Academia Pushes A New Kind of Peer Review For Research With ‘Sessions’

richard-price For several years, Richard Price has had a quixotic dream to make cutting-edge academic research universally available to everyone. “I want a world where a 19-year-old kid in China can access a paper he’s interested in about lithium ion batteries on his phone on the subway and it’s validated by others and it’s in his own language,” Price said. It’s been a… Read More

Data reveals iOS 9 adoption is slightly higher among people who spend money on games

Nearly half of all iPhone owners have upgraded.

Don’t worry, game developers. Many of the people who spend money on your apps are updating to iOS 9.

Apple released iOS 9 earlier this month, and nearly half of all iPhone owners have updated to the latest revision of the operating system, according to analytics company DeltaDNA. The data firm tracks information from more than 20 million iPhones, and it claims that this update rate is even faster than previous iOS releases. At this point in iOS 8’s life, only around two-thirds of iPhone owners had upgraded. This suggests that even though people often hear about bugs and performance issues with new versions of iOS, they don’t care. And that’s especially true for consumers who spend money on in-app purchases in mobile games.

“The non-payer adoption rate lags the payer one by around 5 percent [as of] September 24,” reads the DeltaDNA blog.

But the company notes that it’s possible this disparity is due to more non-payers running older iPhone hardware. Three out of five paying iOS gamers own an iPhone 6 where that’s true of only 41 percent of non-payers. And the older the model, the less likely people are to upgrade.

“We would expect much of this nervousness is users on old devices worried about performance,” reads the DeltaDNA blog. “As expected, users on old iPhone 4 models are very reluctant to update, with only 22 percent so far on iOS 9.”

Of course, it makes sense that people who spend more money on mobile games also typically spend more money on smartphone hardware. But developers should see this as a confirmation that putting in the work to support iOS 9 is worth it. The people who support games most with active purchases are making the move, and they are going to want all of their favorite apps to work when they do.

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iPhone 6s after 3 days: Processor speed, display, 4K video, and Live Photo

iPhone6s-4Color-RedFish-PR-PRINT

I’ve been using the iPhone 6s for three days now, and I’ve still not found the feature or cumulative performance improvement it would take to get me to upgrade from my iPhone 6.

I’ve heard Apple (and many other reviewers) rave about things like speed and camera improvement, and I don’t doubt that many of these things are improvements, but I do question how meaningful the improvements are in everyday use.

Processor speed

Case in point is processor speed. Yes, the iPhone 6s is the fastest iPhone ever. Well, it’d better be: I don’t imagine Apple will ever release a flagship phone that’s slower than the last generation.

By some measurements the iPhone 6s’s A9X chip puts Apple well ahead of the competition in the mobile processor race. This is important because it will future-proof the phone for future resource-hungry apps and services.


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An Apple rep told me that the new iPhone uses the same SSD (solid state drive) controller (which controls when and where the phone stores data) as the one used in the MacBook. That alone makes a big difference.

The people over at AnandTech released a battery of benchmarking tests that confirm the iPhone 6s’s speed relative to the iPhone 6 and to other phones on the market. The iPhone 6s doesn’t win every benchmark; it’s well down the ranking in tests of the speed of random input/output. But Apple’s A9 chip has clearly been souped up and optimized to make the Safari browser sing.

And the interplay between the CPU and GPU in the iPhone 6s create some incredible graphics performance. “The A9’s PowerVR GPU is actually beating the iPad Air’s GXA6850 GPU by a significant margin,” AnandTech’s Joshua Ho pointed out.

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But on many of the benchmark tests, the good old iPhone 6 isn’t far down the list from the new 6s. I’ve been doing some side-by-side testing of both of those phones to look for speed differences. Some have talked about how lightening-fast the 6s’s fingerprint reader responds to touch. It is fast, but it’s not instantaneous. There’s still a beat between the finger touch and the log in. You’ll find the same little pause on the iPhone 6, and that pause isn’t very much longer than on the 6s.

App launching is the other oft-used measurement of the speed of a phone. It was easier to see a difference in the time between icon touch and app launch — the iPhone 6s is faster, but by milliseconds.

Some have said the OS on the new phone “feels lighter” because the A9 chip is running it faster and more efficiently. That too, is noticeable, but not by much, and I never noticed my iPhone 6 running the OS in a sluggish way.

I also tested the Safari browser running on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s side by side. When I clicked on a link to an HD promo on YouTube I could see right away that the 6s’s browser launched the video faster. When I paused the video at the exact same time, the video on the 6s was at the 26-second mark, while the one on the iPhone 6 had reached the 25-second mark. In a second test, however, the videos ran so close together that the characters in the scene spoke in perfect unison.

The Display

The display on the iPhone 6s might be the best I’ve ever seen in a phone. I’ve been very impressed this year with the displays on new Samsung phones, like the 577-pixel-per-inch HD super-AMOLED display on the Galaxy S6. Samsung is very good at making displays, as it demonstrates in its HD TVs. I noticed a trend, however, in this year’s displays where the image is simply brighter. This effect alone can give the appearance of a better overall image on the small screen of a mobile device.

Black and white image displayed on the iPhone 6s (left) and on the Moto Pure (right).

Above: Black and white image displayed on the iPhone 6s (left) and on the Moto Pure (right). The iPhone 6s image black/white balance is accurate and true-to-life. The image on the Moto lacks contrast where it needs it, and appears washed out in high light areas.

I believe Apple went a different direction. When you watch the same video on the iPhone 6s and the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, the picture will look more luminous, and maybe a little bit sharper, on the Samsung screen, but not necessarily better. The picture on the Apple screen has a mellow, refined look, a more-lifelike white/dark balance, and the transitions between light and shadow seem true-to-life. The colors are more rich than vivid. Overall the iPhone 6s screen is more pleasant to watch.

Is it a better experience than that of the iPhone 6? Yes, noticeably. But when I go back and watch video on my iPhone 6 after spending some time with the 6s, I don’t feel deprived of anything. The video quality is still very good on the iPhone 6.

4K Video

The 12-megapixel rear-camera sensor on the iPhone 6s can shoot video at full 4K high-definition resolution, although it’s a good idea to keep close tabs on your storage space if you shoot a lot of it. One minute of 4K video will cost you 375MB of space. The existing iPhone 6’s 8-megapixel camera shoots 1080p video.

While 4K does offer a better, sharper look, for many consumers the new feature won’t make an immediate difference, as relatively few have purchased the new 4K TVs or monitors needed to appreciate the higher-quality video.

While the iPhone 6s has a great display, I was still hard-pressed to tell the difference between a video of my cat I shot in 4K verses a very similar one shot in 1080p.

Live Photo

With Live Photo, Apple attempts to put a little visual context around your photos. To do this, the camera extends the capture moment to 1.5 seconds before and after you hit the button. So, the total shot is one frame plus several “contextual” frames on either side of it. When played in sequence it looks something like a short movie, although Apple says it isn’t actually video.

While the feature has received a lot of attention, I doubt it will seem like a big deal a couple of months from now. It’s just an interesting little add-on, sort of like screen animations in the OS.

Fortunately the feature doesn’t seem to chew up a lot of memory. A photo I shot using Live Photo was 1.9MB, while the very same photo shot with Live Photo turned off took up 1.7MB of space.

I’ll have more commentary on Apple’s new device in the coming days. I’m $815 lighter now that I’ve bought my new iPhone 6s. And while I’m enjoying using the phone, I’m not so impressed that I’m going to throw away the receipt.










Jaunt’s CEO on its $65M funding and the humanity-advancing mainstream future of virtual reality

For Jaunt, the future is all about VR.

Jaunt is hoping to make VR that everyone will experience.

Earlier this week, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company — which was founded in 2013 and is a developer of virtual reality hardware, software, tools, and applications —  announced a $65 million series C round of funding, with The Walt Disney Company, Evolution Media Partners, and China Media leading the round. This brings Jaunt’s total funding to over $100 million.

“Virtual reality will play a significant role in the future of entertainment and media, and this latest round of funding will enable Jaunt to scale up on several fronts, including camera hardware, software development, and most importantly: content production,” Jens Christensen, CEO of Jaunt VR, said in an email interview with VentureBeat. “The media and entertainment industry is undergoing a fundamental shift in the way content is created, delivered and consumed, and VR is the next wave of innovation in this space.”


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Jaunt also plans to use the funding to grow its teams in Palo Alto and in its Los Angeles studio.

Over the next year, a half-dozen VR headsets are readying for launch, and Jaunt aims to supply premium live-action VR content to those devices. In the past two years, Jaunt has created VR content such as an “Inside Syria” feature for ABC News, rock climbing and intergalactic party aliens experiences, and even a live Paul McCartney concert.

“Virtual reality is an entirely new storytelling medium and we are only just getting started exploring what is possible,” Christensen said. “With that said, however, the greatest opportunity for VR storytellers is already clear – the ability to show people (quite literally) what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. This is where VR trumps all other mediums. It has a greater potential to expand our worldview and our capacity for empathy and understanding to advance humanity than any other technology or medium that has come before it.”

Christensen likens the impact of VR to the way internet video disrupted the movie and television industry, and expects to see a more dramatic shift as cinematic VR catches on with audiences.

It isn’t just about supplying VR devices — like Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, or Google Cardboard — with content, but about producing interesting VR experiences that people won’t be able to find anywhere else. With that in mind, Jaunt is developing brand-new content for VR devices, instead of just converting standard content over to VR.

“Currently, most of the focus is on headsets which will bring VR to the mainstream sooner than we ever imagined,” Christensen said. “At the same time, consumers will need compelling content to watch, and Jaunt will use the resources available to us to produce quality VR content that is compelling and forward-looking. We will continue to work with content creators, artists, and brands, to provide an entirely new way to tell their stories. Jaunt’s end-­to-­end solution means we have the technology to record, edit, produce, and deliver mind-­blowing stereoscopic virtual reality experiences for a wide variety of content – ranging from narrative storytelling to, music, travel/adventure, sports, and more. We are focusing on creating cutting ­edge content with our Jaunt Studios team, and have a presence in Los Angeles to work directly with the creative community there.”

And while some recent technological advances —  like 3D, or 48 FPS movies — have met with resistance from slow-adopting audiences, Christensen isn’t worried.

“Virtual reality is not an iteration on an existing technology — it’s an entirely new way to experience media and entertainment,” Christensen said. “Anyone who has ever tried it knows the experience: the immediate, profound and uniquely enjoyable sense of presence that comes from complete immersion in another world. There’s no learning curve with cinematic VR –  just plug in and enjoy. All you need is a reasonably current smartphone and a simple VR viewer like Google Cardboard. Anyone can do it, and nearly everyone will.”

The company previously raised 27.8 million in its Series B round of funding, led by Google Ventures.

 

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15 Super Useful Ways To Use 3D Touch On The New iPhones

featured Though the new iPhones pack improved cameras and better specs overall, the flagship feature is something completely unique to the iPhone line (and, really, smartphones in general): a touch screen that reacts differently depending on how hard you press it. Apple calls this feature “3D Touch”, and it’s damn cool — if you can figure out how and where to use it, that… Read More

Microsoft splits financial results into 3 new operating groups, in line with Satya Nadella’s vision

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.

Microsoft today announced new operating segments in which its financial results will be reported every quarter.

Operating segments are the domain of Wall Street analysts, and it’s not unusual for public companies to rearrange their structure for financial filings, but today’s news is the latest example of chief executive Satya Nadella exerting influence on the company.

A press release lists out the three new segments and talks about what each of them contains (emphasis mine):


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The Productivity and Business Processes segment includes results from Office and Office 365 for commercial and consumer customers, as well as Dynamics and Dynamics CRM Online.

The Intelligent Cloud segment includes results from public, private and hybrid server products and services such as Windows Server, SQL Server, System Center, Azure, and Enterprise Services.

The More Personal Computing segment includes results from licensing of the Windows operating system, devices such as Surface and phones, gaming including Xbox consoles, and search.

These new headers — they’ll be used for the first time in Microsoft’s next quarterly earnings report, which comes out on Oct. 22 — are considerably simpler than (albeit admittedly more vague than) the ones that have ben used for the past couple of years: D&C Licensing Computing and Gaming Hardware, Phone Hardware, D&C Other, Commercial Licensing, and Commercial Other.

The new segment names come straight out of a pair of companywide emails that Nadella sent out in June — first, the one in which Stephen Elop’s retirement was announced, and second, the one where Nadella laid out a new “shared mission” for Microsoft.

In both cases, Nadella cited the company’s new “interconnected and bold ambitions,” which exactly mirror the three new operating segments:

  • Reinvent productivity and business processes
  • Build the intelligent cloud platform
  • Create more personal computing

Today’s changes reinforce the ongoing, much debated narrative that 40-year-old Microsoft is different now. The question is the new focus and, consequently, the new structure for reporting financials will have a major on the company in the long term.










Analyst Michael Pachter predicts a slow death for consoles, but he’s bullish on games

Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities.

Michael Pachter predicts that the consoles will die, but it will be a very slow death over the coming years.

Speaking at the Cloud Gaming Summit in San Francisco, the managing director and game analyst for Wedbush Securities said that consoles will last longer than he thought in the past, as the audience slowly dwindles and other devices become much more capable of running outstanding game experiences. In other words, it’s a slow death, but so slow that nobody needs to panic about it.

(Pachter is speaking at our GamesBeat 2015  event on October 12 and October 13).


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Pachter said that the consoles have made a successful leap from packaged goods games to digital sales. Packaged goods sold at retail once accounted for $25 billion in North America in 2008 and have now declined to $8.9 billion in 2014. But digital console game sales have grown 450 percent in that time to $17 billion. All told, console game sales are roughly unchanged, and to Pachter, that’s a respectable performance given the competition from other gaming platforms.

Games are reaching a much bigger audience thanks to mobile, with the overall market looking like this: 1.4 billion phones and tablets, 2.5 billion PCs, and 260 million game consoles. He noted that his wife didn’t play games for many years, but she was finally sucked in by Candy Crush Saga on mobile devices.

“My parents thought I was a degenerate because I went to the bowling alley to play games,” Pachter said. “Now everybody plays. Ultimately, we’ll have 5 billion people playing games.”

Pachter said he believes that dedicated game consoles will reach smaller audiences in future generations (and he does think there will be future generations). But he added, “As long as Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are solvent public companies, they will make consoles.”

As for the current generation, Pachter said the Wii U is toast. He believes in the best-case scenario, it will sell 20 million systems, compared to 100 million for the prior Wii generation. But more likely, Pachter believes the total number will be 12 million.

He said Sony’s PlayStation 4, the leading current game console, has “captured the magic again,” as Sony had with the PlayStation 2, its best-selling console to date. He believes the PS4 can eventuall sell 120 million to 130 million, compared to 80 million for the PlayStation 3. Sony sold 155 million PS2s.

Microsoft handicapped itself with “onerous digital rights management” and a higher price at the outset, causing a lot of gamers to switch from Microsoft to Sony with the Xbox One generation, Pachter said. “That’s like Democrats becoming Republicans, and it shows you the power of the Sony brand.”

Microsoft will likely sell 100 million to 110 million Xbox Ones, compared to 80 million for the last-generation Xbox 360, Pachter said. All told, this generation could sell 240 million to 260 million, compared to 260 million for the last generation.

To stoke demand for the current consoles, Pachter believes the console makers will come up with a lot more updates with new, cost-reduced models over time. He noted the Xbox 360 had seven models, while the PlayStation 3 had 12 models, compared to one for the original Xbox and two for the PlayStation 2.

If console makers want to launch still another generation of consoles, it would have to have features such as 4K display support or 8K display support and more access to entertainment such as unlimited movies.

As far as the cloud goes, Pachter believes game publishers will launch more of their own direct sales on digital portals, allowing them to capture the full $60 price of their games, compared to $36 going through other channels. That might allow game makers to cut the price of a game to $50 and still double their profits by recapturing $14 that the other distributors now keep.

As for physical store retailers such as GameStop, the future will be much more difficult. Pachter thinks they will lose 10 percent market share per year to digital distribution.

“They just get smaller, and I believe GameStop is preparing for this,” he said.

Pachter also believes that publishers such as Activision may launch more downloadable content (DLC) in the future. He noted that about 15 million people are playing the latest Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare every month, but another 20 million are playing older games. Pachter thinks Activision would do well to release more DLC for the players who are playing the older games.

“DLC plans may span two or three years,” he said.

Summing up his view on consoles, Pachter said, “I don’t think consoles will go away. But they will go the way of the Nintendo 3DS, a great product which is selling half as much as the DS [its predecessor].”

Asked how he views augmented reality and virtual reality, Pachter said, “AR game experiences will be really compelling  and supplement the experience. I don’t think VR is the killer app. Immersive video is the perfect app for VR learning. If VR reaches $50 cost, it will be a phenomenal success. But if it is $500 or $1,000, they will sell 50,000 of them.”










IBM buys Workday consulting firm Meteorix

jerone2 Flickr IBM

IBM today announced that it will buy Meteorix, a company that specializes in providing consulting services for Workday’s cloud-based finance and human resources software.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

From today’s press release:

Workday is one of the world’s leading providers of enterprise cloud applications for finance and HR. With an exclusive focus on Workday, Meteorix has cultivated deep expertise and best practices for maximizing returns from the strategic use of Workday applications. Meteorix has more than 200 certified Workday consultants and a track record of success delivering complex, high-value services to multi-national leaders and innovators across a wide range of industries.

Meteorix can handle implementations of Workday’s finance management software, its human capital management software, or both.

The deal should be a good thing for publicly traded Workday. Indeed, Workday cofounder and chief executive Aneel Bhusri displayed a confident attitude in the press release. “Meteorix’s deep Workday experience together with the industry expertise of IBM gives our customers a global strategic partner to help them put their finance and HR operations in the cloud and transform their businesses for future growth,” he said.

Boston-based Meteorix started in 2011.

Other recent IBM acquisitions include AlchemyAPI, Blekko, Blue Box, and Compose.

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Apply Now For TechCrunch Include’s Diversity-Focused Office Hours With A16Z

include-featured2 It’s happening. TechCrunch Include Office Hours are finally here! On October 15th, Andresseen Horowitz partners Scott Kupor and John O’Farrell will join TechCrunch editors in providing advice and feedback to startups. Launched in 2014, Include is TechCrunch’s diversity program, aimed at facilitating opportunities for underrepresented groups in tech to take their startups to… Read More