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AMD 4700S SoC Desktop Motherboard Pictured

Pictures of the mysterious AMD 4700S SoC desktop kit just hit the web, courtesy Disclosuzen. As we reported earlier, the 4700S could be derived from the semi-custom SoC AMD originally co-developed with Microsoft for the Xbox Series X/S consoles. Close-ups of the PC motherboard reveals an interesting aspect—the board lacks any discernible display output, and instead relies on a PCI-Express graphics card. The board is built in the Mini-ITX form-factor, and draws power from a conventional combination of 24-pin ATX and 8-pin EPS power connectors.

A custom-design fan-heatsink cools the SoC. There are no memory slots, an unknown amount of hardwired memory under the SoC heatsink. 6-channel HD audio, wired Ethernet, and twelve USB ports (six each of USB 3.x and USB 2.0), make for the rest of the I/O. Storage connectivity is interesting—there are no M.2 NVMe slots, just two SATA ports. Why AMD even came up with this contraption is anyone's guess, but we guess it serves two purposes—1, it lets AMD harvest dies with faulty iGPUs, and 2, it serves as a decent developer platform, for game devs to at least optimize for the CPU. The lack of any NVMe storage interfaces points to the likelihood of this board not being meant for the general audience. Retail channel availability of the board seems unlikely, although it won't surprise us if suppliers on AliExpress list it anyway.

Big Tech and Lobby: Semiconductors in America Coalition (SIAC) Founded With Microsoft, Apple, Intel, AMD, TSMC, Others

Since lobbying is both legal and regulated in the US (an attempt to bring attempts of influencing political power by corporations under legal boundaries, as opposed to being done in the dark), it feels like it was only a matter of time before big tech attempted to join under one banner. As such, the Semiconductors in America Coalition (SIAC) has now been put together, and boasts of 64 members including Microsoft, Apple, TSMC, Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, Arm, and Samsung. It seems that all of these companies - which are often at odds with one another when it comes to competing for consumers' choice and money - have found enough similarities to get organized in an attempt to nudge political power in their favor.

SIAC said in a press release that its mission is to "advance federal policies that promote semiconductor manufacturing and research in the U.S. to strengthen America's economy, national security, and critical infrastructure." The first announcement from the SIAC following its foundation was its intention to support the CHIPS for America Act. The Act (supported by The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and President Joe Biden) has already been approved by the House and the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021 but has not yet been funded. It seems that SIAC's first mission is to get the government to open up its $50 billion-deep pockets.

Windows 10X, Microsoft's Ambitious Chrome OS Competitor, Reportedly Cancelled

Windows 10X, an ambitious lightweight PC operating system under development at Microsoft, which was being designed to compete with Google's Chrome OS, has reportedly been shelved. The OS was designed for pretty much the same class of hardware as Chrome OS—entry-level with lightweight specs, with just enough muscle for web-browsing, and web-based applications that leverage cloud storage. The company even bet big on Chromium, the web rendering engine powering Chrome, over to its Edge browser. A new report by Petri states that Windows 10X will not launch in 2021, and that the project is shelved.

The reason behind Microsoft's decision is anyone's guess. Pulling off a second, purpose-built client-segment PC OS entails developing a hardware ecosystem, like Google did with Chrome OS. Secondly, Microsoft has flirted with lightweight versions of its PC operating systems more than once in the past, be it Windows RT or Windows 7 Basic; both of which met with limited success. Thirdly, Chrome OS itself isn't being shown outpacing Windows 10 as it probably was in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinvigorated the PC landscape, with much of the skilled workforce connecting from home.

Sony Reportedly Working on Redesigned PS5 SoC on 6 nm for 2022

It's not only graphics cards and CPUs that are best kept on the edge of manufacturing processes; in truth, one could even say that consoles have more to gain from these transitions when it comes to their manufacturers' financial outlooks. This happens because usually, consoles are subsidized by manufacturers in that their actual retail price is lower than manufacturing costs; this works as a way for console players to increase their platforms' attractiveness and user base, so they can then sell them games and subscription services, where the big bucks are actually made. We knew this already, but Microsoft's head of Xbox business development, Lori Wright confirmed it yesterday at the Apple vs Epic Games hearing. Lori Wright is quoted as answering "We don't; we sell the consoles at a loss" when asked whether Microsoft does or does not turn a profit on Xbox Series S | X hardware sales.

Considering the similarities between the Xbox Series X and PS5's SoC, it's very likely that Sony doesn't make a profit on console hardware sales either - or if it actually does, it's nothing actually meaningful. This is part of the reason why consoles are usually actually in the forefront of manufacturing processes' advancements, as it's a way for console players to quickly reduce the BoM (Bill of Materials) for their consoles. Since the specifications don't change within a console generation (discounting Pro models, which both companies have taken to launching some years into their generations), they choose to take advantage of process advancements due to the transistor density increases that allow for both lower silicon area for the SoC, and lower power consumption - which sometimes enables them to develop slim versions of their gaming consoles.

Microsoft Brings FPS Boost Support Up to 97 Games on Xbox Series X|S

Remember that neat Microsoft engineering trick that boosted previous-gen's games' performance on their latest and greatest Xbox Series X|S consoles? Well, Microsoft has released a new update for FPS Boost which increases the number of titles from the previous 23. The update adds the FPS boosting capability to a mind-boggling 74 games in one go, increasing their performance up to 60 FPS at their respective rendering resolutions.

Of course, one might want some more changes to be made to the game. However, remember that this a wholly Microsoft endeavor - there's no developer work required or being done here. some developers have released "next-gen" updates to some of their releases from the Xbox One and PS4 era, but FPS Boost is developer agnostic, and works via the Direct 3D API on the Xbox consoles. Titles getting an FPS Boost include Assassin's Creed Unity (maybe now finally is the time to play that one Assassin's Creed game, uh?), Deus Ex Mankind Divided, Alien Isolation (get some scares at double the framerate, what's not to love?) Wasteland 3, and Far Cry 5 all moving to 60 FPS.

Intel Collaborates with Microsoft against Cryptojacking

Starting today, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint expands its use of Intel Threat Detection Technology (Intel TDT) beyond accelerated memory scanning capabilities to activate central processing unit (CPU) based cryptomining machine learning (ML) detection. This move further accelerates endpoint detection and response for millions of customers without compromising experience.

"This is a true inflection point for the security industry as well as our SMB, mid-market and enterprise customers that have rapidly adopted Windows 10 with built-in endpoint protections. Customers who choose Intel vPro with the exclusive Intel Hardware Shield now gain full-stack visibility to detect threats out of the box with no need for IT configuration. The scale of this CPU-based threat detection rollout across customer systems is unmatched and helps close gaps in corporate defenses," said Michael Nordquist, senior director of Strategic Planning and Architecture in the Business Client Group at Intel.

GCP, AWS Projected to Become Main Drivers of Global Server Demand with 25-30% YoY Increase in Server Procurement, Says TrendForce

Thanks to their flexible pricing schemes and diverse service offerings, CSPs have been a direct, major driver of enterprise demand for cloud services, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. As such, the rise of CSPs have in turn brought about a gradual shift in the prevailing business model of server supply chains from sales of traditional branded servers (that is, server OEMs) to ODM Direct sales instead. Incidentally, the global public cloud market operates as an oligopoly dominated by North American companies including Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), which collectively possess an above-50% share in this market. More specifically, GCP and AWS are the most aggressive in their data center build-outs. Each of these two companies is expected to increase its server procurement by 25-30% YoY this year, followed closely by Azure.

Microsoft Preparing Updated Windows Store Application

Microsoft is reportedly developing an updated Windows Store that will introduce a new modern and fluid design along with changes to how developers submit applications. The current Store has seen limited adoption and is criticized for its unintuitive design and slow loading times, the new Store will follow Microsoft's updated design language and will feature new layouts, designs, and fluid animations. The Store will continue to be published as a UWP app and will receive monthly updates to introduce new features and improvements. This update should also improve stability when downloading and installing large games and applications.

The current Store has seen limited adoption due to the restrictive requirements for developers, Microsoft currently only allows UWP (Universal Windows Programs) and packaged MSIX programs to be uploaded but will now allow traditional unpackaged Win32 apps also. Microsoft will also allow developers to host their apps and updates with private content delivery networks and integrate third-party commerce functionality. These changes will grant greater control to developers and hopefully entice more applications to join the Store. Microsoft is expected to officially announce their plans for the new Store at Build 2021 with a public preview following.

AMD Enables FidelityFX Suite on Xbox Series X|S

AMD has announced that Microsoft's Xbox Series S|X now features support for the company's FidelityFX suite. This move, which enabled previously PC-centric technologies on Microsoft's latest-generation gaming consoles, will bring feature parity between RDNA 2-powered graphics, and will eventually enable support for AMD's FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution), the company's eventual competition to NVIDIA's DLSS tech.

This means that besides the technologies that are part of the DX 12 Ultimate spec (and which the consoles already obviously support), developers now have access to AMD's Fidelity FX technologies such as Contrast Adaptive Sharpening, Variable Rate Shading, ray traced shadow Denoiser, Ambient Occlusion and Screen Space Reflections. All of these AMD-led developments in the SDK allow for higher performance and/or better visual fidelity. However, the icing on the cake should be the FSR support, which could bring the Series X's 8K claims to bear (alongside high-refresh-rate 4K gaming) - should FSR turn out be in a similar performance-enhancing ballpark as NVIDIA's DLSS, which we can't really know for sure at this stage (and likely neither can AMD). No word on Fidelity FX support on the PS5 has been announced at this time, which does raise the question of its eventual support, or if Sony will enable a similar feature via their own development tools.

DirectStorage API Works Even with PCIe Gen3 NVMe SSDs

Microsoft on Tuesday, in a developer presentation, confirmed that the DirectStorage API, designed to speed up the storage sub-system, is compatible even with NVMe SSDs that use the PCI-Express Gen 3 host interface. It also confirmed that all GPUs compatible with DirectX 12 support the feature. A feature making its way to the PC from consoles, DirectStorage enables the GPU to directly access an NVMe storage device, paving the way for GPU-accelerated decompression of game assets.

This works to reduce latencies at the storage sub-system level, and offload the CPU. Any DirectX 12-compatible GPU technically supports DirectStorage, according to Microsoft. The company however recommends DirectX 12 Ultimate GPUs "for the best experience." The GPU-accelerated game asset decompression is handled via compute shaders. In addition to reducing latencies; DirectStorage is said to accelerate the Sampler Feedback feature in DirectX 12 Ultimate.
More slides from the presentation follow.

Discord Exits Acquisition Talks with Microsoft, Will Remain Independent Company

Discord has reportedly ended acquisition talks with Microsoft after they rejected a 12 billion USD bid according to people familiar with the matter. Microsoft was not the only company interested in buying Discord, other interested parties included Twitter and some valuations but the company at 15 - 18 billion USD. Discord raised 100 million USD in its latest private funding round with a valuation of 7 billion USD from Greenoaks Capital and Index Ventures. Discord is now focused on increasing revenue from its 140 million users which sat at 130 million USD in 2020. The company is also preparing for an initial public offering sometime in the future.

UK Stalls NVIDIA's Acquisition of Arm to Investigate "National Security Concerns"

The UK government has stalled NVIDIA's $40 billion acquisition of Arm by constituting an investigation in "public interest." This investigation will look into the national security implications to the UK, of the acquisition. Although Arm is being transacted between Japan's SoftBank Holdings and American NVIDIA, Arm itself is a UK-based entity. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will lead the investigation, and file a report with the UK government by June 30, 2021.

NVIDIA responded to the development, stating that the acquisition has no material national-security issues affecting the UK. "We will continue to work closely with the British authorities, as we have done since the announcement of this deal," NVIDIA stated. Leading tech firms, namely Google, Qualcomm, and Microsoft, etc., voiced apprehensions over the deal. Unlike SoftBank, NVIDIA is a chip-designer in its own right, and could withhold cutting-edge Arm technology to itself, giving its CPUs/SoCs a competitive edge over other Arm licensees, these firms believe.

Microsoft Announces Surface Laptop 4: Intel Tiger Lake or AMD Renoir APUs

Microsoft's hardware legacy stretches back more than four decades to the early days of personal computing. As Windows built and inspired new computing experiences, new Microsoft hardware accessories helped people interact with them. At this intersection of hardware and software, magical experiences are possible. This core belief is at the heart of every product we build at Microsoft, and it's especially true of our Surface products. For almost a decade, Surface has pioneered breakthrough experiences that immerse people in their creative flow, eliminating friction that often exists between people and technology.

Surface allows people to adapt to new ways of working and creating through innovative and versatile devices that offer premium design and performance, quality typing and trackpads, exceptional cameras and mics, and immersive touchscreen display technologies. From the student learning on their Surface Go or Surface Laptop Go, to the knowledge worker on their Surface Pro 7+, to the creative professional working on a Surface Book 3, these products now serve as a lifeline to connections, content and work. It's inspiring to consider all that can be achieved on a Surface.

Microsoft Tests New Liquid Cooling System for The Data Center

Microsoft employees are trialing a novel new immersive cooling system for their data center servers involving boiling liquid. Microsoft has looked to this two-phase closed-loop system as a solution to increasing power requirements from components. The cooling system features large vats where servers are submerged in a specially designed fluid from 3M which is harmless to electronics and boils at just 50°C (122°F). The heat from the servers is transferred to the fluid which boils and carries the heat away without any risk of overheating. The vats each contain a condenser that comes in contact with the gas cooling it down into a liquid and falling back into the loop. Microsoft claims that this new cooling approach will improve efficiency and sustainability through increased utilization of resources.

Microsoft Adds Backward Compatibility to Xbox Cloud Gaming Beta

Microsoft has recently announced an expansion of their Xbox Cloud Gaming Beta with the addition of backward compatibility for select Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members can now stream 16 backward compatible games through the Xbox Cloud Gaming Beta (formally Project xCloud). Microsoft has also enabled touch support for select titles while the rest will require a controller, the games are currently only playable on Android with no support for Apple devices. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers with a compatible device can now try out backward compatibility and you can view the complete list of available games below.

MonsterLabo Plays Flight Simulator with The Beast, Achieves Fully-Fanless Gaming Experience

MonsterLabo, the maker of fanless PC cases designed for gaming with zero noise, has today tested its upcoming flagship offering in the case lineup. Called The Beast, the case is designed to handle high-end hardware with large TDPs and dissipate all that heat without any moving parts. Using only big heatsinks and heat pipes to transfer the heat to the big heatsink area. In a completely fanless configuration, the case can absorb and dissipate a CPU TDP of 150 Watts and a GPU TPD with 250 Watts. However, when equipped with two 140 mm fans running below 500 RPM, it can accommodate a 250 W CPU, and 320 W GPU. MonsterLabo has tested the fully fanless configuration, which was equipped with AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT processor, paired with NVIDIA's latest GeForce RTX 3080 Ampere graphics card.

There were no fans present in the system to help move the heat away, and the PC was being stress-tested using Microsoft's Flight Simulator. The company has posted a chart of CPU and GPU temperatures over time, where we see that the GPU has managed to hit about 75 degrees Celsius at one point. The CPU has remained a bit cooler, where the CPU package hit just above the 70-degree mark. Overall, the case is more than capable of cooling the hardware it was equipped with. By adding two slow-spinning fans, the temperatures would get even lower, however, that is no longer a fanless system. MonsterLabo's The Beast is expected to get shipped in Q3 of this year when reviewers will get their hands on it and test it for themselves. You can watch the videos in MonsterLabo's blog post here.

Microsoft Tests Colorful New System Icons for Windows 10

Microsoft is testing a user-interface refresh with an upcoming update to Windows 10. Released for testing with Insider Preview Build 21343, the refresh includes new system icons that are of a significantly different design scheme from the ones you have now. System folders (Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Pictures, Music, etc.,) now come with color-coded icons resembling something from a Windows-knockoff Linux desktop environment. The graphics of the icons appear simpler, and this simplicity probably has something to do with the emergence of remote-desktop/virtual-desktop, where simpler graphics are easier on the network bandwidth, particularly on the side of the VDI server. The current system icons of Windows 10 are evolved from those of previous Windows versions.

Microsoft in Talks to Acquire Discord for $10 Billion

Microsoft is reportedly in talks with Discord Inc. for an acquisitions that sees Redmond pay $10 billion, sources tell Bloomberg. Discord is a major chat and collaboration platform popular with gamers, e-sports athletes, PC enthusiasts, and the tech community at large. The platform currently has over 100 million monthly active users, and has grown in utility as a collaborative work and learning platform owing to its free service model, providing not just text, but also group video. Discord has, in the past, been in acquisition talks with Epic Games and Amazon, so it remains to be seen if the Microsoft offer goes through.

Many thanks to DeathtoGnomes for the tip

Confronting NVIDIA's DLSS: AMD Confirms FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) to Launch in 2021

AMD, via its CVP & GM at AMD Radeon Scott Herkelman, confirmed in video with PCWorld that the company's counterpart to NVIDIA's DLSS technology - which he defines as the most important piece of software currently in development from a graphics perspective - is coming along nicely. Launch of the technology is currently planned for later this year. Scott Herkelman further confirmed that there is still a lot of work to do on the technology before it's ready for prime time, but in the meantime, it has an official acronym: FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution). If you're unfamiliar with DLSS, it's essentially an NVIDIA-locked, proprietary upscaling algorithm that has been implemented in a number of games now, which leverages Machine Learning hardware capabilities (tensor cores) to upscale a game with minimal impact to visual quality. It's important because it allows for much higher performance in even the latest, most demanding titles - especially when they implement raytracing.

As has been the case with AMD, its standing on upscaling technologies defends a multiplatform, compatible approach that only demands implementation of open standards to run in users' systems. The idea is to achieve the broadest possible spectrum of game developers and gamers, with tight, seamless integration with the usual game development workflow. This is done mostly via taking advantage of Microsoft's DirectML implementation that's baked straight into DX 12.

Microsoft Introduces Auto HDR Support On PC For Select DirectX 11 & DirectX 12 Games

High dynamic range (HDR) offers the most impressive improvement to the visual experience in recent history. HDR unlocks an entirely new range of colors with more intensity than standard monitors, making games come to life like never before. In November 2020, the Xbox Series X/S consoles launched with the Auto HDR feature which automatically upgrades your backwards compatible games from SDR to HDR to take advantage of this amazing display innovation and provide a richer visual experience even on already-released games. Today we're excited to bring you a preview of Auto HDR for your PC gaming experience and we're looking for your help to test it out. When enabled on your HDR capable gaming PC, you will automatically get awesome HDR visuals on an additional 1000+ DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 games!

EA Play is Coming to PC for Xbox Game Pass Members Starting Tomorrow

Since teaming up with Electronic Arts, we've been working to provide Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and PC members an EA Play membership at no additional cost. We want to thank the PC community for your patience over the past few months as we worked to deliver a better Xbox App experience for EA Play. We're excited to share with you that starting tomorrow, March 18 at 2:00 p.m. PT, Xbox Game Pass PC and Ultimate members will be able to enjoy all the benefits of EA Play on Windows 10.

These benefits include access to more than 60 of EA's biggest and best PC games like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, FIFA 20, Titanfall 2, and Need for Speed Heat, as well as titles from some of EA's most popular franchises like Battlefield, Madden NFL, Command & Conquer, and The Sims. You also receive exclusive in-game challenges and rewards, special member-only content, and discounts on EA digital purchases via the EA Desktop app beta. Xbox Game Pass with EA Play also includes the option to trial games for up to 10 hours from best-loved franchises and top titles like FIFA 21. Finally starting on day one of EA Play on PC with Xbox Game Pass, members can play the new-to-Play List title Star Wars: Squadrons on PC and console.

Microsoft's Acquisition of ZeniMax Media Has Been Approved by Regulators

Microsoft announced their plans to purchase ZeniMax Media last year in a deal valued at 7.5 billion dollars which would give them 8 new game studios including Bethesda, id Software, Arkane Studios, and MachineGames. The deal is the largest acquisition by Microsoft yet increasing their game studio count from 15 to 23 and are adding several notable game series to their collection including The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, DOOM, Prey, Dishonored, and Wolfenstein. Microsoft has announced that all these titles will be made available as part of Xbox Game Pass which will make the service even more compelling to gamers. The European Commission has approved the purchase without conditions and pending approval in the US the acquisition looks likely to complete in the coming months. Microsoft has confirmed that the existing Deathloop timed PlayStation exclusive deal will continue and major leadership changes within the company are not expected.

Intel to Collaborate with Microsoft on DARPA Program

Intel today announced that it has signed an agreement with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to perform in its Data Protection in Virtual Environments (DPRIVE) program. The program aims to develop an accelerator for fully homomorphic encryption (FHE). Microsoft is the key cloud ecosystem and homomorphic encryption partner leading the commercial adoption of the technology once developed by testing it in its cloud offerings, including Microsoft Azure and the Microsoft JEDI cloud, with the U.S. government. The multiyear program represents a cross-team effort across multiple Intel groups, including Intel Labs, the Design Engineering Group and the Data Platforms Group, to tackle "the final frontier" in data privacy, which is computing on fully encrypted data without access to decryption keys.

"Fully homomorphic encryption remains the holy grail in the quest to keep data secure while in use. Despite strong advances in trusted execution environments and other confidential computing technologies to protect data while at rest and in transit, data is unencrypted during computation, opening the possibility of potential attacks at this stage. This frequently inhibits our ability to fully share and extract the maximum value out of data. We are pleased to be chosen as a technology partner by DARPA and look forward to working with them as well as Microsoft to advance this next chapter in confidential computing and unlock the promise of fully homomorphic encryption for all," said Rosario Cammarota, principal engineer, Intel Labs, and principal investigator, DARPA DPRIVE program.

Immerse Yourself in the Future of Gaming Audio with the Xbox Wireless Headset

When we were designing Xbox Series X|S, we wanted to ensure that games feel true-to-life, load incredibly fast, and sound as if you were dropped in the middle of the action. We embraced spatial sound processing by including custom audio hardware to offload audio processing from the CPU, dramatically improving the accessibility, quality, and performance of these experiences. Having a high-quality set of headphones at an affordable price for your new console or existing Xbox One will help you feel immersed, react faster to the action, and connect further with your gaming worlds.

With each new generation of our Xbox accessories, we've raised the bar for innovation by focusing on performance, stand-out features, quality, and accessibility to deliver immersive experiences across console, PC, and mobile devices. We are excited to build on this legacy with the latest accessory to join the family: the new Xbox Wireless Headset.

NVIDIA Faces Challenges: Qualcomm, Google, and Microsoft Protest Arm Acquisition

In September of last year, NVIDIA has officially announced that the current industry rumor about its big acquisition was true. The company has announced that it is acquiring Arm Limited from the Softbank Group. Paying as much as $40 billion for the purchase, NVIDIA is gaining access to the complete company, along with its extensive portfolio of IP and knowledge. That means that NVIDIA is not essentially a holder of the Arm ISA, which is the most dominant ISA within mobile processors. Such a deal, however, is a bit hard to process without some troubles popping up along the way. As Arm held a neutral position as IP provider, NVIDIA is expected to remain as such, and the company even promised to stay true to that.

However, not everything is going as planned. Before completing the acquisition process, NVIDIA must first comply with regulators from all around the world, including the US, UK, EU, and China. If any objections raise within those regions, they are to be interrogated. Today, Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm have objected that NVIDIA's Arm acquisition is hurting the market and are urging antitrust officials to intervene. Mentioned companies believe that NVIDIA's move is hurting the market and the company could limit its competitors from accessing the IP, thus breaking Arm's neutral position as an IP provider. NVIDIA has made statements that Arm will remain in such a position, however, the skepticism of the mentioned companies is slowing the merger. Now all that remains is to see how the conflicted companies solve their worries.
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