Arm’s Cortex X2-based CPUs are 30 percent faster and more efficient

Arm has announced its next-generation CPU designs, which will probably hit the market in early 2022. With all-new cores, a new architecture, and the death of 32 bit, they are proving to be among Arm’s biggest releases in some time. I don’t think ARM published a first-party post with this information, but you can’t ask for a better source than the pages and pages of info at Anandtech.

Arm CPU designs include cores in three sizes: “little,” “big,” and “performance,” all of which tackle different workloads at various power-consumption levels. The follow-up to this year’s “performance” X1 core is the Cortex X2, the big core is the Cortex A710, and for the first time in four years, ARM is introducing a new “little” core for high-efficiency workloads, the Cortex A510. Devices will finally be rid of the smaller Cortex A55 cores, which were introduced in 2017. Naturally, everything is faster. Compared to current-generation X1-based chips, ARM is promising a 16 percent faster X2 core, a 10 percent faster and 30 percent more efficient “big” core, and a 35 percent faster and 20 percent more efficient “little” core. Every core design is also seeing a 2-3x improvement in machine-learning performance, for whatever that’s worth. Put all those digits together and ARM says a CPU cluster with the normal phone layout (one Cortex X2, three A710s, and four A510s) should have 30 percent better peak performance and 30 percent better-sustained efficacy.

While the Cortex X1 and A710 are both based on the previous designs that go back to 2018 Cortex A76 cores, the smaller Cortex A510 is an entirely new design. ARM says this small core is within striking distance of the Cortex A73, which was the “big” CPU core in 2017 flagship smartphones. All three CPU designs use the new Armv9 architecture, which includes a number of security enhancements like the containerized “confidential compute architecture.”

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#arm, #cortex, #qualcomm, #tech

0

Qualcomm won’t be exhibiting in-person at MWC

Another major name in mobile has confirmed that it won’t be exhibiting at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Chip giant Qualcomm is joining a list that already includes Google, IBM, Nokia, Sony, Oracle, Ericsson and, most recently, Samsung and Lenovo.

In a statement offered to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that it will be a taking a similar approach as many of the others, opting to “attend” virtually.

“While we appreciate the health and safety measures being put into place by the GSMA for MWC Barcelona, we have decided that it is in the best interest of our employees and customers for Qualcomm’s participation to be virtual this year,” the company said. “We look forward to engaging with the ecosystem through Cristiano Amon’s virtual keynote on June 28th and through our latest announcements and 5G demonstrations.”

There are shades of the lead up to last year’s event, which similarly found companies opting out, one by one. Ultimately the show’s governing body, the GSMA, pulled the plug. Of course, things are different in 2021. After nearly a year and a half, there are fewer unknowns and a vaccination roll out has begun in much of the world.

But there are still plenty of reasons for people and companies to take a cautious approach when it comes to flying around the world and attending an event in a potentially packed room. Ultimately, it’s probably not worth the perceived risk or discomfort of staff.

For these reasons and more, it’s hard to blame companies like Qualcomm. Given what we know, it seems unlikely that the organization would pull the plug entirely at this late stage, but things look increasingly dependent on the virtual aspect of the show’s hybrid approach. It also seems possible that the in-person trade will be forever changed after the events of the past two years.

#events, #mwc, #mwc-2021, #qualcomm

0

Fix for critical Qualcomm chip flaw is making its way to Android devices

Fix for critical Qualcomm chip flaw is making its way to Android devices

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Makers of high-end Android devices are responding to the discovery of a Qualcomm chip flaw that researchers say could be exploited to partially backdoor about a third of the world’s smartphones.

The vulnerability, discovered by researchers from security firm Check Point Research, resides in Qualcomm’s Mobile Station Modem, a system of chips that provides capabilities for things like voice, SMS, and high-definition recording, mostly on higher-end devices made by Google, Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, and OnePlus. Phone-makers can customize the chips so they do additional things like handle SIM unlock requests. The chips run in 31 percent of the world’s smartphones, according to figures from Counterpoint Research.

The heap overflow the researchers found can be exploited by a malicious app installed on the phone, and from there the app can plant malicious code inside the MSM, Check Point researchers said in a blog post published Thursday. The nearly undetectable code might then be able to tap into some of a phone’s most vital functions.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#android, #biz-it, #chips, #phones, #qualcomm, #tech, #vulnerabilities

0

Tesla supplier Delta Electronics invests $7M in AI chip startup Kneron

Despite a persistent semiconductor shortage that is disrupting the global automotive industry, investors remain bullish on the chips used to power next-generation vehicles.

Kneron, a startup that develops semiconductors to give devices artificial intelligence capabilities by using edge computing, just got funded by Delta Electronics, a Taiwanese supplier of power components for Apple and Tesla. The $7 million investment boosts the startup’s total financing to over $100 million to date.

As part of the deal, Kneron also agreed to buy Vatics, a part of Delta Electronics’ subsidiary Vivotek, for $10 million in cash. The new assets nicely complement Kneron’s business as the startup extends its footprint to the booming smart car industry.

Vatics, an image signal processing provider, has been selling system-on-a-chip (SoC) and intellectual property to manufacturers of surveillance, consumer, and automotive products for many years across the United States and China.

Headquartered in San Diego with a development force in Taipei, Kneron has emerged in recent years as a challenge to AI chip incumbents like Intel and Google. Its chips boast of low-power consumption and enable data processing directly on the chips using the startup’s proprietary software, a departure from solutions that require data to be computed through powerful cloud centers and sent back to devices.

The approach has won Kneron a list of heavyweight backers, including strategic investor Foxconn, Qualcomm, Sequoia Capital, Alibaba, and Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures.

Kneron has designed chips for scenarios ranging from manufacturing, smart homes, smartphones, robotics, surveillance and payments to autonomous driving. In the automotive field, it has struck partnerships with Foxconn and Otus, a supplier for Honda and Toyota.

Following the acquisition, Vatics executives will join Kneron to lead its surveillance and security camera division. The merged teams will jointly develop surveillance and automotive products for Kneron going forward. Image signal processors, coupled with neural processing units, are helpful in detecting objects and ensuring the safety of automated cars.

“This acquisition will allow us to offer full-stack AI solutions, along with our current class-leading NPUs [neural processing units], and will significantly speed up our go-to-market strategy,” said Kneron’s founder and CEO, Albert Liu.

#albert-liu, #alibaba, #apple, #apple-inc, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #automotive, #china, #computing, #foxconn, #honda, #horizons-ventures, #intel, #kneron, #li-ka-shing, #manufacturing, #qualcomm, #san-diego, #semiconductor, #sequoia-capital, #system-on-a-chip, #taipei, #tesla, #toyota

0

China’s Xpeng in the race to automate EVs with lidar

Elon Musk famously said any company relying on lidar is “doomed.” Tesla instead believes automated driving functions are built on visual recognition and is even working to remove the radar. China’s Xpeng begs to differ.

Founded in 2014, Xpeng is one of China’s most celebrated electric vehicle startups and went public when it was just six years old. Like Tesla, Xpeng sees automation as an integral part of its strategy; unlike the American giant, Xpeng uses a combination of radar, cameras, high-precision maps powered by Alibaba, localization systems developed in-house, and most recently, lidar to detect and predict road conditions.

“Lidar will provide the 3D drivable space and precise depth estimation to small moving obstacles even like kids and pets, and obviously, other pedestrians and the motorbikes which are a nightmare for anybody who’s working on driving,” Xinzhou Wu, who oversees Xpeng’s autonomous driving R&D center, said in an interview with TechCrunch.

“On top of that, we have the usual radar which gives you location and speed. Then you have the camera which has very rich, basic semantic information.”

Xpeng is adding lidar to its mass-produced EV model P5, which will begin delivering in the second half of this year. The car, a family sedan, will later be able to drive from point A to B based on a navigation route set by the driver on highways and certain urban roads in China that are covered by Alibaba’s maps. An older model without lidar already enables assisted driving on highways.

The system, called Navigation Guided Pilot, is benchmarked against Tesla’s Navigate On Autopilot, said Wu. It can, for example, automatically change lanes, enter or exit ramps, overtake other vehicles, and maneuver another car’s sudden cut-in, a common sight in China’s complex road conditions.

“The city is super hard compared to the highway but with lidar and precise perception capability, we will have essentially three layers of redundancy for sensing,” said Wu.

By definition, NGP is an advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) as drivers still need to keep their hands on the wheel and take control at any time (Chinese laws don’t allow drivers to be hands-off on the road). The carmaker’s ambition is to remove the driver, that is, reach Level 4 autonomy two to four years from now, but real-life implementation will hinge on regulations, said Wu.

“But I’m not worried about that too much. I understand the Chinese government is actually the most flexible in terms of technology regulation.”

The lidar camp

Musk’s disdain for lidar stems from the high costs of the remote sensing method that uses lasers. In the early days, a lidar unit spinning on top of a robotaxi could cost as much as $100,000, said Wu.

“Right now, [the cost] is at least two orders low,” said Wu. After 13 years with Qualcomm in the U.S., Wu joined Xpeng in late 2018 to work on automating the company’s electric cars. He currently leads a core autonomous driving R&D team of 500 staff and said the force will double in headcount by the end of this year.

“Our next vehicle is targeting the economy class. I would say it’s mid-range in terms of price,” he said, referring to the firm’s new lidar-powered sedan.

The lidar sensors powering Xpeng come from Livox, a firm touting more affordable lidar and an affiliate of DJI, the Shenzhen-based drone giant. Xpeng’s headquarters is in the adjacent city of Guangzhou about 1.5 hours’ drive away.

Xpeng isn’t the only one embracing lidar. Nio, a Chinese rival to Xpeng targeting a more premium market, unveiled a lidar-powered car in January but the model won’t start production until 2022. Arcfox, a new EV brand of Chinese state-owned carmaker BAIC, recently said it would be launching an electric car equipped with Huawei’s lidar.

Musk recently hinted that Tesla may remove radar from production outright as it inches closer to pure vision based on camera and machine learning. The billionaire founder isn’t particularly a fan of Xpeng, which he alleged owned a copy of Tesla’s old source code.

In 2019, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Cao Guangzhi alleging that the former Tesla engineer stole trade secrets and brought them to Xpeng. XPeng has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Cao no longer works at Xpeng.

Supply challenges

While Livox claims to be an independent entity “incubated” by DJI, a source told TechCrunch previously that it is just a “team within DJI” positioned as a separate company. The intention to distance from DJI comes as no one’s surprise as the drone maker is on the U.S. government’s Entity List, which has cut key suppliers off from a multitude of Chinese tech firms including Huawei.

Other critical parts that Xpeng uses include NVIDIA’s Xavier system-on-the-chip computing platform and Bosch’s iBooster brake system. Globally, the ongoing semiconductor shortage is pushing auto executives to ponder over future scenarios where self-driving cars become even more dependent on chips.

Xpeng is well aware of supply chain risks. “Basically, safety is very important,” said Wu. “It’s more than the tension between countries around the world right now. Covid-19 is also creating a lot of issues for some of the suppliers, so having redundancy in the suppliers is some strategy we are looking very closely at.”

Taking on robotaxis

Xpeng could have easily tapped the flurry of autonomous driving solution providers in China, including Pony.ai and WeRide in its backyard Guangzhou. Instead, Xpeng becomes their competitor, working on automation in-house and pledges to outrival the artificial intelligence startups.

“The availability of massive computing for cars at affordable costs and the fast dropping price of lidar is making the two camps really the same,” Wu said of the dynamics between EV makers and robotaxi startups.

“[The robotaxi companies] have to work very hard to find a path to a mass-production vehicle. If they don’t do that, two years from now, they will find the technology is already available in mass production and their value become will become much less than today’s,” he added.

“We know how to mass-produce a technology up to the safety requirement and the quarantine required of the auto industry. This is a super high bar for anybody wanting to survive.”

Xpeng has no plans of going visual-only. Options of automotive technologies like lidar are becoming cheaper and more abundant, so “why do we have to bind our hands right now and say camera only?” Wu asked.

“We have a lot of respect for Elon and his company. We wish them all the best. But we will, as Xiaopeng [founder of Xpeng] said in one of his famous speeches, compete in China and hopefully in the rest of the world as well with different technologies.”

5G, coupled with cloud computing and cabin intelligence, will accelerate Xpeng’s path to achieve full automation, though Wu couldn’t share much detail on how 5G is used. When unmanned driving is viable, Xpeng will explore “a lot of exciting features” that go into a car when the driver’s hands are freed. Xpeng’s electric SUV is already available in Norway, and the company is looking to further expand globally.

#alibaba, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #automation, #automotive, #baic, #bosch, #cars, #china, #cloud-computing, #driver, #electric-car, #elon-musk, #emerging-technologies, #engineer, #founder, #huawei, #lasers, #li-auto, #lidar, #livox, #machine-learning, #nio, #norway, #nvidia, #qualcomm, #robotaxi, #robotics, #self-driving-cars, #semiconductor, #shenzhen, #tc, #tesla, #transport, #transportation, #u-s-government, #united-states, #wu, #xavier, #xiaopeng, #xpeng

0

Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 780G beefs up the midrange mobile CPU space

Significantly faster mid-range Android phones and tablets are on the way starting in Q2 2021.

Enlarge / Significantly faster mid-range Android phones and tablets are on the way starting in Q2 2021. (credit: Qualcomm)

On Thursday, Qualcomm announced its newest midrange mobile processor—the Snapdragon 780G, a 5nm part that succeeds last year’s 765. The Snapdragon 700 series is a midrange line that offers similar features to the flagship Snapdragon 800 series but at somewhat lower performance for significantly lower cost.

On the surface, it’s easy to look at last year’s Snapdragon 768G and this year’s 780G and see a similar product: an octa-core processor with Adreno GPU. But although the core count remained constant, the types of cores did not.

Earlier Snapdragon 700 series SoCs used one “fastest” Cortex A-76 core, another “almost as fast” Cortex A-76, and six “slow-and-low” Cortex A-55 cores that can get background tasks done with a minimum of battery drain. The new 780G shifts things around, with three fast secondary cores and only four slow cores:

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#arm, #qualcomm, #qualcomm-snapdragon, #snapdragon, #tech

0

Intel CEO plans to build two new CPU fabs in Arizona

The new fabrication plants will likely be somewhere near the company's existing campus in Chandler, Arizona.

Enlarge / The new fabrication plants will likely be somewhere near the company’s existing campus in Chandler, Arizona. (credit: Laura Segall/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger—a former chip designer who took the top slot from finance specialist Bob Swan this February—announced plans to expand Intel’s manufacturing muscle this week.

Gelsinger wants to spend $20 billion on two new fabrication facilities in Arizona. Gelsinger says the expanded capacity will take on manufacturing for third-party chip designers in addition to Intel’s own CPUs—similar to the business model of TSMC, the Taiwan-based fabricator that builds processors for many “fabless” industry giants, including Apple, AMD, and Qualcomm.

The move comes in sharp contrast to many analysts’ predictions that Intel would spin-off silicon fabrication entirely. Intel has had great difficulty shrinking its manufacturing process beyond 14 nm, adding to its ability to keep up with AMD—which has benefited greatly from TSMC’s successful process shrink to 7 nm.  Since then, TSMC has added volume production for 5 nm process, with a further shrink to 3 nm expected later this year.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#amd, #cpu-fabrication, #intel, #qualcomm, #semiconductor-shortages, #tech, #tsmc

0

OctoML raises $28M Series B for its machine learning acceleration platform

OctoML, a Seattle-based startup that offers a machine learning acceleration platform build on top of the open-source Apache TVM compiler framework project, today announced that it has raised a $28 million Series B funding round led by Addition Captial. Previous investors Madrona Venture Group and Amplify Partners also participated in this round, which brings the company’s total funding to $47 million. The company last raised in April 2020, when it announced its $15 million Series A round led by Amplify

The promise of OctoML is that developers can bring their models to its platform and the service will automatically optimize that model’s performance for any given cloud or edge device. The founding team created the TVM project, which

As Brazil-born OctoML co-founder and CEO Luis Ceze told me, since raising its Series A round, the company started onboarding some early adopters to its ‘Octomizer’ SaaS platform.

Image Credits: OctoML

“It’s still in early access, but we are we have close to 1,000 early access sign-ups on the waitlist,” Ceze said. “That was a pretty strong signal for us to end up taking this [funding]. The Series B was pre-emptive. We were planning on starting to raise money right about now. We had barely started spending our Series A money — we still had a lot of that left. But since we saw this growth and we had more paying customers than we anticipated, there were a lot of signals like, ‘hey, now we can accelerate the go-to-market machinery, build a customer success team and continue expanding the engineering team to build new features.”

Ceze tells me that the team also saw strong growth signals in the overall community around the TVM project (with about 1,000 people attending its virtual conference last year). As for its customer base (and companies on its waitlist), Ceze says it represents a wide range of verticals that range from defense contractors to financial services and life science companies, automotive firms and startups in a variety of fields.

Recently, OctoML also launched support for the Apple M1 chip — and saw very good performance from that.

The company has also formed partnerships with industry heavyweights like Microsoft (which is also a customer), Qualcomm, AMD and Sony to build out the open-source components and optimize its service for an even wider range of models (and larger ones, too).

On the engineering side, Ceze tells me that the team is looking at not just optimizing and tuning models but also the training process. Training ML models can quickly become costly and any service that can speed up that process leads to direct savings for its users — which in turn makes OctoML an easier sell. The plan here, Ceze tells me, is to offer an end-to-end solution where people can optimize their ML training and the resulting models and then push their models out to their preferred platform. Right now, its users still have to take the artifact that the Octomizer creates and deploy that themselves, but deployment support is on OctoML’s roadmap.

“When we first met Luis and the OctoML team, we knew they were poised to transform the way ML teams deploy their machine learning models,” said Lee Fixel, founder of Addition. “They have the vision, the talent and the technology to drive ML transformation across every major enterprise. They launched Octomizer six months ago and it’s already becoming the go-to solution developers and data scientists use to maximize ML model performance. We look forward to supporting the company’s continued growth.”

#amd, #amplify, #amplify-partners, #artificial-intelligence, #brazil, #developer, #enterprise, #lee-fixel, #machine-learning, #madrona-venture-group, #microsoft, #ml, #octoml, #qualcomm, #recent-funding, #seattle, #series-a, #sony, #startups, #venture-capital

0

Apple is already working on developing 6G wireless technology

The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, side-by-side

Enlarge / The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, side by side. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple has posted multiple job listings indicating that it is hiring engineers to work on 6G technology internally so it does not have to rely on partners like Qualcomm as the next generation of wireless technology hits several years down the line.

The job listings, which were first spotted and reported by Bloomberg, include titles like “Wireless Research Systems Engineer – 5G/6G” and “RAN1/RAN4 Standards Engineer.”

The listings have statements like “You will be part of a team defining and doing research of next-generation standards like 6G,” “You will research and design next-generation (6G) wireless communication systems for radio access networks with emphasis on the PHY/MAC/L2/L3 layers,” “Participate in industry/academic forums passionate about 6G technology,” and “Contribute to future 3GPP RAN work items on 6G technology.”

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#5g, #6g, #apple, #bloomberg, #iphone, #qualcomm, #tech, #wireless

0

Nvidia wants to buy CPU designer Arm—Qualcomm is not happy about it

Some current Arm licensees view the proposed acquisition as highly toxic.

Enlarge / Some current Arm licensees view the proposed acquisition as highly toxic. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Nvidia)

In September 2020, Nvidia announced its intention to buy Arm, the license holder for the CPU technology that powers the vast majority of mobile and high-powered embedded systems around the world.

Nvidia’s proposed deal would acquire Arm from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank for $40 billion—a number which is difficult to put into perspective. Forty billion dollars would represent one of the largest tech acquisitions of all time, but 40 Instagrams or so doesn’t seem like that much to pay for control of the architecture supporting every well-known smartphone in the world, plus a staggering array of embedded controllers, network routers, automobiles, and other devices.

Today’s Arm doesn’t sell hardware

Arm’s business model is fairly unusual in the hardware space, particularly from a consumer or small business perspective. Arm’s customers—including hardware giants such as Apple, Qualcomm, and Samsung—aren’t buying CPUs the way you’d buy an Intel Xeon or AMD Ryzen. Instead, they’re purchasing the license to design and/or manufacture CPUs based on Arm’s intellectual property. This typically means selecting one or more reference core designs, putting several of them in one system on chip (SoC), and tying them all together with the necessary cache and other peripherals.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#acquisition, #antitrust, #arm, #cpu, #gpu, #merger, #mobile-cpu, #nvidia, #processors, #qualcomm, #regulation, #tech

0

Qualcomm repackages last year’s flagship SoC as the “Snapdragon 870”

A stylized promotional image of a computer chip on a motherboard.

Enlarge (credit: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm is repackaging a chip from last year into the “Snapdragon 870.” Last year’s flagship SoC was the Snapdragon 865, and then Qualcomm released the slightly up-clocked Snapdragon 865+. The Snapdragon 870 seems to be a 865++. It’s another clock bump.

Qualcomm has a totally impenetrable product lineup, so it’s hard to know if any single non-flagship SoC announcement from the company is significant. It sounds like this chip will be picked up by some of the more interesting Android OEMs, though. The press release says it will “power a selection of flagship devices from key customers including Motorola, iQOO, OnePlus, OPPO, and Xiaomi.” The real flagship SoC is the Snapdragon 888, so Qualcomm’s use of “flagship” here definitely belongs in scare quotes.

Like the 865, this is a 7nm, eight-core chip. The Prime Cortex A77 core is now clocked at 3.2GHz, and hold on to your benchmark apps, because that’s 3 percent faster than the 3.1Ghz Snapdragon 865+! Qualcomm doesn’t say anything, so we’ll assume all the other cores are the same as the Snapdragon 865. That means three more A77 cores at 2.4Ghz and four A55 cores at 1.8Ghz. Like on the 865+ model, it sounds like there is still the option for Qualcomm’s latest connectivity chip, giving you the possibility of an 870 with Wi-Fi 6E.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#qualcomm, #snapdragon, #tech

0

Qualcomm-backed chipmaker Kneron nails Foxconn funding, deal

A startup based out of San Diego and Taipei is quietly nailing fundings and deals from some of the biggest names in electronics. Kneron, which specializes in energy-efficient processors for edge artificial intelligence, just raised a strategic funding round from Taiwan’s manufacturing giant Foxconn and integrated circuit producer Winbond.

The deal came a year after Kneron closed a $40 million round led by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing’s Horizons Ventures. Amongst its other prominent investors are Alibaba Entrepreneurship Fund, Sequoia Capital, Qualcomm and SparkLabs Taipei.

Kneron declined to disclose the dollar amount of the investment from Foxconn and Winbond due to investor requests but said it was an “eight figures” deal, founder and CEO Albert Liu told TechCrunch in an interview.

Founded in 2015, Kneron’s latest product is a neural processing unit that can enable sophisticated AI applications without relying on the cloud. The startup is directly taking on the chips of Intel and Google, which it claims are more energy-consuming than its offering. The startup recently got a talent boost after hiring Davis Chen, Qualcomm’s former Taipei head of engineering.

Among Kneron’s customers are Chinese air conditioning giant Gree and German’s autonomous driving software provider Teraki, and the new deal is turning the world’s largest electronics manufacturer into a client. As part of the strategic agreement, Kneron will work with Foxconn on the latter’s smart manufacturing and newly introduced open platform for electric vehicles, while its work with Winbond will focus on microcontroller unit (MCU)-based AI and memory computing.

“Low-power AI chips are pretty easy to put into sensors. We all know that in some operation lines, sensors are quite small, so it’s not easy to use a big GPU [graphics processing unit] or CPU [central processing unit], especially when power consumption is a big concern,” said Liu, who held R&D positions at Qualcomm and Samsung before founding Kneron.

Unlike some of its competitors, Kneron designs chips for a wide range of use cases, from manufacturing, smart home, smartphones, robotics, surveillance, payments, to autonomous driving. It doesn’t just make chips but also the AI software embedded in the chips, a strategy that Liu said differentiates his company from China’s AI darlings like SenseTime and Megvii, which enable AI service through the cloud.

Kneron has also been on a less aggressive funding pace than these companies, which fuel their rapid expansion through outsize financing rounds. Six-year-old SenseTime has raised about $2.6 billion to date, while nine-year-old Megvii has banked about $1.4 billion. Kneron, in comparison, has raised just over $70 million from a Series A round.

Like the Chinese AI upstarts, Kneron is weighing an initial public offering. The company is expected to make a profit in 2023, Liu said, and “that will probably be a good time for us to go IPO.”

#albert-liu, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #chips, #electronics, #energy, #foxconn, #google, #gree, #intel, #kneron, #manufacturing, #megvii, #qualcomm, #samsung, #san-diego, #sensetime, #sequoia-capital, #taipei, #taiwan, #tc

0

The end of Plaid-Visa, and Palantir’s growing startup mafia

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture-capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we — Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace — had a lot to get through, as the news volume in early 2021 has been rapid, and serious. Sadly this means that some early-stage rounds missed the cut, though we did make sure to have some Series A material in the show.

So, what did we the assembled crew get to? Here’s your cheat-sheet:

  • As is Talkspace, the tele-therapy startup that you’ve heard of.
  • And then there was SoftBank, of course, which has its own SPAC in the market now, confirming earlier reports. Which makes perfect sense.

There are so many SPACs and bits of IPO news and funding rounds to pick through and cover that we’re already straining the time limits of the show to even cover half of the material. This week that meant that we excised a chunk of the show to a forthcoming Saturday episode that is focused on e-commerce.

So, we will talk to you again soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#bakkt, #equity-podcast, #loop, #nuvia, #plaid, #qualcomm, #softbank, #supercharger-ventures, #talkspace, #tc, #visa

0

Qualcomm will acquire chip company founded by Apple execs for $1.4 billion

A company logo is superimposed over a cloud-swollen mountaintop.

Enlarge / A splash image for Nuvia from the company’s blog. (credit: Nuvia)

Chipmaker Qualcomm announced a major acquisition today: it will buy Santa Clara-based silicon company Nuvia for $1.4 billion. Qualcomm intends to use Nuvia’s technology in future chip designs for a wide range of devices, from phones to cars.

Nuvia was founded in 2019 by three former Apple semiconductor executives. The startup has been developing custom CPU core design for servers, and its company materials make frequent reference to a mission to “reimagine” silicon design. But Qualcomm sees applications for Nuvia’s tech beyond servers.

Qualcomm’s press release says Nuvia will deliver “step-function improvements in CPU performance and power efficiency to meet the demands of next-generation 5G computing.” Qualcomm plans to use Nuvia’s tech in “flagship smartphones, next-generation laptops, and digital cockpits, as well as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, extended reality and infrastructure networking solutions.”

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#apple, #arm, #nuvia, #qualcomm, #tech

0

Will startup valuations change given rising antitrust concerns?

The United States has, over the past few decades, been extremely lenient on antitrust enforcement, rarely blocking deals, even with overseas competitors. Yet, there have been inklings that things are changing. Yesterday, we learned that Visa and Plaid called off their combination after the Department of Justice sued to block it in early November. We also learned a week ago that shaving startup Billie would end its proposed acquisition by consumer product goods giant P&G after the Federal Trade Commission sued to block it in December.

Many, many, many other deals of course get through the gauntlet of regulations, but even a few smoke signals is enough to start raising concerns. That new calculus is even before we start to look at the morass of reforms being proposed around antitrust in Washington DC these days, nearly all of which — on a bipartisan basis — would create stricter controls for antitrust, particularly in critical technology industries and information services.

So, what’s the valuation prognosis for startups these days given that one of the most important exit options available is increasingly looking fraught?

#antitrust, #arm-holdings, #billie, #nvidia, #plaid, #qualcomm, #startup-valuations, #tc, #visa

0

Two-year-old NUVIA sells to Qualcomm for $1.4 billion

You know what’s great? Becoming a unicorn in two years. You know what’s even better? Exiting at unicorn status in two years.

This morning, Qualcomm announced that it was buying high-performance computing startup NUVIA for $1.4 billion, minus some coverage of working capital and debt.

The startup, which we extensively profiled on its launch after raising $53 million in a Series A in late 2019 and again a few months ago when it raised $240 million in its Series B from Mithril, was the brainchild of a number of star Apple chip engineers who had worked on the computing giant’s A series of chips that powered the company’s iPhones and iPads.

Much like how Apple’s new M series of chips for its laptop computers (so far) have dazzled with an almost revolutionary mix of energy efficiency and performance, NUVIA’s founders were hoping to use their experience in managing the power envelope while eking out high performance and bring that to the data center. Given the sheer scale of power required by data centers to function, which is only going up with the demand for AI applications in the cloud, the hope was that NUVIA could have its cake and eat it too: offering high performance while cutting power and saving costs for cloud computing.

According to Qualcomm’s press release, NUVIA’s technology will be incorporated across the company’s line of chips, with its leadership centered around its 5G-focused Snapdragon chip. The company’s founders and employees are expected to join, and the deal must be approved by U.S. regulators.

NUVIA was one of the most compelling companies of the new crop of next-generation silicon startups, but it was also mired in a legal battle between one of its founders and famed former Apple engineer Gerald Williams III and his former employer. Apple filed a civil lawsuit against Williams in 2019 (California Superior Court of Santa Clara, 19-cv-352866), arguing that he attempted to recruit his former colleagues to join NUVIA in breach of his contractual obligations with Apple. Williams fought back through his own motions, and the two have been legal discovery ever since, with the latest updates happening just last month with Apple and Williams demanding each other hand over certain documents as the case has proceeded.

We don’t know how the timing of that lawsuit played into the company’s quick exit, or whether Qualcomm’s significantly deeper relationship with Apple as a supplier might help the parties reach a quicker settlement. We’ve reached out to a NUVIA spokesperson for comment.

While that lawsuit was a cloud over the company, the end result is a unicorn exit at $1.4 billion on just shy of $300 million of venture capital fundraised in roughly two years. Mithril is probably not terribly thrilled given the quick turnaround, but earlier investors like Capricorn Investment Group, Dell Technologies Capital (DTC), Mayfield, and WRVI Capital are probably doing a bit better on the multiples on invested capital front. And of course, the founders likely came out well ahead as well.

#hardware, #nuvia, #qualcomm

0

Qualcomm’s new chipset for wireless earbuds promises improved noise cancellation, all-day battery life

There are now so many wireless earbuds, it’s hard to keep track, but one of the reasons why we’ve seen this explosion in new and existing manufacturers entering this business is the availability of Bluetooth Audio SoCs from Qualcomm, including the QCC5100 and QCC30xx series. Today, the company is launching the latest chipset in its wireless portfolio, the QCC305x.

Unsurprisingly, it’s a more powerful chip, with four more powerful cores compared to the three cores of its 304x predecessor. But the real promise here is that this additional processing power will now enable earbud makers to offer features like adaptive active noise cancellation and support for using wake words to active Alexa or the Google Assistant.

The new chipset now also supports Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive with an audio resolution of up to 96kHz and aptX Voice for 3-microphone echo canceling and noise suppression for clearer calls while you are on the go (or on a Zoom call, which is more likely these days). And despite the increased power, Qualcomm promises all-day battery life, too, though, at the end of the day, it’s up to the individual manufacturer to tune their gadgets accordingly.

Image Credits: Qualcomm

The new chipset has also been designed to support the upcoming Bluetooth LE Audio standard. This new standard hasn’t been finalized just yet, but it promises features like multi-stream for multiple synchronized audio streams from a single device — useful for wireless earbuds — and support for personal audio sharing, so that you can share your music from your smartphones with our people around you. There’s also location-based sharing to allow public venues like airports and gyms to share Bluetooth audio with their visitors.

It’s still early days for Bluetooth LE Audio, but during a press conference ahead of today’s announcement, Qualcomm continuously stressed that its new chips will be ready for it once the standard is ratified.

“Not only do our QCC305x SoCs bring many of our latest-and-greatest audio features to our mid-range truly wireless earbud portfolio, they are also designed to be developer-ready for the upcoming Bluetooth LE Audio standard,” James Chapman, vice president, and general manager, Voice, Music, and Wearables at Qualcomm, said in the announcement. “We believe this combination gives our customers great flexibility to innovate at a range of price points and helps them meet the needs of today’s audio consumers, many of whom now rely on their truly wireless earbuds for all sorts of entertainment and productivity activities.”

Image Credits: Qualcomm

#alexa, #aptx, #assistant, #bluetooth, #google, #hardware, #qualcomm, #smartphones, #telecommunications, #voice, #wireless, #wireless-earbuds

0

Apple is full-steam ahead on replacing Qualcomm modems with its own

A blue iPhone 12 lying flat on a table

Enlarge / The iPhone 12. (credit: Samuel Axon)

As rumored many months ago, Apple’s silicon ambitions don’t end with replacing Intel CPUs with its own in Macs—it plans to ditch Qualcomm modems in favor of its own custom-designed chips for iPhones, according to Apple hardware tech lead Johny Srouji.

Srouji confirmed the company’s plans when speaking to employees during an internal town hall meeting, as reported by Bloomberg today. Apple acquired Intel’s 5G smartphone modem business last summer. That acquisition of Intel’s intellectual property and resources was key for Apple’s new efforts.

Quoted in the Bloomberg story, Srouji told Apple employees:

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#5g, #apple, #bloomberg, #intel, #iphone, #johny-srouji, #modems, #qualcomm, #san-diego, #tech, #wireless

0

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 will land on phones in Q1 2021

As promised, more info following yesterday’s Snapdragon 888 announcement. First off, as expected, the company’s next flagship SoC will arrive in the first quarter of next year. We’re still waiting on specific models, but as noted yesterday, the San Diego-based chip giant already has a lineup of smartphone makers planning to employ the 765 follow-up, including ASUS, Black Shark, LG, MEIZU, Motorola, Nubia, realme, OnePlus, OPPO, Sharp, vivo, Xiaomi and ZTE.

The focuses are also what you’d expect: 5G, AI, speed, security, imaging and gaming. As Qualcomm announced earlier, the new system sports the third-gen X60 5G modem, which supports both sub-6 and mmWave variations of the wireless technology with speeds up to 7.5 Gbps. Also on board is support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.

The sixth-gen version of the company’s AI Engine brings faster processing speeds at lower power consumption — specifically up to 3x performance per watt, per Qualcomm’s numbers. That’s capable of up to 26 tera operations per second (TOPS). Compare that to the “incredible” 5.5 TOPS the company was talking up on the Snapdragon 765 roughly this time last year. The AI stuff is primarily used to boost camera, gaming, connectivity and voice assistants like Google’s.

On the camera side, the new chip features the improved Spectra 580, sporting the line’s first triple ISP (image signal processor). That’s going to go a ways toward fostering multi-camera setup, with the ability to simultaneously have three cameras at up to 2.7 gigapixels a second. The system also supports capture of three 4K HDR videos at once — overkill, perhaps, but neat. There’s improved low-light support as well, to brighten up dark shots — always a nice thing.

The on-board Adreno 660 GPU can do up to 35% faster graphics. The Kryo 680 — based on the new Arm Cortex-X1 architecture — brings up to a 25% uplift in CPU performance. Game rendering has been improved by up to 30%, and titles will get access to Variable Rate Shading — a first for a Qualcomm chip. As for security, the new chip offers a number of new features aimed at protecting on-device data, including the Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit.

#hardware, #qualcomm, #snapdragon-888

0

Qualcomm announces the new Snapdragon 888 chip

Qualcomm kicked off an all-virtual version of its annual summit this morning by announcing the launch of the the Snapdragon 888 platform. The chipmaker is clearly saving some key information for later in the virtual event, because it has yet to reveal a ton about its next SoC.

We do, however, have an extremely modest quote from Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon to go on: “Creating premium experiences takes a relentless focus on innovation. It takes long-term commitment, even in the face of immense uncertainty. It takes an organization that’s focused on tomorrow, to continue to deliver the technologies that redefine premium experiences.”

Granted, that’s more self-congratulatory than legitimately helpful. We do know that some key device makers have signed up to include the chip on future handsets, including ASUS, Black Shark, LG, MEIZU, Motorola, Nubia, realme, OnePlus, OPPO, Sharp, vivo, Xiaomi and ZTE.

Also, Qualcomm when ahead and blew past the expected 875. The company tells TechCrunch,

8 has always been a special number for Snapdragon. For over a decade, the number 8 has stood for premium. The Snapdragon 8-series is comprised of our premium tier mobile platforms, which is where we debut our latest technology innovations that will power the next generation mobile experiences. Year after year, these advancements are not only firsts for Snapdragon, but also for the mobile industry. Especially this year, 5G is rapidly expanding globally and creating new experiences and new opportunities, which are far beyond the industry’s expectation. Snapdragon is the platform of choice to deliver those 5G experiences to more consumers worldwide.

The number 8 is also a lucky number around the world. For some, it signifies infinity, success or inner wisdom, while for others it symbolizes luck. For example, in India the number 8 is known as Ashtha, Asta, or Ashta in Sanskrit and is the number of wealth and abundance. While in Chinese numerology 888 is a representation of triple luck.

So, not dissimilar from moves we’ve seen from handset makers like OnePlus. Naturally, 5G is on board. The chip will sport the company’s third-gen X60 5G modem, which sports both sub-6 and mmWave 5G bands. There’s also a 6th-gen AI Engine, capable of performing 26 tera operations per second (TOPS) with improved power efficiency.

Imaging is, naturally, a big piece of the puzzle, as well. The 888 features an up to 35% faster ISP, with support for up to 2.7 gigapixels per second (~120 12-megapixel photos). Gaming performance has also been improved, courtesy of an update to its Elite Gaming platform. More info — including the first few smartphones to sport the new SoC — soon, no doubt.

#hardware, #mobile, #qualcomm, #snapdragon

0

Qualcomm Ventures invests in four 5G startups

Qualcomm Ventures, Qualcomm’s investment arm, today announced four new strategic investments in 5G-related startups. These companies are private mobile network specialist Celona, mobile network automation platform Cellwize, the edge computing platform Azion and Pensando, another edge computing platform that combines its software stack with custom hardware.

The overall goal here is obviously to help jumpstart 5G use cases in the enterprise and — by extension — for consumers by investing in a wide range of companies that can build the necessary infrastructure to enable these.

“We invest globally in the wireless mobile ecosystem, with a goal of expanding our base of customers and partners — and one of the areas we’re particularly excited about is the area of 5G,” Quinn Li, a Senior VP at Qualcomm and the global head of Qualcomm Ventures, told me. “Within 5G, there are three buckets of areas we look to invest in: one is in use cases, second is in network transformation, third is applying 5G technology in enterprises.”

So far, Qualcomm Ventures has invested over $170 million in the 5G ecosystem, including this new batch. The firm did not disclose how much it invested in these four new startups, though.

Overall, this new set of companies touches upon the core areas Qualcomm Ventures is looking at, Li explained. Celona, for example, aims to make it as easy for enterprises to deploy private cellular infrastructure as it is to deploy Wi-Fi today.

“They built this platform with a cloud-based controller that leverages the available spectrum — CBRS — to be able to take the cellular technology, whether it’s LTE or 5G, into enterprises,” Li explained. “And then these enterprise use cases could be in manufacturing settings could be in schools, could be to be in hospitals, or it could be on campus for universities.”

Cellwize, meanwhile, helps automate wireless networks to make them more flexible and manageable, in part by using machine learning to tune the network based on the data it collects. One of the main investment theses for this fund, Li told me, is that wireless technology will become increasingly software-defined and Cellwize fits right into this trend. The potential customer here isn’t necessarily an individual enterprise, though, but wireless and mobile operators.

Edge computing, where Azion and Pensando play, is obviously also a hot category right now and when where 5G has some obvious advantages, so it’s maybe no surprise that Qualcomm Ventures is putting a bit of a focus on these today with its investments in Azion and Pensando.

“As we move forward, [you will] see a lot of the compute moving from the cloud into the edge of the network, which allows for processing happening at the edge of the network, which allows for low latency applications to run much faster and much more efficiently,” Li said.

In total, Qualcomm Ventures has deployed $1.5 billion and made 360 investments since its launch in 2000. Some of the more successful companies the firm has invested in include unicorns like Zoom, Cloudflare, Xiaomi, Cruise Automation and Fitbit.

#5g, #computing, #enterprise, #internet-of-things, #machine-learning, #mobile-technology, #qualcomm, #qualcomm-ventures, #quinn-li, #recent-funding, #startups, #telecommunications, #wireless, #wireless-networks, #wireless-technology

0

Juganu begins selling its tunable lighting system for pathogen disinfection and deactivation in the US

Juganu, the venture-backed Israeli company that makes lighting systems capable of emitting light at specified wavelengths, is now selling a product that it claims can disinfect surfaces and deactivate pathogens in an attempt to provide buildings with new safety technologies that can prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The company claims that its J.Protect product was clinically validated through a study conducted by Dr. Meital Gal-Tanamy at the Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Medicine (although Dr. Gal-Tanamy’s research typically focuses on the Hepatitis C virus, which has a different transmission vector than airborne viruses like Sars-Cov-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19).

Juganu said that the new product has been registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency in 46 states and is currently working with Comcast, Qualcomm, and NCR Corp. to bring its lighting disinfectant and deactivation technology to markets around the country.

The lighting technology uses two kinds of ultraviolet light — A and C — to render viruses inert and kill bacteria on surfaces, according to the company’s claims.

When people are present in a room, the company’s system uses UVA light which can render viruses inert after eight hours of exposure. If the room is empty, the lighting system will use UVC light, which is more potent as disinfectant and more harmful to people, to disinfect a room in under an hour.

The company tested its technology on surfaces, but did not conduct any tests involving their lighting system’s effects on aerosolized viral particles, which have been determined to be the main cause of infections from the novel coronavirus.

“We got an exemption from the FDA and are approved for distribution by the EPA in 48 states,” said Juganu chief executive, Eran Ben-Shmuel in an interview.

The company has already pre-sold the lighting technology in Israel and in India, according to Ben-Shmuel, and is now taking orders for installations in the US.

Juganu, which has raised $53 million to date from investors including Comcast Ventures, Viola Growth, Amdocs, and OurCrowd has offices in Israel, Brazil, Mexico, and the US, has already sold lighting systems to municipalities and businesses around the country.

The new hardware opens up a new line of business in the booming market for technologies targeting the reopening of businesses in the nations that have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Smart lighting will be one of the biggest areas of opportunity for physical spaces. We are evolving from lights simply illuminating spaces to disinfecting and securing them, as well as promoting well-being by recreating natural light shifts based on sunrise and sunset,” said Ben-Shmuel, in a statement. 

 

#articles, #brazil, #comcast-ventures, #disinfectant, #fda, #health, #home-automation, #hygiene, #india, #israel, #lighting, #mexico, #ourcrowd, #protect, #qualcomm, #smart-lighting, #tc, #united-states

0

Nuvemshop, a Latin American answer to Shopify, raises $30 million

After several failed startup attempts and nine years spent building Nuvemshop into Latin America’s answer to Shopify, the four co-founders of the company have managed to raise $30 million in venture capital funding as they look to expand their business.

The new funding came from previous investor Kaszek Ventures and new lead investor Qualcomm, with participation from FJ Labs, IGNIA, Elevar Equity and Kevin Efrusy, from the longtime Accel Partners investor’s personal wealth.

It’s been a long road since Santiago Sosa, Alejandro Vazquez, Martin Palombo, and Alejandro Alfonso first began working together in Buenos Aires The quartet started off on their entrepreneurial journey trying to develop a marketplace software product for Latin America, but when that didn’t take off, they turned their attention to a more basic problem — how to get small and medium-sized businesses selling online.

Now the company boasts 65,000 businesses that use its platform providing everything from billing and payment processing to logistics and shipping solutions transacting over $100 million per month in sales. Operating as Nuvemshop in Brazil and Tiendanube in the rest of the region, the company has offices in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City with plans to expand into Colombia and Peru in 2021.

Nuvemshop began as more of a consulting business and evolved into the suite of software tools that have managed to attract attention from investors like Qualcomm Ventures.

“Nuvemshop’s platform accelerates a company’s digital transformation and has enabled thousands of SMBs across Latin America to go digital by tapping into the company’s one-stop shop of seamlessly integrated solutions,” said Alexandre Villela, senior director of Qualcomm Technologies Inc. and managing director at Qualcomm Ventures Latin America. “We share their strong engineering focus and look forward to helping them scale their business with our investment.” 

Nuvemshop raised its first money in 2015 from Kaszek Ventures (a $5 million investment) and as the business picked up steam raised $7 million more from local investors.

It makes money by charging a subscription fee that begins at $3 per month and a transaction fee that decreases as customers buy more expensive subscription packages.

Now that the company has an established footprint in the region, it’s going to focus on three new areas of growth, according to chief executive, Santiago Sosa.

Nuvemshop chief executive, Santiago Sosa. Image credit: Nuvemshop

The company plans to launch a payment processing and logistics gateway of its own. That marketplace will give customers access to more robust shipping solutions thanks to the power of bundling lower demand into a single delivery and ordering system. Nuvemshop also pitches its customers an app store for connecting them to new developer tools.

Finally, the company intends to offer a broader array of financial services. It already offers payment processing, but will look to develop additional services around lending based on revenue.

Like Shopify, Nuvemshop provides a necessary ballast to the big e-commerce aggregation sites like MercadoLibre and Amazon . “Everything they do they try to optimize for the buyer,” Sosa said. That places incredible pricing pressure on retailers and Nuvemshop offers a direct sales alternative, with lower fees, according to Sosa.

The pent up demand that Sosa sees, is fairly astonishing.

“People are talking about e-commerce penetration going from [roughly] 10% over total retail sales to [roughly] 20%, as it has happened in other countries. We see it differently, as we envision a massive disruption around commerce in the next 15 years, and are pretty confident that [roughly] 90% of retail will be somehow tech-enabled,” said Sosa, in a statement. 

 

#amazon, #fj-labs, #kaszek-ventures, #kevin-efrusy, #mercadolibre, #qualcomm, #qualcomm-ventures, #shopify, #tc

0

Kneron launches its new AI chip to challenge Google and others

Fresh off a $40 million Series A round, edge AI specialist Kneron today announced the launch of its newest custom chip, the Kneron KL 720 SoC.

With funding from the likes of Alibaba, Sequoia, Horizons Ventures, Qualcomm and SparkLabs Taipei (as well as a few undisclosed backers), it’s worth taking the company’s efforts seriously, and Kneron has no qualms about comparing its chips to those of Intel and Google, for example. It argues that its KL 720 is twice as energy efficient as Intel’s latest Movidius chips and four times more efficient than Google’s Coral Edge TPU at running the MobileNetV2 image recognition benchmark.

Compared to its previous generation of chips, this updated version can process 4K still images and videos at a 1080P resolution. It also features a number of new audio recognition breakthroughs for the company, which Kneron says will allow devices that use its chips to bypass the standard wake words on other chips and have immediate conversations with the device.

Image Credits: Kneron

Overall, Kneron promises 1.5 TOPS in performance from its SoC, which uses an Arm Cortex M4 as its main control unit. The average power consumption for the full package is around 1.2W.

“KL720 combines power with unmatched energy-efficiency and Kneron’s industry-leading AI algorithms to enable a new era for smart devices,” said Kneron founder and CEO Albert Liu. “Its low cost enables even more devices to take advantage of the benefits of edge AI, protecting user privacy, to an extent competitors can’t match. Combined with our existing KL520, we are proud to offer the most comprehensive suite of AI chips and software for devices on the market.”

With KNEO, the company also offers an interesting networking solution for devices that are powered by its chips. With this, developers can create their own private networks and connect multiple sensors without having to route data to the cloud. That network uses blockchain technology to secure the data and in a bit of a twist, Kneron hopes to create a marketplace that will allow consumers to exchange or sell their data to buyers.

For now, though, the company seems to be more focused on the core hardware. That’s also an area where we’ve seen the competition heat up, with other well-funded startups like Hailo also recently launching their latest chips.

#alibaba, #arm-holdings, #artificial-intelligence, #chips, #computing, #gaming, #google, #horizons-ventures, #intel, #kneron, #movidius, #qualcomm, #taipei, #tc

0

Fairphone’s new flagship, the 3+, costs just €70 as a modular upgrade

Dutch social enterprise, Fairphone, has moved a little closer to the sustainability dream of a circular economy by announcing the launch of a modular upgrade for its flagship smartphone.

The backwards compatible hardware units mean users of last year’s Fairphone 3 only need swap out a few modules to be holding the Fairphone 3+ in their hand instead of buying a whole new device.

Fairphone pulled off a similar feat with an earlier model of its ‘ethical smartphone’ but this time it’s managed to shrink the time it took it to offer ‘plug and play’ upgrade modules for its latest gen device.

“What we’ve been able to do is get that whole idea of plug and play to the consumer within the smartphone business,” says Fairphone co-founder Bas van Abel . “That part is not trivial because you have to imagine that getting everything into that module and being able to put it into the old phone… Not only the hardware has to fit and everything has to connect in the right way in that previous kind of architecture but also the software.

“But we’ve been able to do that, and it took some time but we’ve done it way faster than we were able to do it with the Fairphone 2. So we’re proud of that as well.”

“The most important part is it’s really also a signal towards the industry that it’s possible to do upgrades with your phone and not have to come out with a totally new phone every year,” he adds.

Finding clever ways to extend device longevity is a core plank of Fairphone’s mission. The biggest resource sinkhole associated with smartphone consumption is the annual or biennial upgrade cycle which encourages consumers to swap perfectly functional phones for a shiny new model. Fairphone 3 owners can get its latest kit with a cleaner conscience.

Fairphone is selling the Fairphone 3+ camera modules separately for current Fairphone 3 users — at an initial cost of €70 until the end of September (rising to ~€95 from October).

It is also selling a Fairphone 3+ handset for an RRP of €469, aimed at new to the brand users — opening up pre-sales from today on its website and via partner retailers, with a release date of September 14 across Europe.

Specs wise, the 4G Fairphone 3+ has a 5.7in Full-HD display with an 18:9 aspect ratio and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 chipset. Out of the box it runs Android 10. On board there’s 4GB of RAM and 64GB of ROM, expandable via microSD. The removable battery is 3,000mAh. There’s also Bluetooth 5.0, NFC and a fingerprint scanner.  

van Abel confirms the business will continue to sell last year’s flagship — but at a reduced price of around €400.

The 3+ modules are only backwards compatible one generation of Fairphone which means anyone still using a Fairphone 2 can’t get this plug and play upgrade. The blocker there is the core module, per van Abel, who says not being able to swap the SOC out for an upgraded chipset remains the biggest challenge for modular upgrades that are able to span more than one smartphone generation.

“Our vision is definitely there that you can also eventually replace the core module… where the modem and the processor is,” he says, hazarding that it might be possible “within a couple of years”.

However the wider issue is the component industry still moves so fast it remains way out of step with Fairphone’s goal of longevity. The social enterprise pledges to provide up to five years of support for each device it sells, meaning it needs relevant spare parts to still be available in order that it can offer replacements or else stockpile them itself — a capital intensive process. And one that’s at sharp odds with the blistering upgrade trajectory of processor manufacturers.

From a sustainability and resource perspective, the best option is also for a smartphone user to keep using the same chipset for as long as possible. The maturity of the smartphone market and commoditization of the tech — leading to the more iterative device refreshes we generally see now — also tacitly supports that.

van Abel can point to consumers holding onto a handset for an average of about double the time they did when Fairphone got started. It’s a drift that’s providing uplift to environmentally sensitive brand focused on innovating to produce smartphones with a longer lifespan.

“We’ve done a lifecycle assessment on the Fairphone 3 and what comes out of that we’ve also tested what parts of the phone have what kind of footprint and you also see that almost 80% of the CO2 footprint of the phone is within the making and the production of the SOC,” he says. “So that means that if you really want to look at it from a sustainability perspective it really makes sense to keep that part of the phone just as long as possible. Because most of the harm on nature is on that part. So even replacing that part — being able to swap that part — it’s great but it’s kind of a shame that we throw away a lot of stuff and modules and components in the phone.”

“Recycling in the phone business at the moment is plain stupid,” he adds. “How it’s done is you collect the phones and they put them in an oven — they burn them. And then they get the minerals out… You can still reuse the minerals but there’s nothing smart about that. Nothing really has been reused so all the capacitors, the glass of the screen… So it does make sense at a certain point to being also able to swap the processor like you were able to do with the computers in the old days.”

When we reviewed the Fairphone 3 last year we were impressed by how normal the Android device felt — belying its modular, deconstructable interior and all the years of effort Fairphone has ploughed into scrutinising and reworking supply chains to be able to stand up its bold claim of a phone that “dares to be fair”.

Now, with the launch of the Fairphone 3+ modules, last year’s handset is getting a boost to its camera hardware — with a 48MP main lens and a 16MP front-facing lens offered as replacements to last year’s 12MP and 8MP units via the new modules (the main and front modules can be purchased separately or as an upgrade bundle).

On the surface that looks like a huge step up in hardware but it’s down to the camera module using the Samsung GM1 sensor — which uses tiny pixels of 0.8-micro to deliver light sensitivity equal to 1.6-micro pixels.

So it’s actually a software technique to eke more out of the hardware, with a trade off in that it entails some compression of picture quality. A Fairphone spokeswoman confirmed the main lens’ “effective output” is still 12MP. “This is common practice in the industry with phones such as the Samsung S5KGM1, Samsung Galaxy A90 5G, Nokia 7.2 and the Sony IMX363,” she added.

As we noted in our review of the Fairphone 3 last September, the 2019 flagship took a fairly standard snap — with photo quality closer to acceptable, than stand out. The performance gap vs the premium end of the smartphone market was noticeable, even as Fairphone had substantially bested performance vs its earlier handsets.

The company looks keen to further shrink the photo quality gap. Now it touts “significantly” improved photo and video quality via the 3+ upgrade — which it says supports “sharper selfies and clearer video calls”.

It’s also done work to optimize the software, noting support for enhanced object tracking, faster autofocus and image stabilization “for more reliable shots”, as well as “louder, crisper sound” on the audio front, per its press release.

A focus on boosting photo and video performance makes sense given how central the camera has become for smartphone users — feeding into the rise of trendy social video sharing apps like TikTok.

Successfully convincing consumers to hold onto their existing handset for longer means paying attention to such app trends to make sure hardware and software are keeping up with how people are using their phones.

For buyers of the Fairphone 3+ handset there’s another improvement: It boasts 40% recycled plastics — up from just 9% in last year’s model. Fairphone says the volume of recycled plastics is now equivalent to a 33cl plastic drinking bottle — so that’s one piece of plastic waste prevented from ending up in the sea (for now).

While some might wonder if there’s a subtle contradiction in a sustainable smartphone brand launching a new model only a year after unboxing last year’s flagship, van Abel says expanding the portfolio in important — as part of the overall mission to grow demand for ethical smartphones.

That demand is in turn needed to build momentum for the kind of industry-wide shift required for a wholesale upgrade to a circular economy. And the potential of offering devices as a services.

“We want to sell as many phones as possible — because our mission is to show that there is a demand for ethical phones,” he tells TechCrunch. “So the more phones we sell the more we can show that the demand is really there. But that also makes a problem in terms of longevity so we have another KPI where we say we want people to use our phone as long as possible — so we measure how long people actually use our phones and that’s improving every year as well. So a sales person at Fairphone they get a very hard kind of assignment because they have to sell as many phones as possible but they can’t approach people that already have them.”

“We’re challenging ourselves to disconnect the business model from these resources as much as possible but because we take that challenge in the core of our business I think we’re also ahead of where the industry needs to move towards,” he adds.

“Nobody can neglect the fact that we’re running out of resources and it’s getting harder and harder to get these resources. Look at cobalt, for example. Lithium ion batteries. There’s a run on cobalt. It’s gone like 10x, 20x the price it used to be — because we have this energy transition that we need all kinds of batteries for. So even sustainability needs these resources that you can’t get purely from recycling. So we know that this has to change. Even for geopolitical reasons I think that what we’re doing forces us to be ahead of the game.”

Demand for Fairphones has been building steadily over the past decade and the social enterprise is now “almost” at profitability, per van Abel. “We’ve sold over 200k phones — of which 60k were Fairphone 1s. We’ve sold over 100k Fairphone 2s. And last year we sold almost 50k Fairphone 3s and this year we’re aiming for over 100k Fairphone 3+,” he says.

“We’ve never had a portfolio. Now we actually have a portfolio of two phones, Fairphone 3 and 3+, because we’re going to sell the 3 as well at a lower price with the older modules — the previous modules — and the 3+ with the new modules. So that we also have a price point for people that don’t need the newest camera improvements.”

Fairphone remains very much a European project — one that’s perfectly positioned to benefit from a pan-EU push towards sustainability and a circular economy in the coming years. (A ‘right to repair’ Commission proposal for mobiles certainly looks helpful.)

For now, the biggest market for Fairphones is still Germany, per van Abel. While he says its focus for sales of the new portfolio is to push for more growth in Germany, with France, Holland and the UK its other main markets of continued focus. “We’re aiming more also at Scandinavia,” he adds.

“The danger of a commoditizing industry is where you get a lot of easy, cheap access to all these technologies and you see it moving towards two sides: The high end and the really low end stuff. But I hope that customers will also value the companies themselves, and the brands and what they stand for. Whereas [iPhone maker] Apple stands for design; they have a premium to it — you buy something more than just the phone. And I think Fairphone has that as well.

“We have a compelling story. Especially you see the group of conscious consuming growing within every report I read. You see it growing steadily each year. So people do take more notice of what they actually buy.”

Funding wise, the social enterprise is comfortably positioned with the debt, equity and growth financing it raised a few years back from impact investors. Though van Abel moots the possibility of taking in more funding to put towards marketing and help it keep scaling.

“But at the moment we’re good,” he adds. “The impact investors are very patient. It goes with the mission of the company. I think people really are part of Fairphone — participate in this company because they believe not only in the cash return but also in the impact.”

He also notes that Fairphone is also doing separate financing for some related initiatives in the supply chain which are required to underpin its claim of fair and ethical electronics.

“A good example of that is the fair cobalt alliance that we’ve just set up,” he says. “We’re really proud of that. We have set up a great consortium with mining companies, with refineries, with big companies like Signify, that are part of that supply chain of cobalt. It’s partly funded, as well, by the Dutch government. So we have more of a broker position — and that is the nice thing about being a social enterprise. You sometimes can be in between the non-profit and the for-profit sector. You can bridge easily those two worlds.”

#android, #bas-van-abel, #europe, #fairphone, #fairphone-3, #germany, #mobile, #mobile-phones, #modular-smartphone, #netherlands, #qualcomm, #samsung, #samsung-electronics, #smartphones, #supply-chain, #united-kingdom

0

Appeals court ruling for Qualcomm “a victory of theory over facts”

Appeals court ruling for Qualcomm “a victory of theory over facts”

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

A federal appeals court has tossed out a lower court ruling that Qualcomm abused its dominance of the modem chip market to force customers to pay inflated royalties for its patent portfolio. The appeals court forcefully rejected Judge Lucy Koh’s 2019 analysis of Qualcomm’s business practices and held that Qualcomm’s behavior was merely “hypercompetitive,” not anticompetitive.

The two rulings could not have been more different. In last year’s 233-page ruling, Judge Koh explained Qualcomm’s business practices in so much detail that it took us more than 3,500 words just to summarize her findings. This week’s ruling by the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court was shorter—56 pages—and more theoretical.

The appeals court acknowledged that “from 2006 to 2016, Qualcomm possessed monopoly power in the CDMA modem chip market, including over 90% of market share.” However, the court found that the Federal Trade Commission—which brought the lawsuit against Qualcomm—had failed to prove that Qualcomm had abused that power. The court reasoned that Qualcomm’s licensing practices were simply designed to maximize the company’s revenue—and that in itself isn’t illegal.

Read 41 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#antitrust, #policy, #qualcomm

0

Google, Nokia, Qualcomm are investors in $230M Series A2 for Finnish phone maker, HMD Global

Mobile device maker HMD Global has announced a $230M Series A2 — its first tranche of external funding since a $100M round back in 2018 when it tipped over into a unicorn valuation. Since late 2016 the startup has exclusively licensed Nokia’s brand for mobile devices, going on to ship some 240M devices to date.

Its latest cash injection is notable both for its size (HMD claims it as the third largest funding round in Europe this year); and the profile of the strategic investors ploughing in capital — namely: Google, Nokia and Qualcomm.

Though whether a tech giant (Google) whose OS dominates the world’s smartphone market (Android) becoming a strategic investor in Europe’s last significant mobile OEM (HMD) catches the attention of regional competition enforcers remains to be seen. Er, vertical integration anyone? (To wit: It’s a little over two years since Google was slapped with a $5BN penalty by EU regulators for antitrust violations related to how it operates Android — and the Commission has said it continues to monitor the market ‘remedies’.)

In a further quirk, when we spoke to HMD Global CEO, Florian Seiche, ahead of today’s announcement, he didn’t expect the names of the investors to be disclosed — but we’d already been sent press release material listing them so he duly confirmed the trio are investors in the round. (But wouldn’t be drawn on how much equity Google is grabbing.)

HMD’s smartphones run on Google’s Android platform, which gives the tech giant a firm business reason for supporting the mobile maker in growing the availability of Google-packed hardware in key growth markets around the world.

And while HMD likens its consistent (and consistently updated) flavor of Android to the premium ‘pure’ Android experience you get from Google’s own-brand Pixel smartphones, the difference is the Finnish company offers devices across the range of price points, and targets hardware at mobile users in developing markets.

The upshot is relatively little overlap with Google’s Pixel hardware, and still plenty of business upside for Google should HMD grow the pipeline of Google services users (as it makes money by targeting ads).

Connoisseurs of mobile history may see more than a little irony in Google investing into Nokia branded smartphones (via HMD), given Android’s role in fatally disrupting Nokia’s lucrative smartphone business — knocking the Finnish giant off its perch as the world’s number one mobile maker and ushering in an era of Android-fuelled Asian mobile giants. But wait long enough in tech and what goes around oftentimes comes back around.

“We’re extremely excited,” said Seiche, when we mention Google’s pivotal role in Nokia’s historical downfall in smartphones. “How we are going to write that next chapter on smartphones is a critical strategic pillar for the company and our opportunity to team up so closely with Google around this has been a very, very great partnership from the beginning. And then this investment definitely confirms that — also for the future.”

“It’s a critical time for the industry therefore having a clear strategy — having a clear differentiation and a different point of view to offer, we believe, is a fantastic asset that we have developed for ourselves. And now is a great moment for us to double down on this,” he added.

We also asked Seiche whether HMD has any interest in taking advantage of the European Commission’s Android antitrust enforcement decision — i.e. to fork Android and remove the usual Google services, perhaps swapping them out for some European alternatives, which is at least a possibility for OEMs selling in the region — but Seiche told us: “We have looked at it but we strongly believe that consumers or enterprise customers actually love [Google] services and therefore they choose those services for themselves.” (Millions of dollars of direct investment from Google also, presumably, helps make the Google services business case stack up.)

Nokia, meanwhile, has always had a close relationship with HMD — which was established by former Nokia execs for the sole purpose of licensing its iconic mobile brand. (The backstory there is a clause in the sale terms of Nokia’s mobile device division to Microsoft expired in 2016, paving the way for Nokia’s brand to be returned to the smartphone market without the prior Windows Mobile baggage.)

Its investment into HMD now looks like a vote of confidence in how the company has been executing in the fiercely competitive mobile space to date (HMD doesn’t break out a lot of detail about device sales but Seiche told us it sold in excess of 70M mobiles last year; that’s a combined figure for smartphones and feature phones) — as well as an upbeat assessment of the scope of the growth opportunity ahead of it.

On the latter front US-led geopolitical tensions between the West and China do look poised to generate a tail-wind for HMD’s business.

Mobile chipmaker Qualcomm, for example, is facing a loss of business, as US government restrictions threaten its ability to continue selling chips to Huawei; a major Chinese device maker that’s become a key target for US president Trump. Its interest in supporting HMD’s growth, therefore, looks like a way for Qualcomm to hedge against US government disruption aimed at Chinese firms in its mobile device maker portfolio.

While with Trump’s recent threats against the TikTok app it seems safe to assume that no tech company with a Chinese owner is safe.

As a European company, HMD is able to position itself as a safe haven — and Seiche’s sales pitch talks up a focus on security detail and overall quality of experience as key differentiating factors vs the Android hoards.

“We have been very clear and very consistent right from the beginning to pick these core principles that are close to our heart and very closely linked with the Nokia brand itself — and definitely security, quality and trust are key elements,” he told TechCrunch. “This is resonating with our carrier and retail customers around the world and it is definitely also a core fundamental differentiator that those partners that are taking a longer term view clearly see that same opportunity that we see for us going forward.”

HMD does use manufacturing facilities in China, as well as in a number of other locations around the world — including Brazil, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

But asked whether it sees any supply chain risks related to continued use of Chinese manufacturers to build ‘secure’ mobile hardware, Seiche responded by claiming: “The most important [factor] is we do control the software experience fully.” He pointed specifically to HMD’s acquisition of Valona Labs earlier this year. The Finnish security startup carries out all its software audits. “They basically control our software to make sure we can live up to that trusted standard,” Seiche added. 

Landing a major tranche of new funding now — and with geopolitical tension between the West and the Far East shining a spotlight on its value as alternative, European mobile maker — HMD is eyeing expansion in growth markets such as Africa, Brail and India. (Currently, HMD said it’s active in 91 markets across eight regions, with its devices ranged in 250,000 retail outlets around the world.)

It’s also looking to bring 5G to devices at a greater range of price-points, beyond the current flagship Nokia 8.3. Seiche also said it wants to do more on the mobile services side. HMD’s first 5G device, the flagship Nokia 8.3, is due to land in the US and Europe in a matter of weeks. And Seiche suggested a timeframe of the middle of next year for launching a 5G device at a mid tier price point.

“The 5G journey again has started, in terms of market adoption, in China. But now Europe, US are the key next opportunity — not just in the premium tier but also in the mid segment. And to get to that as fast as possible is one of our goals,” he said, noting joint-working with Qualcomm on that.

“We also see great opportunity with Nokia in that 5G transition — because they are also working on a lot of private LTE deployments which is also an interesting area since… we are also very strongly present in that large enterprise segment,” he added.

On mobile services, Seiche highlighted the launch of HMD Connect: A data SIM aimed at travellers — suggesting it could expand into additional connectivity offers in future, forging more partnerships with carriers. 

“We have already launched several services that are close to the hardware business — like insurance for your smartphones — but we are also now looking at connectivity as a great area for us,” he said. “The first pilot of that has been our global roaming but we believe there is a play in the future for consumers or enterprise customers to get their connectivity directly with their device. And we’re partnering also with operators to make that happen.”

“You can see us more as a complement [to carriers],” he added, arguing that business “dynamics” for carriers have also changed substantially — and customer acquisition hasn’t been a linear game for some time.

“In a similar way when we talk about Google Pixel vs us — we have a different footprint. And again if you look at carriers where they get their subscribers from today is already today a mix between their own direct channels and their partner channels. And actually why wouldn’t a smartphone player be a natural good partner of choice also for them? So I think you’ll see that as a trend, potentially, evolving in the next couple of years.”

#africa, #android, #antitrust, #brazil, #china, #europe, #european-commission, #european-union, #fundings-exits, #google, #hmd-global, #huawei, #india, #indonesia, #microsoft, #mobile, #mobile-device, #mobile-devices, #nokia, #qualcomm, #smartphone, #smartphones, #trump, #united-states, #us-government, #vietnam, #windows-mobile

0

Snapdragon chip flaws put >1 billion Android phones at risk of data theft

Stylized promotional image of a Qualcomm computer chip.

Enlarge (credit: Qualcomm)

A billion or more Android devices are vulnerable to hacks that can turn them into spying tools by exploiting more than 400 vulnerabilities in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip, researchers reported this week.

The vulnerabilities can be exploited when a target downloads a video or other content that’s rendered by the chip. Targets can also be attacked by installing malicious apps that require no permissions at all.

From there, attackers can monitor locations and listen to nearby audio in real time and exfiltrate photos and videos. Exploits also make it possible to render the phone completely unresponsive. Infections can be hidden from the operating system in a way that makes disinfecting difficult.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#biz-it, #exploits, #qualcomm, #snapdragon, #tech, #vulnerabilities

0

Qualcomm to invest $97 million in India’s Reliance Jio Platforms

Qualcomm has become the newest high-profile backer of four-year-old Reliance Jio Platforms, which has raised more than $15.7 billion in the past 12 weeks from as many investors.

On Sunday evening, Qualcomm Ventures said it will invest $97 million in Reliance Jio Platforms to acquire a 0.15% equity stake “on a fully diluted basis” in the top Indian telecom operator.

Reliance Jio Platforms, which competes with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea in India, has disrupted the Indian telecommunications market by offering cut-rate voice and data plans. It has amassed nearly 400 million subscribers to become the top carrier in the world’s second largest internet market in less than four years of its existence.

Its dominance in the Indian telecom operator while maintaining an ARPU (average revenue per user) that match those of its rivals has made Reliance Jio Platforms — a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, India’s most valued firm — an attractive firm for a roster of high-profile investors. Facebook, Silver Lake, General Atlantic, Intel are some of the firms that have backed Jio Platforms at the height of a global pandemic. Jio Platforms has sold 25.24% stake in the firm during the period.

The digital unit for Reliance Industries also operates a number of digital services including streaming services for music, live TV channels, and movies and TV shows. Earlier this month, the Indian firm added a new service to its arsenal: A video conferencing service.

Steve Mollenkopf, chief executive of Qualcomm, said the firm believes that Reliance Jio Platforms “will deliver a new set of services and experiences to Indian consumers” in the future.

“With unmatched speeds and emerging use cases, 5G is expected to transform every industry in the coming years. Jio Platforms has led the digital revolution in India through its extensive digital and technological capabilities. As an enabler and investor with a longstanding presence in India, we look forward to playing a role in Jio’s vision to further revolutionize India’s digital economy,” he said in a statement.

Some investors have told TechCrunch in recent months that Reliance Jio Platforms’ owner — India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani — and his closeness to the ruling political party in India are also crucial to why the digital unit of Reliance Industries is so attractive to many.

They believe that buying a stake in Jio Platforms would lower the regulatory burden they currently face in India. The investors requested anonymity as they did not wish to talk about the political tie ups publicly.

A person familiar with the matter at one of the 12 firms that has backed Reliance Jio Platforms said that the Indian firm is also enticing as globally companies are trying to cut down their reliance and exposure on China.

India, and the U.S., in recent months have taken actions to limit their reliance on Chinese firms. New Delhi last month banned 59 apps and services including TikTok that are developed by Chinese firms. Reliance Jio Platforms has interestingly yet to raise capital from any Chinese investor.

“Qualcomm has been a valued partner for several years and we have a shared vision of connecting everything by building a robust and secure wireless and digital network and extending the benefits of digital connectivity to everyone in India,” said Ambani in a statement Sunday.

#asia, #china, #funding, #india, #qualcomm, #qualcomm-ventures, #reliance-jio, #reliance-jio-platforms

0

Asus and Lenovo among the first to launch Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus devices

Qualcomm just revealed initial details around the Snapdragon 865 Plus. Like the 855 Plus before it, the upcoming chip represents a mid-year performance boost to the company’s mobile flagship. Think of it as a kind of halfway refresh between major updates designed to keep things fresh in the back half of the year.

The top line updates here including performance enhancements to the CPU (Kryo 585 Prime) and GPU (Adreno 650), which offer 10% increases in clock speed and graphics rendering, respectively. The familiar X55 5G Modem-RF System is on-board, to deliver on the chipmaker’s push toward universal next-gen wireless adoption. That’s coupled with improvements to Wi-Fi connectivity, with the promise of speed up to 3.6 Gbps by way of the FastConnect 6900.

Both Asus and Lenovo get some face time in the press release. Asus says its ROG Phone 3 will sport the chips with more details in the coming weeks. If it is, indeed, the first smartphone to get the chip, it’s not exactly a high profile launch. That said, the current 865 is on more than 140 current or announced devices according to Qualcomm, so the Plus will no doubt be making its way to some higher-profile names in the not so distant future. Asus is expected to offer up more detail at a July 22 event.

The Lenovo device is an even more interesting addition. The company is widely expected to add a new gaming handset to its Legion line, and it seems it will be sporting the new chip.

“Three years after the launch of the Lenovo Legion PC portfolio, we’re bringing our beloved gaming sub-brand’s core values of speed and powerful performance to 5G mobile gaming – where Lenovo Legion will be amongst the first to offer the new Snapdragon 865 Plus in our expanding family of gaming devices this year,” VP Jerry Tsao said in a release. That’s certainly in line with Qualcomm’s increased focus on mobile gaming this time out. For that reason alone, the partnership seems like a no-brainer.

Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Note 20 is also rumored to be receiving the upgrade, as well. That device is expected to be announced at an event on August 5. The first devices sporting the 865 Plus are due to arrive in Q3.

#hardware, #qualcomm, #snapdragon

0

Magic Leap has a new chief executive and it’s former Microsoft exec Peggy Johnson

Peggy Johnson, the former executive vice president of business development at Microsoft, has been named as the new chief executive of Magic Leap, the company said in a statement.

Johnson, who will begin her new role on August 1, 2020, comes to Magic Leap after a thirty year career in the technology industry.

It’s been a tumultuous 2020 for Magic Leap. Struggling to survive amid a cash crunch and facing bankruptcy, the company laid off most of its staff in April and was casting around for a white knight investor to come in and keep the company afloat. While the Paradise, Fla.-based company found the $375 million in funding it needed, according to The New York Times, that investment came at the price of Rony Abovitz’s position as chief executive.

Abovitz, whose vision for the future of spatial computing managed to rake in over a billion dollars in funding, was a consummate hype man whose products failed to deliver on the promise they’d held.

In Johnson Magic Leap has a proven executive who joined Microsoft in 2014 from Qualcomm as an executive hire made by chief executive Satya Nadella. There, she ran business development and had a hand in a number of the company’s major acquisitions and partnerships including the $26.2 billion blockbuster acquisition of LinkedIn . The 58 year-old Johnson also launched Microsoft’s venture capital fund (known as M12).

At Magic Leap, Johnson will take the reins of a company whose direction has shifted to focus more on businesses than on consumers — a strategy that mirrors approaches taken both by Microsoft’s Hololens extended reality product and by early wearable tech progenitor Google Glass.

It’s also a company that managed to burn through nearly $3.5 billion under Abovitz’s stewardship and lose a valuation of

“Since its founding in 2011, Magic Leap has pioneered the field of spatial computing, and I have long admired the relentless efforts and accomplishments of this exceptional team. Magic Leap’s technological foundation is undeniable, and there is no question that has the potential to shape the future of XR and computing,” said Ms. Johnson.

Before joining Microsoft, Ms. Johnson spent 24 years at Qualcomm, where she held various leadership positions, and served as a member of Qualcomm’s Executive Committee.

“As a company that has been a leader in transforming what will become the next era of computing, we have been fortunate to have a number of extremely qualified candidates express interest in the position of CEO. However, as soon as Peggy raised her hand there was no question in my mind, or the Board’s, that she was absolutely the best person to lead this company into the future,” said Abovitz in a statement. “As Magic Leap drives towards commercializing spatial computing for enterprise, I can’t think of a better and more capable leader than Peggy Johnson to carry our mission forward.”

 

#linkedin, #magic-leap, #microsoft, #mixed-reality, #peggy-johnson, #qualcomm, #rony-abovitz, #satya-nadella, #tc, #the-new-york-times, #wearable-devices

0

Qualcomm launches its new smartwatch chips

Qualcomm today announced the launch of its new Snapdragon Wear platforms for wearables, the Snapdragon Wear 4100 and 4100+.

Based on a 12nm process technology, these new platforms promise to breathe new life into the Android Wear ecosystem.

One of the first things users will notice is that, compared to the previous generation of Wear 3100 chips, the 4100+ platform will offer support for a far richer ambient mode, which can now show more colors in this energy-efficient mode all while supporting sleep tracking, live complications and adaptive brightness.

Traditionally, in the Android Wear ecosystem, the ambient mode was quite pared down compared to the live mode, but this new platform is going to change that. According to Qualcomm’s data, most smartwatches spent 95% of their time in ambient mode, so that was an obvious feature to improve upon. For its sports mode, the watch falls back to a similar mode, which now features similar capabilities to keep you up to date while you are on a run, for example, and are using various sensors, maps and the GPS.

Image Credits: Qualcomm

As for the actual technology, the 4100+ platform consisted of a main system Cortex A53-powered system on a chip that promises 85% higher performance compared to the previous generation, all while offering 25% longer battery life. The GPU itself is 2.5 times faster than only a generation ago, which should make for a far smoother user experience. Step counting, heart rate monitoring and more is handled by a tiny always-on co-processor, (it measures 5mmx4mm), while a 4G modem provides high-speed connectivity.

Image Credits: Qualcomm

One other major advantage, especially for sport-oriented smartwatches, is improved GPS support with significantly lower power requirements.

For connected smartwatches, Qualcomm promises a 25% improvement in battery life (and these connected watches have traditionally had pretty dismal battery life).

If you really want to conserve battery life, a lot of recent Android Wear watches let you switch to a low-battery mode, which until now meant you only got to see the time. This ‘enhanced watch mode’ is getting a major update on the new 4100+ platform with the addition of step and heart rate support, a battery indicator, alarms and reminders (and yes, you can still see the time and date, too. It’s a watch, after all).

Image Credits: Qualcomm

It’s worth stressing that Qualcomm will launch two variants of the 4100 platform, the 4100+, which features the main system on a chip, the always-on co-processor and the various connectivity chips, as well as the 4100, which will not feature the always-on co-processor.

The first watches to use the new 4100 chips will come from Mobvoi, the makers of the TicWatch line, and imoo, which will launch a kid-centric smartwatch based on the platform.

Image Credits: Qualcomm

#android-wear, #hardware, #qualcomm, #smartwatches, #tc

0

China Roundup: Huawei targets cars, ByteDance enters Tencent’s backyard

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China Roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world. This week, we have several heavy-hitting rumors swirling around, from Huawei’s chips for cars to Tencent’s potential buyout of its video rival iQiyi.

China tech at home

Huawei’s foray into autos

Huawei might be bringing the technology behind its Kirin smartphone processor into cars. According to Chinese tech publication 36Kr, Huawei has signed a strategic deal with domestic electric car giant BYD, which would be using the Kirin chips to digitize the “cockpits” (generally refer to the drivers’ cabins) in its cars.

The Kirin chips are developed by Huawei’s semiconductor subsidiary HiSilicon to hedge against U.S. sanctions and become self-sufficient in core smartphone technologies. What’s noticeable is that BYD, backed by Warren Buffet, had previously announced to adopt Qualcomm’s Snapdragon automotive chips in its electric vehicles, a partnership that was set to begin in 2019. Could the potential collaboration with Huawei be part of BYD’s move to decrease reliance on imported technologies?

BYD said it “does not have information to disclose at the moment,” while Huawei declines to comment on the rumor.

The potential alliance would not be all that surprising given the duo has already been working together closely. In March 2019, the companies, both Shenzhen-based, unveiled a strategic partnership to apply Huawei’s AI and 5G technologies in BYD’s alternative energy vehicles and monorails.

Automotive independence

More big moves from BYD — the automaker is rushing to become self-sufficient in the production of electric vehicles. After raising a 1.9 billion yuan ($270 million) Series A in late May, its chipmaking subsidiary BYD Semiconductor completed another 800 million yuan ($113 million) Series A+ round this week, apparently due to investors’ immense interest in getting involved in the only Chinese company capable of making the core chip part of electric cars called insulated gate bipolar transistors, or IGBTs.

ByteDance encroaches on Tencent’s turf

ByteDance just paid 1.1 billion yuan ($160 million) for a big plot of land to build offices in the heart of Shenzhen’s Nanshan district, according to public information disclosed by the government. Shenzhen is home to multiple Chinese tech heavyweights, including Tencent, Huawei and DJI. It also houses the China offices of foreign retail giants such as Lazada and Shopify, given the city’s rich manufacturing and logistics resources.

That gives ByteDance, the parent of TikTok, a significant presence in Tencent’s backyard. ByteDance is known to have aggressively lured talents from the entrenched tech trio of Baidu, Alibaba and Baidu by offering lucrative packages. Being in Shenzhen will no doubt give the company more access to Tencent’s talent pool.

This may help it in its push into video gaming, an area that has long been dominated by Tencent, the world’s biggest games publisher. Meanwhile, the world’s second-largest games company — NetEase — is right next door in Guangzhou, an hour’s drive away from central Shenzhen.

Shakeup in video streaming

Reuters reported this week that Tencent has approached Baidu to become the biggest shareholder in iQiyi, the video streaming giant controlled by Baidu. Tencent’s video platform competes neck to neck with iQiyi to churn out variety shows and dramas that will convince Chinese audiences to pay for online content.

Both companies are bleeding money on video production. IQiyi, which shed from Baidu to list on Nasdaq, widened its net loss to 2.9 billion yuan ($406.0 million) in Q1 this year, up from 1.8 billion yuan the year before. Selling iQiyi to deep-pocketed Tencent may further ease the financial burden on Baidu, which is busy coping with ByteDance’s threat to its core advertising business. Both Tencent and iQiyi declined to comment on the report.

Robotics startup Geek+ raises $200 million 

Geek+, a startup that specializes in making logistics robots that are analogous to those of Amazon’s Kiva machines, just closed a substantial Series C round. The company is one to watch as retail companies in China and North America are increasingly looking to automate their warehouses.

China tech abroad

China’s gay dating app Blued goes public on Nasdaq

Despite limited support for LGBTQ communities in China, Blued, a Chinese app used by millions of gay individuals, has been quietly blossoming over the past few years and is eyeing to raise $50 million from a U.S. initial public offering.

JD.com goes public in Hong Kong

JD’s long-awaited secondary listing is here. The online retailer’s shares rose 5.7% to HK$239 ($30.8) on its first day of trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Several U.S.-listed Chinese companies have filed to list in Hong Kong because of a new bill that will impose more scrutiny on Chinese firms trading on the U.S. stock markets.

#asia, #baidu, #byd-semiconductor, #bytedance, #china, #china-roundup, #electric-car, #hong-kong-stock-exchange, #huawei, #iqiyi, #jd-com, #qualcomm, #semiconductor, #snapdragon, #tc, #tencent

0

Qualcomm’s new robotics development platform is 5G-enabled

Qualcomm this morning just announced the latest version of its robotics development platform. The chipmaking giant is skipping a number, following up last year’s RB3 platform with the Robotics RB5 — which seems to signify, among other things, the key embrace of 5G connectivity this time out.

The next-generation wireless technology has been seen as a key enabler of IoT products and robotics alike, bringing a new level of high speed wireless across a broad spectrum of connected devices. No wonder, then, that Qualcomm is pushing hard here. The system also supports 4G, just in case.

Qualcomm is one of a number of operators looking to get in on the ground level of third-party robotics development. Perhaps most notable among the company’s competition is NVIDIA’s ISAAC platform. But Qualcomm certainly has a lot going for it from the standpoint of components, with a depth of knowledge in connectivity, processing power and AI. It also has a number of high-profile partners already developing for the new platform, including  Intel, Panasonic, AirMap, SLAMCORE and ROS gatekeepers, Open Robotics.

The system will support a number of third-party components, including Intel’s RealSense depth camera and Panasonic’s TOF (time-of-flight) camera. There are currently more than 20 early adopters to the new platform, with the first commercial products expected to be released before the end of the year.

#5g-wireless, #internet-of-things, #iot, #qualcomm, #robotics, #wireless

0

Xiaomi spinoff POCO’s F2 Pro undercuts Android rivals with low price and flagship features

POCO, a brand that spun out of Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi earlier this year, today launched the POCO F2 Pro smartphone as it kickstarts its new journey as an independent firm.

The POCO F2 Pro, like its two-year-old predecessor Pocophone F1 smartphone, punches above its price class. It features an all-screen 6.67-inch FHD+ AMOLED display (with 2400×1080 pixels), in-screen fingerprint scanner, support for 5G, quad-core rear camera setup, and a pop-up front camera that quietly tucks away when not in use. It also features a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The smartphone comes in two variants: one with 6GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage that is priced at €499 (roughly $540), and the other that features 8GB of RAM and 256GB internal storage that costs €599 (roughly $650). Both the variants run Android 10 and are going on sale globally starting Tuesday through Gearbest and Aliexpress e-commerce sites. POCO said it will begin selling the POCO F2 Pro on Amazon, Lazada, Shopee, Poco.net, and other e-commerce sites in the coming weeks.

The dual-SIM card supported smartphone is powered by Qualcomm’s flagship octa-core Snapdragon 865 processor, coupled with Adreno 650GPU. POCO F2 Pro also sports what the company claims to be the largest vapor chamber in any smartphone to support LiquidCool, a technology that keeps the device cool even when high-end operations such as graphics intensive games are being played.

On the camera front, the POCO F2 Pro features a 64MP Sony IMX686 sensor, which serves as the primary camera, with a 13MP ultra wide-angle lens, a 5MP macro and one 2MP depth sensor. The pop-up camera, that serves as the selfie sensor, is a 20MP lens. The rear camera setup is capable of recording videos in 8K resolution at 24fps, and 4K in 60fps.

The POCO F2 Pro, which comes in Neon Blue, Electric Purple, Cyber Grey, Phantom White colors, houses a 4,700mAh battery with support for fast charging and ships with a 33W charger in the box.

POCO listed a number of additional features that other flagship Android smartphones offer such as support for HDR10+ video, brightness of 500 nits, Corning Gorilla Glass 5 that protects the display, and an IR blaster. But its display lacks support for 120Hz refresh rate, as seen on OnePlus 8T Pro, that makes viewing experience extra smooth.

More to follow…</