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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/2/2017 10:59:56 AM
   of 490
 
The Consortium Conundrum and the Race for Autonomous Driving



The ambitious and multifaceted endeavor that is fully autonomous driving seems simply too large a task for one company to undertake. In the race for autonomy, automakers, software experts, hardware manufacturers, and ridesharing companies are turning to each other in an effort to expedite their collective progress on the matter.

Foregoing traditional practice and the opportunity for market dominance, several companies are hoping their combined efforts will bring them further than they could get on their own. Bringing a self-driving car to market not only poses many technical challenges, but it will involve a cultural shift in the way humans are transported and how they interact with machines every day. Such an unprecedented project has spurred unprecedented relationships that involve everything from young and nimble tech startups to century-old auto manufacturers coming together. These strategic partnerships present a challenging conundrum.

Lay of the land. The web of players banding together to tackle autonomy is tangled. In the interest of brevity, here is a list of some of the more significant partnerships:

The Open AutoDrive Forum attempts to act as an open dialogue to standardize the area of autonomous driving with participation from over 60 companies across auto, software, mapping, ridesharing, hardware, and education. BMW, Intel (and Mobileye), Fiat Chrysler, and Delphi have partnered to establish an industry standard for self-driving fleets and hope to bring vehicles to market by 2021. Fiat Chrysler is also working with Waymo to develop autonomous vans based on their Pacifica model. Waymo partnered with Avis to augment their fleet service capabilities. Uber has announced partnerships with Daimler, Volvo, GM, Didi Chuxing, and Toyota. Waymo and Lyft have entered into an arrangement. Jaguar Land Rover is investing $25 million in Lyft to fund autonomous vehicle activities. Intel, Toyota, Ericsson, and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone have formed what is called the Automotive Edge Computing Consortium to develop the technology for an ecosystem of connected cars. HERE mapping, a 3D mapping initiative, is owned by a consortium of companies including German automotive companies BMW, Daimler, and Audi, along with now Intel and Tencent. There have also been several other groups arising that include Nvidia, LiDAR company Velodyne, and auto engineering firm Bosch. Where a consortium makes sense. In an area of commodity technology like wi-fi or Bluetooth, industry standards make certain that a rising tide lifts all boats and the collective group benefits from cooperation more than each could on its own. This concept manifests itself in bodies like the Wi-Fi Alliance and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. This model can sometimes be an effective way to implement standards that encourage broadly adopted technology and safety, and bolster more substantial relationships with the government. For example, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication is one area in which a consortium could be effective. ‘Out-communicating’ your rivals does not afford you an edge, so competition for this technology does not make sense – the higher goal is safety. Cooperation on building and implementing the best system possible would benefit all companies and, most importantly, consumers.

But partnering up is usually inefficient. Innovation feeds off of competition. Great competitors play offense to attack their rivals. Partnerships that bring entities together inorganically, often out of obligation, typically play defense. While sharing technology, patents, or engineering talent may create synergies or expedite the time to market on paper, it often creates a clash of competing interests, muddled accountability, and a diminished sense of urgency. In an area of intense competition, like building an autonomous vehicle for public roadways, small differences in technology can create large gaps in capability and time to market. This is an area in which a consortium would be ineffective. Although a strategic partnership may bring together certain components of the system (e.g., an automaker, a chipmaker, a software company, or a ridesharing network), the group’s combined efforts cannot match those of a single, capable entity on a clear mission. We believe the most effective player is one who can quickly deploy resources at scale and one that is nimble enough to react quickly and decisively in the highly dynamic field of autonomy. For instance, General Motors may not have the balance sheet (mkt cap $51B) or the knowledge to spend $5 billion on a battery factory, but could most likely garner the necessary insights via a strategic partnership. Even so, due to their image as a traditional automaker and their adherence to the status quo, it is unlikely that they could raise or deploy the funds necessary to do so. On the other hand, Tesla has effectively been given an open checkbook from their investors to pursue new manufacturing paradigms, battery production, and autonomy.

A history lesson. It’s a challenge to find examples of strategic partnerships that have yielded revolutionary innovation. In fact, Peter Simoons suggests that 80% of ad hoc partnerships fail outright. If history repeats itself, the countless companies collaborating on autonomy may form solid organizations, but true innovation will evade them.

Shared Mission. A couple of years ago Tesla found that about 15% of Model S vehicles were making a strange noise when the car hit 17 mph. On a Saturday morning, Musk gathered the Tesla motor design team along with a group from SpaceX. He instructed the team to fix the issue by Monday, setting into motion what’s known inside of Tesla as “heroics.” By Monday the problem was solved. Having Tesla and SpaceX working together to solve a problem may sound like a strategic partnership, but it’s decisively different. Most SpaceX and Tesla employees believe they work for Musk, and walk through walls to inch towards his goals. It’s a lack of this type of shared mission that causes consortiums to stumble.

http://loupventures.com/the-consortium-conundrum-the-race-for-autonomous-driving/


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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/3/2017 4:50:54 AM
   of 490
 
What are Amazon’s future plans for Whole Foods?



Excerpted from NY Times 9/1/2017 “Bits” column.

Farhad: Then we have Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, which just closed. To mark the kickoff, Amazon cut prices on a variety of Whole Foods staples. I went to my local Whole Foods around lunchtime yesterday and found it unusually packed. But have you been able to glean anything else about Amazon’s long-term plans for Whole Foods, beyond this marketing push?

Nick: The initial price cuts were a way to get curiosity seekers in the door on day one, which seems to have worked. Amazon has already talked about various plans to integrate Amazon services with Whole Foods, like making Amazon Prime the loyalty program for the stores.

Checkout lines are the single most annoying experience everyone I know has at supermarkets. Amazon has insisted they won’t use the cashier-free checkout technology they’re testing at their Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle to put people out of work. But if they can get the system working smoothly, I could see Amazon sticking to their promise by giving cashiers new roles inside Whole Foods stores — for example, spending more time answering customer questions.


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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/4/2017 3:12:53 PM
   of 490
 
Tesla, Netflix And Other U.S. Innovators Shine As Tech Revolution Accelerates



The 2016 presidential election was won on visions of idled coal workers and manufacturing jobs lost to Mexico and China, of collapsed inner cities and a country fallen behind in almost every critical economic measure.

But the stock market has told a different tale over the past several years, one of an economy that's not just holding its own, but is generating new technologies and revolutionizing industries at a blistering pace. This has come not only in the form of technical innovations, such as driver-assist technologies and horizontal drilling for gas and oil, but in new ways of imagining industry clusters as traditional as taxi cabs, retail shopping and entertainment, as well as even more deeply embedded cultural traits, such as the way we communicate with family and friends.

The result is a new world that has rapidly taken hold across developed countries, in which U.S. companies command dominant global roles, and which has produced many of the early 21st century's most significant stock market winners. The explosive change challenges investors to keep a close eye on their longer-term holdings and stay on the lookout for truly visionary companies with ideas and technologies that may ripple out to all corners of the global economy.

"I really can't think of too many, if any, major industries that aren't being significantly affected by the high-tech revolution," said Ed Yardeni, chief investment strategist at institutional investment consultant Yardeni Research. "It's disrupting business plans and models everywhere."

Change has been so steady and pervasive that it can be difficult to describe how different life is today than it was at the turn of the century.

Toyota Motor ( TM) began shipping its novel hybrid-electric auto, the Prius, to the U.S. in 2000. The quick response from consumers verified the U.S. appetite for fuel-efficient transportation. In 2002, Honda Motor ( HMC) joined in with a Civic model hybrid, and the trend gained momentum when Ford ( F) brought out its Escape SUV hybrid in 2004.

Tesla ( TSLA), breaking barriers with its fully electric, luxury vehicles, was born in 2003, with innovator Elon Musk coming aboard as chairman and financier a year later. In June 2010, Tesla became the first American car company to go public since Ford Motor's IPO in 1956.

But electric and hybrid cars were only the tip of the spear in the auto industry's reformation. Driver-assist technologies, global-positioning-system navigation, and alloy and composite materials also rapidly revolutionized auto design and consumer expectations.

There were only iPods, no iPhones, when Facebook ( FB) launched its social networking service in February 2004 — eight years before the company went public. At about that same time, the shale gas drilling revolution was getting underway, picking up momentum just as natural gas prices spiked to more than $15 per BTU in 2005. That revolution spread to the oil side of the business a half-decade later, after oil prices swelled to above $147 per barrel in 2008. Today, both oil and gas trade steadily at about a third of their peak prices.

Netflix ( NFLX) initially launched as a mail-order DVD sales and rental business in 1997. But in 2007, it became a tech name after introducing its streaming film-rental business. In June of that same year, people lined up to buy Apple's ( AAPL) first iPhone, officially setting in motion the smartphone revolution. Other smartphones were on the market at the time, led by RIM's BlackBerry, but Apple's touchscreen keyboard, sexy design and potent, app-capable processor set a new standard.

In February 2005, Amazon Prime arrived. Amazon.com's ( AMZN) $79-per-year subscription service upended the mall-store retail sector by offering free two-day shipping within the U.S. That same month, Federated Department Stores acquired Macy's owner May for $11 billion. In a news conference, the deal's architect, Terry Lundgren, said the chains combined under the Macy's ( M) name were competing with "everything today from Wal-Mart ( WMT) to Louis Vuitton, and consumers have demonstrated that they are willing to cross-shop at all kinds of stores.''

Investors have sent Apple's shares up 837% since it introduced its first iPhone. Netflix has gained more than 14,000% since its 2002 IPO, and Amazon is up more than 2,100% since launching Amazon Prime. Facebook traded 339% above its 2012 IPO price this week. Tesla was more than 1,900% above its initial offering price.

But it's a tough game to call. Toyota shares have only gained 14% since its introduction of the Prius. And oil and gas producers that soared after launching the shale production boom have since fallen victim to the global glut created by their innovation.

For those engulfed in the change, it can be difficult to assess how this revolution compares with those of the past.

"Sorting out the reality from the hype is always difficult," said Richard Cooper, professor of international economics at Harvard University. But "every generation goes through a period like we're going through now."

The current storm of modernization compares to that of the late 1950s and 1960s, Cooper says. That transformation introduced the transistor, commercial jet aircraft, the U.S. space program, the buildup of the Defense Department's nuclear arsenal and the U.S. interstate highway system.

One technological aspect shared between that revolution and the current one? Automation. Workers on assembly lines — in machine shops, textile and printing operations — were among the many whose jobs were threatened by machines.

"There was a big concern in the late 1950s and early 1960s about automation, substituting machines for people," Cooper said.

The transistor set the stage for the semiconductor chip, which Yardeni asserts provides the basis of the current revolution. Even in the harsh and gritty trenches of oil and natural gas production, computers drive much of the decision-making and analysis enabling the shale revolution.

"There is a tremendous amount of computing power necessary to optimize where you drill and how you drill," Yardeni said.

Computers drove the PC revolution that reshaped the economic landscape in the 1990s, advancing beyond simply replacing horses, or welders or lathe operators.

"The focus of this technology revolution is on the brain," Yardeni said, "on increasingly using technology to do what the brain does."

The new focus, aided by chips and microprocessors calculating tens of thousands of metrics per second, enable technologies that promise to free consumers from driving their cars, managing their home energy systems and shopping for necessities. It is allowing deep dives into exploring the genetic and molecular underpinnings of maladies such as cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

But it is also putting on notice a countless array of job descriptions, from taxi driver and factory warehouse manager to accountant, financial analyst, journalist and, God forbid, movie star.

"Through the ages, technological advancement has led to job loss, dislocation, anxiety," said David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist with Toronto-based wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff & Associates.

The process ultimately leads to a higher standard of living, Rosenberg says. In the meantime, workers at risk undergo stress and uncertainty. He contends that stressed workers only partly explain the discrepancy between a phenomenally low 4.5% unemployment rate and a U.S. GDP growth rate unable to hold above 2% over the past decade.

There are many reasons for the disconnect, Rosenberg says, not least of which are a tight labor market and a capital-spending environment held back by the current clouded policy outlook.

Rosenberg and Cooper both view labor and productivity numbers as distorted by factors such as automated labor and a shift to service-sector jobs. Those and other changes are wreaking havoc on the data and on traditional economic models understood and respected by economists.

"Those models are changing and changing fast," Rosenberg said.

The unemployment rate would be closer to 8% than 4% if data included the 55 million Americans, age 16 to 64, currently not participating in the labor force, Rosenberg says. The same is true if labor calculations included robots as a competitive factor in the market.

Gauges that have shown U.S. productivity stalling over the past several years are highly suspect, both Cooper and Rosenberg say, as are data reporting the average workweek effectively unchanged at 34.5 hours for the past decade.

Also, Cooper says, "We do a terrible job of measuring output in the service sector," particularly in education and health care. This is increasingly critical as the economy expands faster on the services side. More than 3.1 million of the record 6.2 million advertised, unfilled positions reported in the Labor Department's June Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey were in professional services, education and health care.

So as the health care sector inevitably expands to cater to the aging baby boomer generation, more data fall through the cracks.

"As a result, measured productivity goes down, even though people are better and better off," he said.

One encouraging, and vexing, piece of the GDP growth picture is the record number of unfilled jobs cited in the June survey. The vacancies effectively equal the 6 million Americans who are unemployed and actively looking for work.

"The level of job openings in the private sector has never been as high as they are today," Rosenberg said. "And yet … the (number of) applicants for those jobs who have the necessary skills is practically at an all-time low."

This points to education as one area still ripe for technological restructuring. Truck drivers are already high on the list of tech targets. And homebuilding — an industry in which growth is currently being held back by labor shortages — is also long overdue for a high-tech makeover.

So what does the future hold? Drone deliveries and self-driving automobiles, taxis and trucks in the not too distant future, and maybe even a hyperloop. From a historical standpoint, Cooper says, the U.S. economy is particularly well-suited to change.

"We're always at a crossroads, but generally (the American economy is) quite good at adapting to change," he said.

The capitalist structure of that economy, first and foremost, bets on the ability of markets to be open to new entrants, Yardeni says, and high technology itself is inherently beneficial to capitalistic organization of markets.

"It breaks down barriers and allows new entrants to challenge established order," he said. "And, again, that is very revolutionary."

investors.com


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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/6/2017 10:28:27 PM
   of 490
 
Intel’s Myriad X chip is a game-changer for AI



When Intel’s Movidius team released the Myriad 2 visual processing unit (VPU) it was a marvel of technology and design. The tiny chip contained AI accelerators and a performance-to-power ratio that placed it, arguably, without peer. A developer looking to give the power of sight to a device couldn’t ask for much more than the Myriad 2. Yet, somehow, Intel decided to give them more anyway.

AI chipsets aren’t exactly new; this isn’t Intel’s first, or second one. The company released the Myriad X chip last week — despite the fact that the Myriad 2 was still considered cutting edge. Intel seems to be in competition with itself – which is good for everyone.

We asked the VP of marketing for Movidius under Intel, Gary Brown, what made the Myriad X different than its predecessor:

In terms of firsts, the Myriad X is our first VPU that features the Neural Compute Engine, or NCE. We’ve also been able to increase performance from two TOPS to four TOPS overall.

The chip is a tiny little powerhouse that might be leagues beyond anything else out there, sure, but what does it do?

[iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/pWnUuLSFgCc?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https:%2F%2Fthenextweb.com" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" name="fitvid0" id="widget2" style="box-sizing: border-box; -webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased; outline: 0px; text-rendering: optimizeLegibility; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; max-width: 100%; border-width: 0px; font-family: inherit; height: 352.922px; left: 0px; padding: 0px; position: absolute; top: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; width: 628px; margin: 0px;"] [/iframe] The Myriad X chip makes life easier for AI researchers and developers, according to Brown:

The NCE is really meant to accelerate the deep neural networks (DNN) that our customers want to use at the edge. These are things like tracking or surveillance cameras, for example. The power efficiency, or the amount of performance you can get per watt, is the biggest metric, and we’re better than GPUs or anyone else in the space.

Intel isn’t the only company in the AI hardware business. Microsoft recently coined the HPU, or holographic processing unit, when it built its own chips for the newest iteration of Hololens. Smartphone manufacturer Huawei recently announced it’s next phone will come with AI baked into the processor.

Google and NVidia both have chips purpose-built for AI as well, and there are several startups dedicated specifically to the task. It’ll be a crowded development area within a couple years. Still, Intel doesn’t feel like there’s much competition in the space. It’s confident that Movidius, and the Myriad X, represent the gold standard for AI chips. But they aren’t content to rest according to Brown:

We’re predicting that within two to three years there’s going to be an overwhelming need for advanced NCEs. It’s very exciting, all of us on the Movidius team are on an adventurous trek into a new realm of vision intelligence.

The world of tomorrow features AI that handles the details, like drones that know how to capture the moment. There’s no way to predict all the uses for robots that have the ability to see and process the world visually.

Brown sounded even more excited when he spoke about the unseen potential for Intel’s Movidius chips:

We envision its use beyond the current categories that we’re using it in, VPUs will be used by developers in categories and ways that you and I can’t even imagine right now.

https://thenextweb.com/artificial-intelligence/2017/09/07/visual-processing-units-let-robots-see-the-world-like-humans-but-better/#.tnw_VshWFRfa


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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/8/2017 10:17:27 AM
   of 490
 
IBM Just Committed $240 Million to the Future of Artificial Intelligence



Despite the many recent advances in artificial intelligence, the technology is still in its nascent stages, with much room left for improvement. Through the newly announced 10-year, $240 million dollar MIT-IBM AI research initiative, IBM and MIT plan to spearhead that innovation.

IBM is officially partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to run an artificial intelligence (AI) research lab. This Watson-branded joint MIT-IBM AI research initiative — a partnership of acronyms — will be funded through a 10-year, $240 million investment from IBM and will be co-located at IBM’s Research Lab in Cambridge and at the MIT campus.

According to an IBM press release, the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab will be one the largest long-term AI collaborations between a university and a member of the tech industry.

Its goal is to enable more than 100 scientists, professors, and students to pursue research focused on such areas as the development of AI algorithms that could expand machine learning capabilities, the improvement of AI hardware, the exploration of AI’s economic and societal benefits, and the identification of AI applications in key industries.

The team at IBM knows that despite all the recent attention given to what AI can do, there’s still so much that it can’t.

“The field of artificial intelligence has experienced incredible growth and progress over the past decade,” IBM’s senior VP for Cognitive Solutions and Research John Kelly III said in the press release. “Yet today’s AI systems, as remarkable as they are, will require new innovations to tackle increasingly difficult real-world problems to improve our work and lives.”

IBM and MIT want to work together on those innovations, and their partnership might be exactly what’s needed to put AI’s promise to use in the real world. IBM has already illustrated the potential for their Watson AI to improve healthcare, and with MIT’s help, they may be able to take the technology even further in that field and so many others.

“True breakthroughs are often the result of fresh thinking inspired by new kinds of research teams,” asserted MIT President L. Rafael Reif in the IBM press release. “The combined MIT and IBM talent dedicated to this new effort will bring formidable power to a field with staggering potential to advance knowledge and help solve important challenges.”

https://futurism.com/ibm-just-committed-240-million-to-the-future-of-artificial-intelligence/


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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/9/2017 11:06:57 AM
   of 490
 
How a New Apple Watch May Threaten the Telecoms



The world awaits the 10th-anniversary iPhone. But the real news may be buried within a redesigned Apple Watch.

The telecommunications market may soon be up-ended once again by the Apple Effect. A decade ago, Apple transformed the terms of the wireless phone business with its first iPhone, and this week it may do so again.

No, this is not about the 10th-anniversary iPhone that’s expected to be unveiled at a Sept. 12 media event at Apple’s headquarters. Rather, the pivotal development may involve a second, less-ballyhooed product, the Apple Watch, which many believe is also getting an upgrade.

The rumor mill has for months said Apple’s next smartwatch will gain the ability to dial up the internet wirelessly even when it’s not connected to an iPhone. If true, the new Apple Watch will probably make use of an emerging technology called an embedded SIM. This could further separate the purchase of a new electronic gadget from the grip of the phone companies.

A beneficiary of this development could be Dutch-listed Gemalto (ticker: GTO.Netherlands), a supplier to the phone companies. ( Gemalto also has American depositary receipts that trade over the counter under the ticker GTOMY.)

Inside every smartphone is a subscriber identity module, or SIM, a little plastic card with a chip that employees at the phone store shove inside the device when you buy a new unit. The SIM tells a wireless network that you’re a valid customer so you can connect. The carrier traditionally buys SIMs, then programs them with customer numbers.

The embedded SIM, or eSIM, which has been in development for a number of years by a wireless industry consortium known as the GSM Association, works differently. The chip is built into the device when it’s made. Nothing needs to be inserted. Moreover, an eSIM can be set up remotely, over the internet, without a visit to a store.

Industry experts believe that the Apple Watch will use an eSIM to make possible that independent data connection. You might order a watch, open the box, then pick a wireless provider right from the device, or from an app on your iPhone.

The eSIM has been slow to take off, although it has been placed within some automobiles with internet connections, and in industrial equipment. Samsung Electronics (005930.South Korea) has touted its own smartwatch, the Gear S3 Frontier, as the very first eSIM device.

But Samsung trails far behind Apple in the smartwatch race, so the market for eSIM is waiting, once again, for the Apple Effect. “It [a new Apple Watch] will give a huge boost to the struggling eSIM market,” says Neil Mawston of market research firm Strategy Analytics.

The eSIM is now in less than 1% of all mobile and automotive devices globally, Mawston’s data show. “Everyone is sitting on their hands and waiting for Apple to ignite the fireworks,” he says.

There are two immediate beneficiaries, presuming that Apple delivers the goods: Gemalto, as mentioned above, and a private firm based in Munich called Giesecke & Devrient. Both manufacture SIM cards. As a result, making eSIMs is their next logical opportunity, something they’ve been talking about for some time.

Gemalto has the top SIM market share by some counts, says analyst Mawston, though that can vary depending on how one slices the numbers for units of SIMs shipped.

Mawston is inclined to think that Giesecke & Devrient may get the business from Apple to build the eSIM for the smartwatch, given that the company was “a little earlier to the eSIM game” than Gemalto. But, it’s tough to second-guess Apple, he concedes, and Gemalto could end up having some or all of the business. We won’t know for sure until the smartwatch gets into the hands of gadget types and they tear it open and examine its chips.

Gemalto stock has been down 28% this year. Phone companies have been buying fewer conventional SIMs, because they’re preparing for a world in which eSIMs show up in devices, hurting Gemalto’s sales. If Gemalto gets business from Apple, it could see a big rebound.

Where things get really interesting is when the eSIM moves from Apple Watch to iPhone. Apple already allows people using its iPad tablet to select which wireless carrier they want on a month-by-month basis, using a programmable version of the normal SIM card. Apple Watch will follow in that tradition, and iPhone may be next. “The launch of an Apple Watch with eSIM would not be good news for mobile operators,” says Mawston, who anticipates Apple adding eSIM to iPhones in a couple of years’ time. “It would be a sign that Apple wants to take more control and ownership of the mobile subscriber in the future.”

Phone companies will initially have a new opportunity to sell additional wireless data to new Apple Watches this holiday season. But the prospect of eSIM coming to smartphones has got to be distressing to an industry already facing ferocious competition for subscribers in markets such as the U.S.

AT&T (T), Verizon Communications (VZ), T-Mobile US (TMUS), and Sprint (S) now face the prospect that in a couple of years’ time new phone buyers will not set foot in a retail store, never see the latest promotions, never get sold on this or that service by retail reps, and instead choose a carrier from a device menu, on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The subsidies that have enticed consumers are still a big advantage for carriers. But those subsidies have been fading over the years, as device financing is built into monthly charges rather than as a benefit of contracts. Apple even provides its own financing for qualified iPhone buyers.

The next Apple Watch may be a small step forward for wearable technology, but a giant, scary leap into the unknown for the telecoms.

http://www.barrons.com/articles/how-a-new-apple-watch-may-threaten-the-telecoms-1504931810?mod=djemb_mag_h&tesla=y




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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/11/2017 6:43:59 AM
   of 490
 




Amazon widens its retail footprint with Kohl's partnership

In other odd pairings, Home Depot made a deal with Google as well.



Sometimes when you're down on your luck, you have to strike a deal with the enemy. That's what Kohl's is doing by partnering up with Amazon, ostensibly its biggest online rival, to sell Amazon hardware. The department store chain plans to open 1,000-square-foot areas in ten of its locations dedicated to the devices. This "store-in-store" concept is called the Amazon Smart Home Experience, and will be used to sell everything from Echo speakers to Fire tablets.

The concept is similar to the Experience Shops that Samsung set up with Best Buy in 2013, except that was more widespread. According to Bloomberg, the partnership will help Kohl's regain some in-store sales, which has dropped a bit -- about 0.4 percent -- in recent months. Ironically, one of the reasons sales are struggling is due to customers flocking to Amazon for their shopping needs.

Some stores have partnered with Google so that you can buy goods through Google Home voice commands and have them delivered via Google Express. Home Depot announced this partnership this week, while Walmart made the same deal a month ago. Home Depot and Walmart don't have the same declining traffic issue as Kohl's, but this deal could still help them get more sales.

Kohl's is just the latest store to sell Amazon hardware. Just last month, Amazon started selling its Echo devices in select Whole Foods locations thanks to the recent acquisition. The Kohl's rollout will be much smaller -- it's only limited to Los Angeles and Chicago areas for now.

http://www.siliconinvestor.com/reply.aspx?subjectid=59746




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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/11/2017 9:52:37 AM
   of 490
 
Signposts On The Roadmap Out To 10 Tb/sec Ethernet



The world of Ethernet switching and routing used to be more predictable than just about any other part of the datacenter, but for the past decade the old adage – ten times the bandwidth for three times the cost – has not held. While 100 Gb/sec Ethernet was launched in 2010 and saw a fair amount of uptake amongst telecom suppliers for their backbones, the hyperscalers decided, quite correctly, that 100 Gb/sec Ethernet was too expensive and opted for 40 Gb/sec instead.

Now, we are sitting on the cusp of the real 100 Gb/sec Ethernet rollout among hyperscalers and enterprise datacenters, which John D’Ambrosia, chairman of the Ethernet Alliance trade group, says “will be the largest rollout that we have ever seen,” and that is true for a bunch of reasons. For one thing, the cost of 100 Gb/sec Ethernet switches, which often include routing functions and therefore allow standardization of iron across switching and routing workloads, is coming down fast as new ASICs enter the field based on the 25G signaling standard that the hyperscalers (primarily Microsoft and Google) rammed down the IEEE’s throat a few years back for the good of the entire industry. For another thing, there are machine learning and IoT workloads that are dependent on gathering up immense amounts of telemetry from every device known to man, from blenders to cars, and chewing on it back in the datacenter for insight, and that is putting bandwidth pressure on networks. And then, of course, there is the ever-embiggening media files that we use in our business and personal lives, the increasing cross connection between people, the increasing distributed nature of applications, and the increasing population of the world.

There are no surprises, then, that with 100 Gb/sec Ethernet now at an affordable price, seven years since it entered the field, it is finally ready to take off. It is beyond overdue, based on the pressure from compute and storage, which has been growing capacity faster than networking bandwidth rates in the past decade.

To read the complete article, select the following:

https://www.nextplatform.com/2017/09/08/signposts-roadmap-10-tbsec-ethernet/


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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/11/2017 11:18:33 AM
   of 490
 
More artificial intelligence, fewer screens: the future of computing unfolds\



Screen-free user experiences such as Amazon Echo and autonomous vehicles portend a future of computing without screens.

We are approaching the day when user interfaces and user experience (UI and UX) will mean much more than working through screens on devices. It may not involve screens at all.

That's the word from Accenture, which spells out, in a recent report, the rise of AI as the new purveyor of UI and UX. Developments such as autonomous vehicles and voice-activated home assistants are just early examples surfacing that suggest more screenless computing is on the horizon.

This has implications for the way enterprise users work, as well as customers. Already, there's plenty of talk -- and pilots -- involving the use of connected tools and wearables in the workplace that serve to augment employee tasks.

The report's authors make three predictions:

· "In five years, more than half of your customers will select your services based on your AI instead of your traditional brand."

· "In seven years, most interfaces will not have a screen and will be integrated into daily tasks."

· "In 10 years, digital assistants will be so pervasive they'll keep employees productive 24/7/365, operating in the background for workplace interactions, like creating video summaries right after an important meeting."

Accenture's findings are based on a survey of 5,400 executives across the globe. "Moving beyond a back-end tool for the enterprise, AI is taking on more sophisticated roles within technology interfaces," the report's authors state. "From autonomous driving vehicles that use computer vision, to live translations made possible by artificial neural networks, AI is making every interface both simple and smart - and setting a high bar for how future interactions will work."

In the survey, 79% of executives agree that AI will help accelerate technology adoption throughout their organizations. In addition, 85% indicate they will invest extensively in AI-related technologies over the next three years.

The Accenture authors cite a prime example of where AI is making its first inroads into enterprise UI and UX: voice-activated systems. "Advances in natural language processing and machine learning make technology more intuitive to use, like telling virtual assistants to schedule a meeting instead of accessing scheduling software to find a time, create an event,and type the details," they state. "AI already plays a variety of roles throughout the user experience. At the simplest level, it curates content for people, like the mobile app Spotify suggesting new music based on previous listening choices. In a more significant role, AI applies machine learning to guide actions toward the best outcome."

The leading enterprise technology vendors are also looking to AI as the future of computer interfaces -- "from Salesforce Einstein, to Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services, to the Google Cloud Platform." There are also open source AI platforms available -- "from Google's TensorFlow to Intel's Trusted Analytics Platform. Caffe, a deep learning framework developed at the University of California, Berkeley, was the basis of the Deep Dream project Google released in 2016 to show how their artificial neural networks viewed images."

The combination of "intuitive,natural interactions and the ready availability of open source tools paves the way for big changes across the interface," the Accenture team adds.

How to get stated on this artificially intelligent, screenless journey? In an accompanying article at Tech Emergence, Paul Daugherty, chief technology and innovation officer at Accenture, describes the actions companies who want to explore AI UX applications need to take:

· "Take existing communication channels and determine how these can be made smarter -- using inspiration from other successful conversational interface or voice interface applications."

· "Look at every customer and employee interaction and ask yourself how they can be improved through AI."

· "Look at new interfaces beyond the screen and consider how new channels can enable multidimensional conversations."

http://www.zdnet.com/article/artificial-intelligence-the-new-user-interface-and-experience/




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From: Paul H. Christiansen9/12/2017 6:26:34 AM
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The iPhone 10 years in: Everything that's changed from 2007 to 2017



iPhone (2007) Smartphones have essentially looked like glass-and-metal slabs for years now, so it's easy to forget how distinct the original iPhone looked. Remember, 2007 was the year the BlackBerry Curve debuted to rave reviews, and people were thrilled about the dual-sliding powerhouse that was Nokia's N95. Suffice to say, the iPhone was nothing like them. It was a device with a 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen, a rounded aluminum body, a plastic butt and very few actual buttons to speak of. At the time, you could pick up a model with either 4GB or 8GB of internal storage for $499 and $599, respectively. Considering most phones in the US were sold on-contract, the iPhone was much more expensive than its competitors, and Apple later tried to address this by dropping the 4GB model altogether and making the 8GB model $399.

Apple's engineering prowess meant the phone was as well-built a smartphone as you could get at the time, and that aesthetic would soon drive other OEMs to embrace multi-touch displays. Still, some of the original iPhone's design and engineering features were pretty questionable. Remember the recessed headphone jack? The one that required people to use an adapter with existing headphones they liked, or use the lousy pack-in earbuds? Yeah, not great. What's more, the cellular radio inside the phone only supported Cingular's EDGE data network, and not its newer, faster 3G network. Steve Jobs defended the decision by claiming that those early 3G-capable chipsets were bigger, with a tendency to drain a phone's battery.

Where the iPhone really shined was its software. Even in its infancy, iOS felt remarkably different from any other smartphone OS. Its early, WebKit-based browser was a joy to use compared to the alternatives found on other devices, and the way the phone allowed for multi-touch gestures effectively changed the way people expected to interact with their smartphones. That's not to say the software was perfect: It couldn't connect to most corporate email servers, which meant business users got burned. And that seemingly lovely virtual keyboard? You had to make sure you didn't accidentally type too fast because it could only recognize one finger tap at a time. The iPhone didn't have the ability to send rich MMS messages either, so sending pictures to friends only ever worked through email, or unofficial apps available to jailbroken iPhones.

The original iPhone remains an icon in the annals of computing history, but there was much more to come.

iPhone 3G (2008) After the first iPhone launched, Apple pursued progress on two fronts: It had to build a second-gen phone, and also make sure people could get more done with it. In March 2008, nine months after the first iPhone went on sale, Apple released a software development kit, while a prominent Silicon Valley VC firm announced a $100 million fund to help spur iPhone software development. Four months after that, the iPhone 3G debutedwith iOS 2.0 and the App Store, which only contained around 500 apps at launch. While users were pleased with the prospect of squeezing new features out of their new phones, one of the most notable changes about this new phone was how it looked.

With the 3G, Apple ditched its original, mostly aluminum chassis in favor of glossy polycarbonate. The 3G was available in black and white, and both versions could be had with either 8GB or 16GB of storage. While that change in materials was meant to improve signal strength and reception, the polycarbonate shells were prone to cracking, particularly around the 30-pin dock connector. The iPhone 3G's modified curvature was more comfortable to hold, but it also meant all those docks that came with the original iPhone were essentially junk. Otherwise, the phone's key features, including its screen and camera, remained the same.

Apple gave the phone its name for a reason, though: The addition of a 3G radio meant AT&T customers could finally use the carrier's higher-speed data network. This paved the way for snappier browsing, not to mention the ability to talk and browse at the same time. The 3G also included a GPS radio, though it was still fairly limited; while it could locate you with help from a cell tower triangulation scheme, it would be a while before the first apps with true turn-by-turn navigation appeared.

Although Apple and its carrier partner sold the original iPhones at full price, the 3G was the first to be sold with contract subsidies — remember the days when signing two years of your life away meant hefty discounts? In this case, the 8GB 3G sold for $199 and the 16GB model went for $299, both dramatic drops that helped spur mass iPhone adoption.

iPhone (2007) Smartphones have essentially looked like glass-and-metal slabs for years now, so it's easy to forget how distinct the original iPhone looked. Remember, 2007 was the year the BlackBerry Curve debuted to rave reviews, and people were thrilled about the dual-sliding powerhouse that was Nokia's N95. Suffice to say, the iPhone was nothing like them. It was a device with a 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen, a rounded aluminum body, a plastic butt and very few actual buttons to speak of. At the time, you could pick up a model with either 4GB or 8GB of internal storage for $499 and $599, respectively. Considering most phones in the US were sold on-contract, the iPhone was much more expensive than its competitors, and Apple later tried to address this by dropping the 4GB model altogether and making the 8GB model $399.

Apple's engineering prowess meant the phone was as well-built a smartphone as you could get at the time, and that aesthetic would soon drive other OEMs to embrace multi-touch displays. Still, some of the original iPhone's design and engineering features were pretty questionable. Remember the recessed headphone jack? The one that required people to use an adapter with existing headphones they liked, or use the lousy pack-in earbuds? Yeah, not great. What's more, the cellular radio inside the phone only supported Cingular's EDGE data network, and not its newer, faster 3G network. Steve Jobs defended the decision by claiming that those early 3G-capable chipsets were bigger, with a tendency to drain a phone's battery.

Where the iPhone really shined was its software. Even in its infancy, iOS felt remarkably different from any other smartphone OS. Its early, WebKit-based browser was a joy to use compared to the alternatives found on other devices, and the way the phone allowed for multi-touch gestures effectively changed the way people expected to interact with their smartphones. That's not to say the software was perfect: It couldn't connect to most corporate email servers, which meant business users got burned. And that seemingly lovely virtual keyboard? You had to make sure you didn't accidentally type too fast because it could only recognize one finger tap at a time. The iPhone didn't have the ability to send rich MMS messages either, so sending pictures to friends only ever worked through email, or unofficial apps available to jailbroken iPhones.

The original iPhone remains an icon in the annals of computing history, but there was much more to come.

iPhone 3G (2008) After the first iPhone launched, Apple pursued progress on two fronts: It had to build a second-gen phone, and also make sure people could get more done with it. In March 2008, nine months after the first iPhone went on sale, Apple released a software development kit, while a prominent Silicon Valley VC firm announced a $100 million fund to help spur iPhone software development. Four months after that, the iPhone 3G debutedwith iOS 2.0 and the App Store, which only contained around 500 apps at launch. While users were pleased with the prospect of squeezing new features out of their new phones, one of the most notable changes about this new phone was how it looked.

With the 3G, Apple ditched its original, mostly aluminum chassis in favor of glossy polycarbonate. The 3G was available in black and white, and both versions could be had with either 8GB or 16GB of storage. While that change in materials was meant to improve signal strength and reception, the polycarbonate shells were prone to cracking, particularly around the 30-pin dock connector. The iPhone 3G's modified curvature was more comfortable to hold, but it also meant all those docks that came with the original iPhone were essentially junk. Otherwise, the phone's key features, including its screen and camera, remained the same.

Apple gave the phone its name for a reason, though: The addition of a 3G radio meant AT&T customers could finally use the carrier's higher-speed data network. This paved the way for snappier browsing, not to mention the ability to talk and browse at the same time. The 3G also included a GPS radio, though it was still fairly limited; while it could locate you with help from a cell tower triangulation scheme, it would be a while before the first apps with true turn-by-turn navigation appeared.

Although Apple and its carrier partner sold the original iPhones at full price, the 3G was the first to be sold with contract subsidies — remember the days when signing two years of your life away meant hefty discounts? In this case, the 8GB 3G sold for $199 and the 16GB model went for $299, both dramatic drops that helped spur mass iPhone adoption.

iPhone 4 (2010) While the iPhone 3GS was busy racking up sales, Apple was working on a radical iPhone redesign behind closed doors. Then some guy lost a prototype in a bar, and the internet exploded as the leak of a lifetime gave us our first look at Apple's vision. Up until 2010, iPhones were known for their contoured plastic shells, but no more. The iPhone 4 was covered with flat glass on both the front and back, separated by a stainless steel band that ran around the phone and acted as its antenna. The aesthetic was a stunning departure from earlier iPhones, but Apple's design had a serious flaw: Holding the phone just right ( or wrong) would cause cellular coverage to plummet. Welcome to Antennagate.

Apple remedied the issue by offering free bumpers and cases to iPhone 4 owners, but critics had a field day with the company's massive blunder. Though Antennagate's cultural pervasiveness was difficult to avoid ("you're holding it wrong" became a catchphrase unto itself) the iPhone 4 still offered several major improvements to the long-standing iPhone formula. In fact, the most important was impossible to miss: Though Steve Jobs might have overstated exactly how crisp it was, the iPhone 4's 960 x 540 Retina display was essentially unmatched in clarity. It didn't just blow away older iPhones, the screen blew away all other phones, period.

To this point, iPhones never had particularly great cameras, but the iPhone 4's 5-megapixel rear shooter was the best Apple had made to date (it helped that our prayers for a LED flash were answered). Apple also saw fit to include the iPhone's first front-facing camera, a must for vain selfies and the new FaceTime feature built into iOS 4.

The new A4 chipset (the first mobile processor Apple designed itself) with 512MB of RAM was another huge step over its predecessor, and this jump in performance was absolutely necessary. The launch of iOS 4 also meant the introduction of true multitasking on an iPhone; even after all these years, it's still surprising that it took Apple as long as it did to cook up a solution that worked. A quick double-tap of the home button would bring up your running apps, and that was that. The updated iOS also added folders for better app management and finally let people leave audio running the background while they used other apps. While the iPhone 4 was the most powerful smartphone Apple had built up to that date, it almost paradoxically had better battery life than before thanks to a more capacious cell stuck inside.

Other new inclusions were more subtle, like a second microphone for improved noise cancellation and a gyroscope that allowed for (among other things) more precise motion controls in games and apps. Apple stuck with the standard 8GB, 16GB and 32GB storage variants, and they only came in black at first; it took time for Apple to ensure the white finish offered enough UV protection, so white iPhone 4s weren't available until April 2011. Color choices may have been limited, but at least carrier choice wasn't. After years of AT&T exclusivity, the 4 was the first iPhone available on a carrier other than AT&T -- in this case, Verizon.

iPhone 4S (2011) Apple's press fete for the iPhone 4S was unlike any other -- for one, it was the first hosted by then-new CEO Tim Cook, a supply chain whiz picked by Jobs to take over. (Jobs, sadly, died the day after the announcement.) It was also one of the first iPhone announcements that really seemed to disappoint some, thanks to endless rumors about a thinner, redesigned iPhone 5 coming in 2011. While that sleeker, slimmer iPhone was still a year off, the iPhone 4S offered up plenty of helpful and notable updates.

The iPhone 4's A4 chipset gave way to the dual-core A5 (first used in the iPad 2), which kept the same 512MB of RAM but still made for a nearly two-fold improvement in general performance. Meanwhile, the rear camera was bumped to eight megapixels and gained the ability to record 1080p video. To help store those larger files, Apple introduced a new 64GB storage tier alongside the standard 16GB and 32GB options. And while Apple recycled the iPhone 4's design, it used the CDMA version of the device as a template for the 4S; its improved antenna setup eliminated lingering Antennagate concerns.

The iPhone 4S launched with iOS 5 on board, making it the first new iPhone to pack support for Apple's new iCloud storage system and iMessage's now-ubiquitous blue bubbles. We can't talk about the 4S without talking about Siri, though. Originally a voice assistant app spun out from research at SRI International, Siri came to the iPhone 4S by way of a multimillion dollar acquisition before its creators could build versions of the app for rival platforms. At launch, users could ask it to make calls, create reminders, interact with calendars and more, all with conversational language instead of specific commands. Siri felt novel and capable in ways other apps at the time didn't, but it would take time before Apple's first digital assistant became more than just an interesting gimmick.

iPhone 5 (2012) When the iPhone 5 was revealed in 2012, people got the design overhaul they were waiting for. Apple traded stainless steel for aluminum and shaved nearly two millimeters off the existing iPhone 4S design. The end result: the thinnest, sleekest and arguably most beautiful iPhone to date. More importantly, Apple finally saw fit to pack a taller, 4-inch Retina display into the iPhone 5, a move meant to counter the rapidly growing screens found in popular Android devices. Building a bigger, thinner iPhone came at a cost, though: Apple ditched its classic, 30-pin connector in favor of the reversible Lightning connector. The decision meant generations of existing iPhone docks and accessories became obsolete almost instantly, but the world eventually moved on.

Also new to the iPhone 5 was Apple's dual-core A6 chipset and 1GB of RAM -- double the amount of memory found in the iPhone 4 and 4S. As usual, the new phone generally exhibited performance that was around twice as fast as the previous model, and in certain benchmarks, we saw even bigger performance gains. The iPhone 5's camera didn't change dramatically along the way, but its 8-megapixel sensor was swathed in sapphire crystal rather than glass for extra protection. Thanks to the A6's increased horsepower, the camera was noticeably quicker too -- photo capture speeds were faster than in earlier iPhones. And speaking of speed, Apple built an LTE radio into the iPhone 5, making it the first to support the next generation of high-speed wireless data networks.

The iPhone 5 was a big step forward in terms of design, but changes on the software side weren't as dramatic. iOS 6 officially went live just days before the iPhone 5 went on sale, making the 5 the first new iPhone to support digital tickets in Passbook and the new, oft-maligned Apple Maps. A handy Do Not Disturb mode was also added to the fold, as well as the ability to make FaceTime calls over cellular connections and native Facebook integration. All told, it felt like Apple was going back and ticking software feature requests off a checklist, but that makes sense -- the company was working on a big redesign behind the scenes.

iPhone 5s (2013) As usual, Apple largely left the iPhone 5's design alone when it built the iPhone 5s in 2013. Its home button looked a little different though — it lost the trademark squircle and gained a shiny metal ring instead. That signified the inclusion of Touch ID, Apple's first fingerprint sensor, for unlocking the phone and authenticating iTunes purchases. Oh, and it was hard to miss the new gold and slate gray color options, the first changes to Apple's hardware palette since white iPhones hit the scene years earlier.

The rest of the 5s's hardware changes are harder to see: The faster A7 chipset inside was the first 64-bit sliver of silicon in an Apple smartphone, and next to it was a new motion coprocessor called the M7 to help manage data from the phone's myriad sensors. The 8-megapixel camera was updated with larger pixels and a larger aperture, too, though people were more likely to notice how the camera could record video slow-motion footage at up to 120 frames per second.

The iPhone 5s's software, meanwhile, looked hardly anything like the versions that came before it. iOS 7 traded Apple's classic skeuomorphic design elements for a flatter, cleaner aesthetic that persists to this day. Beyond that, iOS 7 saw the addition quick settings shortcuts in the Control Center, as well as a revamped Notification Center and AirDrop for rapidly off-loading files from iOS devices.

When Apple launched the iPhone 5c alongside the 5s, it effectively drove a nail into the iPhone 5's coffin. Reports suggested that Apple whipped up this model to keep costs down -- the colorful polycarbonate bodies were less expensive to manufacture at scale than carefully chamfered aluminum.

Aside from this major cosmetic change, the 5c is essentially the same phone as the standard 5, from the A6 chipset to the screen. The camera assembly was tweaked somewhat and the 5c supported more LTE bands, but the real reasons to own this phone were its modest price tag and its five color options. Popular perception of the 5c was that it was a flop, but it went on to sell more than 24 million units in its time on the market. It wasn't quite the loser people expected, and it's not hard to see how the 5c influenced devices like the iPhone SE.

iPhone 6/Plus (2014) Beset by the popularity of big Android phones, Apple launched two new, larger iPhones in September 2014: the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The former featured a 4.7-inch display with a 1,334 x 750 resolution, while the super-sized Plus model instead used a 5.5-inch screen running at 1080p. Apple aficionados had long suspected the company would split its most important product line up like this, and many welcomed the seemingly overdue change. Unsurprisingly, the smaller of the two iPhones was easier to hold and use for long periods of time -- the larger Plus model could be difficult to grip compared to its big-screened contemporaries.

The design modifications didn't end there, either. If the iPhone 5-series looked like sleek slabs, the 6 and 6 Plus were rounder and friendlier in a way that evoked Apple's first phones. Since both devices were notably longer than the iPhones that came before them, Apple moved the power button to the devices' right edges for easier access and trimmed a few fractions of a millimeter to make both versions of the iPhone 6 slimmer than the iPhone 5s. Apple's focus on crafting trim bodies took its toll, though: Both versions of the phone were supposedly susceptible to bending under pressure. Apple only received a handful of reports about bent units in the wild, but no matter: Bendgate became a thing regardless.

Inside, both devices were nearly identical. Each sported improved A8 chipsets and 1GB of RAM, and Apple chose this year to drop the 32GB storage option in favor of a more spacious mid-range choice. While the most basic iPhone 6 and 6 Plus still came with 16GB of storage, customers could step into 64GB and 128GB for $100 and $200 extra, respectively. Naturally, both phones shipped with iOS 8, which added third-party keyboard support, cross-platform features like Continuity and a handful of new health-focused features. With so much crossover when it came to performance and software, most would-be iPhone owners made their choice based on size.

Of course, that isn't to say that size is the only area where these phones differed. Both phones packed updated 8-megapixel rear cameras, but only the Plus's shooter came with optical image stabilization (another first for iPhones). And while both phones used what Apple called "Retina HD" displays, the higher pixel density found on the bigger display meant text and images appeared crisper.

iPhone 6s/Plus (2015) By the time the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus rolled around in 2015, Apple's tick-tock update cadence was well understood. It was no surprise, then, that both would use the improved A9 chipset with 2GB of RAM and look exactly like the models that came before them. Thankfully, Apple didn't just carry over the original iPhone 6 and 6 Plus bodies — the 6s and 6s Plus were reinforced to prevent the possibility of bending under pressure (it definitely didn't need another Bendgate-level debacle to deal with). This was also the year Apple added rose gold to its list of standard phone finishes, and we haven't been able to escape it since.

Apple also ditched its stockpile of 8-megapixel sensors and instead built 12-megapixel cameras into the 6s and 6s Plus. The added resolution was a welcome touch, and so was the ability to record video in 4K — after all, Android phones had been able to shoot at this super-high quality for some time. Also new to the photographic fold: Live Photos, which sprung to life as you swiped through your camera roll. The marquee feature this time was 3D Touch, which took advantage of the 6s's new pressure-sensitive screens to offer users shortcuts and context with a forceful press. In its early days, the feature didn't always feel that useful, but seeing a company implement a novel new way for us to interact with our smartphones without too many hiccups was impressive nonetheless.

As was often the case with S-series iPhones, software provided much of the excitement. The 6s and 6s Plus shipped with iOS 9 onboard, and with it came a smarter, more contextually aware version of Siri and a whole new portal for Apple's News. Search was dramatically improved too, as it could peer directly into apps installed on the 6s and 6s Plus, and Apple's Maps finally started to understand how the subway worked. While the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were huge sellers, the 6s and 6s Plus were proof that biennial refreshes didn't need to be dull.

Apple faced a bit of a conundrum after launching two bigger smartphones — what would it do for people who still liked compact devices? The answer was straightforward: The company essentially took the guts of the iPhone 6s and squeezed them into an iPhone 5s's body.

That didn't sound like it would work very well, but to our surprise, the iPhone SE was a remarkably capable little machine for small phone fans. The A9 provided excellent performance, and battery life was generally impressive, but our biggest gripe had to do with the limited storage options available at launch. Originally, Apple produced the SEs with either 16 or 64GB of internal storage; It has since shifted to selling 32GB and 128GB models instead.

iPhone 7/Plus (2016) Well, this was unexpected. Up until 2016, Apple had only ever kept the same design for two generations of smartphones. With the launch of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple once again kept the iPhone 6's design language alive, albeit with several few tweaks.

Where to start? Well, neither version of the 7 featured a headphone jack, a move Apple's Phil Schiller hilariously chalked up to "courage" during the company's press conference. The physical home button was also replaced with a capacitive button that haptically vibrated when pressed. IP67 water and dust resistance was added, too -- a first for iPhones, though Android devices had touted superior water resistance for years. Oh, and Apple added a Product (RED) model and a glossy, Jet Black finish option to its roster. That's a lot of updates, and that doesn't even factor in the changes in performance. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus used Apple's A10 Fusion chipset, a quad-core affair paired with either 2 or 3GB of RAM.

As always, the 7 and 7 Plus were more alike than not, and the most notable difference between the two was in their cameras. The 7 got a perfectly respectable 12-megapixel rear camera with a quad-LED flash and optical image stabilization — quite an upgrade over the prior year's shooter. The 7 Plus, meanwhile, was fitted with a more impressive dual-camera array that allowed users to optically zoom in and out and add bokeh to the background of a photo in a Portrait Mode released later. This, along with a bigger battery and the inclusion of a little extra RAM, made the larger iPhone a more compelling option than it had ever been before.

engadget.com


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