Xiaomi announces its first VR headset


Xiaomi is broadening its already expansive range of products by venturing into virtual reality for the first time.

The company today announced the Mi VR Play, an “entry-level” virtual reality headset that it hopes can open this new exciting medium to new audiences because not everyone has thousands of dollars needed to set up an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Democratizing technology is the thesis behind most of Xiaomi’s competitively priced products, including the $550/$750 notebook announced last week that will rival Apple’s Macbook in China.

This new device recalls Google’s super-cheap and super-simple Cardboard VR headset. It is fairly basic in nature; you pop a smartphone into the lycra-built body then open Xiaomi’s Mi VR app, which contains VR content from selected partners that include Conde Nast Traveler and YouKu, “China’s YouTube.” Xiaomi pledged to invest $1 billion in video content, including VR, last year, so that library is sure to get bigger over time.

Read more: TechCrunch

‘Nougat’ – New version of Android crowned

Newest sweet treat: Google shared the event in a Twitter message tagged #AndroidNougat and containing a looped snippet of video of the undraping of an Android statue standing atop giant nougat and nut bars. — Google

Newest sweet treat: Google shared the event in a Twitter message tagged #AndroidNougat and containing a looped snippet of video of the undraping of an Android statue standing atop giant nougat and nut bars. — Google

SAN FRANCISCO: Google’s newest mobile operating system will be called Nougat, continuing a tradition of naming Android software after sweet treats, the tech giant said.

Google had invited people to send in suggestions at its annual developers conference in May, and revealed the winning Android name at a playful ceremony at its campus in the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View.

Nutella was thought to be a favourite, but Nougat won the day.

Google shared the event in a Twitter message tagged #AndroidNougat and containing a looped snippet of video of the undraping of an Android statue standing atop giant nougat and nut bars.

The technology giant has been letting developers work with the new mobile operating system, which is expected to be released later this year.

Alphabet-owned Google’s Android operating software is a computing phenomenon that powers the vast majority of smartphones sold across the world.

There were 1.16 billion smartphones shipped in 2015 that are powered by Android, according to research group Gartner. That accounted for 82% of the market, dwarfing the 225.85 million for Apple’s iOS.

Cupcake, the first version of the operating software to carry the name of an enticing desert, was released in 2009.

It was followed by Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop and current-generation Marshmallow. — AFP

Source: The Star Online

Apple invests $1B in China’s largest taxi app

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Apple made the bombshell announcement today that it has invested $1 billion in China’s top ride hailing app. Didi Chuxing (formerly called Didi Kuaidi) is often described in U.S. media as Uber’s Chinese rival, but it already dominates the market by far. The company claims it fulfilled one billion rides last year and holds 87 percent of the country’s private ride-hailing market.

In an interview with Reuters, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “We are making the investment for a number of strategic reasons, including a chance to learn more about certain segments of the China market. Of course, we believe it will deliver a strong return for our invested capital as well.”

Didi Chuxing told Reuters that this is its single largest round of funding so far. It claims to currently complete more than 11 million rides a day and have over 14 million drivers on its platform. The company’s other major investors include Tencent and Alibaba, two of China’s largest Internet companies, and SoftBank.

According to a WSJ report from February, the company was then in the process of finalizing a round for $1 billion at a valuation of $20 billion. A Didi Chuxing representative said Apple’s investment is part of the same round, but declined to confirm the valuation. TechCrunch has also emailed Apple for more information.

In a press release, Didi Chuxing founder and CEO Cheng Wei said, “The endorsement from Apple is an enormous encouragement and inspiration for our four-year-old company. DiDi will work hard with our drivers, riders and global partners, to make available to every citizen flexible and reliable mobility choices, and help cities solve transportation, environmental and employment challenges.”

China is on its way to becoming Apple’s biggest iPhone market, but the company has faced a few recent setbacks there. After years of giving it a relatively free rein for a U.S. tech company, the Chinese government ordered the closure of iBooks Store and iTunes and Movies just six months after the services launched in China.

Furthermore, while Apple’s sales in China are still growing, it’s at a much slower rate than before as the Chinese economy becomes sluggish and the smartphone market in general faces less demand. Concerns about Apple’s reliance on China prompted activist shareholder Carl Icahn to sell his entire stake in the company earlier this year.

Investing in Didi Chuxing allows Apple to grab a foothold in the Chinese tech market that reaches beyond iPhones—and also gives it a new platform for its other technology. For example, if Didi Chuxing uses CarPlay, that gives Apple another outlet to sell software services in China beside the iPhone, as well as valuable data to tailor apps and maps for Chinese users. Didi Chuxing is also a major potential customer once Apple’s self-driving car comes to fruition.

Source: TechCrunch

New Windows 10 build released

Fine-tuned: Among the updates are improvements to the Start menu and Start screen, as well as several shortcuts to improve efficiency and ease-of-use. — Microsoft

Fine-tuned: Among the updates are improvements to the Start menu and Start screen, as well as several shortcuts to improve efficiency and ease-of-use. — Microsoft

Microsoft has announced the release of the new PC and mobile OS build, allowing users – among other updates – to try out Windows Ink, a hub for writing and sketching apps.

As part of the new Windows 10 Build 14328, users will be able to test the system’s new features, most notably Windows Ink, whose workspace includes sticky notes, a sketchpad, whiteboard and a screen sketch option.

The updates include improvements to the Start menu and Start screen, as well as several shortcuts, to improve efficiency and ease-of-use. A number of improvements to Cortana are intended to make the Windows personal assistant more accessible and useful.

Users signed up to the Windows Insiders program can test the new features and updates by visiting Windows Update and upgrading to the new build. — AFP Relaxnews

China ban on Apple services is a challenge for key growth area

People line up outside an Apple store as iPhone SE goes on sale in China, in Hangzhou

The blocking of Apple mobile entertainment services in China poses fresh challenges for the tech company as it prepares to report its first-ever drop in iPhone sales.

The news on Thursday that Apple Inc’s online book and film services had gone dark in China came at a vulnerable moment for the company. Apple executives have said that iPhone sales will fall for the first time in the company’s second quarter, and the results for that quarter will be released on Tuesday. Investors are sensitive to any signs of trouble in Greater China, the company’s second-largest market by revenue.

Apple executives have flagged the growing services business as a potential source of revenue as sales of the company’s flagship devices level off, upping the stakes for success in China, said analyst Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research.

“It raises questions in an area that we know long-term is going to be very strategically important to Apple,” he said.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that a state regulator demanded Apple halt the service. The move came after Beijing introduced regulations in March imposing strict curbs on online publishing, particularly for foreign firms.

Still, the outage is only troubling if it persists, O’Donnell said. Apple said in a statement on Thursday that it hopes to make the services available to customers in China as soon as possible.

Apple has a strong track record of working with officials in China, where it has launched a series of services including mobile payment Apple Pay, but some analysts questioned whether the company may receive a chillier reception in the future.

“Is this the beginning of more pressure on Apple by the Chinese government?” asked analyst of Frank Gillett of research firm Forrester. “It’s a symbolic turn, and the question is to what extent is it a harbinger.”

The company released its book and movie services in China only late last year, leaving Chinese consumers little time to form a habit.

“People who are buying iPhones in China aren’t buying them for iTunes,” said O’Donnell. “They are buying it for the status and the cachet of owning an Apple product, and that is really more about the hardware.”

Chinese consumers’ appetite for the phones themselves will be critical to quarterly earnings. Apple is expected to post its first-ever quarterly drop in iPhone sales, to about 50 million units, reflecting a saturated global market.

Wall Street expects adjusted earnings per share to drop 14 percent to $2.00 and revenue to drop 10 percent to $52.0 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Source: Reuters

Apple Watch reportedly took 52% of the smartwatch market in 2015

Apple Watch - Hermes wrist

According to a new research, the Apple Watch claimed 52% of the global smartwatch market in 2015, after less than a year on sale. The Apple Watch’s Android Wear competitors held only 10% of the market, according to Juniper Research.

Despite the Apple Watch’s popularity, Juniper has found that consumers are still wary of the category. Many are holding off on purchasing a watch, citing factors such as price. Some customers are also skeptical that a smartwatch would actually be a convenience.

While smartwatches’ most common claim to a use case is to improve convenience and ‘free’ users from their smartphone, several users and reviewers note that this simply shifts the burden of notification to another location, rather than lessening the load.

Juniper has found that, outside of the Apple Watch, the smartwatch market has been driven by devices with more basic functionality and lower cost. Most of these devices tend to have basic notifications and fitness tracking, without the ability to run apps. The largest markets for smartwatches in 2015 were, according to Juniper, North America, China and East Asia, and Western Europe.

Source: iMore