.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">According to <em>Digitimes</em></a>, ECS president Sunny Yang recently went on record saying he wouldn't dismiss the notion of quitting the motherboard market altogether if its China brand mobo business continues to mount losses in 2015, though nothing has yet been decided. In the meantime, the company is seeing profits from Intel's Classmate PC orders, and also from its mini PC product offerings.</p> <p>As for ASRock, it's adjusting its product and channel strategies for 2015 after seeing an all-time low in its earnings per share last year. It's not clear what new strategies it's putting in place, though the company expects to ship 6.6 million to 7 million motherboards this year.</p> <p>Finally, MSI turned to new blood to liven up its motherboard business. Specifically, the company brought in an executive from its Europe notebook sales business to be in charge of its China-based motherboard and graphics business in the hopes that new management will give it a boost.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> asrock asus Build a PC ecs gigabyte Hardware motherboards msi News Thu, 22 Jan 2015 19:45:52 +0000 Paul Lilly 29301 at Microsoft’s HoloLens Has the Potential to Be Transformative <!--paging_filter--><h3>We tried Microsoft's augmented reality demo and couldn’t stop smiling</h3> <p>Many suspected that Microsoft would toss its hat into the virtual reality headset game. After all, Oculus VR was successful enough with its Kickstarter campaign that Facebook ended up purchasing it for $two billion, and longtime console rival Sony jumped into the fray not long ago with its Project Morpheus. While Microsoft did reveal its own head-mounted display, the HoloLens isn’t competing in the VR space, but is instead paving new paths for augmented realities. We got a chance to try it ourselves and you’re probably wondering, “Is it any good?” Simply put, if it's executed correctly, it has the potential to be transformative.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/microsoft_hololens_rgb.png" alt="hololens" title="hololens" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A prototype sample of Microsoft's Hololens headset.</strong></p> <p>How does an AR headset differ from a VR headset? Whereas VR headsets try to take you into a virtual world completely, Microsoft’s augmented reality HoloLens is happy to keep you in reality. It instead opts to inject virtual holograms into your own real-life world (think the Princess Leah hologram and you pretty much get the idea). “This is your world with holograms,” Microsoft said of the device at its Windows 10 keynote. Unlike the fictitious technology in Star Wars, however, here you have to wear a headset. The HoloLens has a see-through visor, and augmented reality objects are beamed into a rectangle in front of you. The rectangle isn’t all-encompassing, however. You’ll still be able to see around the rectangle. The visual box is akin to you sitting in the middle of a movie theater, in that you can see more than just the screen. Technically, you can also see through this rectangle, considering it’s a see-through glass-like material, but we must say that Microsoft has done an incredible job making the area behind the rectangle disappear. We had to stick up a hand in front of our face to make sure that we could still see through it, and even then it was hard not to focus on the augmented reality visuals right in front of us.</p> <p>While our developer kit unit was wired and featured a chest mount tethered to a janky-looking headset (so janky that Microsoft wouldn’t let us take pictures of it), the company says that the consumer version of the HoloLens will be completely wireless and will not require a separate device, like a smartphone or computer. Nor will it require markers or have an external camera, even though it supports positional head-tracking. Instead, it will run Windows 10 itself and has its own dedicated CPU, GPU, and a new holographic processing unit (HPU) that processes all of these sensors together in real time. Another little dev-kit quirk is that Microsoft had to measure the distance between our eyes to properly configure the headset to our needs. The company says this will be handled automatically with the consumer release.</p> <p>The headset also has integrated speakers that provide spatial sound and a built-in mic that will allow you to issue voice commands. In addition, Hololens has an integrated depth sensor, supports stereoscopic 3D, and can track your finger gestures (provided they are in your line of sight). Activating a command is as easy as holding your right fist one foot away from your chest (with your knuckles facing you), lifting your index finger up to the ceiling, and flicking up and down with said finger. Slightly weirder was that you don’t control the headset’s cursor with your finger; instead, the cursor is always fixated in the middle of your vision, so you essentially use your eyes to point at objects. It took us about five minutes to get the hang of it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/microsoft_hololens_family_room_rgb.jpg" alt="minecraft ar" title="minecraft ar" width="620" height="413" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Minecraft-inspired demo looked nearly as good as this picture depicts.</strong></p> <p>At the Windows 10 event, Microsoft showed off four HoloLens demos. The first one we tried was called HoloBuilder. It’s essentially a Minecraft-inspired augmented reality demo. We were situated in a living room with the headset on, and when we looked around, the various desks and coffee tables had virtual 3D buildings and structures situated on top of them. The blending of the real and virtual was seamless and truly impressive. It never felt like the augmented reality objects were inappropriately floating in space, or didn’t have a sense of presence to them. It felt like all the Minecraft castles and farmlands were actually there (albeit in virtual miniature LEGO form). We couldn’t help but shout out expletives at how unbelievable it felt at times; we were blown away. One of the picture frames in the room featured a cavern and it really felt like we could stick our arm into the cave. The 3D depth here is amazing. Another experience had us looking at a short table on the floor. On top of the table were blocks of TNT that we could look at and explode with our activate finger gesture. When we blew up the box of dynamite, we saw the virtual earth open up to reveal magma underneath the floor. This might sound like hyperbole, but it looked so incredibly convincing that we had to step on it ourselves to make sure it wasn’t actually there.&nbsp;</p> <p>The next demo we attended had Microsoft representatives showing off the HoloLens’s HoloStudio tool. Microsoft believes that this program will bring about a “new medium for artistic expression and creation.” HoloStudio is the company’s tool that will allow you to use Hololens to easily create 3D augmented reality objects, using simple hand gestures and voice commands. From here, you’ll be able to get these objects 3D printed. Microsoft says HoloStudio represents a “perfect print preview for 3D printing.” This tool essentially blends the physical and digital worlds. We saw a live demo of a Microsoft employee building a virtual toy koala in under two minutes. The toy looked impressive, but perhaps more impressive is that, according to Microsoft, the employee didn’t have any 3D modeling experience prior to prepping for the demo. He also showed us a 3D model of an X-Wing that looked accurate to the Star Wars incarnation. According to the rep, it only took him about an hour and a half to build it. The company says it wants to make building 3D objects easy for beginners; you won’t have to be a professional 3D artist to construct interesting designs. In the live HoloStudio live demo, the Microsoft rep was able to pull objects out from a virtual toolbox and copy/reorient them with simple tap/voice commands. The software looks promising, but unfortunately Microsoft couldn’t tell us if it would be bundled for free with the purchase of HoloLens.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/dsc02559.jpg" alt="koala" title="koala" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>&nbsp;Here is a 3D printed figure of what the virtual koala looked like.</strong></p> <p>The following demo took us to space—Mars, specifically. Microsoft has been working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs to recreate a 3D rendering of Mars using Curiosity's images. While our physical body was located in an office in Bellevue, Washington, it felt like we were walking on the red planet. When we asked if any of the landscape were computer rendered, the Microsoft rep told us that all the imagery was actually from Mars, and that it was the closest man has ever come to walking on the planet. Suffice it to say our jaws hit the floor. It looked entirely realistic. Never did it feel flat or like images were being stitched together. We actually felt like we were on Mars (at least as best as a see-through augmented related lens can deliver). Microsoft also set up a tour guide in a different room to show us around the alien planet. Our tour guide was golden (picture the Silver Surfer, except gold). This is but one humanoid prototype Microsoft said it was working on. It had Superman-like laser beams pointing out of its eyes (minus the laser sound effects) that would point us in the direction of interesting objects spread throughout the desert terrain. By focusing in on objects, we could use the flick command to zoom in on surfaces. Again, the headset features positional head tracking, so we were able to get on our knees and closely observe the rocks underneath our feet. It was a surreal experience and we could definitely see NASA using this headset for more research.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/microsoft_hololens_skype_rgb.jpg" alt="skype hololens" title="skype hololens" width="620" height="423" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Who knew Skype could be so informative?</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;The final demo we took part in had us interfacing with a real human being over Skype. While that might sound less exciting than the other demos, it was actually pretty cool. The person on the other end of the line was going to help us repair a broken electric wall socket. Our Skype helper could see what we were seeing (as a function of the HoloLens), and she walked us through all the steps to fix the socket, connecting wires and all. We had a funny moment during this demo when she asked us to look down at the tools. We did what we were asked and looked at the virtual tools below her video feed. But she asked us to look down at the tools again, and we realized she meant the physical hammers and such on the desk beside us. It’s sort of crazy how the physical and digital are already becoming hard to distinguish in AR. Once we got that squared away, we pinned her video feed to the side of the wall socket (so that it wouldn’t float in the middle of our vision and obstruct our view of it). From there, she was able to give us very clear and precise instructions on how to fix the issue. It worked about as well as someone giving you instructions over the shoulder in real life. </p> <p>It’s extremely exciting to see examples of what AR will allow people to do. Obviously, helping someone fix an electrical socket over Skype is one of them, but you’ll also be able to get cooking lessons from your mom or learn how to fix a car from your dad, and so on. Virtual classes with one-on-one instruction seems like a natural next step. We see a lot of potential here in the professional world, too. It could potentially aid doctors in the ER or help soldiers avoid potential land mines in the field. Then, yes, of course, game opportunities abound. You could potentially do some unique eye-spy or hide-and-seek type games around your house or blast aliens as they start coming in from your kitchen. Microsoft says gaming will be a big component of HoloLens, but it will be up to the developers to push the boundaries of what’s possible with AR games. In addition, as we also saw with the Mars demo, virtual tourism could be a big thing.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/microsoft_hololens_mixedworld_rgb.jpg" alt="mixed world" title="mixed world" width="620" height="413" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>If pulled off correctly, HoloLens could be transformative.</strong></p> <p>Of course, virtual tourism may be better suited for VR experiences, where you are completely visually isolated from the outside world, and some people were bothered by the fact that you could see through and around the lens. It didn’t bother us, however. It was actually hard to stop smiling at points.</p> <p>When asked, Microsoft was coy about the technical aspects of the device. When we asked the HoloLens’s resolution, the answer was merely “HD.” In theory, this means 720p and up. Regardless, from our experiential test, we didn’t have any major issues with the resolution and thought it looked quite sharp for a developer kit. Of course, we’ll take higher resolution any day of the week, but the resolution that Microsoft is currently running seems ready for consumer release.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/microsoft_hololens_pivotpoint_rgb.jpg" alt="pivot" title="pivot" width="620" height="413" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>HoloLens could open up 3D modeling for beginners.</strong></p> <p>When will it be released? Microsoft says during the Windows 10 launch timeframe. As Microsoft aims to release Windows 10 sometime this year, you shouldn't have to wait too long to try it yourself.&nbsp;</p> ar augmented reality headset Hololens holostudio microsoft minecraft vr windows 10 News Features Thu, 22 Jan 2015 18:07:04 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29299 at