Vendor News

The Next VR Contender: Microsoft

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The Next VR Contender: Microsoft

Microsoft quietly announced virtual reality plans at the tail end of its recent Surface event, as a number of partners will be selling headsets taking advantage of the VR and holographic capabilities of Windows 10.

The partners in question include HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Acer. Very little is known about the actual headsets, but Microsoft says the devices  feature "inside-out" tracking sensors able to handle 6 degrees of movement freedom, eliminating the need for the external cameras or laser systems used by the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.

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Starbreeze Buys Nozon Visual Effect Studio

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Starbreeze Buys Nozon Visual Effect Studio

Swedish games developer turned VR headset manufacturer Starbreeze buys further into technology as it pays €7.1 million for Nozon, a Belgium-based visual effects studio.

One might wonder what a visual effects studio has to do with VR, and the answer lies in interactive parallax-- an effect allowing viewers to move their heads with 6 degrees of freedom in a pre-rendered animated video, increasing immersion. Nozon has a tool for the creation of the effect, dubbed PresenZ. This makes it more than relevant to Starbreeze's interests, particularly since the Swedish company has a deal in the creation of VR experiences with IMAX.

“PresenZ technology for multiple virtual reality applications will allow for room scale scanning and virtualisation, and high quality computer graphics rendering at almost movie level polygon counts," Starbreeze says “The future of VR is undefined but it is easy to imagine with this technology, where a space can be scanned and rendered in high quality CGI, the applications where you could render a space like the Louvre in Paris or Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and provide interactive guided tours.”

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WSJ: Apple "Monitoring" Time Warner Acquisition

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WSJ: Apple

Apple is keeping a close eye on the AT&T acquisition of Time Warner, the Wall Street Journal reports-- in part due to its seeking (but failing to achieve) a merger with the media giant a few months ago.

Time Warner is the parent company of numerous content brands such as CNN, HBO and Warner Bros. At one point one time Apple was rumoured to be looking for a TV streaming deal, and other times it even planned to buy Time Warner assets, but negotiations ground to a halt. However, even if Apple is not holding talks with Time Warner the acquisition remains very much in its interest, since it can have a major impact on future deals between the two companies.

Analyst even suggest Apple might sweep in and open its mighty war chest to acquire Time Warner itself-- or, as Bernstein Research puts it, “there has been along list of companies speculated to be interested in acquiring (Time Warner), starting with the almighty Apple. So if ATT wants this deal, it is in their best interest to move as fast as possible."

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Razer Buys THX

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Razer Buys THX

Gaming accessory maker Razer makes a surprise acquisition with THX, the venerable audio certification unit founded by George Lucas 33 years ago. Financial details of the deal are not available.

According to the new buyer THX should retain both its management and employees, and will continue operating as an "independent startup" under the Razer banner. The company will continue working on audio standards for both cinema and the home, but will also branch out into "new categories in order to address evolving consumer needs."

"Our focus has always been on ensuring that anyone can experience high quality entertainment, regardless of their medium of choice. With Razer, we can now continue to strengthen our core lines of business while delivering excellence for our customers’ ever-changing needs," THX says. "As a standalone company, THX will work with Razer but will primarily continue to service our partners in the industry in order to deliver great products to consumers."

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Microsoft Opens European HoloLens Preorders

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Microsoft Opens European HoloLens Preorders

Customers in France, Germany, Ireland and the UK interested in the HoloLens can now preorder the mixed reality computing headset, following an initial US launch.

The device has been available in N. America since August 2016, and previous to that (specifically in March) Microsoft started shipping a number of HoloLens kits to a select list of organisations. Technically, in its current state the headset is aimed at virtual and augmented reality specialists, but in actual case all one needs to buy the device is a Microsoft account and €3299.

"When we set out to pioneer mixed reality we knew that many of the best innovations would be discovered only when developers and organisations started developing with HoloLens," the company says. "It has been nothing short of inspiring to see what our partners have built and what individual developers have created."

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iPhone 4, 2010 MacBook Air Go on Vintage List

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 iPhone 4, 2010 MacBook Air Go on Vintage List

Apple adds all iPhone 4 models, the 2010 13-inch MacBook, 3rd generation AirPort Extreme and the 2009 AirPort Time Capsule to the vintage and discontinued list, applicable from 31 October 2016.

The company classifies "vintage" products as those that have not been manufactured for more than 5 and less than 7 years ago, while "obsolete" devices have not been manufactured for over 7 years. However one has to keep in mind Apple does not make distinctions between vintage and obsolete devices, and as such offers no hardware services and service providers cannot order parts for such devices.

Monster-branded Beats products are also considered obsolete, regardless of the year of purchase.

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Google Brings Nexus to an End With Pixel Phones

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Google Brings Nexus to an End With Pixel Phones

The Made by Google event involves a bevy of hardware announcements, including search giant's next smartphone line-- dubbed Pixel, not Nexus-- the Daydream View VR headset, the Home smart speaker, the simply named Wi-Fi router and the 4K-capable Chromecast Ultra.

Clearly underlining the end of an era, the Pixel-branded smartphones are described as wholly designed by Google, with HTC simply taking care of manufacturing duties. The phones come in two sizes (the 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL) and carry AMOLED displays, quad-core Snapdragon 821 CPUs, 4GB RAM and 12.3MP cameras inside aluminium and glass bodies.

However what Google really pushes with the smartphones-- and the rest of its hardware announcements-- is the software. The Pixel phones run on the latest version of Android and come with Assistant (the Google take on the Siri-style voice assistant) built-in. A long press on the Home button summons the Assistant, allowing one to access a variety of Google services and connected apps through voice alone.

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BlackBerry Gives Up on Phone Development

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BlackBerry Gives Up on Phone Development

Ailing phone maker BlackBerry announces plans to stop, well, making phones-- instead such a task will be farmed out to hardware partners, as the company wants to focus on software and security products.

As a result, future BlackBerry handsets will be like the recent DTEK 50, a BlackBerry-branded clone of the Alcatel Idol 4. It also makes the Priv, the first Android-powered BlackBerry launched back in November 2015, the last smartphone produced by the company.

"The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners," CEO John Chen says. "This allows us to reduce capital requirements and enhance return on invested capital.”

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Logitech Buys Saitek

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Logitech Buys Saitek

Logitech acquires more gaming capability with Saitek, the UK-based maker of high-end flight, farm and space simulation game controllers designed for titles such as Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen.

"We’re pleased with this tuck-in acquisition of the Saitek product portfolio," Logitech says. "The Saitek product line complements our market-leading portfolio of Logitech G gaming products, including simulation products like our G29 and G920 Driving Force steering wheels, and expands our leadership position at a very exciting time for gaming.”

The acquisition brings up questions on the health of Saitek's previous owner, Mad Catz, who acquired the controller maker for $30 million back in 2007. Under Mad Catz ownership Saitek produced two of its most popular controllers, the X-52 and X-55.

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Apple Pushing Further into Augmented Reality?

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Apple Pushing Further into Augmented Reality?

Is Apple planning to move into augmented reality? Business Insider suggests this is the case as it reveals out two recent Apple hires, former Magic Leap engineer Zeyu Lee and ex-Oculus researcher Yury Petrov.

The news comes just a day after CEO Tim Cook told Good Morning America he finds augmented reality more interesing than virtual reality. Why? According to Cook, AR allows people to "be very present" while using the technology. He also believes "less people would be interested" in VR.

"My own view is that AR is the larger of the two, probably by far," the CEO tells ABC. "Because this gives the capability for both of us to sit and be very present, talking to each other, but also have other things-- visually-- for both of us to see. Maybe it's something we're talking about, maybe it's someone else here who's not here present but who can be made to appear to be present."

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More EU Countries Want Slice of Apple Tax Pie

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More EU Countries Want Slice of Apple Tax Pie

While Ireland is appealing against European Commission demands for Apple to pay €13 billion in "undue tax benefits," Germany's DW reports at least 4 other EU nations are considering to claim their share in unpaid Apple taxes.

A report following 2-day summit of European finance ministers states the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and France are following the case "closely," and are interested in any possible slice from the Apple tax pie. Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem was the first to fire warning shots, insisting Apple has to "get ready" to pay up.

The meeting of financial ministers involved discussions on the harmonisation of tax regulations for foreign firms working in the continent. As Dijsselbloem puts it, corporations "have an obligation to pay taxes in a fair way... International tax loopholes are a thing of the past."

The EC agrees other nations can claim a slice of the €13bn tax bill which, post-interest, can reach up to €19bn.

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