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GTA V was in Top US Game Sales Charts for 74 Months

GTA V, made by Rockstar and Take-Two, is possibly the biggest game ever designed, with the massive player base and massive profits fulfilled. Perhaps the most interesting report today is that the game has stayed in the top game sales chart in the United States for the past 74 months. Month after month, gamers have been buying digital copies of the game to a point where it maintained some of the top spots on the charts. Since the game launched in 2013, it got support for two generations of consoles and PC platforms, making it accessible to a huge base of gamers. With constant updates and new content, the game managed to keep players interested and busy with new quests to conquer.

"Recurrent consumer spending on GTA Online grew 23% YoY to a new record, driven by the July release of the Diamond Casino Resort update. This update was GTA Online's biggest content launch ever, delivering record daily, weekly, and monthly active users in July and again in August," CEO of Take-Two Interactive Strauss Zelnick said in November.

TSMC Becomes Asia's Most Valuable Company

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Limited, also known as TSMC shortly became Asia's biggest and the most valuable company with a market cap of over 8.02 trillion New Taiwan Dollars, which roughly translates to 262.75 billion US Dollars. Becoming the biggest Asian company, TSMC's market capitalization has now surpassed Samsung for the first time in the history of company existence.

The underlying reasons for becoming a company that TSMC is today, are plenty. Firstly, they are providing customers with the flexibility of choosing any manufacturing node, whatever it is the latest 7 nm or the older ones like 180 nm. They have a choice whatever they want to use something older and less expensive or something newer for high-performance and lower power. Additionally, TSMC is re-investing a big part of its profits into research and development efforts to stay competitive and deliver only the best technology to its customers, on time.

A Reprieve: Select PC Hardware Exempt of Tariffs on Chinese Imports to the US

The US Trade Representative on Friday granted a reprieve to the increased tariffs being levied at China-imported electronic goods. The exemption, valid for one year until 20th August 2020, includes some products that will be welcome to PC hardware enthusiasts, including motherboards, graphics cards, desktop cases, "mouse input devices" valued over $70, "trackpad input units" valued at over $100, and power supply units that output more than 500 W.

The exempts have come as fruits of requests from US stakeholders in the hardware space; should imports be available only from China (meaning there are no alternate sources of said materials) or if the tariff could cause "severe economic harm", a temporary reprieve on the levies could be sought. And so the exempts were requested, and now granted. Prices paid before the announcement of the reprieve that included the added tax penalties are final; the exemption is only valid for orders after September 20th. This means the 25% increased rates (itself an increase on the initial 10%) on the tax basis are now frozen when it comes to the aforementioned hardware. This means companies no longer have to scramble to source their manufacturing to countries other than China, and that prices increased for end consumers on the basis of the tax increase are now meritless.

Microsoft Won't Move Production Out of China

Previously, we have reported that major OEMs are looking and exploring for ways of moving production outside of China, into other Asian countries, because of tariffs imposed by US-China trade war and rising labor costs. The original report from Nikkei specifically indicated that Microsoft will move its Xbox and Surface manufacturing to Thailand and Indonesia, while the production in China would stop.

However, Tom's Hardware had a conversation with Microsoft regarding the situation and the outcome was contradictory to the report of Nikkei. Microsoft told Tom's Hardware "that there currently aren't any plans to do so", which means that current manufacturing facilities are there to stay. We still don't know how will the rest of OEMs react or comment, but HP also said to Tom's that it shares industry concerns and will not comment any further to the rumors, adding that tariffs are hurting consumers.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary Edition Not a Worldwide Release, Available only in US and China

Apparently, AMD isn't celebrating its 50th anniversary in all parts of the globe, judging from recent reports regarding its AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary Edition. Apparently, the exclusive, limited-edition graphics card will only be available for US and China customers - two of the biggest worldwide markets, for sure. This is a strange decision from AMD, since a sold unit is a sold unit; however, this may be a sign of really limited availability of the graphics card and the hardware powering it.

Trendforce: DRAM Pricing Could Fall Up to 25% in 2019 Following Huawei ban

Trendforce, via its market analysis division DRAMeXchange, announced yesterday that it expected DRAM pricing to fall even more than previously estimated. The motive behind this is Huawei's ban following the US-China trade war, which will limit Huawei's ability to deliver its server and, especially, smartphone products. With companies being banned from trading with the Chinese firm, a voracious consumer of the US-tied DRAM production has just evaporated without a trace. This means increasing inventories amidst a freeze in demand due to uncertainty in the overall markets, which will obviously tip the supply-demand balance.

This has led TrendForce to officially adjust its outlook for 3Q DRAM prices from its original prediction of a 10% decline to a widened 10-15% decline, with an additional 10% decline in the fourth quarter. And of course, after prices hit rock bottom, they can only go up, which is why DRAMeXchange expects prices can only increase - and DRAM manufacturers' outlook improve - come 2020. Gear up for those DRAM upgrades this year, folks.

ARM Revokes Huawei's Chip IP Licence

As the trade war between the US and China continues to unfold, we are seeing major US companies ban or stop providing service to China's technology giant Huawei. Now, it looks like the trade war has crossed the ocean and reached the UK. This time, UK based ARM Holdings, the provider of mobile chip IP for nearly all smartphones and tablets, has revoked the license it has given Huawei.

According to the BBC, ARM Holdings employees were instructed to suspend all interactions with Huawei, and to send a note informing Huawei that "due to an unfortunate situation, they were not allowed to provide support, deliver technology (whether software, code, or other updates), engage in technical discussions, or otherwise discuss technical matters with Huawei, HiSilicon or any of the other named entities." The news came from an internal ARM document the BBC has obtained.

US Senator Proposes a Ban on "Manipulative" Video Games

Yesterday, a US senator called Josh Hawley announced a bill to legalize banning of so-called "manipulative" video game design in the United States. The decision was proposed yesterday to US Congress.

The "Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act" would prohibit all games geared towards children, that implement a "pay to win" model where a player is progressing through the game by paying for it. The Senator also added that titles with paid-for in-game awards, such as loot boxes, are supposed to get banned. For overseeing and enforcing the ban, the Federal Trade Commission would be in charge. The FTC in-turn would hire state attorneys to prosecute companies violating the ban.

Cooler Master Introduces New Square Fan Series

Cooler Master, a global leader in PC component manufacturing, today, announces the launch of their new Square Fan (SF) series of PC fans. Introduced as part of the MasterFan family, the new SF series of fans are equipped not only with RGB lighting, but features designed to enhance user experience in installation and performance.

Three new fans are included in the new SF series, the MasterFan SF120R RGB, SF120R ARGB and the SF360R ARGB. All three fans feature Cooler Master's new square fan design, while the SF360R ARGB fan incorporates multiple fans in an All-In-One frame. The entire SF series features rubber pads around each point of connection to decreases vibration and reduce noise pollution. In addition, the SF series of fans are designed to be compatible with all current AIO liquid coolers and most computer cases.

Samsung Profits Tank as DRAM, NAND Flash, and SoC Prices Slump

Samsung Electronics Q1-2019 preliminary reads like a horror story to investors, as the company posted its worst drop in operating-profit in over four years. Operating income fell 60 percent in the quarter ending March 2019, to about USD $5.5 billion, beating Bloomberg analysts who had predicted a 56 percent drop. Sluggish sales to IoT major Amazon, smartphone major Apple, and other handset makers, compounded by swelling inventory in the supply chain, has triggered sharp drops in DRAM prices that were offsetting critically low NAND flash prices. Demand for Samsung SoCs (application processors) is also on the decline.

Samsung is betting heavily on the success of its Galaxy S10 family of smartphones to recover from losses faced in the three component markets. Prices of DRAM prices fell 22 percent YoY, and NAND flash continues to slide by roughly that much, at 23 percent. NAND flash prices have been on a continuous decline over the past 3 years. DRAM prices, on the other hand, rallied in that period, and it's only now that it posted its first price-drop since 2016. NAND flash prices are expected to slide further down, as oversupply and failure of newer technologies like QLC taking off, hurt NAND flash manufacturers.

PC Memory Prices in Free Fall, Time to Upgrade

Prices of PC DDR4 memory modules are normalizing to 3-year lows as the pre-Summer PC upgrade season looms and several AAA game launches line up. 8 GB (2x 4 GB) dual-channel DDR4 memory kits have dropped to around USD $50 on popular PC component retailers such as Newegg, 16 GB (2x 8 GB) kits can be had for $80 at DDR4-2667 speeds. Premium 16 GB dual-channel kits (DDR4-3200 and above) start at $99. Premium 16 GB kits with RGB embellishments now typically start at $120.

Perhaps the biggest news from these memory price drops come in the form of capacity. 32 GB dual-channel (2x 16 GB) memory kits now start for as little as $144, for a kit with two dual-rank DDR4-2667 modules. Premium 32 GB kits, with RGB lighting and speeds as high as DDR4-3000 now start at $180. HEDT builders also have reason to cheer, as 32 GB quad-channel (4x 8 GB) kits start for as little as $150, and premium kits with DDR4-3000 frequency can be had for as little as $184. Newegg and the US aren't the only places you can find sharp drops in memory prices. Even across the big pond in Germany, we've been tracking significant drops in memory prices, with 16 GB dual-channel kits starting at 79€, premium 16 GB kits around 100€, 32 GB kits at 160€, and premium 32 GB kits around 190€.

Thermaltake and Mayhems Fighting Over "Pastel" Trademark in the UK

This is still a developing story, however it has matured enough to where we feel confident about discussing it. It kicked off last week when the proprietor of Mayhem Solutions Ltd, better known simply as Mayhems, shared information regarding Thermaltake introducing their own Pastel-branded coolants to be used in the PC DIY water cooling sector. Mayhems has had a trademark registered for this in the UK since 2015, and let Thermaltake know via email to try to reach an amenable solution. Indeed, EKWB and Alphacool had both used the Pastel trademark with Mayhems' permission in the past, some of which also came via using the Mayhems Pastel base under their respective brand names. After word from Thermaltake's legal team, first trying to defend the use of Pastel as a generic term, and then saying that they would work on a compromise, Mayhems told us they have not heard back from the company in over a week since the last correspondence, and are forced to take legal action to prevent Thermaltake P1000 pastel coolants to be sold in the UK.

We wanted to have due diligence in our reporting, and contacted Thermaltake ourselves for a statement. After receiving word that they will send us one, we too have not heard back from the company since. We respect Thermaltake's decision, and are always willing to update this post if they do send us one, but in the meantime we went further. Indeed, a careful look at the trademark (screenshots seen below) confirms Mayhem's legal stance on this matter. However, it is not easy to enforce a trademark in the court. It would be all the more harder to do so when there can be an argument made about the use of the term pastel, which no doubt Thermaltake would argue is not necessarily tied to the coolant, but more as the general term to showcase the various colors and the opaque-nature of said coolants. More on this story past the break, including quotes from retailers we spoke to.

ID-Cooling Releases AURAFLOW X 240 Budget RGB AIO Water Cooler

ID-COOLING a cooling solution provider focusing on thermal dissipation and fan technology research and production for over 10 years, announced AURAFLOW X 240 AIO water cooler, featuring the newly developed powerful pump and 12V RGB lighting on both the pump and fans at the same time synchronizing with motherboard RGB control.

AURAFLOW X 240 is equipped with the newly developed powerful pump which has the flow rate reaching up to 106L/H, lift range 1.3m H2O. The pump block has a micro-fin copper base to ensure the best cooling performance. Power connector is 3pin with a 3pin to Molex adapter to help ensure 12V constant input to ensure maximum cooling performance. It also comes with a standard 12V RGB connector.

US Bans Exports to Chinese DRAM Maker Fujian Jinhua Citing National Security Interests

The United States government, via the Department of Commerce, has banned all exports from national companies to China-based Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuits Ltd. The ban, citing "significant risk of becoming involved in activities that are contrary to the national security interests of the United States", demands that a license is required for "all exports, re-exports, and transfers of commodities, software and technology (...) to Jinhua." It then adds that these license applications will be reviewed - always - with a presumption of denial.

Intel 9th Gen LGA1151 Processors Support Up to 128GB of Memory

Intel's 6-core "Coffee Lake" die was essentially a "Kaby Lake" die with two extra cores, and no physical changes to other components, such as iGPU or uncore. With its new 8-core "Coffee Lake" Refresh silicon, Intel has turned its attention to not just increasing the core-count, but also improving the processor's integrated memory controller, in addition to hardware fixes to certain security vulnerabilities. The 128-bit wide (dual-channel) integrated memory controller now supports up to 128 GB of memory. Intel's current DDR4-capable mainstream desktop processors only support up to 64 GB, as do rival AMD's Ryzen socket AM4 processors.

Support for up to 128 GB explains the emergence of off-spec memory standards such as ASUS' Double Capacity (DC) DIMMs. Samsung is ready with a JEDEC-compliant 32 GB dual-rank UDIMM memory module for client platforms. Introduction of 32 GB UDIMMs also comes amidst reports of DRAM pricing cool-off through 2019, which could make 32 GB dual-channel memory kits consisting of two 16 GB UDIMMs more affordable. The increase in maximum memory amount could also indicate Intel's seriousness to introduce 3D Xpoint-based Optane Persistent Memory modules as alternatives to DRAM-based main memory, with higher capacities compensating for worse latencies and data-rates compared to DRAM.

Core i7-8700K Now at $400 as Intel CPU Prices Continue to Boil

Intel's mainstream-desktop flagship Core i7-8700K processor is now retailing north of USD $400, a departure from its launch price of $359, which erodes its competitiveness to the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X, which can be had for as low as $319. Prices of 8th generation Core processors remain on the boil across the board as reports emerge of the industry facing supply shortages from Intel. In its defense, Intel claims that the shortage is triggered by a spike in demand, and not a drop in supply.

The company raised its capex by $1 billion YoY to increase its manufacturing output, and has even outsourced manufacturing of non-processor components such as chipsets, to other semiconductor foundries such as TSMC. Prices of other popular SKUs are also on the rise. The Core i5-8400, which launched at $184, is now hovering $225, which is supposed to be the launch price of the i5-8600 (non-K). The i5-8600K is fast approaching the $300-mark. Prices of AMD Ryzen processors remain not just stable, but also a touch lower than their launch prices.

ASUS Intros VP248QGL-P Low-cost FreeSync Monitor

ASUS today introduced the VP248QGL-P, a cost-effective 24-inch gaming-grade monitor with AMD FreeSync technology support. If you can get past the TN-film panel with 1080p resolution, you'll also find that it features response times as low as 1 ms, and up to 75 Hz refresh-rates. Viewing angles are 170°/160° (H/V). Among its feature-set is ASUS Splendid display management software, blue light filtering, and ASUS GamePlus, which is a collection of game genre-specific display presets. Display inputs include one each of DisplayPort 1.2a, HDMI 1.4a, and D-Sub. Stereo speakers and 3.5 mm-jack make for the rest of it. Expect a sub-$175 price.

Taiwan ODMs Pulling Back Production from Mainland in Wake of US Import Tariffs

You could see more "Made in Taiwan" and lesser "Made in China" on the shelves of your friendly neighborhood Microcenter, as major Taiwanese original device manufacturers (ODMs) are considering moving manufacturing back from Mainland China to Taiwan. ODMs are contract manufacturers of PC hardware, which take designs from [mostly western] electronics companies, and turn them into marketable product.

Among the first such ODMs is Quanta Computer, which manufactures some components in Shanghai, with server assembly either in Fremont, California; or just outside Cologne, Germany. The move is triggered by harsh import tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration on imports of electronics goods from China (PRC), running up to 25 percent, as part of the ongoing trade-war between the world's top-two economies. Tech stocks are rattled at the prospect of cheap hardware imports getting significantly pricier for American consumers.

PC Hardware to Get Pricier Stateside as 25% Import Tariffs Take Effect Late-August

The ongoing US-China trade-war is going to jack up prices of PC hardware and other electronics products made in China (PRC). This will also affect prices of products made by American companies that are manufactured in China. A new tranche of goods and services prescribes a 25 percent import tariff on "electronic integrated circuits: processors and controllers," "electronic integrated circuits: memories," "electronic integrated circuits: amplifiers," "electronic integrated circuits: other," which about covers all PC hardware. This tariff takes effect on August 23, 2018.

A component costing $100 at a US port, could be inflated to $125 before Federal and State taxes are applied, not to mention costs of the rest of the supply-chain, leading up to your retailer and their margins. Not all PC hardware is made in China. Goods imported from Taiwan (ROC), South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia (the other known countries where PC hardware is manufactured), remains unchanged. China remains America's biggest source of electronics imports.
Many Thanks to Flyordie for the tip.

US: The Tax Man Cometh After Online Sales Tax Following Supreme Court's Decision

A Supreme Court decision last Thursday may be just what the doctor ordered for states' ability to collect taxes on online sales from a much wider variety of businesses. The decision, passed with 5-4 votes from the Justices involved, overrules previous understandings regarding the physical presence rule: essentially, that a business was only forced to collect sales tax and send it to the State it's operating if it had some sort of physical presence (be it warehouses or some such) in that particular state. If not, taxes were still due - but shoppers had to take the initiative of delivering their taxable amount to the state. That, naturally, very rarely happened, which led to reported billion dollar losses in tax revenue for a variety of US states.

Now, states have essentially been given the green light to pass laws requiring out-of-state sellers to collect the state's sales tax from customers and send it to the state. More than a dozen states have already adopted such laws even ahead of the court's decision, confident in the decision's direction, said state tax policy expert Joseph Crosby.

A Very Real Intelligence Race: The White House Hosts 38 Tech Companies on AI

The White House today is hosting executives from 38 companies for a grueling, embattled day of trying to move through the as of yet murky waters of AI development. The meeting, which includes representatives from Microsoft, Intel, Google, Amazon, Pfizer, and Ford, among others, aims to gather thoughts and ideas on how to supercharge AI development in a sustainable, safe, and cost-effective way.

Fields such as agriculture, healthcare and transportation are being spearheaded as areas of interest (military applications, obviously, are being discussed elsewhere). The Washington Post quotes Michael Kratsios, deputy chief technology officer at the White House, as saying in a recent interview that "Whether you're a farmer in Iowa, an energy producer in Texas, a drug manufacturer in Boston, you are going to be using these techniques to drive your business going forward."

New "BranchScope" Side-channel CPU Vulnerability Threatens Modern Processors

In the age of cyber-security vulnerabilities being named by their discoverers, much like incoming tropical storms, the latest, which exploits speculative execution of modern processors, is named "BranchScope," discovered by academics from four US universities, Dmitry Evtyushkin, Ryan Riley, Nael Abu-Ghazaleh, and Dmitry Ponomarev. The vulnerability has been successfully tested on Intel "Sandy Bridge," "Haswell," and "Skylake" micro-architectures, and remains to be tested on AMD processors. It bears similarities to "Spectre" variant 2, in that it is an exploit of the branch prediction features of modern CPUs.

BranchScope differs from Spectre variant 2, in that while the latter exploits the branch target buffer, BranchScope goes after the directional branch predictor, a component that decides which speculative operations to execute. By misdirecting it, attackers can make the CPU read and spit out data from the memory previously inaccessible. The worst part? You don't need administrative privileges to run the exploit, it can be run from the user-space. Unlike CTS-Labs, the people behind the BranchScope discovery appear to have alerted hardware manufacturers significantly in advance, before publishing their paper (all of it, including technicals). They will present their work at the 23rd ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS 2018), later today.

US-Gov Looking into National Security Implications of Broadcom-Qualcomm Merger

The United States Government is closely examining national security implications of a potential Broadcom-Qualcomm merger. Broadcom is a Singapore-based company, while Qualcomm is American. An empowered national security panel called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which has the legal power to stop mergers between American and foreign companies, and acquisitions of American companies by foreign entities; is said to be examining specifics of Qualcomm's high-technology and intellectual property falling into the hands of Broadcom, as the two companies close in on a crucial Qualcomm board meet scheduled for March, in which Broadcom has exercised its shareholding to plant 6 favorable board members among the 11-member Qualcomm board, which all but guarantees a vote in favor of the merger - a classic hostile takeover.

"Not so fast," believes Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the US Senate, who urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to have the CFIUS examine the Broadcom-Qualcomm deal. In its unprecedented pre-deal discussions within the otherwise opaque committee, a consensus emerged that Broadcom's decision to relocate its headquarters to the US was insufficient to circumvent a CFIUS review. "I urge CFIUS to promptly review Broadcom's proposed acquisition of control of Qualcomm's board, and to act prior to the March 6 Qualcomm meeting to address any national security concerns that may be identified," Senator Cornyn wrote to Secretary Mnuchin. It looks like Broadcom's decision to tamper with Qualcomm's board is set to spectacularly backfire.

Oculus Rift, Touch VR on Sale: Grab Yours While it Lasts

One of the hottest pieces of tech in the last few years, Oculus' Rift and Touch VR add-on, have entered a sale of sorts, which bring the pricing on these pieces of kit down to more humane, tenable values. If you are living over in the Great Britain side of the pond, you can grab your Rift+ Oculus Touch VR kit for a reasonable (for the tech) £399, for a limited time only. Scan.uk has you covered. On the other side of the pond (that means you, US), you can grab the same kit for an even more reasonable $399 (Newegg pricing at time of writing.)

These deals are being touted as limited to supply, and of a short duration. So if you think the hardware is at a point you're comfortable with, and that the platform and software ecosystem have matured enough for you to take the plunge, now might be the best time in a while to do so.

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.
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