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Surging Tech Companies' Inventories Could Spell Trouble for the Industry

Even as we achieve consumerism in scales hitherto unseen, tech companies always want to sell more - there's "always" increased production, there must always be increased, projected demand from customers. However, when demand isn't there, and growth slows down or even stagnates, production takes its time to adjust - and already manufactured products have few opportunities other than going on towards a swelling inventory.

This is what is happening with a myriad of tech companies, such as Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Intel, Hon Hai (Foxconn), among others. We could even take a page from our own PC industry and look at NVIDIA's Pascal inventory that is in need of clearing up - and which has resulted in bottoming prices of previous-gen cards as we look towards the new RTX 20-series. Which, coincidentally, have been launched with increased pricing over the previous generation. Perhaps another way of moving old inventory?

Chromebooks to Get Windows Dual-Boot Capability with Campfire

Bootcamp was an instant hit with MacBook users, as it allowed them to dual-boot between MacOS and Windows, giving them access to applications that don't have MacOS versions. Google's Chromebook is a similar walled-garden to Apple Mac, with the company maintaining tight control over the hardware and OS. A new software modeled along Bootcamp, cheekily named Campfire, could introduce dual-booting on Chromebooks, allowing you to switch between ChromeOS and Windows 10.

Campfire first surfaced on the Chromium Git as a mysterious new project pointing to an "alt OS mode" for ChromeOS. XDA Developers confirms that Campfire will be introduced by Google for its entire userbase, and not just something that you optionally install. You also don't need to enable Developer Mode to use it. For now, a wide range of Chromebooks appear to be Campfire-ready. Google will focus on making it as easy as possible to install Windows 10. Although not limited by other hardware specs, Campfire could eat up at least 30 GB of storage to meet Windows 10 requirements and leave a reasonable amount of user-space. You should only try it out on Chromebooks with 60 GB (or higher) storage.

TSMC Fabs Offline, Hit by a Virus, Production Impacts Confirmed

TSMC is the most popular semiconductor foundry, has been called the "savior of fabless chipmakers," and is also one of Taiwan's most valuable companies. It's also the principal foundry for chipmakers such as NVIDIA and AMD (GPUs). Its most valuable production, however, is that of Apple's A-series application processors that drive the main breadwinners of the company - iPhones. Imagine the cataclysm unleashed if a virus were to spread in the company that contract-manufactures extremely complex chip designs. According to Reuters, that cataclysm is upon TSMC.

According to DigiTimes, a WannaCry-variant ransomware infected not just workstations at TSMC, but also certain fab machines (which are driven by computers). The infection has caused a shutdown of several of TSMC's fabs, including its high-volume 12-inch ones. These machines apparently run on unpatched Windows 7, probably because they're connected to a private network instead of the Internet. TSMC has tasked all of its human resources to disinfect the affected machines. The company hopes to have its fabs fully operational by Monday (13th August), but not before the downtime affects the supply-chains Apple and other high-value clients. An estimated $179 million is wiped from TSMC's Q3 revenues due to this downtime. Although it could affect shipments of APs to Apple, impact on the inventories of Apple products could be minimal, according to market analysts. It remains to be seen if TSMC's other clients see similarly minimal impact; or if TSMC is prioritizing a trillion-dollar client.

Apple Files Patent for a MacBook with Virtual Keyboard and Invisible Trackpad

Did you know, that the home buttons on the iPhone 7/Plus, and iPhone 8/Plus aren't real buttons? It's a flat surface with pressure and fingerprint sensors, and when pushed hard enough, the Taptic module underneath simulates the tactile-feedback of pushing a real SMD button (which is why the button feels jammed when the iPhone is powered down). Apple's latest generation of MacBooks already have real keyboards with extremely short key travel, that's well enough received by its users to convince the company to toy with a notebook with completely virtual keyboards.

Apple filed patent applications for a new generation of MacBooks that completely lack physical keyboards, and instead have two screens on the opposing halves of the traditional notebook clam-shell. The upper half has a higher-resolution main screen, while the lower half has a slightly lower-resolution screen that's good enough to display virtual keyboards of any shape, layout or character-set; in addition to more content. This screen will have toughened glass, and a super-sensitive capacitive 3D touch layer, and Taptic modules underneath. The trackpad, too, is virtual, and can be located wherever you like. Apple will give MacOS more gesture-based control riding on the success of the iPhone X. The patent application shows that Apple has succeeded in simulating keyboards' tactile-feedback on Taptic, and it's only a matter of time before notebooks with real keyboards could be relegated to sub-premium market segments.

Apple the First American Trillion-Dollar Company

Apple has become the first American company valued at over 1 trillion Dollars (that's $1,000 billion), a figure rivaled only by some state-owned Chinese banks that hold over a trillion Dollars in AUM (assets under management). Founded in 1976 in a garage with a few hundred Dollars in seed-capital, the trillion-Dollar Apple is now one of the world's leading tech companies dominating consumer electronics, computing, big-data, and content publishing, worldwide. Apple shares rose 2.09 percent Thursday, to close at $207.39, which raised the company's market value to $1.002 trillion. The first company worldwide to cross the trillion-Dollar mark was PetroChina, in 2007. The Chinese state-owned oil firm stayed above $1T for a brief period of time, before the 2008 Financial Crisis torched the world economy.

Blackmagic Design Announces Blackmagic eGPU

Blackmagic Design today announced the Blackmagic eGPU, a high performance graphics processor for pro creative software such as DaVinci Resolve, 3D games and VR. Designed in collaboration with Apple, the Blackmagic eGPU features a built-in Radeon Pro 580, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI 2.0, 85W of charging power and four USB 3.1 connections. It comes in an integrated design that brings high-end desktop class graphics processing to MacBook Pro for professional video workflows, 3D games and immersive VR. And, the Blackmagic eGPU is the first to support Thunderbolt 3 displays. The Blackmagic eGPU is available now for only US $699 exclusively on Apple.com and in select Apple Retail stores worldwide.

Designed to address the needs of professional video editors, Hollywood colorists and visual effects artists who need to remain mobile, but want the power of a desktop class GPU added to their MacBook Pro, the Blackmagic eGPU is incredibly flexible and simply plugs in via Thunderbolt 3, so users can benefit from improved graphics performance and acceleration of computational tasks. It's perfect for speeding up professional creative application workflows including editing, color correction and visual effects with DaVinci Resolve. The Blackmagic eGPU adds the performance customers need to make the latest 3D games and VR look more realistic than ever. That means customers will get higher resolution images, higher frame rate gameplay, better lighting and more detailed textures for truly immersive experiences, even on a laptop computer.

Apple Updates MacBook Pro with 8th Gen Intel Core Processors

Apple today updated MacBook Pro with faster performance and new pro features, making it the most advanced Mac notebook ever. The new MacBook Pro models with Touch Bar feature 8th-generation Intel Core processors, with 6-core on the 15-inch model for up to 70 percent faster performance and quad-core on the 13-inch model for up to two times faster performance - ideal for manipulating large data sets, performing complex simulations, creating multi-track audio projects or doing advanced image processing or film editing.

Already the most popular notebook for developers around the world, the new MacBook Pro can compile code faster and run multiple virtual machines and test environments easier than before. Additional updates include support for up to 32 GB of memory, a True Tone display and an improved third-generation keyboard for quieter typing. And with its powerful Radeon Pro graphics, large Force Touch trackpad, revolutionary Touch Bar and Touch ID, dynamic stereo speakers, quiet Apple-designed cooling system and Thunderbolt 3 for data transfer, charging and connecting up to two 5K displays or four external GPUs, it's the ultimate pro notebook.

TSMC is Ramping Up 7nm Production, 5nm Next Year

At their technology symposium in Taipei, TSMC CEO CC Wei has made remarks, dismissing speculation that their 7 nanometer yield rate was not as good as expected. Rather the company is ramping up production capacity for 7 nm quickly, up 9% from 10.5 million wafers in 2017, to 12 million wafers in 2018. They plan to tape out more than 50 chip designs in 2018, with the majority of the tape outs for AI, GPU and crypto applications, followed by 5G and application processors.

Most of their orders for the 7 nanometer node come from big players like AMD, Bitmain, NVIDIA and Qualcomm. Apple's A12 processor for upcoming iPhones is also a major driver for TSMC's 7 nanometer growth. These orders will be fulfilled in early 2019, so it'll be a bit longer before we have 7 nm processors for the masses.

Next-gen 5 nanometer production will kick off next year, followed by mass production in late 2019 or early 2020. The company will invest as much as USD 25 billion in their new production facilities for this process node.

Lenovo Yoga Book Generation 2 Beats Apple in the Style Game

Lenovo, at Intel's Computex presser, revealed a product that could put Apple design to shame. The new Yoga Book Generation 2 is a notebook+tablet convertible, with two displays on the opposite sides of the conventional clam-shell. In the notebook mode, the bottom half converts to a keyboard, with actuators providing tactile feedback. Since the bottom half's screen is a touchscreen as much the top half, you can configure the keyboard layout and "trackpad" position any which way you want. When not typing, the bottom half becomes an extended screen of the top half. Under the hood is a "new generation" processor (very likely the 10 nm Core M3-8114Y).

Apple Deprecates OpenGL and OpenCL from MacOS

Apple, at WWDC 2018, announced that with the latest update to MacOS, its operating system for iMac desktops and MacBooks, the company is deprecating two of the industry's leading APIs, OpenGL and OpenCL, in a bid to boost adoption of its own Metal API. OpenGL and OpenCL applications will continue to function on MacOS 10.14, but the APIs themselves will be deprecated going forward. The removal of OpenGL from future MacOS releases breaks most AAA cross-platform games playable on the Mac, particularly distributed over Steam. The deprecation of OpenCL comes as a surprise to the scientific community, as several computational applications running on Mac Pros will be affected. Adobe Creativity Suite applications take advantage of both APIs. Apple is pushing for Metal's compute-shader features to replace the API.

Apple Claims Steam Link App Violates App Store Guidelines

As most of you have heard by now, Apple revoked the release of the Steam Link app on their platform last week. Concerned customers have been sending emails to Apple to inquire about the reasons behind the decision. Phil Schiller, senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing at Apple, stated that the Steam Link application didn't comply with the App Store guidelines. Unfortunately, he didn't explain exactly how the application violated the guidelines. Nevertheless, Apple assured their customers that they will continue to work with Valve to bring the Steam experience to iOS users.

Steam Link App for iOS Rejected by Apple

Apple approved the Steam Link app for release. On Weds, May 9th, Valve released news of the app. The following morning, Apple revoked its approval citing business conflicts with app guidelines that had allegedly not been realized by the original review team. Valve appealed, explaining the Steam Link app simply functions as a LAN-based remote desktop similar to numerous remote desktop applications already available on the App Store.

Ultimately, that appeal was denied leaving the Steam Link app for iOS blocked from release. The team here spent many hours on this project and the approval process, so we're clearly disappointed. But we hope Apple will reconsider in the future.

Apple Reports Second Quarter Results

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2018 second quarter ended March 31, 2018. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $61.1 billion, an increase of 16 percent from the year-ago quarter, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.73, up 30 percent. International sales accounted for 65 percent of the quarter's revenue.

"We're thrilled to report our best March quarter ever, with strong revenue growth in iPhone, Services and Wearables," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "Customers chose iPhone X more than any other iPhone each week in the March quarter, just as they did following its launch in the December quarter. We also grew revenue in all of our geographic segments, with over 20% growth in Greater China and Japan."

"Our business performed extremely well during the March quarter, as we grew earnings per share by 30 percent and generated over $15 billion in operating cash flow," said Luca Maestri, Apple's CFO. "With the greater flexibility we now have from access to our global cash, we can more efficiently invest in our US operations and work toward a more optimal capital structure. Given our confidence in Apple's future, we are very happy to announce that our Board has approved a new $100 billion share repurchase authorization and a 16 percent increase in our quarterly dividend."

Apple to End the x86 Mac Era in 2020

One of the biggest tech stories of the 2000s was Apple's transition from the PowerPC machine architecture to Intel x86, which brought the Mac closer to being the PC it so loathed. The transition wasn't smooth, as besides the operating system, practically every third-party software developer (eg: Adobe), had to rewrite their software for the new architecture, with new APIs, and new runtime environments. Apple could be bringing about a similar change before the turn of the decade.

Apple already builds its own application processors for iOS devices, and some of the newer chips such as the A11 Bionic and A10 Fusion have already reached the performance levels of entry-level x86 desktop processors. It's only a matter of time before Apple can build its own SoCs for Macs (that's not just iMac desktops, but also Mac Pro workstations, MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro). That timeline is expected to be around 2020. Since these chips are based on the ARM machine architecture, they will mandate a major transformation of the entire software ecosystem Apple built over the past decade and a half. Intel shares dropped by as much as 9.2 at the first reports of this move.

Alliance for Open Media Announces the AV1 Royalty-free Video Format

Consumers' video expectations are being shaped by the brilliant images promised by 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video and beyond. However, the technical-based hurdles and data demands of higher quality video mean that the majority of users only have access to full HD or lower video technology. For nearly three years, the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) has been working in lock-step with its members, the world's best-known leaders in video, to develop a better quality internet video technology that benefits all consumers. Today, the Alliance is proud to announce the public release of the AOMedia Video Codec 1.0 (AV1) specification, which delivers cross-platform, 4K UHD or higher online video, royalty-free - all while lowering data usage.

Whether watching live sports, video chatting with loved ones, or binging on a favorite show, online video is becoming a bigger part of consumers' daily lives. In fact, video is so important to users that by 2021, 82 percent of all the world's internet traffic will be video, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index , 2016-2021. To remove many of the hurdles required by older, optical disc-era, video technologies, AOMedia developed AV1 specifically for the internet video-era, paving the way for companies to make more of the royalty-free, 4K UHD and higher video devices, products, and services that consumers love.

Display Stocks Tank as Apple's Secret Display R&D and Manufacturing Facility Surfaces

Stocks of prominent display panel manufacturers such as LG Display, Sharp, and Samsung, tanked 4.4 percent on Monday, as reports emerged of Apple secretly developing its own screens and manufacturing them, for the first time. Apple has a secret Silicon Valley facility hiding in plain sight, located in Santa Clara. This facility is where cutting-edge research and development into micro-LED display panels is underway, along with small-scale manufacturing, just enough for Apple to rapidly prototype products under development, with new displays, before its display suppliers even have access to the technology.

Bloomberg comments that the facility is part of Apple's ambitious plan to bring development of key components of its products in-house. It also enables Apple to keep all new intellectual property obtained during the development to itself, so its suppliers can't bring IP they hold to their pricing negotiations with the company. Its R&D focus currently appears to be micro-LED technology, which will enable smaller and more pixel-dense screens, particularly for the Apple Watch.

Intel Considers Buying Out Broadcom

In a sequence of events perfectly illustrated by the stock image below, Intel is reportedly mulling the acquisition of Broadcom, which is still making efforts to acquire Qualcomm; the Wall Street Journal reported late last week. Shares of Intel fell 1 percent on this report. A successful acquisition of Qualcomm by Broadcom would result in a seemingly-American silicon supergiant that could pose a threat to Intel's position in the industry, observes CNBC. Both Intel and Broadcom spokespersons refuse to comment the WSJ report, terming it as "deal chatter."

Broadcom recently swayed Qualcomm board its way ahead of a crucial vote for the acquisition, prompting a CFIUS investigation, by American regulators, which has the legal power to halt the acquisition if national security implications emerge. Taking advantage of this, and its relatively stable outlook despite the recent CPU vulnerability mess, Intel is looking to mop up a seemingly foreign Broadcom. Other industry giants such as Microsoft and Google have expressed extreme concern with the developments in this deal, particularly with Apple's "sway" over it.

Apple Reports First Quarter Results

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2018 first quarter ended December 30, 2017. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $88.3 billion, an increase of 13 percent from the year-ago quarter and an all-time record, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $3.89, up 16 percent, also an all-time record. International sales accounted for 65 percent of the quarter's revenue.

"We're thrilled to report the biggest quarter in Apple's history, with broad-based growth that included the highest revenue ever from a new iPhone lineup. iPhone X surpassed our expectations and has been our top-selling iPhone every week since it shipped in November," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "We've also achieved a significant milestone with our active installed base of devices reaching 1.3 billion in January. That's an increase of 30 percent in just two years, which is a testament to the popularity of our products and the loyalty and satisfaction of our customers."

"Thanks to great operational and business performance, we achieved all-time record profitability during the quarter, with EPS up 16 percent," said Luca Maestri, Apple's CFO. "Cash flow from operations was very strong at $28.3 billion, and we returned $14.5 billion to investors through our capital return program."

US Lawmakers to Pull Up Intel, ARM, Microsoft, and Amazon for Spectre Secrecy

In the wake of reports surrounding the secrecy and selective disclosure of information related to the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities leading up to the eventual January 3 public release, US lawmakers are unhappy with leading tech firms Intel, Microsoft, ARM, Apple, and Amazon. The five companies, among a few unnamed others, are being pulled up by a house committee over allegations of selective access of vital information that caught many American companies off guard on the January 3rd. Barring a few tech giants, thousands of American companies were unaware, and hence unprepared for Meltdown and Spectre until January 3, and are now spending vast resources to overhaul their IT infrastructure at breakneck pace.

In letters such as this one, addressed to CEOs of big tech firms, lawmakers criticized the secrecy and selective disclosure of information to safeguard IT infrastructure, which has left thousands of American companies out in the lurch, having to spend vast amounts of money securing their infrastructure. "While we acknowledge that critical vulnerabilities such as these create challenging trade-offs between disclosure and secrecy, as premature disclosure may give malicious actors time to exploit the vulnerabilities before mitigations are developed and deployed, we believe that this situation has shown the need for additional scrutiny regarding multi-party coordinated vulnerability disclosures," they write.

Plugable's Latest Thunderbolt 3 External SSD Drive Delivers Amazing Performance

Plugable's new 480GB external NVME SSD drive hits performance levels not possible before Thunderbolt 3. Connect the drive to a Thunderbolt 3 port to gain 480GB of extra storage with amazing speeds of up to 2400+ MB/sec read and 1200+ MB/sec write, all without the need for an external power connection. These speeds make this external drive a no-compromise performance solution for video editing, backup, and any tasks which demand maximum disk performance. "Thunderbolt 3 is a revolutionary technology," said Bernie Thompson, CEO of Plugable Technologies. "We've created our line of high-end docks, adapters, and drives to show it off."

ADAM Elements Launches Their iKlips II USB 3.1 Lightning Flash Drive

ADAM elements will be present at this year's CES in Las Vegas and showcase a new member of its highly successful and multi-awarded storage extension family for Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices - the iKlips II. Connected to any of these via the Lightning interface, users can easily free up space on their mobile devices and use the iKlips app, now updated to version 4, for a multitude of other tasks.

Extra storage for iOS devices
The Apple MFI-certified (made for iPhone/iPad/iPod) iKlips II comes with both a Lightning and a USB 3.1 connector, so data exchange between iOS devices and a macOS or Windows computer is a breeze. Available with capacities of 32, 64 and 128 GB, these stylish flash drives support the exFAT file system, so there is no limit to the size of individual files. The iKlips II comes with a 3-year warranty. It will be available in the colors grey or red from mid-January 2018. Prices (MSRP) are as follow: £50 for the 32 GB, £70 for the 64 GB and £90 for the 128 GB version.

Razer Adds Two New Members to Their Hammerhead Gaming Earphone Family

Razer, the leading global lifestyle brand for gamers, has announced two new additions to the Razer Hammerhead in-ear headset family. The new earphones feature a digital connection regardless of Android or iOS - no 3.5 mm connection, a highly durable aluminum chassis, flat cables and bi-flange ear tips for passive noise isolation. They also come with inline remotes to provide quick control for audio fidelity from the 10 mm dynamic drivers. The Razer Hammerhead USB-C is the perfect companion for the Razer Phone and other devices without 3.5 mm audio jacks, while the Razer Hammerhead for iOS Mercury Edition blends with iPhone colors.

Intel Hires Raja Koduri, to Develop Discrete GPUs, This Time for Real

Intel hired Raja Koduri, who resigned as head of AMD's Radeon Technologies Group (RTG), earlier this week. Koduri has been made Senior Vice President and Chief Architect of Intel's future discrete GPUs. That's right, Intel has renewed its dreams to power high-end graphics cards that compete with AMD and NVIDIA. Intel's last attempt at a discrete GPU was "Larrabee," which evolved into a super-scalar multi-core processor for HPC applications under the Xeon Phi line.

This development heralds two major theories. One, that Intel's collaboration with AMD RTG on graphics IP could only go further from here, and what is a multi-chip module of Intel and AMD IP now, could in the future become a true heterogeneous die of Intel's and AMD's IP. Two, that the consolidation of AMD's graphics assets and IP into a monolithic entity as RTG, could make it easier to sell it lock, stock, and barrel, possibly to Intel.

Apple Reports Fourth Quarter Results

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2017 fourth quarter ended September 30, 2017. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $52.6 billion, an increase of 12 percent from the year-ago quarter, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.07, up 24 percent. International sales accounted for 62 percent of the quarter's revenue.

"We're happy to report a very strong finish to a great fiscal 2017, with record fourth quarter revenue, year-over-year growth for all our product categories, and our best quarter ever for Services," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "With fantastic new products including iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple TV 4K joining our product lineup, we're looking forward to a great holiday season, and with the launch of iPhone X getting underway right now, we couldn't be more excited as we begin to deliver our vision for the future with this stunning device."

"Apple's year-over-year revenue growth rate accelerated for the fourth consecutive quarter and drove EPS growth of 24 percent in the September quarter," said Luca Maestri, Apple's CFO. "We also generated strong operating cash flow of $15.7 billion and returned $11 billion to investors through our capital return program."

Transcend Releases Fast, Stylish StoreJet 600 for Mac

Transcend Information Inc., a leading manufacturer of storage and multimedia products, is proud to announce the release of the StoreJet 600 for Mac. Housed in a stunning metallic casing, this light and durable StoreJet 600 for Mac matches the sleek lines and elegant curves of Mac devices. The space-gray color reflects a sophisticated style, and makes this portable SSD a fashionable on-the-go accessory. The StoreJet 600 for Mac features the latest USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface and pre-formatted HFS+ file system, allowing it to be used right out of the box.

Transcend's StoreJet 600 for Mac utilizes the USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface, which achieves double the transfer speeds of USB 3.1 Gen 1 devices, and meets UASP standards to boost transfer rates up to 470 MB/s. In addition, both a USB Type-C cable and a USB Type-C to Type-A cable are included in the package to accommodate Mac models featuring the Thunderbolt 3, USB Type-C, or USB 3.0 interface.
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