New Technology

What new technology does is create new opportunities

Month: February 2017

Youngsters ‘addicted to mobile phones’

The addiction of children to their mobile phones could threaten the very fabric of society, a study suggests.

Many teenagers are fanatical about being always available and are extremely uneasy if unable to contact their friends countless times each day.

If the trend continues, young people will soon be incapable of forming and maintaining relationships without the help of a mobile, the study by a leading sociologist concludes.

One British child in four between the ages of five and 16 now has a mobile phone.

As well as making calls, youngsters are using their handsets to send millions of text messages to friends each day.

The study’s author, Dr Hisao Ishii, said: ‘Teenagers can be seen taking advantage of every spare minute to touch base with their friends.

‘It is not the content of the communication but the act of staying in touch that matters.’

And he warned: ‘Genuine conversation will be driven out by superficial communication, in which the act of contacting one another is all that matters, leading to a deterioration in the quality of relationships. Indeed, the very fabric of society may be threatened.’

Although Dr Ishii’s research was based on children in Japan, British experts confirmed that the same trends apply in the UK.

Child psychologist Dr David Lewis said: ‘The mobile phone, like the Furby or the Rubik’s Cube before it, has developed into a playground craze in this country.

‘Children hate to feel as if they are not in the “in group”, and think that without a phone they will be left out.

‘It is like an electronic tribal drum. Children use it to keep up to date with a wide group of acquaintances, so that when they meet up they know the latest news and gossip.’

Dr Lewis endorsed the warning that, in conjunction with home computers and video games, the mobile is having a detrimental effect on children’s social skills.

‘The mobile now often substitutes for physical play,’ he explained.

‘To develop proper friendships you have to invest time with people, doing things together.

‘Speaking on the phone and sending lots of text messages will give children many more acquaintances but fewer friends. They are replacing quality with quantity.’

Sociologists have also warned that the popularity of e-mailing, text messaging and playing games on mobile phones is affecting other important activities such as recreational reading and studying.

A third of those aged between 16 and 20 prefer text messaging to all other means of written communication, according to a survey last year by Mori for Vodafone.

Handset manufacturers claim, however, that they are not out to market to the under-16s.

A Government report last year highlighted the increased risk to children under 16 using mobile handsets and a circular sent to schools suggests that children below this age should be allowed to make calls only in emergencies.

The young generation are ‘addicted’ to mobile phones

Young people are now so addicted to their mobile phones it feels like they have lost a limb when they are without them, a study finds.

Some said they feel so bereft without their iPhone or Blackberry that it evokes similar feelings to the “phantom limb” syndrome suffered by amputees.

The findings, by the University of Maryland, show the growing reliance that the younger generation has on technology and how it has become central to their lives.

While phones were the most essential device, other technology such as computers, MP3 players and televisions were also considered essential to get people through their day.

Many young people reported mental and physical symptoms of distress and “employed the rhetoric of addiction, dependency and depression,” when reporting their experiences of trying to go unplugged for a full day.

“Students talked about how scary it was, how addicted they were,” said Professor Susan Moeller, who led the project

“They expected the frustration. But they didn’t expect to have the psychological effects, to be lonely, to be panicked, the anxiety, literally heart palpitations.”

The study titled “The World Unplugged project” asked more than 1,000 students from 10 countries around the world, including Britain, to go without any media for 24 hours and monitored their feelings.

Prof Moeller said that more than 50 per cent of students failed to go the full 24 hours and everyone claimed to suffer some kind of withdrawal symptoms.

Ryan Blondino, a student at the University of Maryland who participated, compared the experience of going without digital technology to missing a limb.

“I felt something very similar to a phantom limb, only it would be like phantom cellphone,” he said.

“I still felt like my phone was vibrating and I was receiving messages even though I didn’t have it on me.”

A student from the UK said: “Media is my drug. Without it I was lost. I am an addict.”

The study found few differences in the way students used and relied on digital technology in different countries, despite those countries’ huge differences in economic development, culture and political governance.

It concludes that most college students, whether in developed or developing countries, are strikingly similar in how they use media – and how ‘addicted’ they are to it.

They all used virtually the same words to describe their reactions, including: Fretful, Confused, Anxious, Irritable, Insecure, Nervous, Restless, Crazy, Addicted, Panicked, Jealous, Angry, Lonely, Dependent, Depressed, Jittery and Paranoid.

In effect, cell phones have become this generation’s security blanket.”

The report was published by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda.

HP Has Enough Workers to Fill a City—And It Needs Them All

Silicon Valley technology giant HP will lay off as many as 30,000 more people as part of its split into two separate companies, the company told analysts this week. This comes on top of the 55,000 jobs HP has been in the process of shedding in recent years. Even so, HP is still as large as a mid-sized US city. As of May, according to Forbes, the company numbered 302,000. But what in the world do all those people do?

In an era in which WhatsApp can serve 900 million users with just 50 engineers, the massive enterprise tech company feels like an anachronism. In HP’s case, its huge headcount doesn’t even include outsourced labor, such as call center operators or the assembly line workers who actually build all those printers and laptops. But it turns out that the business of selling technology to businesses has long required something old-fashioned: lots and lots of people (at least for now).

The typical consumer probably thinks of HP as a printer and PC company, but it’s much more than that. It’s also a massive information technology consulting operation with a large portfolio of business software and cloud computing offerings. HP’s forthcoming reorganization will create two businesses, one called called HP Enterprise, which will include its consulting and software businesses, and the other called HP Inc., which will continue to sell printers and PCs. The current round of layoffs are aimed at the HP Enterprise side. HP doesn’t break down how many employees work in each of its divisions, but HP Enterprise is likely where the bulk of its employees work, judging in part by the size of other large IT services companies (IBM had 379,592 employees last year; Accenture had 323,000).

Forrester vice president Peter Burris says the reason companies like HP and IBM need so many workers is that selling software to enterprise customers is far different from creating software for consumers.

All 900 million WhatsApp users use the exact same app. You download it an app store, and that’s that. But big companies like banks, insurance companies, and large hospitals need software tailored to their particular needs. Instead of just building the application once and selling it to a client, these companies and their clients have an ongoing relationship.

That’s because IT consultants aren’t just going in and telling a customer what to do. Typically, the consulting firm is involved in planning, building, maintaining, and supporting new software. That means talking with employees about what they need out of a new piece of software, working with other software vendors on integrations between products, training employees, and fielding tech support calls. And that takes a lot of people. Many of those consultants work with customers on an ongoing basis, limiting the number of different customers any one employee can work with. That’s the difference between making a software product like WhatsApp and selling consulting services.

“A product sale has a clear moment where a title is exchanged,” he says. “But with services, the sale happens over time. It’s a process, You’re literally transferring knowledge about how to solve problems.”

Who Needs an Army?

It’s easy to be skeptical about whether customers are really getting their money’s worth from big companies, considering that 68 percent of all large IT projects fail. Surely there are instances of a company overselling its services, or trying to save a doomed project by simply throwing more people at the problem. You can count on large bureaucracies to add inefficiencies and bloat to any project.

That’s starting to change, however. Yes, “cloud computing” is an over-broad term, but cloud-based services like Amazon Web Services and Salesforce have changed the way large companies do business. It’s easier than ever for a business manager to simply buy some software and have their employees start using it immediately.

In the past, even something as simple as an instant messaging application that integrates with your company’s project management system would have been an ordeal to implement. You would have had to negotiate a price for a piece of software like IBM’s Sametime, set up up a new server in your data center, install software on your employees’ desktops, and hire consultants to integrate your project management software with the instant messaging server.

Today, you could just sign up for Slack, a trendy workplace chat app, and start using it over the web immediately without ever having to talk with a salesperson. Slack comes with dozens of integrations with other applications right out of the box. It even has an application programming interface—API for short—that makes it easy for app developers to build support for Slack right into their own products. And Slack is hardly unique amongst new age business apps in offering easy integrations. Tools like Zapier make it easy for even non-programmers to stitch different applications together. The upshot is that, increasingly, you don’t need an army of consultants to get all your software up and running and working together.

Meanwhile, open source technology is making it easier to use freely available components, freeing software developers from building the same common features again and again. Cloud services and open source software were once most associated with small startups looking to save money. But as these startups—Facebook, for example—have grown into large enterprises, they’ve often stuck with these newer tools, and more established organizations are following suit.

IT’s Legacy

Of course not all of a company’s software can be replaced by off-the-shelf apps. And there are plenty of consultants that specialize in customizing cloud applications like Salesforce. But Burris points out that there’s little to no advantage to building custom software for many common business processes, such as financial reporting or accounts payable systems. A custom payroll app probably won’t make your company more competitive. So there’s a strong incentive to simply move over to one-size fits all business applications that can be supported in much the same way WhatsApp is.

The HPs and IBMs of the world have responded to these shifts by offering cloud services and ready-made business applications of their own. That’s a big part of why HP and IBM are shedding jobs right now. “In general software companies are better for owners than services businesses are,” Burris explains. “In a software business, a programmer can write a piece of code that can be used by millions of different customers and users. That intellectual property, that information about a problem, is now made available to a whole pile of people at the same time.”

But the good news for the armies of consultants working for these companies is that most older companies that still have enormous amounts of data stored in old software—what people in the IT business call “legacy” systems. It will take countless hours to modernize all of those legacy systems—and, Burris says the place most of these companies are going to turn are the legacy tech giants—companies like HP and IBM—that helped build a lot of these systems in the first place

Big data for text Next generation text understanding and analysis

News portals and social media are rich information sources, for example for predicting stock market trends. Today, numerous service providers allow for searching large text collections by feeding their search engines with descriptive keywords. Keywords tend to be highly ambiguous, though, and quickly show the limits of current search technologies. Computer scientists from Saarbrücken developed a novel text analysis technology that considerably improves searching very large text collections by means of artificial intelligence. Beyond search, this technology also assists authors in researching and even in writing texts by automatically providing background information and suggesting links to relevant web sites.

Ambiverse, a spin-off company from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, will be presenting this novel technology during Cebit 2016 in Hannover from 14 to 18 March at Saarland’s research booth.

Living in the age of business smartphones and enterprise chatrooms, most information in companies is not distributed via spoken words but rather through e-mails, databases, and internal news portals. “According to a survey by the market analyst Gartner, a mere quarter of all companies are using automatic methods to analyze their textual information. By 2021, Gartner predicts 65 per cent will do so. This is because the amount of data inside companies is continuously growing and hence, it becomes more and more costly to have it structured and to search it successfully,” says Johannes Hoffart, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and founder of Ambiverse. His team developed a novel text analysis technology for analyzing huge amounts of text where massive computing power and artificial intelligence (AI) are continuously “thinking along” in the background.

“For analyzing texts, we rely on extremely large knowledge graphs which are built upon freely available sources such as Wikipedia or large media portals on the web. These graphs can be augmented with domain- or company-specific knowledge, such as product catalogs or customer correspondences,” says Hoffart. By applying complex algorithms, these texts are screened further and analyzed with linguistic tools. “Our software then assigns companies and areas of business to their corresponding categories, which allows us to gather valuable insights on how well one’s own products are positioned in the market in comparison to those of the competitors,” he explains. Particularly challenging hereby is the fact that product or company names are anything but unique and tend to have completely different meanings in different contexts, making them highly ambiguous.

“Our technology helps to map words and phrases to their correct objects of the real-world, that way resolving ambiguities automatically,” explains the computer scientist. “Paris” for example stands for the city of light and the French capital, but also for a figure from Greek mythology or a millionfold-mentioned party girl with German ancestors — always depending on context. “Efficiently searching huge text collections is only possible if the different meanings of a name or a concept are correctly resolved,” says Hoffart. The smart search engine developed by his team continuously learns and improves over time, and also automatically associates new text entries to matching categories. “These algorithms are hence attractive for companies that analyze online media or social networks to measure the degree of brand awareness for a product or the success of a marketing campaign,” says Hoffart further.

At Cebit, Ambiverse will further present a smart authoring platform that assists authors in researching and writing texts. Users who enter texts are automatically provided with background information, for example company-internal guidelines and manuals or web links. “Relevant concepts are linked automatically and links for further research are shown” says the computer scientist.

Visitors to the Ambiverse Cebit booth (hall 6, booth 28) will also have the opportunity to compete with their novel AI technology by playing a question-answering game. Ambiverse is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs through an EXIST Transfer of Research grant.

Laser technology advances microchip production

A new process for cutting silicon wafers could streamline the production of smaller and more powerful microchips for electronic devices.

Electronic chips are built on small pieces of silicon that are cut from silicon sheets, called wafers, in a process known as dicing. Currently, dicing is performed by mechanical sawing or laser cutting, but these approaches can cause problems. Sawing can cause thin wafers to break or layers of silicon to separate. The heat generated by laser cutting can leave micro cracks in the silicon and produces molten debris. Coolants or protective coatings are then required, adding to the production cost.

A team of researchers at the A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology has developed a new technique that uses laser-induced thermal cracking technology. The silicon expands as a near-infrared laser heats it, then contracts as it cools, leading to stress that causes the silicon to break along the laser line. The result is a crackfree silicon chip with a smooth surface finish. The process creates no debris, cuts 10 to 20 times faster than currently used techniques, and increases productivity because more silicon pieces can be cut from one wafer. Together with the fact that the near-infrared laser is energy-efficient and consumes little power, these improvements over sawing and laser cutting result in a dramatic improvement in efficiency.

According to the research team, the new dicing technology will advance the production of microchips for electronic devices. It will enable the production of chips that are thinner and capable of supporting higher processing speeds, making for smaller and more powerful devices.

Samsung Begins Smartphone Assembly in Indonesia

Samsung Electronics Co. has begun assembling smartphones at a factory outside Jakarta to meet demand in fast-growing Indonesia, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The move is the latest sign that the South Korean technology giant is shifting some of its operations to low-cost, fast-growing emerging markets where it is looking to build its presence and cut costs.

The Indonesian unit of the South Korean technology giant aims to assemble 1.5 million handsets each month at a plant in Cikarang, an industrial town east of Jakarta, according to this person, who added that Samsung would manufacture its latest 4G-enabled smartphone at the plant and sell it to consumers starting this month. Samsung currently assembles its phones in South Korea, China and Vietnam and last year sold more than 300 million smartphones globally, according to research firm IDC.

The shift in production is partly a response to new Indonesian regulations aimed at keeping the production of mobile phones in the country, this person said, who added that Samsung started making the phones in January.

A spokesman for Samsung declined to comment, but confirmed that the company has a manufacturing facility outside Jakarta that started production of mobile phones for the local market early this year.

In August, Samsung said it was considering producing mobile phones in Indonesia to meet fast-growing domestic demand.

At the time, government officials said Samsung would use its facility in Cikarang, where the company produces various consumer electronics.

Producing mobile phones there required Samsung to modify its facilities to accommodate the new products, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The move by Samsung is part of an effort to manufacture its products closer to consumers in emerging markets.

In 2013, Samsung’s Indian subsidiary won approval to make mobile phones at a facility in Noida, just outside Delhi, and said earlier this year that was considering building a new plant in the country.

The company has also invested about $8.5 billion in Vietnam in recent years, though its facilities there make products for export to consumers around the world

Indonesia has long been wooing global cellphone makers such as Samsung and Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. to set up manufacturing facilities there. The aim is to create jobs in the country, as well as to cut imports of cellular devices, which rose in value to $3.16 billion in 2014 from $2.69 billion in 2013.

So far, foreign technology companies have been reluctant to answer the call of Indonesian authorities, arguing that Indonesia doesn’t have a reliable supply chain to support the manufacturing of consumer electronics.

In 2012, Indonesia’s government introduced regulations requiring importers of mobile phones to set up assembly plants in the country by the end of 2015. In 2013, it imposed a 20% luxury tax on imported cellphones to rein in its current-account deficit. In September 2014, the government issued regulations requiring all 4G devices sold in Indonesia to include at least 30% locally-sourced contents by 2017.

Other Indonesian large cellular importers, such as PT Erajaya Swasembada, which distributes mobile phones from major global brands such as Apple Inc., Samsung, BlackBerry Ltd. and Lenovo Group Ltd., are also setting up their own factories in Indonesia.

Samsung is still the leader in the Indonesian smartphone market, with market share of about 30% in the first quarter, according to research firm IDC, though that fell from 38% a year earlier.

Samsung wows investors with futuristic tech that Apple’s iPhone is already delivering

Samsung will “lead by following” Apple Watch

Samsung LSI marketing team head Kyushik Hong spoke at length about “Innovation for the next mobile experience,” outlining plans to introduce a “Bio Processor” chip that packed a series of components related to health related data recording. Asked when the new chip would be introduced and when Samsung expected it to become a meaningful revenue generator, Hong stated that it was expected to ship early next year and might be used in some kind of band or other product focusing on activity, not necessarily from Samsung. And while his presentation discussed “wearable device trend” and the potential of wearables to grow dramatically in shipment volumes, there was no discussion of how Samsung was actually performing in the smartwatch category it largely introduced, before partnering with Google on Android Wear and then going solo with its own Tizen-based Gear watches, all without achieving any success along the way, before being steamrolled by the arrival of Apple Watch.

At the same time, the “trends” Samsung identified for wearable devices included authentication and payment, features Samsung’s Galaxy Gear models continue to lack. Apple Watch introduced Apple Pay last fall, but the company’s own new “Samsung Pay” is a feature still confined to Samsung’s phones.

The primary unique “feature” Samsung added to its watches that Apple didn’t was a small, low quality 1.9 MP camera, which gave it a creepy voyeur-vibe reminiscent of Google Glass while failing to capture images of any useful quality.

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear lineup hasn’t attract many buyers. Instead, the watch ended up with Best Buy seeing more than 30 percent of its sales being returned by unsatisfied customers, according to a report by Ars.

Samsung unveils some existing camera technology

Focusing next on photography as a feature of smartphones, Hong introduced “fast and accurate auto focus” using phase detection. Apple calls this “Focus Pixels,” and introduced it last year as a feature of iPhone 6 (using sensors developed by Sony). Samsung had earlier introduced phase detection autofocus in its Galaxy S5, but its speed to market didn’t change the fact that the S5 was outsold by Apple’s iPhone 5s models without the feature. iPhone 6, with Focus Pixels of its own, further trounced the Galaxy S6.

While much attention is devoted to imagining how Apple’s innovations and technologies will be commodified by Android licensees, the reverse actually seems to be happening: any technical advantage introduced by others is eventually adopted by Apple (examples include LTE, NFC and barometers), while Apple’s technical leaps remain largely unmatched by rivals (such as Touch ID, Continuity and 3D Touch).
Other “futuristic” ideas the company addressed included using multiple exposures composited to achieve wide dynamic range and “ISOCELL technology” that puts a barrier between pixels to increase light sensitivity and effectively “controls the absorption of electrons.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because Apple introduced the concept as “deep trench isolation,” in explaining its efforts to increase the pixel count within the iPhone 6s camera sensor without also increasing the noise commonly experienced as pixels get smaller as they are packed more densely to increase overall resolution.

Samsung rushed high resolution camera sensors to market before Apple, but their high megapixel counts didn’t result in better photos. Instead, it resulted in low light noise and less accurate color reproduction.

While Apple explained that it was using this new technology to increase iPhone camera resolution without losing quality, Samsung stated that its goal for the same process (under a different name) was to reduce pixel size in order to help reduce the overall thickness of its phones. Samsung stated it was reducing the pixel size of its 16MP sensor from 1.12um to 1.0um to achieve 1mm of reduced thickness. Apple reduced the pixel size of iPhone 6 from 8MP at 1.5um to 12MP at 1.22um, not primarily to reduce device thickness, but to increase photo and video capture resolution without losing quality, maintaining larger pixels than competing sensors. Pixel size reduction on its own simply makes each pixel less sensitive to light.

It’s noteworthy that while Apple uses a custom version of Sony’s camera sensor for iPhone 6/6s, Samsung also uses Sony’s IMX240 sensor in its Galaxy S6/S6 Edge, at least in the versions it sends to reviewers. Regular users are finding that Samsung might also swap in its own ISOCELL camera sensors to save money, resulting in reduced image quality.

This all happened before

Overall, Samsung’s investor conference seemed far less ambitious and confident as its event from 2013, where JK Shin, Samsung’s president and chief executive of IT & Mobile, promised that the company would “play a key role in the premium smartphone market.”

As AppleInsider noted at the time, this was a direct contradiction of the warning Samsung had earlier given its investors of slowing profits.

It also belied the reality that most of the phones Samsung had been—and was currently selling—were low end devices, not premium phones. Further, Samsung has been—and continues to repeatedly note—that its premium sales remain static (rather than experiencing any tremendous growth in demand as promised) and that its unit growth is coming from low end devices, which are eroding its Average Selling Price.
Back in 2013, Samsung focused upon screen resolutions, forecasting that by this year, it would be selling smartphones with 3840×2160 displays. Instead of that happening, the company is still selling “WQHD” screens, and even those are plaguing Samsung’s high end devices with excessive screen resolutions that its relatively anemic Application Processors aren’t quite capable of driving competitively.

SpareOne Emergency Phone AT and T

Between earthquakes, hurricanes, polar vortexes, superstorms, and any other number of potentially dangerous natural phenomena, it’s always good to be prepared. The $59.99 SpareOne Emergency Phone for AT&T is a handy tool to keep in the glove compartment of your car, or your emergency supply kit at home. This cell phone offers 3G connectivity for phone calls and location tracking, with voice interaction to make dialing easier. And you don’t need to worry about charging it, as the phone can last for up to 15 years on the shelf with just two AA batteries. It’s a nice upgrade over the unlocked 2G model, which the company no longer sells in the US. But it requires an annual prepaid plan in order to take full advantage of its Locate and Alert services.

Design, Features, and Usability

At 5.7 by 2.0 by 0.8 inches (HWD) and 3.2 ounces, the SpareOne is a larger than your average candy bar-style phone like the Blu Tank II (4.8 by 1.9 by 0.5 inches; 3.5 ounces), but that’s because it needs space to accommodate two AA batteries.

The front of the phone is white plastic, with a clear screen that proudly shows the batteries inside. The back is bright red, with another clear screen that holds a paper insert on which you can write up to eight numbers on speed dial. The top is home to a somewhat dim LED flashlight, with a lanyard attachment to the right. The back is removable, giving you access to the SIM card slot, a nano SIM adapter holder, and the battery compartment. According to SpareOne, the phone can last up to 15 years on the shelf with just two AA batteries, though obviously that number will diminish much more quickly if you actually use it.

The number pad is your standard dialer layout, but you can’t use it to text. An Alert button above is set to dial 911, but you can reprogram it to call a different number. Next to the Alert button are Call Answer and Flashlight buttons on the right, and Call Decline and Volume buttons on the left. A pretty loud panic alarm can be activated by holding the Volume button for seven seconds. At the bottom right you’ll find a Lock button, which disables the number pad. All the buttons glow in the dark, and can be seen clearly even when the lights are out.

There’s no display, but the phone uses voice interaction to make it easier to tell what number you are dialing. The phone speaks numbers out loud and tells you when the call is going through. It will also notify you when the battery is low. Adding numbers to speed dial can be confusing, and I often had to refer to the manual while getting everything set up.pite its simplistic appearance, the SpareOne isn’t meant to serve as a simple phone for everyday use. For that, you’ll be better served by a different device like the Blu Tank II or the Verykool Garnet IX i129. For seniors, the Samsung Jitterbug Plus and the Snapfon ezTWO are better options. The SpareOne works best when used as an emergency backup for times when your regular phone just isn’t available, and in that regard, it succeeds admirably.

Apple Ready To Gamble On New iPhone Technology

Not content with the 3D touch interface that was added to the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus screens, Apple looks set to move to a new screen technology in 2017′s iPhone.

There has been a consistent build up of leaks, rumors, and suggestions from the supply chain that a switch away from the LCD technology currently used by Apple for its iPhone screens is on the cards. Moving to OLED screens would allow for more power efficient displays that have a wider viewing angle, better color reproduction, and a more vibrant display. Apple has been reluctant in the past to make this switch because of worries around the lifespan of OLED screens.

Apple must be confident that these issues are now answered (presumably with technology along the lines of that detailed in its patents using photodiodes and varying the anode pitch in OLED screens). Nikkei Asian Review (via Patently Apple) is reporting that Apple has notified its supply chain of the upcoming switch to OLED for iPhones released in the 2017/2018 smartphone season.

This would point to the adoption of OLED screens for the presumptively tilted iPhone 7S. Going with the 7S as the debut handset makes a certain amount of logistical sense. The external design cues of the iPhone are generally updated in even-numbered years with the cardinal numbered iPhone models, while the internal technology and specifications tend to favour the iPhone ‘S’ models.

That is illustrated in the latest models from Cupertino. The iPhone 6 introduced the new design with the curve edges and taper on the screen, the change in size from 4 inches to 4.7 and 5.5 inches, and the thinner design. The hardware changes that included the addition of 3D Touch, increased memory, and a larger camera sensor, were all seen on the iPhone 6S.

Apple’s Gamble Needs Samsung For New iPhone Technology

The latest report from Korea’s ET News is that Samsung’s display division has won the race to be the primary supplier for OLED display panels destined for a next-generation iPhone. Following Samsung’s weak guidance for Q4 2014 earnings, this advance order, likely to be in place for a number of years, will help stabilise the finances of the South Korean company.

Apple is one of the last manufacturers supplying high-end smartphones with LCD screens. While OLED does have some issues, it also offers vivid colors, a deeper black, lower power requirements, and a thinner construction.

The interesting question is less about if Apple will make the switch, but when. Given the quality and visual impact of OLED displays on other handsets Apple will find it harder to match that quality in future iPhones using LCD screens. There may be one or two final hurrahs in place with LCD that we’ll no doubt see on the iPhone 7, but will Apple wait for the iPhone 8 and a 2018 release or will it push to get the OLED screens in place for the iPhone 7S?

The ‘S’ cycle of iPhone handsets is typically when Apple implements a major change to hardware (as opposed to design changes in the even-numbered years). Previous ‘S’ handsets have seen the introduction of 3D Touch and TouchID. The iPhone 7S is the logical time to introduce a brand new screen technology.

To do so, Apple will need to be confident that its OLED supplier can not only supply the volume of displays required, but also reach Apple’s quality threshold. Traditionally OLED displays have had a shorter lifespan and can exhibit features unwanted features such as burn-in of images. Apple will need confidence that the iPhone is not going to suffer these issues.

Capacity also needs to be considered. Apple will be looking for over 200 million OLED displays per year. That is going to require investment, capital, factories and distribution. It’s unlikely that there is a secret OLED factory running just now to supply the iPhone 7. Both Samsung and LG are working on expanding their OLED facilities, presumably in anticipation of higher orders from smartphone manufacturers.

Only Apple switching could provide such a step-up in requirements. Watch for these factories to come online in early 2017 if the iPhone 7S is going to go with the newer display, or if iPhone fans will be waiting into 2018 for the screen technology almost every other manufacturer considers a standard choice.

HP Puts the Future of Computing On Hold

Plans by Hewlett-Packard for computers based on an exotic new electronic device called the memristor are scaled back.

In April I wrote about an ambitious project by Hewlett-Packard to use an electronic device for storing data called the memristor to reinvent the basic design of computers (see “Machine Dreams”). This week HP chief technology officer Martin Fink, who started and leads the project, announced a rethink of the project amidst uncertainty over the memristor’s future.

Fink and other HP executives had previously estimated that they would have the core technologies needed for the computer they dubbed “the Machine” in testing sometime in 2016. They used the timeline at the bottom of this post to sketch out where the project was headed.

But the New York Times reported yesterday that the project has been “repositioned” to focus on delivering the Machine using less exotic memory technologies–the DRAM found in most computers today and a technology just entering production called phase change memory, which stores data by melting a special material and controlling how it cools.

With memristors out of the picture, there’s reason to doubt just how revolutionary HP’s project can be.

The main feature of the Machine’s design was to be a large collection of memristor memory chips. They would allow computers to be more powerful and energy efficient by combining the best properties of two different components of today’s machines: the speed of the DRAM that holds data while a processor uses it, and the capacity and ability to hold data without power seen in storage drives based on hard disks or flash memory.

Prototypes of the Machine built with DRAM and phase change memory in the place of memristors had always been part of the plan. But when I met Fink and others working on the project I also heard that those technologies would hobble the idea at the heart of the Machine.

Because DRAM can’t store data very densely and must always be powered on, computers built around a large block of it will require a lot of space and power. Meanwhile, phase change memory is too slow compared to DRAM to be much use for data being worked on. When I met Stan Williams, who leads HP’s work on memristors, he dismissed the idea that any other technology could be used to reinvent the basic design of computers as HP wanted. Fink did a good job in this 2014 blog post of explaining why his team believed only memristors could build the Machine.

Still, this week’s climb down is not a complete surprise. Fink used the timeline below as recently as December 2014, predicting that memristor memory would “sample” in 2015 and be “launched” in 2016. But a few months later, in February of this year, he told me that sampling was most likely in 2016–an estimate that HP’s manufacturing partner SK Hynix would not confirm. Microelectronics experts I spoke to said that it looked to be challenging to make reliable memristors in large, dense arrays as needed to make a memory chip.

HP now appears to be avoiding making any prediction for when the technology will be mature. The company has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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