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IBM Process Manages 5nm Chipmaking

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IBM Process Manages 5nm Chipmaking

A collaboration between IBM, Samsung and Global Foundries brings about an industry firsts-- silicon nanosheet transistors allowing the production of 5 nanometer (nm) chips.

Presented at the 2017 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits conference in Kyoto, Japan, the process arrives just 2 years after the development of a 7nm test node chip with 20 billion transistors, paving the way for 30 billion switches on a "fingernail-sized" chip.

As Big Blue puts it, the breakthrough uses "stacks of silicon nanosheets" to build the transistor instead of FinFET architecture, the current blueprint for the semiconductor industry. It promises a 40% performance enhancement at fixed power, or 75% power savings at matched performance, bringing about a "significant" boost in the performance of anything from AI systems to VR and mobile devices.

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Hardware Takes the Stage at WWDC 2017

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Hardware Takes the Stage at WWDC 2017

Apple presents an unusual keynote at WWDC 2017-- the traditionally software-focused conference hosts a slew of hardware launches, with "the most powerful" iMac Pro, a 10.5-inch iPad Pro and the HomePod, a cylindrical speaker armed with Siri intelligence.

Of course, the two-hour keynote also introduces updates of all Apple operating systems, namely iOS 11 (now with AR Kit, support for person-to-person payments via iMessage, HomeKit improvements and a redesigned App Store), watchOS 4 (with a Siri-powered wach face able to customise contents in real time according to user needs), tvOS (not much revealed about this one, other than a new content source in the shape of Amazon Prime Video) and macOS High Sierra (a "perfected" version of the OS with Safari updates, HEVC support and new photo editing tools).

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Acer’s Newest Spin…Plus Gaming & VR/MR

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Acer’s Newest Spin…Plus Gaming & VR/MR

This year Acer’s stand at Computex took a movie-going design: it featured a large enclosed space dedicated to showcasing Acer's gaming PCs, Windows Mixed Reality and StarVR Head-Mounted Displays (HMD). The movie-going feel included a ticket counter with show times on a digital display where visitors could sign up for a StarVR and/or Acer Windows Mixed Reality HMD demo.

In addition to HMDs, the enclosed space is also showcased Acer's latest Predator series notebooks and monitors, including the behemoth Predator 21 X curved-screen gaming notebook, the thin Predator Triton 700 gaming notebook and the Predator X27 gaming monitor with support for NVIDIA G-SYNC HDR at 4K resolution.

This is the first time that Acer is showcasing its comprehensive Virtual Reality, Windows Mixed Reality, and Gaming offerings to international media, buyers, and consumers at the same time.

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Apple Buys... Sleep Tracker Maker?

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Apple Buys... Sleep Tracker Maker?

A privacy policy update reveals Apple has bought Beddit, a Finnish maker of sleep-track devices users can connect with iOS and Apple Watch apps.

"Beddit has been acquired by Apple," the policy reads. "Your personal data will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Apple Privacy Policy."

The latest Beddit product is the Beddit 3 Sleep Monitor-- a sensor-equipped strip users install under the bed sheets. It tracks movements using "ballistocardiography," with no need for users to wear an activity tracker (or even remember to switch it on). Once the night is over it pushes collected data to iDevices, with HealthKit compatibility.

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iPhone Sales Down in Apple's Q2

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iPhone Sales Down in Apple's Q2

Apple claims a "strong" fiscal Q2 2017 (ending 1 April 2017), with revenues reaching $52.9 billion and net profit of $11.0bn-- even if it also reports a surprise drop in iPhone sales reaching 50.8 million.

The previous quarter saw iPhone sales reach 51.1m, perhaps a sign of customers holding Apple smartphone purchases back in anticipation of the 10th anniversary model the company should reveal later this year. And while the dip might appear slight it did lead to share prices falling (specifically by -1.9%), although that might be in part due to shareholders wanting more of the company's $250bn-plus cash and investments hoard.

"There is a general softening in phone demand to contend with as well as expectations of a big upgrade, all of which softens the blow of this quarter's miss," Forrester Research tells Reuters. "If we see Apple downplaying expectations before the next upgrade cycle, it might mean that the company isn't confident it will beat those expectations."

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Intel Cancels Developer Forum!

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Intel Cancels Developer Forum!

In a sign of an industry in flux Intel cancels the long-running Intel Developer Forum (IDF) tradeshow, including this summer's IDF17, in order to make way for an "evolved" event mix.

"Intel has evolved its event portfolio and decided to retire the IDF program moving forward," a statement on the IDF17 event website reads. "Thank you for nearly 20 great years with the Intel Developer Forum! Intel has a number of resources available on intel.com, including a Resource and Design Center with documentation, software, and tools for designers, engineers, and developers."

Chipzilla had already cancelled this year's China IDF, but the San Francisco event was expected to happen, if with a "new format." After all IDF is an industry mainstay, having hosted major Intel product launches such as Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs, Optane storage and Omni-Path networking fabric. Then again the cancellation is not that surprising, seeing how all big vendors have moved way from major events (such as CES or Macworld) to smaller announcements held throughout the year.

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Apple to Invest "Several Billion Dollars" in Toshiba?

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Apple to Invest

According to Japanese public broadcaster NHK Apple might team up with Foxconn to invest in the Toshiba semiconductor business-- specifically by a 20% stake in the company worth "at least several billion dollars."

The broadcaster adds such a plan allays Japanese government concern over the transfer of sensitive technology to investers deemed a "potential risk to national security." It also keeps Toshiba under US and Japanese control, since the Japanese company would maintain a partial stake in the unit.

Bloomberg adds to the story, saying Foxconn (aka Hon Hai) could control as much as 30% of the semiconductor unit should the bid be accepted. Foxconn reportedly already offered $27bn for the company, but its ties with China can sour the deal due to security concerns.

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Apple, Google, Amazon in Bidding War for Toshiba NAND unit?

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Apple, Google, Amazon in Bidding War for Toshiba NAND unit?

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun Daily a number of big names are in a bidding war for the Toshiba NAND memory unit, including the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon.

In total, the Japanese newspaper says, 10 companies are looking to buy the Toshiba semiconductor operation. Among them are US private equity firm Silver Lake, Broadcom (who reportedly offered Toshiba around $18 billion for the unit), Western Digital, SK Hynix, Foxconn and TSMC.

Toshiba accounts for 20% of the NAND market, but apparently plans to sell the lucrative unit to make up for the loss of US nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection.

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Mad Catz Files Bankruptcy

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Mad Catz Files Bankruptcy

Gaming peripheral maker Mad Catz is out of business, announcing it has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief with plans to liquidate all assets.

All Mad Catz directors and officers have also resigned, effective as of 30 March 2017, and other subsidiaries have filed or will file for liquidation under legislation in their countries of origin.

As CEO Karen McGinnis puts it, “regrettably and notwithstanding that for a significant amount of time the company has been actively pursuing its strategic alternatives, including various near-term financing alternatives such as bank financing and equity infusions, as well as potential sales of certain assets of the company or a sale of the company in its entirety, the company has been unable to find a satisfactory solution to its cash liquidity problems.”

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