Hands-on: Middle Earth: Shadow of War gets more creative with Tolkien’s universe

middleearthshadowofwar screenshot1 resized+

A lot of time and effort will be spent discussing Middle Earth: Shadow of War’s improved Nemesis System between now and probably about a month after release. And for good reason—the Nemesis System was the only thing that elevated predecessor Shadow of Mordor from another me-too Assassin’s Creed clone into a technical wunderkind.

Leaning into that aspect for the sequel is probably a good call, especially since we’ve failed to see similar tech make its way through the industry. The dynamic characters that made Shadow of Mordor such a joy are still, three years on, a novelty.

But I had 20 to 30 minutes of hands-on time with Shadow of War during E3 and to be honest, the Nemesis System was the least of my concerns. There was a bit of been-here-done-that to the proceedings, sure—but more problematic is the time investment required to see the Nemesis System in action. The entire concept only flourishes when it’s your cast of characters, when it’s your army of orcs following you into battle against another army of orcs you’ve come to systematically despise.

That’s the whole premise, right?

Middle Earth: Shadow of War

Middle Earth: Shadow of War

So I captured the fortress Monolith had prepared for the demo. I scaled walls, rode the backs of various beasts, hurled poison at foes, leapt hundreds of feet through the air to assassinate an unwary foe. I captured the courtyard, then the outer keep. Lost a few commanders along the way. Killed more than a few of the enemy’s commanders. I made it to the center of the fortress, fought a monstrous troll-enemy while poison spurted from the floor.

It was very similar to the Shadow of War demo we saw back at GDC. The impression I get is still just “Nemesis System, but expanded.” And that’s fine, and I’m sure it’ll be an interesting bit of tech to watch in action when the game releases in October.

Let’s talk about the story, though. Or, rather, the risks Monolith gets to take with the story this time around. That’s what got me really interested last week.

The original Shadow of Mordor’s story wasn’t anything to write home about—it seemed like a barebones scaffolding for an extensive Nemesis System tech demo, as if Monolith came up with this amazing idea and then slapped a license on it. Shadow of Mordor could’ve been an Arkham game, a Suicide Squad game, a Justice League game, another interminable Lego adventure, or any other WB license.

But it wasn’t. It was Lord of the Rings, sort of.

GAMING
Shadow of War gameplay

And so Gollum popped up at one point, there were various bits of fan service hidden in scraps of lore around the world, and what have you. It was ever-so-carefully crafted. Almost too carefully, as is the case with many “Extended Universe”-type stories. Like Tron: Legacy or Star Trek: Into Darkness, an insistence on too-obvious callbacks mixed with hesitance to deface what came before left Shadow of Mordor feeling like a very extensive fan-fiction.

This awkward reverence was everywhere, from our hero Talion acting as poor man’s Aragorn to Marwen’s life force being sucked away by Saruman the same as Theodin’s. Predictable, at best. Boring, most of the time.

Shadow of Mordor spent so long lulling the player into a sense of complacency that when its story finally did go to some weird places—right at the end—it came as a sharp left turn. For 20-odd hours you’d been fed a generic tale of revenge, and then suddenly Monolith decided to upend Tolkien’s whole universe and create a (paradoxical) second One Ring.

Then the game ends.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War

Middle Earth: Shadow of War

The sequel sees Monolith picking up and fleshing out that story, as Talion and his ghost-elf buddy Celebrimbor struggle to take over Mordor as the “Bright Lord.” This plays into the whole Nemesis System of course, with Talion dominating orcs and forcing them to swear fealty to the Bright Lord, conquering entire regions in the name of the Bright Lord, and the like.

But it’s also indicative of a freer hand for Monolith’s writers, an impression that was reinforced when I played one of Shadow of War’s story missions. We followed some orcs into a swamp reminiscent of the book’s Dead Marshes, an eerie fog-filled nightmare full of brackish water. Normal enough for Mordor, and a typical set-up for Shadow of Mordor—take something familiar, then reskin it.

Some orcs imprisoned in elaborate vine growths came as a surprise though, as did the relative calm of the nearby wildlife—creatures that usually attacked Talion on sight simply watched us walk deeper into the swamp.

That’s when the forest spirit approached. Dryad, nymph, or some other Lord of the Rings-centric term I don’t know, what came out of the woods was a 20-foot tall woman made from vines. She then transformed into a warg made from cast-off bark, then into a wooden troll, and finally into a massive wooden dragon, each of which we had to defeat in battle.

Shadow of War

Daniel Masaoka

It’s far more audacious than pretty much anything I saw in Shadow of Mordor. This isn’t just some retread of the films. This is an entirely new creation, a whole new force at play in Middle Earth. Sure, you could draw some loose parallels to the Ents, but the correlation isn’t nearly as 1-to-1 as the various creatures and beings in Shadow of Mordor were.

And for good reason. A Monolith developer was observing as I went through the demo, and I asked about this forest entity, why she seemed so much more creative than what we saw in Shadow of Mordor. His answer was pretty simple—with the success of the first game, the writers were given considerably more freedom this time around. Expect a more daring story, or at least more daring moments as Monolith experiments more within the Lord of the Rings lore.

That’s an interesting prospect, at least to me. If it’s bad? Well, just write it off like the first game, or like any other fan-fiction.

I’d much rather Monolith try something new though. I want a reason to play Shadow of War that isn’t just “Well, the underlying technology is cool.” Especially with the game reportedly many times the size of Shadow of Mordor, the story hook needs to actually hook this time.

We haven’t seen much yet, and I doubt we’ll see much more before the game releases in October, but I came away from the E3 demo feeling more charitable than I did at GDC. Sure, the core of the game is still just “The Nemesis System, but bigger,” but maybe this time the surrounding framework won’t feel quite so skeletal.

That’s the hope, anyway.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Related:

  • Gaming
  • E3
  • E3 2017
SHOP TECH PRODUCTS AT AMAZON
  1. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor – Game of the Year [Online Game Code]

    $19.99
  2. Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War [Online Game Code]

    $59.99
  3. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Game of the Year – PlayStation 4

    $19.99
Ads by Amazon

TODAY’S SPECIAL OFFERS

  • Building a cloud business case? Need data to back up your cloud strategy?Use our exclusive benchmarking tool to compare your cloud investment and deployment plans with your peers.
  • Make the jump to NVMe Solid State DrivesTOSHIBA OCZ RD400 provides a more responsive PC experience with shorter storage latency than that of today’s traditional hard disk drives and SATA SSDs.
  • Our Resolution is your ProtectionLet Bitdefender help you start this year safe and strong.
  • Don’t Break up With Your Car. Upgrade it.Get the latest technology for the car you already own with Pioneer Electronics. Pioneer offers in-vehicle smartphone technology, convenient safety packages and cutting-edge music sources for the ultimate entertainment experience.
  • Internet Outage Detection – Free TrialInternet Outage Detection clearly shows which of your services are impacted by ISP outages.
  • Enterprise WAN & LAN MonitoringDownload our free guide to learn how to intelligently monitor your WAN, LAN, Wi-Fi and SaaS apps.
[Source”pcworld”]

The Moly X1 with Windows 10 Mobile is just $179 via Indiegogo

Image result for The Moly X1 with Windows 10 Mobile is just $179 via Indiegogo

The Moly X1 is an attractive phone running Windows 10 Mobile. The phone came out earlier this year but cost around $300 at the time. Now, the company is evidently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds and get the phone in more hands for a lower price.

The campaign has the phone with either US/Canada or Europe/Australia 4G LTE variants starting at just $179. From there the price goes up to $190 with a case and all the way up to $229 when the lower tiers run out.

The Moly X1 is a decent, low-cost phone especially for $179. While the camera is lacking the rest of the phone has a very elegant design as noted in our unboxing.

Here are the rest of the phone’s details:

Coship Moly X1 specifications

  • 5.5-inch HD or Full HD display with Gorilla Glass
  • 4G LTE support
  • 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB internal storage with microSD expansion (14.5GB available)
  • micro-USB charging
  • 13MP rear camera with dual-LED flash
  • 5MP front camera
  • 2600mAh battery
  • Bluetooth 4.0 A2DP/HFP/OPP
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4/5.0GHz
  • Sensors: G-sensor, Proximity sensor, Ambient Light sensor
  • Dimensions: 154.8 x 78.6 x 6.9mm
  • Weight 4.9 oz (139 grams)

 

[Source:- Windowscentral]

The path to a Surface phone is clearer than ever with Windows 10 on ARM

Why does ARM on Windows 10 matter? What does it mean for a phone running Windows 10? Let’s break down Microsoft’s latest announcement to identify its implications.

Microsoft’s announcement of Windows 10 on ARM is a momentous occasion. Companies like Apple have been rumored since 2012 to be working on bringing macOS to ARM. Even just weeks before the MacBook Pro refresh rumors were swirling that Apple’s new laptops were ARM based. Yet it is Microsoft who is the first to do it for real (and not just for a Touch Bar).

To be clear, Windows 10 on ARM is about PCs and not phones. Nonetheless, the prospect that these two systems will come together is feasible. Here is how a Surface “phone” could happen, but first some background on why ARM even matters.

x86-64 versus ARM

ARM is the architecture used in modern smartphones. Whether it’s Apple’s A10 Fusion chip or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line, these processors are all based on the ARM architecture. ARM differs significantly from x86 and x64, which is what Intel chips like ATOM, Core M, and Core i are based, as well as AMD’s processors.

Windows 10 Mobile runs on ARM; Windows 10 on x86-64. They share OneCore and UWP, but there’s a yawning gulf between the architectures.

Windows 10 Mobile runs on ARM; Windows 10 for PC runs on x86-64. Both share OneCore and UWP as their center of overlap. The difference is also why you cannot run x86 Win32 apps on your phone. Architecture matters.

Because ARM was made to be efficient for small batteries and reduced thermal loads, it’s ideal for smartphones and slim tablets.

Historically, ARM chips were significantly less powerful than desktop-class x86 processors. That’s been changing in the last few years. Apple’s A10 Fusion chip, found in the iPhone 7, is often compared in performance to the 2013 MacBook Air — which sported a 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor.

So, if ARM’s so fantastic, why not just put your desktop OS on it? The task requires a tremendous amount of engineering and work. Microsoft, evidently, has finished it. Apple is likely still working on something.

 

 

 

 

[Source:- Windowscentral]

Alcatel seems to confirm plans to bring Idol 4s with Windows 10 to more markets

The Idol 4s with Windows 10 is one of the most most powerful Windows 10 Mobile handsets on the market right now, trailing behind the HP Elite x3. Alcatel have build an excellent device with the Idol 4s, bringing a premium design to Windows 10 Mobile along with VR support and more.

First spotted by WindowsBlogItalia (via Neowin), Alcatel France posted the following tweet confirming its plans to bring the Idol 4s to more markets, listing France as one of those markets.

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft recently updated the Windows Device Recovery Tool with support for an Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 for open-markets, furthing confirming plans to bring this device to more markets. This is great news for Windows phone fans across the globe who are still waiting for a good, consumer-friendly replacement to the Lumia 950.

[Source:- windowscentral]

BlackBerry ‘Mercury’ hands-on: Riding into 2017 on a phone with no name

Under the new direction of TCL, BlackBerry’s smartphone business is poised for a relative revival. It’s no big revelation to say that BlackBerry’s market share and mind share are nowhere near what they were in its prime, but at CES 2017 BlackBerry is hoping to kickstart a new direction by announcing a new phone.

And even though the company won’t actually tell us the specs, price, features, launch date or even the official name, many will recognize this smartphone as the rumored BlackBerry “Mercury.” So in lieu of a proper name, that’s what we’re calling it. The Mercury is real, that much has been established now — it’s a solid metal phone that fits the overall size mold of a modern slab smartphone, but manages to fit in a full hardware keyboard on the bottom without a Priv-like slider.

The incorporation of the fixed keyboard leaves a somewhat-awkward aspect ratio to the screen since it has to be a little shorter in order to make room — but if it wasn’t, the phone would be absurdly tall, like a Priv with its keyboard out. As it stands the Mercury is nearly the same height as the BlackBerry DTEK60, though notably narrower. The Mercury itself isn’t very thin, though the solid metal build with a nicely textured soft touch back are far more important than the actual thickness of the phone.

There’s a full hardware keyboard, but the phone isn’t particularly big or tall because of it.

As a welcomed sight for the BlackBerry faithful who may have been put off by the all-screen DTEK60, the Mercury has a full-featured and gorgeous hardware keyboard. And not only is it good for typing, but it also retains the great capacitive swiping gestures we saw in the Priv — you can swipe on the keyboard to navigate the interface, and swipe up on it during typing to help with word corrections and suggestions. Above the keyboard you’ll notice BlackBerry chose to move back to fixed capacitive navigation keys, which is a tad odd after going with software keys on the Priv and DTEK60.

The rest of the phone hardware really rounds out in a typical layout as if the keyboard wasn’t even there. You get a volume rocker and programmable key on the right edge, a power button the left edge, a headphone jack on the top and USB-C port on the bottom centered between two speaker grilles. Again we don’t know details like the battery capacity, but I was able to confirm that there won’t be wireless charging under that soft touch back.

The biggest thing that stands out about the Mercury is how decidedly BlackBerry the whole design is. After seeing somewhat simple repurposed hardware designs in the DTEK50 and DTEK60, it’s refreshing to see an altogether fresh — yet entirely familiar to BlackBerry fans — hardware design. The phone has a proper heft to it, the keyboard has a trademark clickiness and when you see it on a table you couldn’t mistake it for a phone from any other company.

This is the first BlackBerry with Nougat, and it carries on smoothly from Marshmallow.

The Mercury holds the distinction of being the first BlackBerry to be running Android 7.0 Nougat, though the pre-production software version I was able to see wasn’t final and the company couldn’t commit to much on that front. From what I was able to use it looked very similar to Marshmallow you’ll find today on a modern BlackBerry, including the messaging Hub, DTEK security suite, and productivity-focused launcher tweaks.

So where does this leave us? Well, we’re all going right back into a holding pattern to rely on leaks and speculation about the final details of the BlackBerry Mercury. TCL says that more information will be coming around the same time as Mobile World Congress, which kicks off February 27, but until then you can simply look at the photos and try to decide where this phone will fit in the big world of Android. At the very least, it has us excited about BlackBerry in 2017.

 

 
[Source:- androidcentral]

Final Fantasy 15 Director Promises to ‘Give Back’ With DLC and Updates

Final Fantasy 15 Director Promises to ‘Give Back’ With DLC and Updates

Square Enix and Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata wish players a happy new year with a promise to give back for helping make the long awaited sequel a success.

After around 10 years of development, Final Fantasy 15 finally graced consoles this year and garnered some very positive reviews, despite criticism for its convoluted story. The plot will be getting some of its holes patched, which is a testament to director Hajime Tabata’s commitment to continue improving player experience.

Tabata-san doesn’t believe development on Final Fantasy 15 ends with its release, which is evident by its copious amounts of DLC releasing over the course of the next year and possibly beyond. This spirit of continued progress is reflected in a New Years post on the Square Enix official blog where Tabata-san thanked the Final Fantasy 15 community and promised to give back for their continued support.

In the post, a list of achievements for the game are listed. Among them are the release of the CG movie Kingsglaive, and the many efforts to translate the game for a wider audience; all of which took significant amounts of work, surely.

Tabata-san then proclaims 2017 a year, “of giving back to everyone for their kindness.” He suggests this be done by providing more enjoyable experiences and by continuing to release updates and DLC. Given that this has always been the development team’s intent, it’s not quite clear what Tabata-san intends to give to players that isn’t already planned and/or expected. It could be something along the lines of the recent “Holiday Pack” DLC that gave out a few freebies to players in light of the season.

Perhaps his statement was simply a reiteration of the Final Fantasy 15 team’s commitment to players and less of a tease of surprises to come. Fans of the game will just have to wait and see what the team has cooking up for them in the new year.

Until then, Final Fantasy 15 continues to sell well, making it onto Amazon’s best seller list over the holidays. Additionally, the game’s first DLC, which features musclehead Gladiolus, should be releasing in the near future and the recently added “new game plus” option will allow players to experience the game again in new ways.

Regardless of what Tabata-san is hinting at in his message, it is a nice gesture for players to be thanked personally by the game’s director. The crew who helped develop Final Fantasy 15 appear genuinely committed to making it better by adding gobs of new content and fixing some of the game’s more prominent issues. This in itself should be enough to keep players optimistic going into 2017.

 

 
[Source:- Gamerant]

The path to a Surface phone is clearer than ever with Windows 10 on ARM

Why does ARM on Windows 10 matter? What does it mean for a phone running Windows 10? Let’s break down Microsoft’s latest announcement to identify its implications.

Microsoft’s announcement of Windows 10 on ARM is a momentous occasion. Companies like Apple have been rumored since 2012 to be working on bringing macOS to ARM. Even just weeks before the MacBook Pro refresh rumors were swirling that Apple’s new laptops were ARM based. Yet it is Microsoft who is the first to do it for real (and not just for a Touch Bar).

To be clear, Windows 10 on ARM is about PCs and not phones. Nonetheless, the prospect that these two systems will come together is feasible. Here is how a Surface “phone” could happen, but first some background on why ARM even matters.

x86-64 versus ARM

ARM is the architecture used in modern smartphones. Whether it’s Apple’s A10 Fusion chip or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line, these processors are all based on the ARM architecture. ARM differs significantly from x86 and x64, which is what Intel chips like ATOM, Core M, and Core i are based, as well as AMD’s processors.

Windows 10 Mobile runs on ARM; Windows 10 on x86-64. They share OneCore and UWP, but there’s a yawning gulf between the architectures.

Windows 10 Mobile runs on ARM; Windows 10 for PC runs on x86-64. Both share OneCore and UWP as their center of overlap. The difference is also why you cannot run x86 Win32 apps on your phone. Architecture matters.

Because ARM was made to be efficient for small batteries and reduced thermal loads, it’s ideal for smartphones and slim tablets.

Historically, ARM chips were significantly less powerful than desktop-class x86 processors. That’s been changing in the last few years. Apple’s A10 Fusion chip, found in the iPhone 7, is often compared in performance to the 2013 MacBook Air — which sported a 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor.

So, if ARM’s so fantastic, why not just put your desktop OS on it? The task requires a tremendous amount of engineering and work. Microsoft, evidently, has finished it. Apple is likely still working on something.

Why it’s a big deal

The ability to run a full PC operating system on a tablet, two-in-one, or laptop powered by ARM has been the dream. Battery life in such a device gains a few hours with excellent thermals. The PC is now always connected to the internet. It can also be thinner and lighter than any x86-64 system — there’s less battery needed for an acceptable lifespan and reduced thermal dissipation demands.

We already have that with smartphones, but now you can run a full OS for apps and games with minimal compromises.

Such a scenario changes concepts around gaming, using digital inking, productivity, reading, exchanging information, and creativity. It’s the power of a PC but with fewer limits.

To make this tech dream come true, ARM’s performance had to improve, batteries had to get better, and someone had to port their OS. Well, that all just happened and none of us are dreaming anymore. This is the coming reality.

Cost counts too

A performant x86-64 processor is also much more expensive than ARM. This pricing matters to companies trying to create new categories of devices with greater abilities. For example, an Intel ATOM chip is around $37, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 runs about $70. But an Intel Core M processor starts at $281 and a Core i7 can go over $600.

That problem of Core M PC sticks being fantastic, but crazy expensive now disappears.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoCs also have everything on board including Wi-Fi, LTE, GSM, Bluetooth, Quick Charge, and camera technology all for a fixed cost. Manufacturers choose which features they want and license it. Hence why your Qualcomm-powered phone might not have Quick Charge 3.0.

On the other end, x86-64 is just the processor. Any LTE modem support is extra, as are all the other radios. Because of this difference, PCs range in feature sets, price, and even size.

The additional components make x86-64 systems hotter, more expensive, larger, and harder on batteries than any ARM counterpart.

Microsoft’s problem is they need something stronger than an ATOM, but cheaper and smaller than an Intel Core M. A processor based on ARM does all of that, plus adds in 4G LTE support, radios, and is significantly more efficient than an x86-64 system.

How to go from Mobile to the phone?

All this news and talk of smartphone components raises the next logical question: Why can’t we run Windows 10 for ARM on a smartphone?

Why Microsoft keeps working on Windows 10 Mobile: ARM, cellular, and the next big thing

In theory, you now can. The reality though is more complicated. Nevertheless, you can bet Microsoft is very much likely working on such a scenario for a ‘Pro’ smartphone experience.

Here are a few reasons why Microsoft has not put Windows 10 on ARM on the phone… yet:

  • Pricing: Such a phone will be more expensive. Additional RAM, a large SSD for significantly more storage, and the license SKU for full Windows 10 will make this “phone” costlier. Full Windows 10 takes around 20GB of storage versus ~4GB for Mobile. Full Windows 10 also ideally needs at least 8GB of RAM, compared to 2GB for Mobile. Most modern flagship smartphones have 4GB of RAM, with a few select Android phones sporting 6GB.
  • Continuum in reverse: The interface experience is not there — even the touch-friendly Windows 10 design isn’t going to work on a screen much smaller than 7 inches. Microsoft needs the Mobile shell (UI) for when the device is acting as a phone, but shows the desktop when docked. It’s Windows 10 Mobile Continuum, but inverted.
  • Phone support: While Windows 10 on ARM supports LTE data, it still lacks proper telephony abilities like phone calls, visual voicemail, SMS, and the like. Presumably, those features from the Mobile system will be incorporated into Windows 10 for ARM, but that still needs to happen.
  • Let the dust settle: Microsoft wants to get Windows 10 on ARM into devices like tablets and two-in-ones first, build out UWP some more and refine the whole experience. Once emulation has improved and deployment has expanded, hardware costs will come down, Windows 10’s power efficiency will improve, the processors will be even faster, and then a phone that can run Windows 10 on ARM makes sense.

There is also the idea of an external GPU (eGPU). That tech becomes an interesting extension for Continuum when docked and using Windows 10 on ARM. That technology, however, hasn’t even been developed yet for ARM.

Windows 10 Mobile for budget

Despite some of these hurdles, it should be evident by now that Microsoft sees Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile scenarios colliding and overlapping.

A device that runs full Windows 10 on ARM can be positioned as a ‘Pro’ device for those who need it all.

Windows 10 Mobile through Continuum and even x86 emulation becomes more like a desktop PC. Meanwhile, the desktop PC becomes more like Mobile. Cats and dogs living together! Windows 10 Mobile can still hit much lower price marks, yet deliver a similar experience, compared to a device running full Windows 10.

When you break it down that way, then Windows 10 Mobile makes sense. It will be the “light” version of Windows 10 both in features and cost. A device that runs full Windows 10 on ARM, however, can be positioned as a ‘Pro’ device for those who need it all. Perhaps someday when even the base ARM processors are powerful enough, then a separate Mobile OS won’t make sense anymore — but that’s still years away at best.

The future is mobile

I think this is where Microsoft is headed. A “Surface phone” would be a Pro device that is high-end hardware, but capable of being a full PC when docked at a desk (or with a Lap Dock). Windows 10 Mobile can still be used for entry level and mid-range phones where such OS overhead is not required or even desired.

I think we also have our answer to why there is no Surface 4 yet and why manufacturers bailed on Windows 10 Mobile tablets. Microsoft obviously had something much bigger in the works that’s more tantalizing to both them and their partners.

There are a lot of dots getting connected here between the realities of today’s technologies and the Surface phone, and it’s becoming obvious how Microsoft’s going to bridge the remaining gaps. Inking, mixed reality, UWP, OneCore, Windows Hello, Windows 10 on ARM, far-field speech-communication, Continuum, and more all promise a world where the device in your pocket can do much more than just run dinky phone apps. You are seeing that world being created right in front of your eyes.

Windows 10 on ARM is game changing. Make no mistake about it: the path to the ultimate phone just became much clearer.

 

 

[Source:- windowscentral]

 

Facebook aims for video-loving teenagers with new app

Facebook's new iPhone app allows users to make video clips to describe likes, peeves, dance styles, and other aspects of their c

Facebook took direct aim at video-loving adolescents, and Snapchat, with the release of a new iPhone app that allows teens to watch clips about the lives of their classmates.

The app, called Lifestage, was released with no fanfare, and is available for anyone to download on iPhone, although seeing profiles of other users is reserved for those 21 years of age or younger.

The social network allows users to make video clips to describe likes, peeves, dance styles, and other aspects of their character.

Those clips are woven together to serve as public profiles that can be viewed by other Lifestage members, provided they are young enough.

A tool in the app lets users block and report older folks.

“Lifestage makes it easy and fun to share a visual profile of who you are with your school network,” the app’s iTunes store description says.

Once enough students at any given school are on the app, it becomes “unlocked.”

“Once your school is unlocked, you can access the profiles of others in your school community (and all over!) so you can get to know people better in your school and nearby schools,” the description said.

Lifestage users are invited to share video snippets whenever they wish.

The app comes as a challenge to Snapchat, the vanishing message service that became a hit with teenagers and which lets members share pictures and video clips.

Lifestage was seen by some as an effort by Facebook to stay connected to young internet users disinclined to take part in the leading social network.

Facebook did not return an AFP request for comment.

Earlier this month, Instagram put its own spin on a key Snapchat feature by letting users post “Stories” that eventually vanish from the Facebook-owned photo-and video-sharing app.

Instagram Stories encourages people to share ephemeral collages of everyday moments on the app which has built a reputation for allowing people to post highlights from their lives or artistic works.
[Source: Phys.org]

Intel Aims to Compete with Itself to Drive Growth

Intel CPUs

As the world’s largest chip vendor, Intel has no shortage of competition, and one of those competitors according to CEO Brian Krzanich is none other than Intel itself.

Intel reported its second quarter fiscal 2016 financial results on July 20, with revenue of $13.5 billion, for a three percent year-over-year gain. Net income came in at $1.3 billion, with an earnings per share of 27 cents.

Looking forward, Intel provided third quarter guidance for the midpoint revenue range of $14.9 billion.

Looking at specific Intel business units, the Client Computing Group, which builds chips that end up in consumer PCs, had revenue of $7.3 billion for a three percent year-over-year decline.

The Data Center Group had revenue going the other way, reporting $4.0 billion for the second quarter, up five percent year-over-year.

Demand for Performance Drives Growth in the Data Center

“In the data center, we’re seeing an ongoing preference for performance up and down the pricing stack,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said on his company’s earnings call. “Average selling prices increased year over year in every microprocessor product segment from Atom and Xeon D SOCs at the low end, up through Xeon and Xeon Phi at the high end.”

Krzanich added that progress in the data center extended beyond Intel’s CPU product lines. Among the other products is the Xeon Phi accelerator, formerly known as Knights Landing,

“Xeon Phi revenue grew 8x in the first six months of this year versus all of 2015, gaining share in the supercomputing and machine learning segments,” Krzanich said.

Another area of data center growth is coming from Intel’s Omni-Path high-performance computing fabric. Krzanich noted that in June’s Top 500 Supercomputing list, Omni-Path was deployed in half of the new 100-Gig systems.

Looking forward in the data center and the enterprise, Krzanich said that Intel is ramping up production of its Broadwell E server chips in the second half of the year, and he expects strong demand. While cloud continues to expand, Krzanich emphasized that it’s an opportunity for Intel as increasing numbers of systems are needed to both power and connect to the cloud.

During the earnings call, Krzanich was specifically asked about competition, to which he responded with an articulate reply.

“As far as competition, there’s always going to be competition in this market. I expect it. That’s okay,” Krzanich said.

Among the primary competitors though is none other then Intel itself. Krzanich said Intel thinks of itself as competition and has a business model to drive continuous improvement of products that enables Intel to replace its own products with better cost-per-performance models over time.

“So we know that even if there was no [outside] competition, the competition is we’ve got to build a product that’s better and drives replacement as well as growth,” Krzanich said.

 

[Source: Serverwatch]

New Apple Watch 2 release date, UK price and specs rumours: Front-facing camera | Built-in GPS | Cellular connectivity | September 2016 release | Thinner with better battery life

When will the Apple Watch 2 launch in the UK? What new features and specs should we expect from the new Apple Watch?

When Apple announced its much-anticipated Apple Watch back in September 2014, people got very excited about the concept of an Apple-designed smartwatch. Fast-forward 21 months: the Apple Watch has been on sale for well over a year and people are wondering about the next-generation Apple Watch 2. When will the Apple Watch 2 launch, and what new features can we expect?

The Apple Watch 2 didn’t get a mention at Apple’s 21 March press event(although the Apple Watch did get some love at that event, in the form of new straps – more on that below). Then in June, the Apple Watch 2 wasn’t announced at WWDC 2016, but there was lots of news about watchOS 3 and what that means for your Apple Watch.

In this article, we round up all the rumours we’ve heard regarding the so far unannounced Apple Watch 2: when it’s going to launch, the specs and new features to expect, and likely design decisions. And we list the features and tech specs we’re hoping Apple will include in the second Apple Watch – particularly anARM Cortex A32 processor – and why they’re essential to improving users’ experience.

When will the Apple Watch 2 launch in the UK? What new features and specs should we expect from the new Apple Watch?

When Apple announced its much-anticipated Apple Watch back in September 2014, people got very excited about the concept of an Apple-designed smartwatch. Fast-forward 21 months: the Apple Watch has been on sale for well over a year and people are wondering about the next-generation Apple Watch 2. When will the Apple Watch 2 launch, and what new features can we expect?

New Apple Watch 2 release date, price and specification: Release date

Update 20 June 2016: Digitimes reckons a recent increase in supply of Apple Watch components is a sign that the launch of the next watch will be in September 2016, alongside the next iPhone. This is based on analysis of Apple’s famously complex hardware supply chain and can’t be taken as gospel – but we hope these rumours are true.

Although there is no solid release date for the second-generation Apple Watch 2, we now expect it to be announced in September 2016. We had hoped that we would get our first glimpse at the second-generation Apple Watch at the March 2016 event, but instead Apple used it to show off new watch straps as a ‘Spring’ collection, and surprised us with an Apple Watch price drop. (We also saw a new Phone SE and a9.7in iPad Pro.)

You can find out more about the new Apple Watch straps and pricing in our Apple Watch buying guide, or continue reading for all of the Apple Watch 2 rumours we’ve seen so far.

Another rumour regarding the release date of the Apple Watch 2 comes from China – more specifically, the chairman of Quanta, Barry Lam. Quanta manufactured the first-generation Apple Watch, and we expect it’ll also be the manufacturer of the second-generation device, so when the chairman announced a general release date window at an investors meeting, people paid attention.

According to reports, Lam claims that we’ll be seeing limited stock of the Apple Watch 2 near the end of Q2 2016, with more stock becoming available in Q3 2016. Based on this, it looks like the Apple Watch 2 will have a possible June 2016 release date, which falls in line with the analyst claims above.

Apple launches new Apple Watch straps at 21 March event

Although the Apple Watch 2 didn’t get a mention at Apple’s March 2016 event, but the smartwatch didn’t go entirely unnoticed. Apple announced that the Apple Watch was the number one selling smartwatch in the world, and that people loved the fact that changing the strap changed the look of the watch. With that being said, Apple announced a flurry of new Apple Watch bands including £39 nylon bands available in seven colours, some of which can be seen below.

New Apple Watch 2 release date, price and specification: Design and build

We’ve got an idea of when to expect the Apple Watch 2, then. But what will it look like?

New design(s)

Update 1 August: Current rumours suggest that the Watch 2 will be thinner than its predecessor. This comes from TPK Holding informing Digitimes that Apple are moving away from a glass-on-glass panel to a ‘One Glass Solution’. This would allow for a small amount of space to be increased within the watch’s frame. Some are even suggesting that it can be up to 40% thinner. However, we’re doubtful its size will be drastically cut, as it will be used to accommodate a bigger battery.

Apple is said to be exploring more variations of the Apple Watch, beyond the Sports, Steel and Edition tiers available with the first-gen Apple Watch. It’s said that the company is planning to introduce new models that should sit between the most expensive steel Apple Watch (£949) and the cheapest Apple Watch Edition (£8,000).

The gap between the top of the middle price band and the bottom of the top price band has always looked rather wide, and Apple seems to be looking to attract customers willing to pay between £1,000 and £8,000 for an Apple Watch: which is potentially quite a lot of people.

However, it’s unclear how the new tiers will differ from current models. It’s been suggested that the new tier could feature more advanced bands or new materials including tungsten, palladium, titanium or even platinum.

Despite what’s been said about potential new models, according to reports in April 2016 from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, the Apple Watch 2 might not actually adopt a new design, with only the internals getting some love from Apple. We’ve come to expect incremental specs improvements to hardware from the company in iPhones and iPads of recent years, so it’s not outside the realms of possibility that this is the option Apple will go with.

Apple Watch 2 design rumours: Third-party battery straps

We’d all also had our eyes on a cool company called Reserve Strap. Its clever design made use of the Apple Watch’s accessory port in a strap with a battery that allowed the watch to, it’s claimed, hold a charge for up to a week. However, the companyannounced its disappointment recently that in a change to the Apple External Accessory Protocol in Apple’s watchOS 2.0.1 update, the accessory port will no longer support the Reserve Strap’s functionality.

For those who had pre-ordered the strap, the company advises that if you don’t upgrade your OS, you’ll be OK – but for all those who will no doubt want to it seems, for now, the battery boost idea will have to go back to the drawing board.

[Source: Macworld]