Valve to Launch Steam Deck Handheld Device for PC Games

This December, Washington-based game company Valve will debut its long-anticipated Steam Deck, a handheld device for PC gaming with models priced at $399 with 64GB of eMMC storage, $529 with 256GB of NVMe SSD, and the top-of-the-line $649 version with 512GB of high-speed NVMe SSD storage. Steam Deck is additionally being promoted as a handheld PC, allowing users to install and operate web browsers, other game stores (including Epic Games Store) and other video streaming services. It can also be connected to a keyboard and mouse and offers a cloud saving feature. Continue reading Valve to Launch Steam Deck Handheld Device for PC Games

New Initiatives Signal Advancements in Quantum Computing

Two major steps forward for large-scale quantum computing just took place. Physicists from the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms (CUA) and elsewhere mastered the programmable quantum simulator, which can operate with 256 quantum bits (“qubits”). The company ColdQuanta also successfully created a 100-qubit quantum processor by cooling atoms down to “near absolute zero” and then controlling them with lasers. Their system, said experts, compares with other quantum systems built by leading players in the field. Continue reading New Initiatives Signal Advancements in Quantum Computing

Pentagon Cancels JEDI Contract, Reveals New Cloud Initiative

The Defense Department stated that the contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project “no longer meets its needs,” canceling a highly contentious $10 billion cloud computing contract awarded to Microsoft. In January, the department warned Congress that it would do so if a federal court agreed to hear whether former President Trump used his influence to award the contract to Microsoft over its rival Amazon. Such a suit, it pointed out, would result in a lengthy court cost and unacceptable delays. Instead, the Pentagon announced a new cloud program. Continue reading Pentagon Cancels JEDI Contract, Reveals New Cloud Initiative

Jeff Bezos Steps Down, Andy Jassy Is the New Amazon Boss

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is stepping down as chief executive of the e-commerce and tech giant, elevating Andy Jassy, former head of the company’s web division, to the CEO position, making it one of the most high-profile executive swaps in years. But behind the scenes, more change has roiled the company with numerous executives departing in the last 18 months, many after working there for years. That’s unusual because many of Amazon’s top staffers started with the company in its earliest days, became wealthy via stock, and were considered loyal lifers. Continue reading Jeff Bezos Steps Down, Andy Jassy Is the New Amazon Boss

Google and Microsoft End Truce as Ad Tech Battle Heats Up

The five-year truce between Google and Microsoft has broken down. Sources say that neither company is interested in renewing the former alliance. Microsoft wants marketers to have equal access to search engines when they build campaigns with Google technology, but Google believes that, in fact, Microsoft sees it as a threat to Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing and Office productivity businesses. Both companies are now “handing ammo” against each other to regulators, a strategy that might backfire on both of them. Continue reading Google and Microsoft End Truce as Ad Tech Battle Heats Up

Microsoft Unveils Windows 11 with Upgraded Features, Design

Microsoft unveiled Windows 11, almost six years after the introduction of Windows 10, the world’s most widely used PC operating system with 1.3+ billion devices. Windows 11 will be offered as a free update around the holiday season. Even as Microsoft has seen major growth in its Azure cloud services, Windows still represents 10+ percent of the company’s revenue. At the Windows 11 event, Microsoft executive Panos Panay stated that, unlike Apple, its Microsoft Store app marketplace lets developers use Microsoft’s payment system for a 12 percent cut or use their own. Continue reading Microsoft Unveils Windows 11 with Upgraded Features, Design

Amazon Targets App Developers with Lower Fee, AWS Credit

To attract more developers to its Android and Fire OS Appstore, Amazon — following similar moves by tech giants Apple and Google — is cutting costs for developers with its Amazon Appstore Small Business Accelerator Program. Whereas both Apple and Google halved their cut of a developer’s first $1 million to 15 percent from 30 percent, Amazon instead will lower the cut to 20 percent but also give developers 10 percent in “AWS promotional credits” to use its cloud services, bringing their Appstore revenue to “an equivalent of 90 percent.” Continue reading Amazon Targets App Developers with Lower Fee, AWS Credit

IBM Strikes 5-Year Deal with UK for AI, Quantum Computing

IBM inked a five-year deal with the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) to collaborate on artificial intelligence and quantum computing. The program, worth $297.5 million (£210 million) and aimed at developing sustainable technologies, will hire 60 scientists and gather interns and students to work at the newly established Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI) to “apply AI, high performance computing (HPC) and data analytics, quantum computing, and cloud technologies” to research goals. Continue reading IBM Strikes 5-Year Deal with UK for AI, Quantum Computing

OpenAI and Microsoft Introduce $100 Million AI Startup Fund

OpenAI unveiled a $100 million OpenAI Startup Fund to fund early-stage companies pursuing ways that AI can have a “transformative” impact on healthcare, education, climate change and other fields. OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman said the Fund will make “big, early bets” on no more than 10 such companies. OpenAI, with funding from Microsoft and others, will manage the Fund. Selected projects will get “early access” to future OpenAI systems, support from OpenAI’s team and credits for Microsoft Azure. Continue reading OpenAI and Microsoft Introduce $100 Million AI Startup Fund

Facebook Is Rebuffed in Bid to Block Irish High Court Ruling

Ireland’s High Court dismissed Facebook’s procedural efforts to block a draft decision of the country’s Data Protection Commission to suspend its data flow between the European Union and the United States. The European Union decision was intended to protect the privacy of European users, whose data was being sent to U.S. computer servers, and Facebook contended that the Data Protection Commission, which issued its preliminary decision in August, gave it too little time to respond. The court originally stayed the decision in September. Continue reading Facebook Is Rebuffed in Bid to Block Irish High Court Ruling

Google’s Ad Sales Shatter Records as Brands Shift to Digital

The pandemic-driven stay-at-home year supercharged Alphabet’s digital ad sales in Q1 to $55.31 billion, 34 percent up from a year earlier. Advertising sales via signature products such as Search, Google Maps and Gmail rose 30 percent to $31.88 billion as brands transitioned ad spending from print, TV and in-store promotions to Google services. Profit also more than doubled and per-share earnings were higher than expected. YouTube earned $6 billion, a 49 percent increase from last year, and total profit soared 162 percent from the previous year to almost $18 billion. Continue reading Google’s Ad Sales Shatter Records as Brands Shift to Digital

Microsoft’s Q3 Sales Jump, Driving Near $2 Trillion Valuation

Microsoft quarterly numbers exceeded analysts’ expectations and drove stock up 50 percent, bringing the company close to a $2 trillion valuation, second only to Apple’s. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift to remote working and remote learning drove strong uptake of the company’s cloud computing services and video game units. Although chip shortages are slowing down hardware sales, chief executive Satya Nadella reported that digital adoption curves “aren’t slowing down … they’re accelerating.” Continue reading Microsoft’s Q3 Sales Jump, Driving Near $2 Trillion Valuation

Univision Selects Google for Bundled Cloud Computing Deal

Google has inked an eight-year deal with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications that could exceed $1 billion. Univision chief executive Wade Davis said Google’s offer of benefits on its YouTube video platform and advertising and search services helped close the deal. Microsoft and Amazon have also bundled products in cloud computing deals and lawmakers have expressed concern over the tactic. Google currently faces antitrust suits filed by the Justice Department and several states. Continue reading Univision Selects Google for Bundled Cloud Computing Deal

SMPTE: ETC Producing Team Will Discuss Virtual Production

SMPTE Hollywood will offer a glimpse into moviemaking in a post-COVID world this evening when it hosts the producing team behind the live-action, sci-fi short “Ripple Effect.” The virtual meeting is scheduled for April 22nd at 6:00 PM PDT on Zoom. Producers Erik Weaver, Greg Ciaccio and Kathryn Brillhart will discuss virtual production, remote workflow and on-set safety for post-COVID production. “Ripple Effect” is ETC@USC’s latest R&D short film; its goal was to test virtual and remote production techniques and tools in this era of social distancing. Registration for tonight’s event is available online. SMPTE Hollywood meetings are free and open to all, even non-members. Continue reading SMPTE: ETC Producing Team Will Discuss Virtual Production

Amazon: Jeff Bezos Touts New Vision for Employee Success

In the wake of Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama voting against unionization, company founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos stated that, “it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success.” Seventy percent of workers at the Alabama warehouse voted against the union. Bezos, who will step down as chief executive — but remain as chair — in Q3 this year, touted the fact that Amazon helped 200+ million Amazon Prime members save $630 each during the year. Continue reading Amazon: Jeff Bezos Touts New Vision for Employee Success

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