Friday, February 16, 2018

Amazon Skills Kit

Amazon today is rolling out the biggest makeover for its
Alexa Skills Kit Developer Console – the console where
voice app developers create their skills – since its debut
back in 2015. The new console has been redesigned with
a focus on improving developer workflows, says Amazon.
It now offers separate sections for “build,” “test,” “launch,”
and “measure” – meaning developers can create skills in
a visual interface, test their performance, push them live,
then see how consumers respond in order to make
Adjustments.

The redesign comes at a time when a number of third-
party companies have stepped in to address issues that
Amazon’s own toolset has been lacking. For example,
prototype their voice apps ahead of coding, and YC-
backed Storyline allows for Alexa skill development
without coding.

While Amazon’s own developer console doesn’t address
those exact same use cases, there is a bigger emphasis
on visualizing the flow of the conversation with Alexa than
in the previous version.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Facebook Speakers

Facebook is set to officially foray into the global smart speaker
market in mid-2018 by launching two new models, codenamed
Aloha and Fiona - both with 15-inch touchscreens - in July at
the latest, with the devices positioned as a way to allow family
and friends to stay in touch with video chat and various social
features, according to industry sources.


The sources said that the Facebook move is expected to further
heat up the global smart speaker market, which has been
crowded with heavyweight players, including top supplier Amazon
and other tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and many
China players including Alibaba. According to estimates by
market researcher Canalys, the global market sales of smart
speakers are likely to double to over 50 million units in 2018 from
2017.


Supply chain sources said that Facebook was originally slated to
release the devices in May, but has decided to reschedule the l
aunch to allow more time for perfecting the acoustic quality of the
gadgets and software modification.


Pegatron as sole contract assembler
The two models will be fitted with 15-inch in-cell touchscreen panels reportedly to be sourced from LG Display, while Taiwan's Pegatron is also reported to be the sole contract assembler of the devices. But both firms declined to comment on matters concerning clients.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Apple Updates

Apple's annual software upgrade this fall will offer users plenty
of new features: enabling a single set of apps to work across
iPhones, iPads and Macs, a Digital Health tool to show parents
how much time their children have been staring at their screen
and improvements to Animojis, those cartoon characters
controlled by the iPhone X's facial recognition sensor.


But just as important this year will be what Apple doesn't
introduce: redesigned home screens for the iPhone, iPad
and CarPlay, and a revamped Photos app that can suggest
which images to view.

These features were delayed after Apple Inc. concluded it
needed its own major upgrade in the way the company
develops and introduces new products. Instead of keeping
engineers on a relentless annual schedule and cramming
features into a single update, Apple will start focusing on the
next two years of updates for its iPhone and iPad operating
system, according to people familiar with the change. The
company will continue to update its software annually, but
internally engineers will have more discretion to push back
features that aren't as polished to the following year.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mobile Games

When it comes to worldwide revenue in mobile games,
Chinese and Japanese companies are starting to dominate
the charts, according to measurement firm Sensor Tower.


Sony has a big hit on its hands with the role-playing game
Fate/Grand Order, which took the top position from Mixi’s
big hit Monster Strike. While the two Japanese companies
slug it out, Tencent’s Honor of Kings held the No. 3 position.


Candy Crush Saga from King and Clash Royale from
Supercell were the only Western games in the top 10, while
Asian companies held eight of the top 10. NCSoft’s Lineage
M reached No. 1 on Google Play, thanks to its huge popularity
in South Korea.

Tencent’s mobile racing title QQ Speed debuted on the chart
after launching in late December, hitting No. 5 overall and No.
3 on iOS.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

New Chip Company

Ampere, a new chip company run by former Intel president
Renee James, came out of stealth today with a brand-new
highly efficient Arm-based server chip targeted at hyperscale
data centers.


The company’s first chip is a custom core Armv8-A 64-bit
server operating at up to 3.3 GHz with 1TB of memory at a
power envelope of 125 watts. Although James was not ready
to share pricing, she promised that the chip would offer
unsurpassed price/performance that would exceed any high
performance computing chip out there.

The company has a couple of other products in the works as
well, which it will unveil in the future

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

More Self-Driving Cars

Software maker NVIDIA and German auto parts supplier
Continental are teaming to build a self-driving vehicle
system that will hit the market in 2021.


It's the latest in a long string of tech-automaker partnerships
in the race to get autonomous vehicles on the road.

The companies said Monday that their system will be
used for driver-assist safety features all the way up to cars
with no steering wheel or pedals. NVIDIA, based in Santa
Clara, California, makes computer processing units and
artificial intelligence software that reads sensors and makes
decisions for autonomous vehicles. Continental makes auto
parts including software and cameras, radar and laser sensors.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Apple Watch news

When Apple released the cellular-capable Apple Watch Series
3 in September, it didn’t realize that a tiny component — its
next-generation embedded SIM card (eSIM) — would lead China
to quickly and abruptly cut off Apple Watch phone service within
its borders. This morning, the cellular Apple Watch belatedly
became available to order in China’s Hong Kong territory and
Singapore, spotlighting the surprising challenges eSIM faces as
it becomes critical to next-generation wearables and 5G devices,
replacing the 25-year-old traditional SIM card.


Nothing about eSIMs would appear to justify governmental
panic. Physical SIM cards spent decades shrinking from
full-sized to mini, micro, and nano cards before the GSM
Association approved eSIM, an even smaller, trayless,
permanently installed successor. The innovation enabled
Apple Watch Series 3 to gain only 0.25mm of thickness
despite integrating a complete cellular communications
system.

eSIMs benefit from 25 years of technological improvement over the original SIM. Embedded SIMs are carrier-agnostic and rewritable, capable of being activated and managed remotely using over-the-air updates. That means carriers no longer need to send cards to device makers or individual customers, and consumers don’t need to make post-purchase visits to carrier stores; devices can just join an available network after turning on. eSIMs also enable seamless network switching: You can change carriers as needed, including during international travel. Indeed, eSIMs are eventually expected to end international roaming charges.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Roadmap

If you remember the year 2010, you might recall America’s
transition from 3G to 4G wireless, which started with very few
4G devices and cities. It’s now clear that this year’s 4G to 5G
transition will repeat that experience: Leading wireless carrier
AT&T has confirmed that it will follow Verizon’s 2010 playbook
for rolling out next-generation wireless services in 2018, starting
by selling portable hotspots while high-speed phones are being
built.


AT&T’s hotspot plan brings much-needed clarity to a
fuzzy announcement last month that the company would
launch “mobile 5G” in 12 cities this year. As 5G chips and
phones are still in early stages of development, rival T-Mobile
subsequently claimed that AT&T had “no tangible path”
to launching mobile 5G this year. T-Mobile was similarly
dismissive of Verizon, which committed to a smaller-scale
rollout of “fixed 5G” in three to five cities, apparently jumping
the gun on the as-yet-unfinished 5G standard. Verizon responded
by guaranteeing that it would update its proprietary 5G hardware
to ensure 5G standards compatibility.


As both AT&T’s and Verizon’s paths forward are now
clear, we have a much better idea of what America’s 2018
5G roadmap will be, barring any unexpected government
interruptions. If you’re in one of the cities selected by these
carriers, you will be able to buy a wireless device later this
year with roughly the same speed as a wired broadband
connection. AT&T’s “mobile” 5G devices will be battery-
powered and portable pucks; Verizon’s “fixed” 5G devices
will be wall-powered and designed to be left in a home or
small business. In each case, existing computers, tablets,
and phones will likely use Wi-Fi to access the 5G cellular
connection.


Given the incredible popularity of smartphones, why aren’t t
he major carriers starting with handsets first? They aren’t likely
to be ready, at least, in the massive quantities necessary to
serve millions of customers. AT&T CEO Randall
Stephenson claims that phones would be the bottleneck
holding up a 5G rollout. “[T]hat’s why we’re going to be
deploying pucks in the first part of our deployments in these
12 markets,” Stephenson explained last night. “So, it is a mobile
solution, but it’s not going to be a handset because there
aren’t going to be that many handsets available.”

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Unlimited Data Plans

Almost a year ago, the sudden pivot by AT&T and Verizon to
sell unlimited-data deals such as those offered by Sprint and T-Mobile
might have looked like a soon-to-be-regretted bout of marketing
excess.


But none of these carriers have walked back these unmetered-data
deals. And although one third-party study found that AT&T
and Verizon’s networks had slowed under the stress of new unlimited-
data subscribers, OpenSignal’s latest results show America’s two
largest carriers have rebounded.


These more generous offerings remain on the expensive side —
and most also feature fine-print restrictions on streaming video
resolution and the speed of a phone’s mobile-hot spot function.
You should still consider cheaper options that will probably leave
you with data to spare.

(You can easily check your monthly data use in Android in the S
ettings app, but Apple’s data gauge tracks your usage from when
you first got an iPhone, making it useless in practice. Check your
bill instead.)