Consumers offered more choice on IoT

Consumers offered more choice on IoT

Vodafone is going a bit IoT-crazy. The company has already launched a new range of IoT products and an accompanying consumer service. Now, the company has tapped into the growing interest in IoT and announced an agreement with TechData to integrate a range of IoT services.

The pan-European deal will allow resellers and systems integrators across Europe to access Vodafone’s value-added IoT services. This, in turn, will enable customers to integrate IoT into their own businesses.

Under the terms of the agreement, Tech Data’s IoT SIM-enabled devices, hardware and software will be able to be combined with Vodafone’s Managed IoT connectivity services for remote monitoring and control of industrial operational applications, mobile asset tracking, fleet management, building security, network access and worldwide device management solutions.

New opportunities

Victor Paradell, vice president, IoT & Analytics Solutions at Tech Data, said: “The agreement is a breakthrough as Tech Data is now able to offer a comprehensive, end-to-end Vodafone IoT connectivity solution across Europe.”

He welcomed the new agreement. “We’re excited to partner with Vodafone and help solution providers grow their businesses with new recurring revenue streams based on connectivity for IoT applications. Interest in IoT is stronger than ever, enterprise investment is increasing, and so is the number of IoT connections.” The rollout of the new service will start in the UK before the end of the year, with other services coming on  stream in the new year.


Powered by WPeMatico

Best iPad apps 2017: download these now

Best iPad apps 2017: download these now


Powered by WPeMatico

The 10 best laptops for college students in 2017

The 10 best laptops for college students in 2017

Though you might fancy a keyboard you can use in VR or a mighty Titan X Collector’s Edition graphics card, it goes without saying that your money would be better spent on one of the many best laptops for college. Not only would you be paying for a useful tool to push you through even the most banal aspects of your studies, but you would also be forking over the cash for a portal into timeless entertainment on Netflix, YouTube and other streaming sites.

  • While you’re at it, check out our picks of the best laptops overall

Finding and classifying the best laptops for college isn’t as easy as picking up a random clunker off the shelf, however. In fact, we’ve put countless hours into testing, reviewing and ranking the most curious notebooks we’ve stumbled across so that you don’t have to. Regardless of whether you want a thin and light Ultrabook that fits in your backpack or a high performer with tons of ports you’re familiar with and accustomed to, you’ll find your next laptop here.

Suffice to say, they don’t yet have the benefit of the Intel and AMD team-up made in heaven. But, each one of the best laptops for college has the spunk – not to mention the horsepower – necessary to ace your classes and kickstart your career. Because, let’s face it, your current laptop is getting old. It’s collecting dust and you’re embarrassed to take it out from under your dorm room bed. Do yourself a favor and consider one of the following as a suitable upgrade.

best laptops for students

1. Dell XPS 13

Powerful, functional, aesthetically pleasing

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) InfinityEdge | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Faster than ever
Same long-lasting battery
Still poor webcam position
No Windows Hello

As we patiently await its swanky Alpine White follow-up slated for 2018, the Dell XPS 13 of today is still a force to be reckoned with. Packing 7th- and 8th-generation Intel Kaby Lake processors as well as improved integrated graphics, clearly there’s an advantage to the Dell XPS 13 other than its sumptuous Rose Gold finish. The 13-inch screen, crammed into an 11-inch body, makes it a worthy rival to a certain other aluminum laptop line. Ultimately, this leaves the Dell XPS 13’s utility extensive.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 review

2. Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

The dawn of a new era for 2-in-1 laptops

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – AMD Radeon Graphics (2GB GDDR5) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch – 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED display with Touch Screen Panel | Storage: 256GB SSD

Uses S-Pen to great effect
Excellent look and feel
Inconsistent battery life
Downward-firing speakers

The Samsung Notebook 9 is what other 2-in-1 laptops have aspired to be since their conception. It hones in on the S-Pen, Samsung’s own proprietary stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (the same as Microsoft’s new Surface Pen), a nifty little accessory that conveniently doesn’t require charging. Although the touchscreen display is only 1080p, at between 350 and 450 nits of brightness, you won’t be paying any mind to the pixels, or lack thereof. Plus, the lengthy battery life more than makes up for this hybrids few setbacks.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

  • This product is only available in the US as of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the HP Spectre x360 15.

3. Asus Chromebook Flip

Asus’ premium Chromebook has a modest price

CPU: Intel Core m3 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare | Storage: 64GB eMMC + TPM

Elegant tablet mode
Gorgeous, vivid screen
No out-of-box Android app support
Middling speakers

The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 could be seen as an apology for Google’s own missteps with the Chromebook Pixel that preceded it. Rather than costing over a grand for unnecessarily high performance that would put a lot of Windows notebooks to shame, Asus has cut the price in half while adding a 360-degree hinge that effectively makes it a 2-in-1 laptop, but with Android apps from the Google Play Store that only sweeten the deal.Now you can experience a Chromebook whose style rivals that of the MacBook Pro without spending even remotely what you would on one of Apple’s machines. 

Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

4. Microsoft Surface Pro

The tablet that can replace your laptop

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core m3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

Hugely improved battery life
Comfier, punchier type cover
Surface Pen pulled from package
Only Core i7 can challenge A10X

The 2017 Surface Pro is – in every way, shape and form – the Surface Pro 5 we’ve been waiting for. From its rounded edges to its refined selection of accessories, there’s no denying it’s a true Surface Pro 4 successor. There’s also the fact that the Surface Pro draws inspiration from the Surface Studio insofar as it bends back 165 degrees. The only real downside then (besides having to buy the Surface Pen separately this time) is that only the i7 version of the Surface Pro can compete with even the most affordable iPad Pro.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro

  • This product is only available in the US and Australia as of this writing. UK readers: check out a fine alternative in the Lenovo Miix 510.

best laptops for students

5. Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

MacBook Pro size and power, MacBook Air price

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 940MX (2GB DDR3L); Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 12GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel | Storage: 1 TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD

Snappy keyboard
Very versatile
Hefty weight
Graphics narrowly miss the mark

For less than a grand, you could get a MacBook Air, complete with a sub-1080p screen and a Broadwell processor … or you could buy a Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. A 2-in-1 laptop with an HDR, full HD touchscreen, the Spin is home to both a discrete Nvidia graphics chip and a 6th-generation Intel Core “i” CPU. Though the spinning hard drive and 480p webcam aren’t ideal, they keep the price of the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin modest and its reputation positive.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

  • This product is only available in the US and UK as of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Asus ZenBook Flip UX360.  

6. Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming

Work hard, play hard, this laptop does it all

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050; Intel HD Graphics 620 – GTX 1050 Ti; Intel HD Graphics 630 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) anti-glare LED-backlit | Storage: 1TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD

Affordable gaming setup
Stellar battery life
Trackpad is touchy
Screen is lacking

Ditching the Alienware moniker for once, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming doesn’t cost all that much considering its rather lofty specs. Even if it can’t max out every game you throw at it, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming is both cheaper than a MacBook Air and way more capable. And, if you were worried about the battery life, the Inspiron 15 Gaming lasted a whole 5 hours and 51 minutes in our tests, longer than some Ultrabooks priced significantly higher. Whether for coursework or leisure, this laptop can do it all. 

Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming

7. Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2017)

The MacBook Pro of the future, right now

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus 640 – 650 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

Stronger processor
Faster RAM
Subpar battery life
Keyboard learning curve

The 2017 MacBook Pro doesn’t offer much in the way of distinguishing itself from its predecessor, but it is a testament to just how much you can improve something by simply swapping up internal components and calling it a day. Because it’s finally equipped with the newest generation of Intel Kaby Lake processors and faster-than-ever PCIe 3.0 SSD storage, the MacBook Pro comes easily recommended, undeterred by its reluctance to bring back legacy ports like HDMI and standard USB. This is, through and through, a laptop built for the future.

Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2017)

8. Asus ZenBook UX310UA

Feel old yet, MacBook Air?

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800)

All aluminum body
Backlit keys
Bendy keyboard
Meh battery life

After the wonderfully brilliant Asus Zenbook UX305 was discontinued, we were skeptical that Asus could follow it up with something even better. Still, the Asus ZenBook UX310UA surprises with the same all-aluminum chassis we’ve come to know and love in addition to a higher resolution screen and an impressive swath of ports, including the latest USB-C interface. The best news is that it does all of that without slipping above the price point of the current MacBook Air, making it an even better value.

Read the full review: Asus ZenBook UX310

best laptops for students

9. Surface Laptop

Designed for students from the OS up

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 2,256 x 1,504 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Gorgeous design
Well built
Windows 10 S is limited

The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first stab at a “traditional” laptop, if you can even call it that knowing full well that its PixelSense touchscreen and Alcantara keyboard are anything but conventional. Featuring a full stack of U-series 7th generation Intel Core “i” processors, the Surface Laptop beats out Apple’s 12-inch MacBook any day of the week, and for a lower starting price at that. Despite the ports and operating system being limited, the Surface Laptop is appealing for its laudable design, beautifully vivid screen and impressive performance.

Read the full review: Surface Laptop

10. Acer Swift 3

Ultrabook performance for half the price

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD

Powerful for the price
Stellar battery life
Boring looks
Down-firing speakers

The Acer Swift 3 looks like a normal laptop, and while you could make the argument that it is, most “normal” laptops are either overpriced or underpowered these days. The Acer Swift 3, however, demonstrates a solid mix of performance and value, brandishing full-on Ultrabook-class Core i processors serving up and a passive battery life of over 8 hours

Read the full review: Acer Swift 3

  • This product is only available in the US and UK as of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Dell Inspiron 13.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article


Powered by WPeMatico

Sourceress raises $3.5M to find candidates that managers want without realizing it

Sourceress raises $3.5M to find candidates that managers want without realizing it

When a company is looking for a candidate for an open role, the hiring manager is probably going to rattle off a bunch of qualifications that they’re looking for to a recruiter — and Kanjun Qiu says recruiters will probably just run with that when the manager’s requirements might not actually be so rigid.

It’s that intent from the manager — the idea that the actual boundaries for a qualified candidate are more opaque — that sparked the idea for Sourceress. Instead of just hunting down candidates based on a bunch of keywords, Sourceress works with hiring managers to understand the kinds of attributes they need in a potential hire and builds a model to find someone who would fit what a hiring manager is looking for, even if they don’t fit the bill explicitly. To do this, Sourceress has raised $3.5 million in new financing from Lightspeed Venture Partners, OpenAI researchers, Y Combinator, Dropbox founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, as well as other smaller investors.

“The advantage is that when you source and you go outbound as a company, people feel like, oh, you want them,” Qiu said. “You’re extending a hand out to them, and then they can choose to take your hand or not take your hand. It makes you feel like you’re wanted, that you have these options, that you could go somewhere. The problem today is sourcing is so transactional, you hire sourcers who are on contract or not on contract. It’s hard for you as a sourcer to spend time personalizing and customizing an approach, and the tools aren’t really there.”

For example, just because someone doesn’t have experience with a specific programming language doesn’t mean they can’t be trained in that language. So, rather than completely ignore a candidate because they don’t have experience working in Javascript, Sourceress should pick up on a candidate with years of experience using Python and flag them as someone worth flagging as a potential hire. The same might be true of a qualified candidate with experience using that language, but fewer years than what a company sets for its initial standards.

The problem starts with a phone call with a hiring manager, where that person will detail to Sourceress what they want in a candidate. Sourceress then builds a model based on that information and starts scouring for candidates on the avenues that you might expect, trying to bend the boundaries so they aren’t so rigid in their search for candidates. Each additional hire tunes those algorithms over time to better look for candidates. Right now, Sourceress focuses on engineering and product — because, for now, it makes sense to be working in an area where the team has experience.

It’s that tuning part which is probably the most critical aspect of Sourceress’ future. Having to take a call with a hiring manager every time can be a pain, especially as more and more hiring managers call in and are really looking for candidates with very similar profiles. As Sourceress matches the right candidates, its idea of what a manager that wants when they ask for “a Python expert” will start to better understand the intent behind their search for a candidate, rather than just taking the qualifications at face value. The models become more abstract, and eventually. once Sourceress has enough data, it can automatically divine the right candidate profile.

Right now, there’s no candidate-side part of the service, as the low-hanging fruit is more on the recruiting side. But it would make sense to use such a model to slot into the spots that Indeed, Hired, or even LinkedIn, have tried by giving candidates a hub to go and find potential job matches. Most potential hires are passive candidates that aren’t looking, and it’s hard to determine who to reach out if they aren’t raising their hand, Qiu said.

Taking this kind of an approach by looking for potential attributes — and not just qualifications — is something Qiu said would help surface up more diverse candidates, which she said tend to have a higher response rate. Qiu also said the percentage of our hires for women and minorities on Sourceress is between 30% and 40%.

“Women, when they look at a job description, they tend to disqualify [themselves],” Qiu said. “So if you’re reaching out they’re more comfortable talking to you. If we’re able to actually assess for merit, and we’re able to fill the top of the funnel with more women or minority candidates, your likelihood of hiring someone goes up. If you’re not getting diverse candidates into the pipeline, it’s hard to make diversity hires. The problem is most pipelines, they’re referral based. Coming into this, we thought, if we can make finding candidates getting in touch with them much easier, we should be able to change.”

Since it’s a language problem as much as it is an unstructured public-facing data problem, it’s going to be an area with intense competition. There are startups like Headstart looking to help analyze candidates, though that process more deeply involves the candidate side in order to determine the right fit. There are, indeed, a lot of startups getting funding in this space — and it’s likely that plenty of the bigger companies are working on such tools.

The end goal would be, for example, for Sourceress to be able to find a student at a college in the midwest that will either immediately or one day fit the needs of a hiring manager. That might require scouring a Github account, or published papers, or what kinds of posts they put up on Stack Overflow. But the point is to come up with a diverse set of information sources that can help the company identify candidates that a recruiter might not find if they were just digging through LinkedIn for potential leads. All this data would naturally be public-facing, which means it could be up for grabs for anyone, but in the end, it’s the approach that matters more, Qiu said.

“The actual data itself doesn’t matter, it’s how you post-process it and the features you extract,” She said. “That’s our meta processing layer, that’s the difference.”


Powered by WPeMatico

Armored-up Samsung Galaxy S8 Active is finally coming to Sprint and T-Mobile

Armored-up Samsung Galaxy S8 Active is finally coming to Sprint and T-Mobile

Just as we had suspected, the Galaxy S8 Active with military-grade durability is marching its way to more US carriers than just AT&T starting this month.

This armored-up Android Nougat phone will come to both T-Mobile and Sprint in November, according to Samsung, and it’ll have the same toughness to it in the Meteor Gray color.

That’s good news for anyone who likes the specs of the Samsung Galaxy S8, but wants a shatter-resistant flat screen instead of a delicate curved glass display.

In the US, this will the first time a Galaxy S Active phone has been available on a network other than AT&T. No word in international availability – we haven’t seen an Active go global since the S4 Active, despite liking the S7 Active and S6 Active.

What’s the Galaxy S8 Active all about?

The Samsung Galaxy S8 Active retains a 5.8-inch Super AMOLED screen, but this one is is meant to withstand drops, just like the rugged Moto Z2 Force screen.

Its also has a high-strength aluminum frame that’s bumper-protected. Like the regular S8 and Note 8, it’s dust and water resistant with an IP68 rating. It can take a pavement beating before it starts showing wear.

And unlike 2017 Galaxy phones, the S8 Active has a juiced-up 4,000mAh battery. Your all-day adventures can fully utilize Samsung’s awesome 12MP camera without fear of battery life drain.

But you’ll have to deal with some button issues: the Active finally dropped physical buttons on the front of the phone in favor of on-screen buttons and it added that love-it-or-hate-it-but-probably-hate-it Bixby button.

It also costs as much as the Galaxy 8 Plus. AT&T currently has 5.8-inch S8 Active price locked in at $849.99, which is $280 more than the normal S8 launch price. We don’t expect the Sprint and T-Mobile price to be much lower.

At that rate, you can now find cheaper Samsung Galaxy S8 deals in the US and just buy an affordable Samsung Galaxy S8 case.


Powered by WPeMatico

Xiaomi’s European arrival could see the Mi Mix 2 one day land in UK and US

Xiaomi’s European arrival could see the Mi Mix 2 one day land in UK and US

Chinese tech brand Xiaomi – the company behind the Mi Mix 2 bezeless phone and many more devices – is now officially selling its products in Europe for the first time, but there’s currently no word on a UK or US expansion.

Xiaomi has chosen Spain as its first European country to stock its full range of products including the newly launched Mi Mix 2 and Mi A1 phones as well as connected home gadgets, in new retail stores and its own online store.

The company has yet to officially comment on when it plans to stock its products in other markets, but moving into Spain may bode well for fans in the UK or US.

Senior Vice Preisdent of Xiaomi, Wang Xiang, said, “We picked Spain as our first entry into Western Europe”, which suggests the company plans to expand to further markets in the future.

Which country is next?

Wang wasn’t able to comment on the next countries Xiaomi will be targeting, but he did mention France and Italy as being potential goals. Wang believes the launch in Spain will help the country learn about Europe and help it push into other territories.

He said, “It’s still early to say what’s next, but I think the EU has a lot of commonalities. 

“We will learn about the taste of European consumers and also at the same time we’ll build our resources such as technical support and supply capabilities. Then we can go aggressively with a few other countries.”

The brand is already large in China and India as well as having products available in Australia.

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 with its 5.99-inch, 18:9 display.

Perhaps the best news about the launch in Spain is the company has managed to keep its prices low despite entering the new market. The flagship Mi Mix 2 is priced at 499 euros (about $580, £440, AU$750).

Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2 features an almost bezel-less design with a 5.99-inch, 18:9 aspect ratio, 1080 x 2160 resolution display. It’s also powered by the top of the range Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and features a 12MP rear camera.

Exactly how long it will take to the phones to arrive in more European countries remains to be seen, but with low prices and a launch in Spain fans of Xiaomi may be in for some good news in the future.


Powered by WPeMatico

V is for revolution

V is for revolution

The IoT market is one of today’s hottest and Vodafone has attacked it by launching a new service allowing consumers to connect home devices to the Group’s own IoT network.

V by Vodafone not only supports the connection of IoT products but also offers and range of new offerings, including a connected car dongle, a 4G security camera, a pet location and activity tracker and a bag location tracker.

Vodafone Group chief executive, Vittorio Colao, said: “The Internet of Things is already beginning to transform how businesses operate. Over the next decade, the expansion of IoT into consumer markets will bring about an equally dramatic shift in how people manage their daily lives, at home and in their leisure time.”

He said that the new service would offer users more choice. “V by Vodafone” makes it simple to connect a wide range of IoT-enabled devices, helping customers keep everyone and everything that matters to them safe and secure” he added.

New range

The V by Vodafone range compromises: the V-Sim card, which will be sold as standard with all IoT products from Vodafone; the new app, allowing customers to manage all their devices from their phones and connection to the Vodafone IoT network, all coming under the umbrella of a single plan.

 Additional products will include V-Auto offering a range of features to drivers, including a vehicle locator; V-Pet to help locate lost cats and dogs and V-Bag to help find lost bags.


Powered by WPeMatico

These PSVR games prove Sony’s PS4 virtual reality headset is here to stay

These PSVR games prove Sony’s PS4 virtual reality headset is here to stay

There’s a confidence to the next wave of games being developed for the PlayStation VR headset that transcends the limitations of the hardware they’re running on. 

Sony’s PlayStation 4 VR gamble was one that put accessibility and price (pairing a relatively affordable, low-res virtual reality headset with a relatively underpowered console) over a ‘money-is-no-object’ mentality that its high-powered, high-priced PC rivals opted for. And, on the strength of the slate of games set for release in the coming weeks and months, it’s a gamble that’s paid off.

Following Paris Games Week and its vote of confidence in PlayStation VR going forward, I attended a PlayStation showcase session where I was able to try out the likes of Moss, Bravo Team and Blood And Truth. Each very different virtual reality titles, all showed a progression in the quality of the experiences being squeezed out of the console hardware.

From mighty mice to military musclemen

Take first Moss, a family-friendly platform puzzler that moves away from the first-person experiences that dominate the VR landscape. You play as a sort of omnipotent guide to an intrepid, sword-swinging mouse adventurer, controlling the mouse’s movements directly while also separately interacting with environmental elements to clear a path or swing the tide of battle in your whiskered friends’ favor.

Moss isn’t the first VR game to opt for a third-person perspective. Oculus Rift standouts Chronos and Edge of Nowhere have similarly proven that you don’t need to be digitally-embodied inside a character to achieve a great VR experience. But few have managed it with such charm.

Moss (as hammered home by its fairy tale book opening) is like peering into a magical portal, full of stony ruins and nasty clockwork beetles. There’s a sense that it could exist as a game in its own right, elevated by VR rather than using it as a crutch. You’re given a sense of physicality while interacting with Moss’s environments with the Move controllers, while clever use of perspective makes its diminutive world seem enormous.

Bravo Team is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum – a first-person co-op cover shooter that owes as much to Time Crisis as to Call of Duty or Gears of War. As members of an outnumbered military strike force, you’ll move from cover zone to cover zone, taking pot-shots at enemy forces intent on stopping you dead. 

Again, we’ve seen titles like this before – it’s very much the evolution of the arcade lightgun shooter. But by taking in strategic firing elements taken from online shooters, and throwing in co-op action into the mix, the presence VR affords turns what would otherwise seem a generic shooter into your very own Black Hawk Down simulator. 

Those that picked up Farpoint will be pleased to hear that the Aim controller is being put to good use once again, giving your in-game rifle a weight and its physical size mirrored by the real-world peripheral. While some may bemoan the lack of free movement control, it actually serves the player in two ways – preventing queasiness (the camera pulls back to a third person view when you choose to move to a selection of pre-determined cover positions) and affords the devs the opportunity to put you in the middle of cinematic action sequences as they’ve been directed.

VR veterans

The jewel in PS VR’s upcoming calendar by a country mile though is Blood And Truth. Built by London Studio, the team behind the PS VR launch-title-cum-sizzle-reel VR Worlds, it’s a continuation of that title’s slick Cockney criminal underworld.

James Bond by way of Guy Ritchie, Blood and Truth is a first-person shooter that sees you play as an ex-special forces operative pulled into a dark and seedy criminal realm in order to protect your family. It’s knowingly shot through with cliche, and plays up to it in order to place you in the center of action set pieces worthy of the silver screen.

In the demo, you’ll infiltrate a heavily-guarded casino, scoping the joint through a CCTV camera system, placing explosive charges among the roulette tables and chasing down an informant through the chaos of a gunfight. All are scenes torn straight from the Hollywood set-piece playbook – but where they’d feel tired in a cinema, they’re invigorating with you at the heart of the action. 

Again, like Bravo Team, movement is limited to pre-determined paths and cover points. But London Studio uses it to its advantage, with the routes presented to you as lushly detailed as anything yet seen on PS VR (rivalling even the best seen on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive) delivering a comfortable movement pace that gives the player time to engage, and avoid stomach churn.

London Studio is as close to a veteran VR dev team as we have at the moment, and it shows in the level of polish with which its ideas are executed. The team is comfortable to let a player play in its gangster’s paradise, only offering prompts when a gamer lingers (obviously frustrated) too long before an obstacle. So, when faced with a locked ladder, you shoot the lock off and intuitively climb it with gripping motions on the PS Move controllers, grab a CCTV camera controller’s joystick to turn its gaze, and fire at the feet of a stubborn informant refusing to spill the beans. It’s the beauty of VR, and of a well-realised fictional world – if you know the role you’re playing (here a superspy Bourne-type), you’ll know naturally how to interact with the scenario in the most satisfyingly-tropey way.

These standout incoming VR experiences, each built from the ground-up, did not cast Bethesda’s Doom VFR in a great light. While it visually held its own (2016’s Doom which this draws from looks fantastic already, and it’s scaled well here), its VR execution felt sloppy. Though it’s an all-new campaign based on 2016’s first person shooter, its core remains built on the foundations of that earlier title. As such, it feels ill suited to its new VR home – while I’m happy to put some problematic Move tracking down to a demo hitch, the frenetic pace, awkward teleportation methods and punishing bullet-hell gunfire made it feel overwhelming where its original FPS roots would feel empowering. An extended play session may hopefully help you acclimatise. 

A gaming Christmas number 1?

That blip aside, the line-up is looking solid. There’s something for everyone, with GT Sport now on shelves for racers and a (hopefully more impressive) port of Skyrim looming for RPG fans. There’s newly-revised hardware on the horizon too.

There’s a sense, among the developers at the showcase and from PlayStation’s actions in general, that the time to really push PlayStation VR is now. 

That’s right down to the fact Sony’s started seeding VR games in among its PlayStation Plus freebies. This month you can get PS VR exclusive Until Dawn: Rush of Blood with your subscription – a service with a userbase that massively outweighs that of the million-or-so install base of the PS VR. A quality title, if that’s not dangling a carrot in front of someone sitting on the PS VR fence, I don’t know what is.

With developers increasingly comfortable with the platform, and Sony seemingly satisfied with the trajectory of the accessory, PS VR appears to be in rude health as it enters its second year. 

Upon the arrival of this current wave of VR hardware we may have all expected ports of established AAA franchises to be what we’d be clamouring for – and those are coming through. But it’s increasingly the VR-first, specifically crafted experiences that are shining brightest, and Sony’s headset has a whole bunch of them waiting in the wings.


Powered by WPeMatico

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on how it’s different from Apple and Google

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on how it’s different from Apple and Google

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella is in the middle of a whirlwind tour across the world for his book “Hit Refresh” which talks about how he is in the process of reinventing the company. Right now he is visiting India, and from giving the keynote at the first edition of the India Today Next Conclave to sharing stage with legendary Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble, Nadella has been on an energetic mission spreading the gospel of this new Microsoft which he terms as being empathetic, and being an innovator which will help people do more. 

As he walked into the room along with Anant Maheshwari Microsoft’s India head, Nadella spots my iPad and a colleague’s iPad and cheerfully says, ”You need to get a real computer, my friend.” 

This was the very essence of what Nadella is doing with Microsoft. He is quietly confident about the technology his company is inventing and championing and at the same time, he stays humble and true to his own roots.

At being asked a question about his faux pas at Grace Hopper Celebration for women’s event, he immediately admits his mistake and says, “It was a huge learning experience for me because the answer I gave was utter nonsense.” But he goes beyond this and says that he made changes to the compensation structure of his leadership team where they are judged by numeral metrics for improving diversity and compensation of women in Microsoft. 

“One of the things we have done — than saying a set of words — we changed the compensation of me and my leadership team where we now have to make numeric progress. I feel there is more to be done. In fact, Melinda Gates joined Microsoft as a computer scientist, the number was at 35 percent and now it has dropped to 17 percent so there is a lot more to do to make computer science attractive,” he said. 

Even when it was pointed out that he achieved the zenith at Microsoft despite flunking IIT exams in India and not attending an Ivy League university in the United States, he talked about how it was important to keep learning from mistakes. 

“I look at it and say let’s have perspective. What matters more isn’t what you did yesterday but what your posture of learning is tomorrow. That’s where parents and institutional leaders can be elitist and we have to be about identifying kids and giving them the confidence to not be know-it-alls but be learn-it-alls. It is my personal philosophy flunking exams has definitely taught me as long as I’m learning I’m fine. Failure is part and parcel of life, the question is what you going to do about it,” Nadella told me humbly. 

Microsoft is different from Apple and Google

But the bigger and pressing questions were surrounded around the fact despite Microsoft’s recent success in the cloud computing business, it was being viewed as an enterprise company, but not a glamorous maker of consumer electronics like Apple, Nadella leans on this monk-like zen and sense of clarity of how Microsoft is a different company than say other tech titans like Apple or Google. 

“Whenever we have done things that come naturally to us we’ve been successful. Even if it’s a consumer product it is a tool. I fell in love with Microsoft technology because of what it created.” 

“In a way, I don’t want to take away from whatever success Apple or Google are having. We are very different companies. We are not some middleman in the marketplace. We are a tool creator we are not a luxury good manufacturer. That’s not who we are.  We are about creating technologies so that others can build,” he states with a sense of monk-like clarity. 

Nadella makes one thing crystal clear for Microsoft to win it is not a zero-sum game that Apple, Google or some other technology company has to lose. He is also willing to make hard decisions if there is a clear diction from the market.

“You take a look at what we did with groove and Spotify. Look at the Harmon and Kardon speaker. In some sense, it is a fantastic Cortana speaker but also for Spotify. The last time I checked there were a lot more Spotify people than Groove people. So let us bring the best of what Microsoft has to a Spotify user and create consumer fans. So that’s the approach we want to take,” he says echoing a similar hardiness he displayed when he swiftly jettisoned Nokia’s smartphone business that he had inherited which had already lost the market to Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone. 

Microsoft is a different kind of a consumer company 

Nadella is quite comfortable with the fact that it doesn’t make phones or widely sold consumer electronics. He feels it is a different type of a consumer-facing company. He cites the example of the Surface hardware unit.

“Even with Surface, we created a premium product and premium brand and basically said you know what every OEM should create a lower priced model. We want to democratise things. I want to us to be proud of what we can do,” he says. 

His lieutenant in India Anant Maheshwari weighs in and states that Microsoft has plans to launch the new LTE models of the Surface tablet which have already arrived in China, though their arrival is gated by mass-market demand. 

Nadella is also very happy about what Microsoft is doing with mixed reality, a buzzword it uses for virtual reality and even the tools that come included as a part of Windows. 

“What we are doing in gaming that’s a consumer for consumer franchise. We have doubled down on it in a big way whether it is Xbox live or mixer, game pass, PC or console gaming,” he says.

He also says that there are 100 million people using the paint application on Windows machines which has been a staple of the operating system for decades. With the latest release of the operating system, he talks about how he’s proud that Microsoft is enabling painters to join the mixed reality bandwagon.


Powered by WPeMatico

Proofpoint acquires Cloudmark for $100M in cybersecurity consolidation play

Proofpoint acquires Cloudmark for $100M in cybersecurity consolidation play

As malicious groups continue to become more sophisticated in their hacking techniques, cybersecurity efforts are attempting to expand in their reach, and that is leading to some consolidation in the field. Today, cybersecurity firm Proofpoint — which provides SaaS products to protect businesses’ email, social media and other services — announced that it would pay $100 million to acquire Cloudmark, another firm that provides security protection for messaging services, focusing specifically on serving the ISP and mobile carrier markets.

“We are excited to welcome Cloudmark’s ISP and mobile carrier customers to Proofpoint,” said Gary Steele, Chief Executive Officer of Proofpoint. “By combining the threat intelligence from Cloudmark with the Proofpoint Nexus platform, we can better protect all of our customers – both enterprises and ISPs – from today’s rapidly evolving threats.”

As we have said before, these days big data is the name of the game, and this deal is as much an acquisition to expand products and customer reach as it is to expand data sources to be able to analyse and combat malicious attacks more effectively. Cloudmark’s Global Threat Network sources telemetry data from billions of emails and messages each day to help identify attacks, and as part of the deal, it will be rolled into Proofpoint’s primary product, the Nexus platform.

Cloudmark is an old stalwart in the security space, founded in 2001. It had raised $39 million in funding from investors that included Nokia Growth Partners, Ignition Partners, FTVentures and Summit Partners. Proofpoint has been public since 2012 and currently has a market cap of over $4 billion. It said that the deal will increase its full-year revenue range by $20 million to $25 million to between $664 million and $673 million.

Getting its start originally in scanning email and helping block spam, Cloudmark later moved into other areas like identifying and blocking malicious SMS messages. The rising popularity of messaging applications (both native and downloaded apps) has made them a recurring target for malware and dodgy links, a trend that looks like it is not disappearing, and analysts estimate that there will be $5.5 billion spent by enterprises on messaging security products alone (apart from other security solutions) by 2022.

“Messaging has been the number one threat vector for years, but with ransomware and BEC, it’s never been a more urgent issue,” said Jason Donahue, Chief Executive Officer of Cloudmark, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be continuing our work to fight advanced threats in messaging as part of Proofpoint.”

The transaction is expected to close in Q4 2017, pending regulatory approval, the companies said.

Featured Image: piranka/Getty Images


Powered by WPeMatico