Sprint takes a 33 percent stake in Tidal

Mobile phone service provider Sprint announced this morning that it has taken a 33 percent stake in Tidal, one of the few music-streaming services to offer high-resolution audio streams. As part of the deal, Sprint says its customers will get exclusive access to certain content. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure will also join Tidal’s board of directors.Sprint Tidal

“Sprint shares our view of revolutionizing the creative industry to allow artists to connect directly with their fans and reach their fullest, shared potential,” Tidal owner Jay Z (née Shawn Carter) said in a press release. “Marcelo understood our goal right away and together we are excited to bring Sprint’s 45 million customers an unmatched entertainment experience.”

Prior to this investment Tidal had been unique among the major music-streaming services in that it was owned by a coalition of recording artists, including Jay Z, his wife Beyoncé, Jack White, Madonna, and several others. This ownership arrangement has enabled the service to offer exclusive streams and music videos to its subscribers. According to Sprint’s press release, Sprint’s investment means that “Tidal and its artists will make exclusive content that will only be available to current and new Sprint customers.” We’ve reached out to Tidal and Sprint to ask if that means Sprint customers will get content that Tidal subscribers won’t.

Tidal is also one of the few media-streaming services to offer CD-quality music (in FLAC format) as a premium, $20-per-month tier. That’s double what competing streaming services charge, including Spotify, which streams MP3 files, and Apple Music, which uses the AAC format. Tidal has sought to further differentiate its higher-end service by adding support for the MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) codec at no additional cost (the service offers 30,000 MQA tracks from Warner Music Group).

Jay Z dropped $56 million to acquire Tidal in early 2015, but Sprint’s press release is light on details, including how much its 33 percent ownership stake is worth and whether it was made with cash, stock, or a mix of the two. (An unnamed source told Marketwatch the stake is worth $200 million.) Here’s hoping that it was cash and that Tidal’s management dedicates a chunk of it to improving its product and infrastructure, especially its clunky app.

Despite the exclusive content and the availability of higher-resolution music files, Tidal has struggled to differentiate itself from the competition. The company has had a tough time convincing a generation of music fans who’ve grown up with relatively low-resolution MP3 and AAC files being the only recorded music they’ve ever heard that FLAC—and now MQA—are worth paying double for.

All new Chromebooks will get Android app support

If you’re buying a Chromebook released in 2017 or later you’ll no longer need to worry about whether or not it will run Android apps.chromebook android apps primary

Google recently added a note saying as much to its Android apps for Chrome OS support page, as first spotted by Android Police. “All Chromebooks launching in 2017 and after…will work with Android apps in the coming future,” the note says.

That was pretty much expected to be the case, but it’s nice to see Google guarantee this for buyers of new devices. Even though Google is saying Chromebooks from here on out are getting Android support, it still plans to extend support to older devices. Chromebooks designated for Android support are still listed as they were before, and Google says they will still get Android support.

 

Even with this new policy, it’s not going to get any simpler figuring out if that Chromebook you want to buy is getting Android app support. New Chromebooks for 2017 have yet to appear, and even when they do there will likely be a glut of older Chromebooks available—especially if you buy online. Be sure to check Google’s support page (link above) to see whether or not the Chromebook you’re interested in will support Android apps.

Chromebooks have always found a home in the education market but they’ve yet to become popular with home users. With Android apps coming to Chromebooks, at least some computer makers are hoping that will change.

Fresh battles lines between Chromebooks and Windows PCs were drawn at CES 2017 in January. Asus introduced the next iteration of the Chromebook Flip. Samsung, meanwhile, unveiled the Chromebook Plus and Pro, two premium touchscreen devices that aim to make the most of Chromebook Android integration.

Samsung pushes back Galaxy S8 release, promises a ‘very innovative’ Note 8

Now that the results of its investigation into the Galaxy Note7 fires has been completed and reported, Samsung can fully turn its attention to the launch of one of the most anticipated phones of the year, the Galaxy S8. But don’t get your hopes up just yet. It looks like it’s going to take a little longer than usual to arrive.Samsung Galaxy S7 EMBARGOED until Sunday Feb. 21 1 PM EST

During an interview with Reuters following the announcement of the results of the probe into the Note7 batteries, Samsung mobile president DJ Koh said the Galaxy S8 would not be unveiled during its customary slot at the Mobile World Congress show next month. Rather, the company is taking a little longer with the production of its new handset as it implements an extensive set of testing to ensure the batteries are functioning normally.

Koh did not offer a time frame for the release, but reports have indicated that the handset could arrive in late March or April, possibly at an event in New York City. After Samsung was forced to pull the Note7 off shelves in October and implement a massive global recall, it found that the battery was to blame, and the company has since put an 8-point battery safety check in place to ensure future devices don’t have the same issues.

Samsung also revealed that there will indeed by a Note8 handset. In a separate interview, Koh told CNet that the company is not retiring the established Note name and instead “will bring back a better, safer, and very innovative Note 8.” He said there are “lots and lots of loyal Note customers,” but Samsung will surely need to work to build trust around the brand again. Samsung has said that 96 percent of the 3 million activated handsets have been returned.

The delay in Samsung’s launch of the S8 might be disappointing to fans anxiously awaiting to upgrade, but it’s good to hear Samsung taking its time with the new phone. Reports have indicated that part of the battery issues with the Note7 stemmed from the company’s aggressive production timeline (both before and after the initial launch), and Samsung certainly seems to be treating its new phones with the care and attention they deserve. As far as the Note brand goes, it remains to be seen whether Samsung can win over skeptical customers, but it’s refreshing to see a company embrace its history, warts and all, and not use marketing smoke and mirrors to hide their past mistakes.

This story, “Samsung pushes back Galaxy S8 release, promises a ‘very innovative’ Note 8” was originally published by Greenbot.

Reports: Apple, Foxconn considering a $7 billion manufacturing plant in the U.S.

Apple is reportedly considering moving some of its iPhone production to the United States. Taiwanese iPhone producer Foxconn is considering a $7 billion joint investment in a display production facility, the company’s chairman told reporters.20150922 151214

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou said “Apple is willing to invest in the facility together” because it needs display panels for its products. The plant could create 30,000 to 50,000 jobs.

But Gou said U.S.-made iPhones would likely cost more than those produced at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou, China facility, which churns out more than 100 million iPhones per year.

“In the future they may be paying some $500 more for [U.S.] products, but those do not necessarily work better than a $300 phone,” Gou told reporters.

He asked American officials for concessions on land and electricity, which would offset the higher labor costs.

Apple has come under fire from President Donald Trump over making its products in China, with the president even calling for a boycott of Apple products before he was elected. Trump has played nice since Election Day, promising Apple tax breaks and reduced regulations if Apple builds plants in the U.S. in a phone call with Apple CEO Tim Cook.

“Tim, you know one of the things that will be a real achievement for me is when I get Apple to build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants in the United States,” Trump recounted the phone call to the New York Times.

Apple hasn’t commented on Foxconn’s statements, although this isn’t the first time reports that Apple may move some of its manufacturing to the U.S. have popped up. This report, however, comes from a more direct source with deeper insight into Apple’s manufacturing processes.

This story, “Reports: Apple, Foxconn considering a $7 billion manufacturing plant in the U.S.” was originally published by Macworld.

Google revamps Voice with long overdue makeover, new features

Google told 9to5Google that it is working to add VoIP calling to Google Voice. This article has been updated to reflect this news. google voice

Google Voice hasn’t seen a lot of love or attention since it launched with some fanfare in 2009, but surprisingly Google is letting us know that it still cares about the communication service. In a new sprawling release—the first of its kind in years—Google has revamped all versions of its Voice app and site with a clean, modern look, new features, and, perhaps the best news of all, the promise of regular updates.

The most striking thing about the new version is its design, which actually looks like it was made for the latest phones. The new interface is a major improvement, with clean navigation and organization, and big message windows that makes it feel like a modern messaging service.

In addition to the look of the app, Google has also added a few new features that bring it up to speed. Most notably, messaging has been updated to include support for group messages and photo MMS, as well as quick replies on devices running Android Nougat.

Google says it will provide regular new features and updates going forward, and notes that for users who use Hangouts, “there’s no need to change to the new apps, but you might want to try them out as we continue to bring new improvements.”

And there seems to be one in the works already. In a comment to 9to5Google, Google explains that while the current incarnation of Google Voice doesn’t add any new features for making calls, it is working incorporating VoIP integration to eliminate the need to link your number with the Hangouts app. The site also claims that its sources say WiFi calling will be coming to all devices.

The new version of Google Voice should have rolled out to your phone by now, but if you’re not seeing it yet, you can side load the Google-signed APK from APKMirror.

Google’s messaging strategy has been hard to figure out, and a renewed focus on Google Voice probably won’t bring much clarity to it. After Google initially began integrating Voice and Hangouts, the launch of Allo and Duo muddied those plans a bit, as Google began to shift Hangouts to enterprise clients. With the new update it seems that Google might be trying to position Voice as the standalone voice and messaging service it was meant to be.

This story, “Google revamps Voice with long overdue makeover, new features” was originally published by Greenbot.

Yahoo pushes back timing of Verizon deal after breaches

Verizon’s planned acquisition of Yahoo will take longer than expected and won’t close until this year’s second quarter, the internet company said on Monday.Yahoo reported two major data breaches last year

The $4.8 billion deal was originally slated to close in the first quarter, but that was before Yahoo reported two massive data breaches that analysts say may scrap the entire deal.

Although Yahoo continues to work to close the acquisition, there’s still work required to meet closing the deal’s closing conditions, the company said in an earnings statement, without elaborating.

Verizon has suggested that the data breaches, and the resulting blow to Yahoo’s reputation, might cause it to halt or renegotiate the deal.

In September, Yahoo said a “state-sponsored actor” had stolen details from at least 500 million user accounts in late 2014. As if that wasn’t enough, the company reported another breach in December, this one dating back to August 2013 and involving 1 billion user accounts.

Both breaches were detected months after Verizon announced last July that it would buy the ailing internet company. Reportedly, Yahoo is facing an investigation from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over whether the breaches should have been reported to investors earlier.

The breaches may have shaken confidence in Yahoo’s internet business. But the company has since taken measures, such as password resets, to secure user accounts.

Nevertheless, some user accounts are still vulnerable.  On Monday, Yahoo said 90 percent of its daily active users were protected from the breach. That leaves another 10 percent potentially exposed.

Among the information stolen in the breaches were names, email addresses, telephone numbers, hashed passwords and security questions and answers meant to protect the accounts.

Intel researches tech to prepare for a future beyond today’s PCs

Intel realizes there will be a post-Moore’s Law era and is already investing in technologies to drive computing beyond today’s PCs and servers.0853 as 26

The chipmaker is “investing heavily” in quantum and neuromorphic computing, said Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, during a question-and-answer session at the company’s investor day on Thursday.

“We are investing in those edge type things that are way out there,” Krzanich said.

To give an idea of how far out these technologies are, Krzanich said his daughter would perhaps be running the company by then.

Researching in these technologies, which are still in their infancy, is something Intel has to do to survive for many more decades. Shrinking silicon chips and cramming more features into them is becoming difficult, and Intel is already having trouble in manufacturing smaller chips.

Smartphones, PCs, and other devices are getting smaller, faster and more power efficient thanks to Moore’s Law, a 1965 observation loosely stating that the number of transistors in a die area would double every two years, causing performance to double while driving down the cost of making chips.

Intel has been using Moore’s Law as a guiding star to make faster and smaller chips and reducing the price of devices. However, it is widely agreed that Moore’s Law is slowly dying, and Intel’s manufacturing struggles are growing.

For decades, Intel’s business has been heavily reliant on its ability to make and deliver chips. But the process is slowing down. Intel used to advance manufacturing processes every two years, and that has now changed to three to four years.

One way to resolve that crisis — which all chipmakers face — is to completely change the current computing model in PCs, smartphones, and servers. The current model — known as the Von Neumann approach — involves data being pushed to a processor, calculated, and sent back to memory. But storage and memory are becoming bottlenecks.

The answer is to adopt new models of computing, which is where quantum computers and neuromorphic chips fit in. Quantum computers have the potential to be powerful computers harnessing the unique quality of a large number of qubits to perform multiple calculations in parallel. Neuromorphic chips are modeled after the human brain, which could help computers make decisions based on patterns and associations.

Intel has made some advances in quantum computing and neuromorphic chips. But Krzanich’s comments lend more credibility to the company’s push to look at a future beyond today’s computing models.

Some short-term answers can resolve the bottlenecks based on Von Neumann model, including Optane, Intel’s new form of super-fast memory and storage. It could unite SSDs and DRAM in systems, cutting one bottleneck. Intel is also embracing silicon photonics, which could resolve throughput issues in data centers. Both technologies have researched for more than a decade and are now practical.

The chipmaker has lived off the PC industry for decades but is now looking to grow in markets like data centers, the internet of things, automotive and high-performance computing. The new focus is bringing a gradual change to the way Intel makes chips. It’s similar to the 1970s, when different types of chips like vector processors and floating point arrays were crammed together for complex calculations.

For example, Intel is slapping together two separate functional blocks for applications like machine learning and autonomous cars. Intel envisions FPGAs combining with CPUs in autonomous cars. Later this year, the company will release a chip called Lake Crest, which combines a Xeon server CPU with deep-learning chip technology it picked up through its Nervana Systems acquisition. Intel is also merging an FPGA inside an Intel Xeon chip to carry out machine learning tasks.

Intel is expecting a lot of data to be generated by sources like autonomous cars, which will need edge processing for tasks like image recognition, analysis, and map updates. Intel is pushing its wide roster of co-processors to the edge, and that is where the quantum and neuromorphic chips may fit.

Quantum computer research is also being done by other companies. D-Wave recently released a 2,000-qubit quantum computer based on quantum annealing, while IBM has a 5-bit quantum computer accessible via the cloud. IBM is also playing with brain-like chips and has benchmarked its TrueNorth chip, which has a million neurons and 256 million synapses.

Academic institutions like the University of Heidelberg in Germany, Stanford University, and the University of Manchester in the U.K. are also working on neuromorphic chips. HPE has shown a computer that emulates the human brain, and it intends to adapt ideas from that for servers.

PCWorld’s February Digital Edition: Intel’s Kaby Lake CPU

Stay on top of the latest tech with PCWorld’s Digital Edition. Available as single copies or as a yearlong subscription, it highlights the best content from PCWorld.com—the most important news, the key product reviews, and the most useful features and how-to stories—in a curated Digital Edition for Android and iOS, as well for the desktop and other tablet readers.pcwdigitaledition primary feb17

We test Intel’s Kaby Lake CPU and share the best new features of Windows 10 Creator Update. Plus, read our coverage of the best PC hardware at CES 2017.

Other highights:

 our Sony Bravia OLED, Nintendo Switch, and AirPod reviews. Also, see LG’s robots for the future.

Current subscribers can visit PCWorld.com/directions to learn how to access PCWorld on any device and start reading the February issue right away. We’re also excited to announce that we upgraded our system for customer service and downloading issues. A password needs to be created and attached to your account. Go to pcworld.com/customer to create a password for your subscription.

Not a subscriber? With the PCWorld’s subscription, you get access to the digital magazine on as many devices as you’d like. Subscribe today, or to learn about other purchasing options visit PCWorld.com/magazines.

Valve finally replaces the faulty Steam Greenlight system with Steam Direct

Steam Greenlight’s always been a compromise, at best. The system, which allowed users to vote on which indie games should be on Steam, marked the beginning of a transition from “Valve as Curator” to “Valve as Hands-Off Storefront.” And with the new Steam Direct, that transition appears complete. From the announcement:Steam Logo

“Over Steam’s 13-year history, we have gradually moved from a tightly curated store to a more direct distribution model. In the coming months, we are planning to take the next step in this process by removing the largest remaining obstacle to having a direct path, Greenlight. Our goal is to provide developers and publishers with a more direct publishing path and ultimately connect gamers with even more great content.”

Set to release sometime this spring, Steam Direct asks developers to fill out some paperwork, pay a publishing fee, and that’s it. No panhandling for votes or having to know somebody over at Valve. In the announcement, the process is likened to “applying for a bank account.”

The fee is still in flux, with Valve saying, “We talked to several developers and studios about an appropriate fee, and they gave us a range of responses from as low as $100 to as high as $5,000. There are pros and cons at either end of the spectrum, so we’d like to gather more feedback before settling on a number.”

Suffice it to say $5,000 would cut down heavily on the number of indie games hitting Steam, severely impacting many smaller developers. On the other hand, $100 likely isn’t sufficient to stem the tide of shovelware cluttering the store lately. There’s got to be a balance, though I don’t know what exactly that number is and I’m sure no matter how low there will be some developers who’re affected negatively. Enough of them, and we could see itch.io and other indie hubs surge in importance.

It’s also worth noting, though, that Valve terms this a “recoupable fee.” Hard to tell at the moment whether the money is returned to you automatically, or only after making a certain amount of money in sales, or whether it’s at Valve’s discretion. We’ll see.

In any case, Direct seems a world better than Greenlight already. Sure, there are concerns about the fee and its effects on the ecosystem, but I’d take anything at this point over Greenlight’s gimmicky, spam-prone voting system. We’ll update you with more, whenever Valve sees fit to break its silence again.

This week in games: Overwatch gets a server browser, Project Cars 2 targets 12K and more

More Kickstarter news this week. Can you believe it? Last week I joked about a renaissance but now I’m pretty sure it’s actually happening.Project Cars 2

That, plus Overwatch gets a server browser, South Park delays a second time, a bevy of launch trailers and announcement trailers and trailer trailers, and Project Cars 2 talks about supporting 12K resolutions. Mmmm, that’s a lot of pixels.

This is gaming news for February 6 through 10.

Another chance for me to talk about Stasis? Excellent. If you don’t know, Stasis is the best horror game you (probably) didn’t play in 2015. An isometric horror game in the vein of the classic Sanitarium, Stasis is some excellent derelict space ship sci-fi.

And now the developers are working on a follow-up, titled Beautiful Desolation. Like PC Gamer, I apparently missed word on this in January, but there’s a Kickstarter campaign and everything. I’m not a huge fan of the name, but I am a huge fan of the art on display so far, and fervently hope it reaches its funding goal.

Let’s keep on the crowdfunding theme for a second and talk about inXile. The studio released details on both the upcomingTorment: Tides of Numenera and the slightly-less-upcoming Bard’s Tale IV this week, with a look at Torment’s story and Bard’s Tale’s combat. Here’s Torment:

Halo Wars 2 launches next week, at least for Ultimate Edition buyers. Will it be good? No idea, but it sure does have some beautiful cinematics.

It’s not the sexiest update, but Overwatch is getting a server browser to complement its bevy of matchmaking systems. Want to play a custom game with friends? You can finally—nine months after release—do so.

I’d sort-of forgotten that Slightly Mad Studios has been working on Project Cars 2. Hard to forget, given the stink people made when the sequel was originally announced, coming as it did mere months after the release of the original. But regardless, I’d forgotten.

There’s video now though—gorgeous video. Also, support for 12K resolutions (12K!) and more. Time to upgrade your graphics card, sim racers.

Speaking of racing games…well, actually no. The big news this week is that Playground Games, developer of the beloved Forza Horizon series, is working on a new game—and it’s not a racing game. According to GamesIndustry.biz , Playground is opening a second studio and branching out into a new genre, in addition to (presumably) the 2018 Forza Horizon game.

If this mythical second project ends up even half as good as Forza Horizon, we’re in for a treat.

Bad news, South Park fans: Latest game The Fractured But Whole has been delayed yet again, this time to a rather ambiguous “sometime this year.” That’s the second delay for the superhero-themed sequel, which was originally supposed to arrive in December and then was pushed to early 2017. Now? Well, we’ll see.

Cue the Miyamoto quote about a bad game being bad forever, and et cetera.

Ubisoft’s doing just okay with-or-without South Park though, I imagine. Case in point: Rainbow Six Siege is still humming along, still 2015’s best shooter, and just about to start its second season of DLC characters and maps. You’ll get four minutes of that below, with a look at the new “Velvet Shell” operators and Coastline map.

Oh, and Ubisoft also brought back the Rainbow Six Siege Starter Edition. For $15 you get the game and access to four operators, with a whole lot of grinding if you want to unlock the rest—or you try it, enjoy it, and buy the full game (maybe when it goes on sale?) to continue as normal. Your call.

Okay, more Ubisoft news. Ghost Recon: Wildlands is set to release in March. Ubisoft’s continued its tradition of “Silly Live-Action Trailers” for this one—except this time they’ve made a whole live-action movie. There’s a teaser below. Go microwave some popcorn. I’ll wait.