Microsoft’s Sunday E3 pressure was all about the games. In fact, while the company did offer some information about hardware and services, the information all arrived fast and furious at the end of the conference. While it’s probably unsurprising that the company had very little to offer in the way of information about its upcoming 8K console, Project Scarlett, most of us expected Project xCloud to get a lot more face time on stage.
The company powered through a whole lot of information about its upcoming streaming offering like it was going out of style (or, perhaps, like the lights were going out at its own theater). The speed and brevity of it all left a number of audience members confused on the specifics — and caused some to speculate that the service night not be as far along as Microsoft had hoped.
We caught up with a few Microsoft reps on our final day at the show to answer some questions. The company is unsurprisingly still mum on a number of key details around the offering. A couple of key things are worth clarifying, though. For starters console stream is not considered a part of Project xCloud. Rather, the ability to play games on one’s own Xbox One remotely is a separate feature that will be coming to users via a software update.
Asked what advantages console streaming has over the parallel xCloud offering, Microsoft’s answer was simple: it’s free. Fair enough. This serves a two-fold purpose. First, it helps differentiate Microsoft’s streaming offerings from Stadia and second, it provides another value proposition for the console itself. As to how performance is expected to differ between console streaming and XCloud, it wouldn’t comment.
As I wrote earlier today, the company does see the potential of a large scale move to the cloud, but anticipates that such a shift is a long ways off. After all, if it didn’t, it likely wouldn’t have announced a new console this week at E3.
Libra cryptocurrency renamed Diem to add distance from Facebook
The Facebook-backed Libra cryptocurrency hasn’t even launched yet, but it’s already rebranding, with its stablecoin product now set to debut as Diem. The move – which comes as the organization hires a number of high-profile execs – is being seen as an attempt to draw further distinction between the crypto project and the ever-controversial Facebook.
Indeed, the new Diem Association will make its independence a key pillar. The new name “signals the project’s growing maturity and independence,” Stuart Levey, CEO, said today.
It’s not been an easy path to launch for Libra, now Diem. Announced in mid-2019, it was pitched as another bitcoin alternative that would be “a global, digitally native, reserve-backed cryptocurrency built on the foundation of blockchain technology.” Although the currency itself would be independent, it could be stored in a Facebook-subsidiary digital wallet, called Calibra.
Since then, though, things haven’t been smooth sailing. Libra faced early criticism for its plan to base value on the US dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen, Singapore dollar, and British pound. Original partners like Visa and Stripe have exited the project.
Facebook’s wallet, meanwhile, will no longer launch as Calibra, and has been rebranded to Novi. Arguably most important, the cryptocurrency’s value won’t be for one, single global stablecoin any more. Instead, there will be multiple versions, with each based on an individual currency such as the US dollar.
The goal now, it appears, is making financial transactions more straightforward and traceable. “The Diem project will provide a simple platform for fintech innovation to thrive and enable consumers and businesses to conduct instantaneous, low-cost, highly secure transactions,” Levey said. “We are committed to doing so in a way that promotes financial inclusion – expanding access to those who need it most, and simultaneously protecting the integrity of the financial system by deterring and detecting illicit conduct.”
Dahlia Malkhi is joining as the Diem Association’s Chief Technology Officer, Christy Clark as Chief of Staff, Steve Bunnell as Chief Legal Officer, and Kiran Raj as Executive Vice President for Growth and Innovation and Deputy General Counsel. Diem Networks – which will be the regulated payment system operator for Diem – has also named its key exec team.
Still to come, however, is any sort of confirmation on timing for the actual launch of Diem. That’s conspicuous by its absence, though earlier rumors suggested that it could be scheduled for early in the new year, and potentially as soon as January.
Snapdragon 888 revealed – Qualcomm’s 5G flagship for Android in 2021
Qualcomm has announced its latest flagship chipset, with the Snapdragon 888 set to power the next generation of high-end Android devices in 2021. As you’d expect, there’s a big focus on 5G, with the Snapdragon 888 featuring the company’s latest 3rd generation Snapdragon X60 modem.
Full details of the chipset won’t be revealed until tomorrow, Qualcomm says, with only the headline features of the new SoC being shared at the moment. Still, there’s enough to get us more than a little curious.
The Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF System, for example, will combine mmWave and Sub-6 connectivity “across all major bands worldwide,” Qualcomm promises. There’ll be support for 5G carrier aggregation along with global multi-SIM, as we’ve seen on previous 5G modems, together with standalone, non-standalone, and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing.
Another big area of fascination for Qualcomm recently has been Artificial Intelligence. The 6th generation Qualcomm AI Engine will feature on the Snapdragon 888, with a “completely re-engineered” Hexagon processor. That should be capable of up to 26 TOPS (tera operations per second), and will be linked with the 2nd generation Qualcomm Sensing Hub. That controls always-on sensors in a low-power mode.
Snapdragon Elite Gaming, meanwhile, will continue to offer things like updatable GPU drivers – separate from OS updates, allowing for more frequent incremental improvements in graphics performance, in some cases on a per-game basis – and Desktop Forward Rendering. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 888 should be able to handle up to 144 fps games with its new Adreno GPUs.
On the flip side of the phone, cameras are another big selling point for the new chipset. There, the updated Qualcomm Spectra ISP will handle photos and videos at up to 2.7 gigapixels per second, or roughly 120 photos at 12-megapixels. That’s up to a 35-percent speed improvement compared to the last Snapdragon flagship, Qualcomm suggests.
Of course, Qualcomm has some rising ARM competition at the moment. All eyes are on Apple, which has spread its own, homegrown chipsets from iPhone and iPad to the desktop, with Apple Silicon launching in the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13, and Mac mini. They use the M1 SoC, borrowing heavily from the A-series chipsets in recent iOS and iPadOS devices, but we’re expecting to see more potent Apple chips in 2021.
That’s when we can also likely expect to see Android phones based on the Snapdragon 888, though as always it will be down to smartphone-makers to actually decide when their devices launch. Qualcomm says that ASUS, Black Shark, Lenovo, LG, Meizu, Motorola, Nubia, realm, OnePlus, OPPO, Sharp, vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE are all planning to launch Snapdragon 888-based devices, though we’d expect to see Samsung and others join that list in the new year.
Apple MagSafe Duo Charger tipped to launch this month
In October, Apple unveiled its new iPhone 12 line and announced new MagSafe and MagSafe Duo chargers. The standard MagSafe charger is currently available for purchase, but the MagSafe Duo availability is a mystery. A reseller from Switzerland called Digitec Galaxus, apparently a known and popular reseller, has published a listing for the MagSafe Duo charger suggesting that the charger will start shipping this month.
The reseller’s web store claims that MagSafe Duo chargers will ship between December 21 and December 29. It’s worth noting that Apple has yet to offer an official launch date for the charger. It’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility that a major reseller would have inside information about a potential launch date.
Apple certainly won’t be happy that the company is tipping launch dates if there’s any truth to the listing. Another factoid lending weight to the December 21 launch date is that Apple has sent some MagSafe Duo review units out already. It’s unlikely that Apple would’ve sent review units to members in the media if the device wasn’t ready to launch soon.
For those unfamiliar with the MagSafe Duo charger, it’s designed to charge an iPhone 12 series smartphone and an Apple Watch simultaneously. MagSafe chargers are of the sort that the Apple Watch uses and was a new feature to the iPhone 12 series launched in October.
Apple previously said that the MagSafe Duo charger would sell for $129. As is done with recent iterations of its phones and Watch, no USB-C power adapter is included. Apple will gladly sell you one for an additional charge. Most smartphone users likely have USB-C chargers lying around, but you need one with enough power output to get the ideal charge speed.
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