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More Humane AI: Microsoft Launches "AI for Accessibility" Initiative

Microsoft at its Build conference today announced one of the better use cases for AI yet: to empower those with disabilities. Dubbed the AI for Accessibility Initiative, this Microsoft program will see $25 million dollars being deployed across five years to further research and development to specifically target challenges faced by people with disabilities in three key areas: human connection, employment and modern life. The $25 million budget will be used by Microsoft as seed grants for developers, universities, institutions and other Microsoft partners, with the Redmond-based Microsoft pledging to also further invest - and scale up - development for key promising ideas that are birthed from this project. The AI bit comes from its implementation in inclusive design scenarios, scaling it up through platforms, services, and different solutions.

Further, Microsoft will help partners include accessibility solutions on their products, which could allow for a base model for accessibility technologies on families of products. Microsoft President Brad Smith said there are about a billion people around the world with some kind of disability, either temporary or permanent, and it's for these people, and those that will come after, that Microsoft is committing to this investment.

AMD to Begin Sampling 7nm "Zen 2" Processors Within 2018 for a 2019 Launch

It looks like AMD's processor product launch cycle is on steroids, and keeping up (or even ahead) of Intel. After launching the first 12 nm processor architecture with "Zen+," the company is giving final touches to what it hopes to be the world's first 7 nanometer processor architecture, with "Zen 2." The company will reportedly begin sampling the chip within 2018, to enable volume production and market launch in 2019. Speaking at an investors conference call following the company's Q1-2018 Results release, AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su confirmed the 7 nm roll-out strategy of her company.

"We have a 7nm GPU based on Vega that we'll sample later this year. We have a 7nm server CPU that we'll sample later this year. And then, obviously, we have a number of products that are planned for 2019 as well. So it's a very, very busy product season for us. But we're pleased with the sort of the execution on the product roadmap," Dr. Su said. Unlike Zen+, Zen 2 is a major update to the company's processor micro-architecture, and presents the company with opportunities to improve several silicon-level specifications, such as the number of cores per CCX, the IPC of each core, the core-count of the die, the cache hierarchy, and the overall energy-efficiency.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Appoints Industry Veteran Tom Caulfield as New CEO

After more than four years as chief executive officer of GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Sanjay Jha will hand over the company's top position to Dr. Thomas Caulfield, senior vice president and general manager and a highly-respected industry veteran.

Caulfield joined GF in 2014 following a successful career with an impressive track record of results spanning engineering, management, operational leadership and global executive experience with leading technology companies including 17 years at IBM in a variety of senior leadership roles. During his tenure at GF, he successfully built and ramped the company's new 14nm production facility in upstate New York, the most advanced foundry facility and one of the largest public-private partnerships in the United States.

CD Projekt Red Opens Up Regarding Loot Box Integration in Games

In an interview to PC Gamer, CD Projekt Red's CEO Adam Kiciński approached the subject of loot boxes and their integration in videogames as ways of increasing companies' bottom line. And as has been the case in nearly every move CD Projekt has ever made, the CEO's - and the company's - posture is one of respect and frankly, overwhelming candure as to how to conduct a respectable business. When inquired on where the company that developed the Witcher games stands on the microtransactions and lootbox conversation, Adam Kiciński was very clear: far and away from a "milking customers" position.

"'Conversation' sounds way too nice to describe what was happening last year. I would rather call it community backlash," says Kiciński. "And this time around, it wasn't just the hardcore community, there were a lot of really pissed off gamers out there and they decided to speak up. Where we stand is quite simple and you could see it with all of our past releases-most recently The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and GWENT. If you buy a full priced game, you should get a big, polished piece of content, which gives you many, many hours of fun gameplay."

Square Enix Reaffirms Its Commitment to Single Player Gaming

Single player games may have entered a perceived decline since their heydays, as increasingly long, costly development times have drawn developers towards experiences that are more easily... monetized. This is typically done by cutting experiences into DLC pieces and adding always-on, recurring ways of recouping developer (or publishers') investment. There's no need in beating around the bush - we all know what these experiences look like, in one way, or another. Though it's true that these may not always have the intended effect, as users and the industry as a whole have been recoiling from particularly aggressive renditions of these monetization practices, which in turn, may lead companies to face considerable losses, be these monetary or in the much less liquid good will.

Square Enix is one of the companies that has excelled in the making of first player games, for one. however, for one reason or another, these may not have translated as the successful commercial releases that the company hoped (thinking of you, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided). As a result, the company has reportedly put the Deus Ex franchise on ice, but has recently made some tentative remarks on how they might bring it back. However, Square Enix themselves have put fears into gamers and fans' minds with their renewed interest in games as a service. which, according to Square Enix President & CEO Yosuke Matsuda, may not mean exactly what we've been told it means.

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."

Intel Reports Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year 2017 Financial Results

Intel Corporation today reported full-year and fourth-quarter 2017 financial results. The company also announced that its board of directors has approved an increase in its cash dividend to $1.20 per-share on an annual basis, a 10 percent increase. The board also declared a quarterly dividend of $0.30 per-share on the company's common stock, which will be payable on March 1 to shareholders of record on February 7.

"2017 was a record year for Intel with record fourth-quarter results driven by strong growth of our data-centric businesses," said Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO. "The strategic investments we've made in areas like memory, programmable solutions, communications and autonomous driving are starting to pay off and expand Intel's growth opportunity. In 2018, our highest priorities will be executing to our data-centric strategy and meeting the commitments we make to our shareholders and our customers."

"The fourth quarter was an outstanding finish to another record year. Compared to the expectations we set, our revenue was stronger, our operating margins were higher, and our spending was lower," said Bob Swan, Intel CFO. "Intel's PC-centric business continued to execute well in a declining market while the growth of our data-centric businesses shows Intel's transformation is on track."

AMD Shows Off Ryzen Mobile Products at Its CES 2018 Booth

AMD took to CES 2018 with a smattering of partner products and designs that take advantage of the company's mobile implementation of its Ryzen CPUs (and ZEN architecture). At its CES 2018 booth, AMD showcased products from HP and Lenovo, and our lucky coverage agents even managed to catch AMD CEO, Lisa Su, in her visit/inspection to her company's CES 2018 presence (extra Easter-egg after the break).

The products on display included one HP AIO, one Dell AIO, one HP and one Lenovo laptop, as well as pre-built systems from the likes of Dell (under its own brand and the Alienware brand) and Lenovo. The HP Pavilion AIO 24 makes use of AMD's Ryzen Mobile 2500U with Radeon Vega 8 graphics, 16 GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 2 TB HDD. The other AIO in the house, a Dell Inspiron 7775, packs a desktop-class Ryzen 7 1700, discrete Radeon RX 580 graphics, 16 GB of DDR4 memory, a 256 GB SSD, and a 1 TB HDD for all your storage needs.

Intel Chip Flaw Meltdown Prompts Company Reorganization, Internal Security Group

Intel CEO Brian Kzarnich announced on Monday to its employees that as part of the company's continued strife towards better communication and consideration of its customers, the creation of a new internal group was necessary. The move comes after considerable media and tech industry turmoil after news broke out on Intel's 10-year product stack being almost completely vulnerable to some specific exploits. The Intel Product Assurance and Security group will be headed by Intel HR chief Leslie Culbertson, who will have on her team the former Vice President and General manager of Intel's New Technology Group, Josh Walden, who was, alongside Steve Smith, Intel Vice President and General Manager of its Data Center Engineering group, pulled from his current functions to work under Culbertson.

"It is critical that we continue to work with the industry, to excel at customer satisfaction, to act with uncompromising integrity, and to achieve the highest standards of excellences," Krzanich told employees in a memo Monday, obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive. "Simply put, I want to ensure we continue to respond appropriately, diligently, and with a customer-first attitude."

Intel Advances Quantum and Neuromorphic Computing Research

Today at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Intel announced two major milestones in its efforts to research and develop future computing technologies including quantum and neuromorphic computing, which have the potential to help industries, research institutions and society solve problems that currently overwhelm today's classical computers.

During his keynote address, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced the successful design, fabrication and delivery of a 49-qubit superconducting quantum test chip. The keynote also noted the promise of neuromorphic computing.

Intel Aware of CPU Flaws Before CEO Brian Krzanich Planned $24M Stock Sale

The news and details on Intel's most recent chip flaw have been coming in almost faster than news outlets can put them out, and it just seems that the company is going through a phase where news are seldom good. New information has come to light that paint Intel CEO's Brian Krzanich's sale of $24M worth of stocks in November 24th in a negative spotlight, euphemisms be allowed. We (meaning, this editor) previously dismissed the share sale as a pre-planned event that didn't show any kind of shady wrongdoing in the face of news breaking out regarding Intel's VM security flaw. However, it seems as if it pays off to be negative rather than positive in the world at large, and the skeptic in me is saying "serves you right".

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich Says the Company Will Take More Risks

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a memo to Intel employees that the company would be taking more risks in the future. Further, the 2013-anointed CEO said that the company will center its growth strategy on data, not just computing "(...) memory, FPGAs, IOT, artificial intelligence, autonomous driving. Anything that produces data, anything that requires a lot of computing, the vision is, we're there."

The Intel CEO also mentioned the company's financial outlook and growth of recent times, with the increased focus on those same data-hungry fields have led to company to achieve an almost 50/50 ratio in income divided by both PC and all other Intel growth areas. Intel's recent acquisitions of Nervana, Mobileye and Altera, just to name a few, have been some of the more evident of these, but the company has also been picking up slightly smaller companies as well. These all sound well and good - and we all know the consumer PC market hardly makes up for most of Intel's revenue streams, but here's hoping this means increased risks and innovation in this space as well. Unless increasing computing cores on consumer processors by two units across the product stack is an immense show of risk-taking from the company, in which case: bravo. Read on for the Intel CEO's memo in its entirety, right after the break.

Live the CES 2018 Experience Like a VIP and Meet Intel CEO Brian Krzanich

Today, Intel launched a fundraising effort on Charitybuzz to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. The company is auctioning a VIP experience at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas including travel, deluxe lodging and a backstage meet and greet with Intel CEO Brian Krzanich before his opening keynote on Jan. 8, 2018.

"CES is an incredible show for anyone interested in the future of technology, and I'm really excited to share a VIP CES experience while raising money for a great cause," Krzanich said. "The top bidder will be my guest at the show and get exclusive access to our opening keynote, exhibit space and more."

AMD Radeon Boss Raja Koduri Jumps Ship

As we reported back in September, Raja Koduri took a sabbatical leave from AMD's Radeon Technologies Group (RTG) to find himself. AMD CEO Lisa Su was left in charge during this time as Raja wasn't expected to return until December. However, our friends over at Hexus got their hands on a memo that Raja left to this team revealing his intentions to leave the company for good.

Intel 10 nm CPUs to See Very Limited Initial Launch in 2017

UPDATE: Some slides have surfaced today on Reddit that actually place Intel's updated 10 nm roadmap as starting initial risk production in 2Q 2018. The same leaks also point towards a yearly advancement in process technology (akin to Intel's current 14 nm+ and 14 nm++ production processes), with 10 nm+ risk production on 1Q 2019 and 10 nm++ on 1Q 2020. This roadmap, however, is relative to Intel's Custom Foundry partners; as such, this doesn't go directly against Intel CEO's Brian Kzarnich remarks on the latest investor call, since he was likely talking about the 10 nm ramp-up on Intel's own products.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has come out to say that the company's first 10 nm CPUs based on the "Cannon Lake" micro-architecture will see the light of day before this year's end. Intel has been having a slew of ramp-up delays with its 10 nm products, which prompted a slippage from an expected 2016, full-scale launch (whose ship has sailed, clearly) towards a timed, product-tier based strategy. Intel opted to first introduce 10 nm technology to FPGA accelerators, which due to their redundancy, would suffer less from yield issues.

Intel Reports Q3-2017 Financial Results

Intel Corporation today reported third-quarter 2017 financial results. "We executed well in the third quarter with strong results across the business, and we're on track to a record year," said Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO. "I'm excited about our progress and our future. Intel's product line-up is the strongest it has ever been with more innovation on the way for artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and more." "In the third quarter, we delivered record earnings, exceeded our EPS expectations, and increased our profit expectations for the full year," said Bob Swan, Intel CFO. "We feel great about Intel's transformation and where we are nine months into our three year plan." In the third quarter, the company generated approximately $6.3 billion in cash from operations, paid dividends of $1.3 billion, and used $1.1 billion to repurchase 31 million shares of stock.

In the third quarter, Intel saw strength across the business. The data center, Internet of Things and memory businesses all achieved record quarterly revenue, and Intel extended its performance leadership with the launches of 8th Gen Intel Core and Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Intel's FPGA business, the Programmable Solutions Group, is experiencing strong momentum, winning designs with automotive and cloud service provider customers that advance Intel's position in artificial intelligence. The company also furthered its autonomous driving efforts with exciting customer wins and the completion of the Mobileye tender offer, four months earlier than expected.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Retail Packaging Pictured?

AMD CEO Lisa Su, ahead of the company's grand SIGGRAPH event, unveiled what could very well be the retail packaging of the company's upcoming Ryzen Threadripper HEDT processors. There's a good possibility that this isn't the retail packaging, because it looks shaped like an old-school television, and could be a prop AMD is using for its SIGGRAPH booth, or it's a special packaging AMD is reserving for reviewers (the company does that with most of its flagship products).

The rounded cuboid box features a prominent window with a CRT-like convex bulge through which you can look at the large Ryzen Threadripper chip. There's minimal branding or literature on the box itself, which could indicate the presence of an outer cover. AMD is planning to launch its Ryzen Threadripper lineup with two SKUs for the retail (DIY) channel, the 12-core/24-thread Ryzen Threadripper 1920X, and the 16-core/32-thread Ryzen Threadripper 1950X. The two parts will be accompanied by a small but growing selection of compatible socket TR4 motherboards based on the AMD X399 chipset, by industry majors such as ASUS, ASRock, and GIGABYTE. The processor is expected to be available by 9th August.

Kaspersky Lab Accused of Close Links to FSB, Removed From USG's GSA Listing

Yesterday, Bloomberg ran a story entitled "Kaspersky Lab Has Been Working With Russian Intelligence", in which the editors said that "Emails show the security-software maker developed products for the FSB and accompanied agents on raids." Eugene Kaspersky, Kaspersky CEO, naturally responded by saying that claims about Kaspersky Lab's ties to the Kremlin are "unfounded conspiracy theories" and "total BS." Bloomberg Businessweek even goes so far as to say that Kaspersky Lab has "maintained a much closer working relationship with Russia's main intelligence agency, the FSB, than it has publicly admitted. It has developed security technology at the spy agency's behest and worked on joint projects the CEO knew would be embarrassing if made public."

In the same article, Bloomberg's editors go on to say that "The U.S. government hasn't identified any evidence connecting Kaspersky Lab to Russia's spy agencies (...) In June, FBI agents visited a number of the company's U.S. employees at their homes, asking to whom they reported and how much guidance they received from Kaspersky's Moscow headquarters. And a bill was introduced in Congress that would ban the U.S. military from using any Kaspersky products (...)", with one senator calling ties between the company and the Kremlin "very alarming."

Foxconn Eyeing US for $10 billion Investment; Looking After Toshiba Deal

Taiwan-based Foxconn, one of Apple's main suppliers, is looking to expand its operations in the US to the tune of $10 billion. The company is still deciding which state will get the greatest solo investment, in the form of a $7 billion display factory (worth mentioning here is that Foxconn's display manufacturing has seen a recent buff by the acquisition of Sharp.) Reportedly, investments are being considered in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and/or Texas. There was no given timeframe for the construction's start or finish, but a final decision should be made public in July. Foxconn's CEO Terry Gou also vowed to press on with a bid for Toshiba Corp.'s semiconductor business, although the Japanese company has already selected a preferred buyer in the form of a Japanese and US joint venture. Such a deal could cost $27 billion and introduce Foxconn (and, likely but indirectly, China) into the memory chip business.

AMD Announces High Performance Computing Platform - "Naples" is EPYC

Today on their Financial Analyst Day 2017, AMD has taken the lid off their "Naples" Zen implementation. The balanced Zen core in its unrestrained, server-grade level has become EPYC, with AMD CEO Lisa Su holding the silicon in her bare hands. The new EPYC platform with its I/O performance improvements allows more GPUs to be connected to a CPU than any other platform, with up to 128 PCIe lanes being expected on these server-grade chips.

AMD Confirms Press Conference for Computex 2017 - Vega is (Almost) Here

AMD today has confirmed a highly-awaited, long-time-coming, almost too-late-to-be-true press conference on Computex 2017. Via email, the company announced their intention to share a save-the-date announcement for AMD's press conference, scheduled for May 31st from 10 a.m. - 11 a.m.

The conference will be hosted by AMD's CEO Lisa Su and other key executives, and will serve as a venue to "hear more about the latest products and leading-edge technologies coming from AMD in 2017." AMD is apparently "looking forward to providing new details on 2017 products and the ecosystems, both OEM and channel, that will support them." So yeah, this is probably it. A shame about that May 25th Easter Egg with Vega's location on the star charts, but maybe we shouldn't really be complaining, or else AMD might cancel this announcement altogether. And we've waited for Vega long enough, haven't we?

NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang: "Competitive Position to Remain Unchanged in 2017"

NVIDIA has been posting tremendous financial results, beating analysts' expectations on an almost quarterly basis. This stems from NVIDIA's privileged position in the graphics and computing market, with their GeForce series of consumer graphics cards having reigned almost virtually unchallenged by AMD's offerings. This happens even more distinctively on the high end of the market, where NVIDIA's halo products systematically wow consumers on a pure performance basis, and improve the company's image and market awareness absent of any competition from AMD. At the same time, the company's strong position on the AI, Deep Learning, and general computing markets ensure a strong footing should something go awry in a single market.

All of this seems to have grounded NVIDIA CEO's Jensen Huang confident posture on the company's outlook for 2017. At yesterday's earnings call, Jensen Huang was questioned whether NVIDIA's competitor's "new platform" elicited some thoughts on NVIDIA's competitiveness outlook in the second half of 2017. To this, Jensen Huang replied, in no uncertain terms, that "the competitive position is not going to change." Now naturally, a company CEO wouldn't be saying on his own company's earnings call something along the lines of "AMD's Vega platform is going to totally invert the competitive landscape and we at NVIDIA are scrambling and screaming internally at the disaster." Still, NVIDIA is probably the company that knows more about AMD's second-half 2017 efforts in the graphics space in 2017 other than AMD themselves, so this answer could also include some of Jensen's thoughts regarding that - and Volta. What do you think? Bullish posturing, or deserved confidence?

AMD to Detail Vega, Navi, Zen+ on May 16th - Laying Out a Vision

Reports are circling around the web regarding an AMD meeting featuring some of its higher ups - namely, CEO Lisa Su, head of Radeon Technologies Group Raja Koduri, and AMD's CTO Mark Papermaster happening on the 16th of May. The purpose of this meeting seems to be to discuss AMD's inflexion point, and lay out a vision for the company's future, supported on its upcoming products: the too-long-awaited Vega, its successor Navi, and the natural evolution of the company's current Zen processors, tentatively identified as Zen+.

Naturally, a company such as AMD has its roadmap planned well in advance, with work on next-generation products and technologies sometimes even running in parallel with current-generation product development. It's just a result of the kind of care, consideration, time and money that goes into making new architectures that makes this so. And while some would say Vega is now approaching a state akin to grapes that have been hanging for far too long, AMD's next graphics architecture, Navi, and its iterations on Zen cores, which the company expect to see refreshes in a 3-to-5-year period, are other matters entirely. Maybe we'll have some more details regarding the specific time of Vega's launch (for now expected on Computex), as well as on when AMD is looking to release a Zen+ refresh. I wouldn't expect much with regards to Navi - perhaps just an outline on how work is currently underway with some comments on the expectations surrounding Global Foundries' 7 nm process, on which Navi is expected to be built. And no, folks, this isn't a Vega launch. Not yet.

Intel Announces Leadership Changes

In an email today, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced changes to the company's leadership team: "Today I'm writing to share two important leadership transitions on our executive leadership team. Diane Bryant has made the difficult decision to take a leave of absence from Intel to tend to a personal family matter. She is stepping away for the next six to eight months. Given the extended duration, an interim leader for the Data Center Group (DCG) is not possible. As a result, I have asked Navin Shenoy to take the position of general manager of DCG.

DCG is a central part of our transformation and corporate strategy to make Intel the driving force of the data revolution. Over the past five years, Diane has transformed DCG from a server-centric group to a business that spans servers, network and storage across all end-user segments, and with product lines and business models that extend beyond the traditional. DCG's leading products and strategies - driving industry transformations' to pervasive cloud computing, virtualization of network infrastructure, and adoption of artificial intelligence solutions - have positioned the business to be the growth driver for Intel. I want to thank Diane for her outstanding leadership and I will announce her next role upon her return.

AMD Says Vega is "On Track" for Q2 2017 Release

During its Q1 reports for fiscal year 2017 (which saw AMD's stock tumbling about, even if this Q1 only considers a single Ryzen sales-month on its accounts), AMD CEO Lisa Su referred that AMD's high-performance Vega architecture is still on track for a Q2 2017 release. The words, specifically, are these: "AMD's "Vega" GPU architecture is on track to launch in Q2, and has been designed from scratch to address the most data- and visually-intensive next-generation workloads with key architecture advancements including: a differentiated memory subsystem, next-generation geometry pipeline, new compute engine, and a new pixel engine."

So yes, AMD confirms what we suspected. This leaves a launch time-frame for Vega products until, at most, the end of June. Confirmation after confirmation, it's still a long time to wait, if you'll ask me, with little to no information in the last few months. But it's better than nothing, and I'd much prefer a real launch with retail availability than a glorified paper launch. Here's hoping Vega answers our questions and our needs. It's been a long time coming already.
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