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- Sony Xperia Z2 goes on sale in the US for $700
- Salesforce adds automation, wearable device notifications to ExactTarget’s Marketing Cloud
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- The sales game: How FantasySalesTeam combines tech, sports and fun
- Hands-on review: UPDATED: Samsung Gear Live review
Apple just introduced a new lineup of speedier MacBook Pros, but it doesn't appear to be resting on its laurels. A new leak reveals a new larger iMac mdodel is slated for release sometime this year.
The French tech site ConsoMac first spotted an internal document revealing a forthcoming 27-inch iMac model. Other than the fact the new Apple All-in-One will be compatible with 64-bit versions of Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 and that it's a mid-2014 model, there wasn't any documentation indicating specs or other details.
However, it isn't a stretch to think this new 27-inch model could be the recently rumored iMac featuring a Retina 4K display.
The 21.5-inch iMac saw an upgrade with the recent introduction of a new lower-end model stuffing MacBook Air internals inside the larger PC. However, the current 27-inch iMacs are still the 2013 units introduced over a year ago.
News of the updated iMac line comes along with rumors that Apple will also introduce a new Mac mini for the first time in two years.
Before we invest too much hope in these machines, the accidental listing doesn't describe much. Although it was taken down almost immediately, the leak could have been a clerical error or another sort of slip up. In other words, don't put too much weight on the leak.
The introduction of a 4K display and revival of the Mac mini would likely be announced at a press event rather than slipped into the Mac store, so we'll look for Apple to make them official at its typical September/October events.
- Check out our hands-on review of OS X Yosemite!
Breaking News: Turkish citizens fight back against Twitter ban
Hands on at Comic-Con and GDC 2014
Update: Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2 is on its way to game makers and it's also now being used for by movie studios, so we revised our hands-on review.
Codenamed Crystal Cove, the updated Oculus Rift DK2 costs $350 (about £207, AU$373). That's $50 (about £30, AU$53) more than the first-generation developer kit.
However, the improved specs make it well worth the price bump if you're a developer with a passion for cutting-edge technology and the patience for beta hardware.
The face-worn display outfits developers with an HD screen that's 1080p or 960 x 1080 per eye. It finally meets our next-generation gaming needs.
Oculus Rift DK2 drops the first interation's control box in favor of integrating the guts into the headset itself. Only a single cable - HDMI and USB woven together - dangls from your face.
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hyeUkB44IM
The new kit also comes with a motion-tracking camera, which allows for greater movement within the world of the Rift. It looks a bit like a webcam, and a lot like a PlayStation Eye camera from the PS3 days.
It features a blue "on" light and an Oculus logo, but its true power isn't visible to the naked eye. It uses forty infrared LEDs on the headset to track your head movements and integrate them into the game. These LEDs were visible on the version we tried at CES 2014, but not anymore.
In the demos we saw at GDC 2014, this meant players could lean in for a closer look at in-game objects and characters. These were the same demos we saw at CES, with the exception of a new one by Epic Games, which integrated the player into the game a unique way.
The game was a one on one battle between two sword and shield wielding avatars. It takes place in a living room, where players can see representations of themselves seated in the room, controller in hand. To keep an eye on the fight we had to swivel our head and crane our neck.
The Rift was a surreal experience as always; when our opponent turned his head or leaned forward it gave his neck a stretched, snake-like appearance. And when one of the battling avatars leapt up onto your lap, you half expect to feel his little feet on your legs.
If you've used the previous Rift, know that Crystal Cove is a night and day difference. The higher resolution makes all the difference in the world; it's like going from Skyrim on a four-year-old PC to one from last year.
Note that we say last year; the Oculus Rift still isn't sporting visuals that you could call next gen. There are still jaggedly rendered objects, but the immersive nature of the experience trumps graphics any day, and is one you need to see to believe.
Movies come to Oculus Rift at Comic-Con
Comic-Con 2014 provided a different sort of experience - with entertainment at the forefront - and maybe one we can expect more of now that Facebook owns Oculus VR.
Both Twenty Century Fox and Warner Bros. were backing new Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2 units at the cosplay-filled San Diego convention with demos for their X-Men and Into the Storm films.
The X-Men Cerebro Experience provided the more surreal experience as attendees slipped into the wheelchair and saw through the eyes of mutant leader Professor Charles Xavier. He, fittingly, donned the just-as-snug brain amplifying mutant detector Cerebro on his own head.
The concept involved seeking the shapeshifting mutant Mystique by looking 360 degrees in any direction. She was hiding in a Comic-Con crowd that was fictitious and barren - it would have been cooler if it used augmented reality here.
The actual hunt was automated and fairly boring, but Professor X's replica wheelchair at the Fox booth provided developers with the opportunity to predict the location of our limbs and torso. It accurately overlayed his body onto our own.
Obviously, this demo didn't call for much movement and that worked to the movie studio's advantage. It could easily trick your mind into thinking that the Professor's subtle finger tap on the armrest was your own with a "Wait, I didn't just do that!"
Into the Storm upped the energy level with simulated tornado winds inside a small glass both built by Warner Bros. Through the first-person perspective, we saw three characters hunker down behind a gated sewer entrance, truck-sized debris smash against its ironclad bars and pipes burst with gushing water.
It didn't have the advantage of a stationary wheelchair-bound character to map our bodies and there was no interaction whatsoever, but Warner Bros did aptly demo its new disaster movie with this terrifying scene recreation. It also messed up our hair.
Both X-Men Cerebro Experience and Into the Storm also gave us insight into how big-name movie studios intend to use Oculus Rift to invent new ways of enjoying theatrical experiences. Video games were just the beginning.
Hands on CES 2014
Oculus Rift gets more impressive every time we see it, and the futuristic virtual reality headset's appearance at CES 2014 was definitely no exception.
Since E3 2013 Oculus VR has gained impressive talent and raised an extra $75 million in funding, and the result is the Oculus Rift Crystal Cove prototype (named for a state park in southern California). It's significantly easier on the eyes than older versions of the headset and, by extension, closer than ever to the Rift's final, fully functional, consumer-facing form.
The two game demos Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell showed us in a private meeting room at CES were designed to showcase two new features: positional head-tracking and low persistence, both of which help make the virtual reality experience more immersive and address some users' complaints with the headset, including motion blur-induced nausea.
The head-tracking is the most obvious improvement. The new white studs on the Oculus Crystal Cove prototype's face are indicators that communicate your head's position to a new external camera, mounted near your monitor. As a result the full movements of your upper body, not just the sideways and up/down movements of your head, are detected and translated to the game world.
That means you can lean forward while playing CCP Games' extremely impressive 3D space-shooting game EVE: Valkyrie, bringing your in-game face closer to your space ship's various monitors and switches so you can better read their warnings and instructions. Since the very first demo Oculus Rift has inserted players into virtual worlds, and with this addition it's a more immersive experience than ever.
Get low, low, low, low
Second and more subtle is the low persistence, which makes the Oculus Rift's somewhat notorious motion blur a thing of the past. Now the graphics remain more clear and sharp even when you move your head around rapidly. There's still a tiny amount of blurring, but it's a massive improvement over the previous version of Oculus Rift.
To prove it Mitchell turned low persistence off and then on as we moved around, and although the image became darker with it on, it almost totally alleviated what was previously one of the Rift's biggest issues.
The tech behind the low persistence is somewhat complex, but Mitchell explained the gist of it. Essentially the new "Crystal Cove" Oculus Rift's OLED display has zero latency, so it takes the pixels no time at all to change color.
Even then, Mitchell said, there was some blurring, but Oculus alleviated it even further by programming the pixels to consistently but imperceptibly flicker on and off, only turning on when they have "good" data to display.
That new OLED display is also full HD 1080p, just like the prototype Oculus showed off behind closed doors at E3 2013. That of course helps as well.
We played EVE: Valkyrie at E3 2013 as well, though on the older, lower-resolution Oculus Rift. In 1080p, and with minimal motion blur and the new positional head-tracking, it was even more immersive now than it was back then - and that's saying something, because even that first time it was totally mind-blowing.
Piloting a space ship with an Xbox 360 controller while you look around the cockpit and target enemies with the motions of your head is one of the most impressive gaming experiences ever created. It feels like the first time you played Super Mario 64, or Halo, or Wolfenstein - completely fresh and like it has the potential to change the world of gaming. And right now it's only a demo.
The other software Oculus had at CES was a very basic defense game built by Epic Games in Unreal Engine 4. It's an evolution of one of the original Oculus Rift demos Oculus showed around - the one where users simply walked or floated around several beautiful but interaction-light Unreal Engine 4 environments, including a snowy mountain and the lava-filled lair of a scary-looking demon lord.
Now, that demon sits on his throne across from you, the player, he being your apparent opponent. Around you is his cavernous, fiery lair, and before you is something like a 3D board game with moving pieces. He sends tiny dwarves marching inexorably toward your goal, and you press buttons on the Xbox 360 controller to fire arrows, cannonballs and flamethrowers at them.
There are two views: one overhead and one from closer to the game's level, almost like you're leaning down toward it to put on your thinking cap. And thanks to that positional head-tracking you can actually lean forward to peer into the game and examine the little dwarves up close. You can look into their faces as they're pinned with arrows and crisped with fire.
The experience of playing a game inside a game world is not unique to Oculus Rift. This little game, though still very basic, could conceivably be a mini-game within some epic, sprawling RPG. But like with everything else, playing it on Oculus Rift makes you feel like you're really there.
Mitchell said the camera that enables the positional tracking may be only a temporary solution. But whatever Oculus settles on to make sure the final version of Oculus Rift features full six-point head-tracking will be included with the unit, whether that means bundling a camera in or something else.
There's still no projected release date or final pricing for the consumer product that the Oculus Rift Crystal Cove prototype will eventually become, despite rumors of a Christmas 2014 goal that Mitchell would neither confirm nor deny. And the conspicuous indicator lights on the Crystal Cove's front aren't final either, Mitchell revealed, even if they do look kind of cool.
Mitchell and his colleagues at Oculus VR seem to think the Rift still has a long way to go. That may very well be true, but the fact is the Oculus Rift is the coolest product in the world right now, and it gets better every time we see it.
Alex Roth also contributed to this hands-on preview
Update: It's E3 2013, and it's been several months since TechRadar last saw Oculus Rift. The virtual reality headset has undergone two major changes since January: a new prototype now comes with full HD 1080p visuals, and it's now got something resembling an actual video game.
We went hands on at the show to check out what's new with Oculus Rift, and we came away extremely impressed.
Oculus VR is now using Epic's Unreal Engine 4 to demo its Rift headset. Specifically, the company is showing players the lava and snow demo that debuted in videos in late March. Wearing the standard-definition headset (similar to the one we saw at CES, but with an extra top strap for added comfort), we felt like we should be able to catch a snowflake with an open mouth when we looked up at the virtual sky.
It's that real-looking, and when we put on the brand new prototype HD Oculus Rift that sensation was only heightened.
Oculus Rift is incredibly immersive, and part of that is thanks to its true stereoscopic 3D. The two screens inside the goggles become extensions of your own eyeballs, and your brain quickly adapts to the point that you'll raise your arm and expect to see them in the game world. You can truly sense the world's depth, and despite knowing it's an illusion it feels very real.
We didn't experience any nausea, but we only used it for a few minutes. We did get a touch of vertigo as we looked down from the top of a virtual mountain, though.
The consumer version of Oculus Rift, which Oculus VR Vice President of Product Nate Mitchell said is coming in "months and not years," will likely come in HD like the prototype we saw at E3. As you can imagine it's absolutely a superior experience.
Mitchell was hesitant to divulge too many specifics, though, mostly because they're always subject to change. "We want to continue
Reuters News: Samsung Elec sees tough second half after second-quarter profit slips
SEOUL (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. on Thursday reported its worst quarterly profit in two years and was downbeat about its second-half prospects, fuelling concerns about its ability to protect its smartphone turf in the face of mounting competition.
With its flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone outsold by Apple Inc's iPhone 5S in May and its cheaper devices feeling the squeeze from Chinese rivals like Xiaomi, Samsung is under pressure to come up with a new strategy to halt the slide.
For April-June, Samsung said operating profit fell 24.6 percent annually to 7.2 trillion won ($7.03 billion), matching its guidance. This marked the third straight quarter of profit decline and was the weakest result since the second quarter of 2012.
Profit for the mobile division fell to 4.42 trillion won from 6.28 trillion won a year ago, also the lowest in two years.
"Looking ahead, the second half of 2014 will remain a challenge," Samsung said in a statement, adding that profitability for the mobile division may suffer due to intensifying global competition.
Samsung's mobile division executives returned a quarter of their first-half bonuses and have downgraded to economy seats for shorter flights, evidence the South Korean tech giant is tightening its belt as it tries to regroup.
Researcher IDC said on Wednesday that Samsung's second-quarter global smartphone market share slipped to 25.2 percent from 32.3 percent a year ago, underscoring its troubles.
While the company guides for a pickup in sales for its mobile business, analysts say it needs to go back to the drawing board and revamp its product lineup to ensure it can make a sustained recovery.
Some analysts say Samsung should introduce curved displays or metal casings rather than much-criticised plastic for its premium products. Some even suggest a whole new brand to separate its high-end products from cheaper devices.
Samsung finds itself facing the first annual profit decline in three years just as Apple prepares to launch larger-sized iPhones in the fall, taking away a key differentiator for Samsung's high-end devices.
At the mid-to-low end of the market, analysts say Samsung needs to improve its range to fend off Chinese challengers like Xiaomi, Lenovo Group Ltd, ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL].
The weak second-quarter results will put the spotlight on the next Galaxy Note handset, expected to be launched in September.
"They'll have to make sure that the Note 4 isn't a flop," Counterpoint analyst Tom Kang said before Samsung's earnings disclosure.
Samsung's chips business reported a profit of 1.86 trillion won, in line with firm results for rival SK Hynix Inc, as tight supply for DRAM memory chips for personal computers and servers boosted the bottom line.
The flat-screen panels business ran a 220 billion won profit during the April-June period, compared with a 1.12 trillion won profit a year earlier.
Samsung said it planned 24 trillion won worth of capital expenditures this year, in line with 2013, with 14.4 trillion won worth of that for its chips business. The company also plans to pay an interim dividend of 500 won per share, the same as last year.
(Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates)
Breaking News: Mom tries to Facebook-shame daughter, gets pizza on face
Salesforce.com has updated the Journey Builder feature of its ExactTarget Marketing Cloud product. The updates are designed to enable automated and enhanced customer interactions for Salesforce1 and Salesforce Marketing Cloud customers.
At an event at Salesforce's headquarters in San Francisco, Salesforce unveiled new additions to Journey Builder, including maps that enable brands to plan customer interactions across channels in advance; triggers that enable brands to respond in real time to customer changes, such as abandoned carts and affinity changes; and metrics that allow brands to test and optimize customer interactions.
ExactTarget Marketing Cloud customers include Mirosoft, Sony Playstation and SkyMall. Journey Builder is generally available, with pricing starting at $5000 (around £2958, AU$5367).
Salesforce, Marketing Cloud and Fitbit
To demonstrate Journey Builder's new features, Salesforce used a hypothetical Fitbit customer interaction to detail how Journey Builder can automatically interact with customers.
The demonstration included a Fitbit product activation interaction that automatically welcomed new customers to Fitbit. The Journey Builder notification also offered the hypothetical customer a congratulations notification when he/she took 5000 steps. Salesforce also demonstrated a maintenance reminder for the hypothetical consumer to recharging the Fitbit battery.
ExactTarget provides marketing automation technology that is designed to enable brands to deliver email, mobile and social campaigns. The company also provides web and data analytics services to brands looking to gather insights from online interactions with customers.
Wearables and Salesforce1
Salesforce has been leading the charge for wearable technology CRM. Last month, Salesforce launched the Wear Developer Pack, a tool designed for businesses looking to connect with customers and customer data via wearable devices. The Salesforce Wear Developer Pack allows businesses to create applications on wearable devices such as Fitbit, Google Glass and Samsung Gear 2, among others.
By combining the Marketing Cloud, the Wear Developer Pack and Salesforce1, Salesforce can help organizations leverage customer data to enhance service, improve marketing and boost sales.
Salesforce's Salesforce1 tool, which the company launched in November of last year, includes the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud. Salesforce1 enables developers, independent software vendors (ISVs), end users, admins and customers to build mobile apps in the cloud.
"Everything is connected. We'll have 75 billion connected devices in the coming years," said Salesforce CMO Lynn Vojvodich at a media event at Salesforce's San Francisco headquarters. "I am connected today with my Samsung Gear Fit. Every single thing we're doing today is getting connected. Behind all these [connections] is the customer. This is much more powerful than an Internet of Things. This is an Internet of Customers...The cloud makes this all possible."
The marketing cloud push
Salesforce acquired ExactTarget for $2.5 billion (around £1.5 billion, AU$2.7) in June of last year. It is the company's largest acquisition.
Salesforce isn't the only technology vendor looking to integrate sales and marketing clouds. Earlier this year, IBM acquired Silverpop for its marketing automation and real-time personalization expertise.
Oracle acquired Eloqua in 2012 in order to create an "offering to help companies transform the way they market, sell, support and serve their customers," both companies said at the time. It also acquired Responsys to enable better social interaction analysis for brands.
To bolster Salesforce 1, Salesforce launched the Salesforce1 mobile app, which gave Salesforce1 users direct access to reports, dashboards and accounts on the go. Salesforce added mobile reporting to Salesforce1 to gave developers access to real-time performance data on mobile devices, and it launched Sales Reach, which is designed to provide sales reps with the ability to send one-to-one marketing campaigns.
Earlier this year, Salesforce.com agreed to acquire CRM startup RelateIQ for $390 million (around £228 million, AU$415 million). RelateIQ pulls data from customer interactions to provide sales teams with useful selling information.
Salesforce saw revenue increase 37% year-on-year to $1.23 billion for the quarter ending April 30. This was partially driven by higher demand for its cloud-based sales and marketing solutions, like ExactTarget.
- Which are the 10 CRM systems you should know?
Reuters News: Microsoft Xbox One to launch in China on September 23
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp will launch its Xbox One gaming console in China on September 23, making it the first foreign company to start selling consoles in the world's third-biggest gaming market after a ban on the devices was lifted this year.
Yusuf Mehdi, head of marketing and strategy for Microsoft's Xbox group, announced the launch date at an event in Shanghai. The console will cost 3,699 yuan ($600) without the Kinect motion detection system and 4,299 yuan ($700) with Kinect.
In the United States, the Xbox One with Kinect costs $499 and without it is $399, a difference of more than $200 compared with the respective prices in China.
In September last year, Microsoft reached a deal with Chinese internet TV set-top box maker BesTV New Media Co Ltd to form a joint venture to manufacture the consoles in Shanghai's Free Trade Zone.
Zhang Dazhong, a senior vice president at Shanghai Media Group, the parent of BesTV New Media, said at the event the Xbox launch had been approved by the government.
Microsoft is forging ahead with the launch despite Tuesday's government announcement that the U.S. software giant is the subject of an anti-monopoly investigation.
China is the world's third-biggest gaming market, where revenues grew by more than a third from 2012 to nearly $14 billion last year, but piracy and the dominance of PC and mobile gaming may leave little room for legitimate console and game sales.
This year, the government lifted a 2000 ban on gaming consoles.
In May, Sony Corp said it would set up a joint-venture with Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group to bring the PlayStation games console to China.
($1 = 6.1712 Chinese Yuan)
(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Miral Fahmy and Mark Potter)
Breaking News: Netflix's Hastings makes the case for Net neutrality
Last week we reported that FOVE, creator of the world's first head-mounted eye-tracking display, had been accepted into Microsoft's Ventures London programme - igniting speculation that Microsoft was sniffing around some new gaming VR tech.
Now a source from the company has confirmed to TechRadar that Microsoft has explicitly expressed interest in using the FOVE technology with Xbox, and will be offering development kits for the startup to use.
Whether this will result in the Xbox One virtual reality headset looking like FOVE is impossible to tell right now, but Microsoft has already mentioned to FOVE that it's thinking about how the technology may work with its console.
The source also told us that FOVE is hoping to form some form of partnership with Microsoft on Xbox One, should Microsoft choose to pursue it. FOVE will be moving to London for a few months while it partakes in the accelerator program, during which time it should know for certain what benefits Microsoft hopes to gain.
It's all in the eyes
Microsoft has several different accelerator programmes around the world, with London's most strongly linked to the gaming scene.
With Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus making their way to market, Microsoft certainly won't want to be left out, so it. This new information chimes with that from another source, who informed TechRadar that Microsoft's VR plans are still well behind Oculus Rift.
But with the possibility of making the technology work with Kinect - and now potentially with eye-tracking tech too - Microsoft could build a truly compelling device.
We've approached Microsoft for comment and will update if we get a response.
- Five incredible ways Oculus Rift will go beyond gaming
Reuters News: Best Buy CEO says tablet sales are 'crashing': Re/code
n">(Reuters) - Best Buy Co Inc Chief Executive Hubert Joly said tablets sales were "crashing" and the PC business was seeing a revival in sales, according to the website, Re/code.
The U.S. smartphone market has also grown more mature, Joly also said, according to the website.
Best Buy had earlier warned that same-store sales could fall this quarter and the next on lower demand for many consumer electronics.
Joly attributed the PC revival during the first quarter partly to Microsoft Corp stopping support for the older Windows XP operating system, the website said.
"The tablets boomed and now are crashing. The volume has really gone down in the last several months," Re/code quoted Joly as saying in an interview.
"... I think the laptop has something of a revival because it's becoming more versatile."
Joly has removed layers of management, eliminated hundreds of jobs, closed unprofitable stores and boosted Best Buy's cash reserves in efforts to stem sales declines since joining in the fall of 2012.
(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das)
Breaking News: Turkish citizens fight back against Twitter ban
Google is well underway to dominating the smartwatch market with Android Wear, so the inevitable competition from Apple must be just around the corner, right? Right?
Not according to a report on money.udn.com, a Chinese site that says the rumored iWatch has been delayed until the fourth quarter of 2014.
Not only that, but apparently iWatch shipment projections have also been "severely" revised from 20 million expected to ship by the end of the year to just six million.
Now that's just bad news all around (unless your name is Google, Motorola, etc.).
It should be noted that these conclusions have been drawn from some nimble guesswork, however certain its sources may be.
The "delayed" bit comes from Chinese manufacturer TPK, which is apparently supplying parts for the iWatch.
The firm had high Q3 2014 profit projections when it expected the iWatch to ship this quarter, but apparently those Q3 projections have fallen while Q4's rose. Thus it's believed the iWatch release date has been moved to next quarter.
Hong Kong investment banking firm CLSA agrees, and further, it's also the source of the revised iWatch shipment expectations.
The bottom line: these Asian sources, who seem to have more information about Apple's plans than your average Joe, believe the iWatch will launch late in 2014, and that Apple will ship just six million of them.
We'll see how it all plays out in the end.
- 5 big iWatch hints that Apple dropped at WWDC
Reuters News: China regulator announces anti-monopoly probe of Microsoft
BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese regulator is conducting an anti-monopoly investigation into Microsoft Corp MSFT.O over its Windows operating system, in the latest of a growing number of competition probes that have unnerved Western firms in China.
China's State Administration for Industry & Commerce (SAIC) is also investigating a Microsoft vice president and senior managers, and has made copies of the firm's financial statements and contracts, the agency said on its website on Tuesday.
It said Microsoft, which has struggled to make inroads in China due to rampant piracy, has not fully disclosed information about Windows and its Office software suite.
Microsoft is one of the biggest U.S. companies to fall under the eye of Chinese regulators as they ramp up their oversight in an apparent attempt to protect local companies and customers.
The investigation comes as U.S.-China business relations have been severely strained by wrangles over data privacy.
Investigators raided Microsoft offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu on Monday.
The SAIC said it had obtained documents, e-mails and other data from Microsoft's computers and servers, adding that it could not complete the investigation as Microsoft had said some of its key personnel were not in China.
Microsoft has been suspected of violating China's anti-monopoly law since June last year in relation to problems with compatibility, bundling and document authentication, the statement said.
Microsoft said it complies with laws and regulations of every market where it operates. "Our business practices in China are designed to be compliant with Chinese law," a representative said in an emailed statement.
The SAIC statement said the raids were prompted by reports from other companies, without naming them.
But mystery surrounds the probe, with industry experts and lawyers questioning what, if any, violations Microsoft can have made in China, where the size of its business is negligible.
It is still unclear how exactly Microsoft violated China's anti-monopoly law, said Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based tech consultancy BDA.
"It's ironic they can be accused of a monopoly in a mostly pirated operating system market, as they were criticized for ending support to mostly non-paid versions of Windows XP," said Clark, referring to Microsoft halting support for the 13-year-old operating system in April.
Microsoft does have a wide range of operations in China, including research and development and teams for products such as Windows, Microsoft Office, servers, entertainment and hardware.
But its revenues for China, which Microsoft does not break out in its earnings statements, are very low. Sales are disappointingly low for a market of 1.4 billion people, said a former employee.
Former CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly told employees in 2011 that, because of piracy, Microsoft earned less revenue in China than in the Netherlands, even though computer sales matched those of the United States.
Some lawyers, however, said it could be argued that Microsoft enjoyed a monopoly in China, despite the fact that the vast majority of copies of Windows and Microsoft Office are pirated.
"Microsoft really has a dominant market position. People rely on it very much and its market share is very high, so this would likely lead to an abuse of its dominant market position," said Zhan Hao, a Beijing-based managing partner at Anjie Law Firm.
"Alternatively, Microsoft could (through its market position) restrict competition for other business and competitors," he said, adding that Microsoft, if found guilty may be fined 1-10 percent of its China revenue.
China's anti-monopoly law does not say whether the 1-10 percent of revenues that companies can be fined when in violation refers to domestic or global sales.
TECH SECTOR TENSIONS
Qualcomm Inc QCOM.O, the world's biggest cellphone chip maker, is facing penalties that may exceed $1 billion in another Chinese anti-trust probe, following accusations of overcharging and abusing its market position.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce earlier this year urged Washington to get tough with Beijing on its increasing use of its six-year-old anti-competition rules, noting that "concerns among U.S. companies are intensifying."
Revelations by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have also caused friction, with Chinese state media calling for "severe punishment" of tech firms they say have helped the U.S government to steal secrets and monitor China.
Tensions increased in May when the U.S. Justice Department charged five members of the Chinese military with hacking the systems of U.S. companies to steal trade secrets.
The SAIC investigation into Microsoft could be read as a public retaliation for the U.S. cyber espionage revelations and the Justice Department indictments, BDA's Clark said.
The latest move by China's authorities caps a rocky period for Microsoft in the country. Earlier this month, activists said Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage service was being disrupted in China.
In May, central government offices were banned from installing Windows 8, Microsoft's latest operating system, on new computers. This ban appears not to have been lifted, as multiple procurement notices since then have not allowed Windows 8.
Nevertheless, the company has pushed forward with plans to release its Xbox One gaming console in China in September, forming distribution ties with wireless carrier China Telecom Corp 0728.HK and e-commerce company JD.com Inc JD.O.
(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom and Bill Rigby in Seattle; Editing by Alex Richardson and Richard Chang)
Breaking News: Netflix's Hastings makes the case for Net neutrality
It seemed inevitable that Instagram would eventually launch its own Snapchat competitor, and today the company proved the rumors true with the announcement of Instagram Bolt.
The new iOS and Android app lets users send photos and videos to their friends with a single tap.
Much like in Snapchat and other apps like Taptalk and Facebook Slingshot, the content then disappears as soon as it's viewed.
There's just one problem if you want to get your hands on Instagram Bolt right now: it's only available in three countries.
Instagram Bolt has launched in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa, and an Instagram spokesperson told TechRadar that the company expects to release it elsewhere "soon."
"We decided to start small with Bolt, in just a handful of countries, to make sure we can scale while maintaining a great experience," the spokesperson said.
In addition The Verge received a statement noting that 65% of Instagram users live outside the US, "so an international launch, while different, is actually not all that out of order with what we do."
"This isn't a side project," that spokesperson promised. "We are totally behind this thing."
How it works
The Bolt app appeared first in a banner ad inside the Instagram app for Android on July 24.
Using the app is dead simple: tap on a friend's face to open the camera and shoot and send them a photo, or long-tap to send a video. You can add overlay text, or reply to content you've received. Content disappears once it's viewed and swiped away.
Despite Instagram being owned by Facebook, Bolt will only import friends from your phone contacts, not from your Facebook friends.
And users can set up to four favorites that will stay on the app's main page, though Bolt only lets users send content to one friend at a time.
It's a pretty app, but time will tell whether Instagram Bolt has what it needs to compete with the glut of other quick-and-dirty photo messaging apps popping up.
- Grudge match: Facebook Slingshot vs Snapchat
Reuters News: Applied Micro ships microserver chips in challenge to Intel
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Applied Micro Circuits has begun shipping a new kind of low-power server chip that might challenge heavyweight Intel in cutting-edge data centers.
The Sunnyvale, California, company disappointed Wall Street on Tuesday with first fiscal quarter revenue and second-quarter revenue outlook that missed expectations due to a declining legacy business, sending its shares 4 percent lower after hours.
But Applied Micro Circuits also announced it is shipping its new X-Gene "microserver" chips, made with intellectual property licensed from ARM Holdings, whose low-power technology is widely used in smartphones.
In the quarter that ended in June, Applied Micro Circuits recognized its first revenue from the chips - about a $1 million - and the company said it expects "meaningful" revenue from the chips in the quarters ending in December and March as shipments build.
"There is backlog today on the books for X-Gene, both in the September quarter and December quarter, as well as the March quarter," Chief Executive Officer Paramesh Gopi told analysts on a conference call.
While microservers have yet to be meaningfully adopted, proponents say data centers can be made more cost effective and energy efficient by using them instead of Intel's brawny server chips.
Intel dominates the server market and it stands to lose if server chips based on a rival architecture catch on, even if only a few percentage points of market share.
"While we don't take any competition lightly, the much-hyped threat of ARM servers getting any significant market segment share any time soon has been vastly overplayed," said Intel spokesman Bill Calder.
In January, Facebook Inc hardware guru Frank Frankovsky lauded low-power server technology and said he looked forward to greater choice of processors.
Microservers at first will be most suited to data centers run by major Internet companies and for use in high-performance computing, proponents say.
Intel executives in the past have said microserver chips being developed by Applied Micro Circuits, Advanced Micro Devices and other small rivals were unproven and not a serious threat to its server chip business.
In the past couple of years, Intel has launched its own low-power chips, designed with its own architecture, in anticipation of a potential move toward microservers by major Internet players like Facebook and Google Inc.
(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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PCMark 8 is a benchmarking program for Windows PCs that includes a range of tests designed around common user scenarios. Each test gives a score, which you can use to compare different PCs, and detailed results to get a deeper understanding of system performance.
PCMark 8 Professional Edition is the only version licensed for business and commercial use. It offers additional Extended Storage tests, command line automation, the ability to export results as XML and PDF files, and priority customer support. PCMark 8 Professional Edition costs £1,005 (or $1495.00). Site license options are also available.
PCMark 8 Advanced Edition for home users includes all five tests, battery life testing, custom testing options, in-depth hardware monitoring graphs and the ability to save your results offline. It costs £29.99 (or $49.95).
PCMark 8 Basic Edition is free, but only includes the Home, Work and Creative tests. You can grab all three versions from here.
We spoke to Futuremark regarding its program and how PCMark 8 differs from other benchmark suites, and how benchmarks might evolve in the future.
TechRadar Pro: What are PCMark 8's components?
Futuremark: PCMark 8 includes five benchmark tests. The Home, Work and Creative benchmarks use workloads that reflect typical PC use in the home, the office, and for a selection of more demanding creative, entertainment and media tasks.
The Applications benchmark measures system performance using popular programs from the Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office. The Storage benchmark is a dedicated test for measuring and comparing the performance of SSDs and HDDs. The tests are explained in detail in the PCMark 8 Technical Guide.
The PCMark 8 Home, Work, Creative, and Application benchmarks can also be used to test the battery life of laptops, notebooks and tablets.
TRP: How does it differ from other benchmark programs on the market?
FM: PCMark 8 benchmarks show the real-world differences between systems by measuring performance for common home and office tasks. Futuremark believes this approach is more useful to end users than synthetic component tests whose results may only be of practical use to engineers and other industry insiders.
TRP: What does Futuremark consider to be best practice when it comes to the benchmarking process?
FM: To get accurate and consistent benchmark results you should test clean systems without third party software installed. If this is not possible, you should close as many background tasks as possible, especially automatic updates or tasks that feature pop-up alerts such as email and messaging programs.
1. Install all critical updates to ensure your operating system is up to date.
2. Install the latest WHQL approved drivers for your hardware.
3. Restart the computer or device.
4. Wait 2 minutes for start up to complete.
5. Exit all other programs, especially those that run in the background or task bar.
6. Wait for 15 minutes.
7. Run the benchmark.
8. Repeat from step 3 at least three times to verify your results.
TRP: What are the challenges facing the benchmarking industry?
FM: Without a doubt, the biggest challenge for benchmarking is the change driven by mobile devices. It can be hard to create benchmark tests that scale from smartphones and tablets to desktop PCs and dedicated workstations.
A test that highlights differences between smartphones may not be relevant when comparing desktops. A test for desktops may be too heavy for a tablet. The challenge is to create useful benchmarks that help people compare performance, not only across all the different form factors, but across operating systems too.
The other significant challenge is that measuring performance alone is no longer enough. Battery life, power efficiency and thermal management are important considerations when choosing a new mobile device. Benchmarks must now do more than test the speed of the processor. They must measure the complete experience.
TRP: How do you see benchmarks evolving over the next few years?
FM: Over the next few years the quality and usefulness of mobile benchmarks will increase significantly. The standard will be raised by developers like Futuremark who have the expertise, wide industry connections, and open processes required to create high quality benchmark tests that are accurate, relevant and impartial.
Unfortunately, many of the mobile benchmark apps used today are created by single developers, or small teams, who lack the experience and industry connections needed to design fair and neutral tests. And even well-intentioned benchmarks can fail to present meaningful measures of performance, instead providing synthetic results that are difficult to relate to the differences seen when using real apps.
Reuters News: Huawei says ships 34 million smartphones in H1 globally, up 62 percent year-on-year
HONG KONG (Reuters) - China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd said smartphone shipments in the first half rose 62 percent year-on-year, as it targets the more expensive smartphone sector dominated by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc.
Shenzhen-based Huawei has shipped 34.27 million smartphones globally in the first six months ending June 30 - about 43 percent of its annual shipment target of 80 million, according to Reuters' calculations based on figures provided by Huawei.
"We recorded faster growth in areas such as Middle East and Africa and Latin America, with 275 percent and 550 percent year-on-year growth in the second quarter, respectively," Shao Yang, vice president of marketing in the consumer business group, told Reuters in a written statement.
He attributed the growth to improving brand awareness and stronger sales channels in overseas markets.
"Based on the growth momentum at the moment, we are firmly moving toward our full-year target," Shao said, adding that smartphones are now accounting for 97 percent of Huawei's global phone shipments.
The company, which competes with Chinese makers Lenovo Group Ltd and ZTE Corp, shipped about 21 million smartphones globally in the second quarter ending June 30, an 85 percent rise from the same period of last year.
Huawei's strong growth in smartphone shipments confirms the challenge facing market leader Samsung Electronics, which issued unexpectedly weak quarterly earnings guidance citing increasing competition from Chinese rivals who are offering high-end models at cheaper prices.
Among the 80 million smartphones Huawei is planning to ship this year, about 20 percent of them would be mid- to high-end models, up from the 16 percent shipped in 2013, the company told Reuters earlier this year.
But industry watchers said Huawei still faces strong headwinds in its efforts to break into the premium handset market, a segment that Apple has continued to dominate.
The Cupertino company this month reported surprisingly strong smartphone sales in China, reaffirming the allure of the iPhone brand among China's well-to-do.
In China, Huawei said it had shipped more than 20 million smart devices, including smartphones and tablets, in the first half of this year.
Shao said Huawei had a long-term and stable partnership with China's three major carriers - which would give the company an advantage over foreign rivals such as Samsung and Apple in the world's largest smartphone market.
But he declined to reveal how many smartphones it had shipped in China in the first half.
Huawei had a 4.7 percent share of the global smartphone market in the first quarter of this year, a distant third behind Samsung Electronics with 30.8 percent and Apple with 15.2 percent, according to IDC.
(Editing by Stephen Coates)