The UpStream

Component pricing may make PlayStation 5 hard to price for Sony

posted Sunday Feb 16, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Component pricing may make PlayStation 5 hard to price for Sony

In the last console generation, pricing had a huge impact on initial console sales. During their respective E3 press conferences that year, Microsoft and Sony announced their console launch prices, with the Xbox One premiering at $499 bundled with a Kinect, and the PlayStation 4 premiering at $399 with the PlayStation Eye and Move offered as an optional $100 add-on. But, Sony actually made a change to its business plans following response to Microsoft's announcement, which came first. Originally, the PlayStation 4 was going to be bundled with the Eye and Move for $499. That decision changed the entire generation.

This generation, it appears that pricing could once again have a huge impact on sales, but this time Sony is not in charge. Instead, Sony is having trouble even nailing down the cost of the manufacturing for the PlayStation 5 because of the rising cost of some of its components. Speaking with Bloomberg, unnamed sources close to the situation have said that the current cost of building the console is around $450. That means that, if Sony keeps the same slim profit margin of the launch day PS4, the PlayStation 5 is going to have to sell for at least $470.

That price would put it far above anything Sony has on the market now, with the PlayStation 4 Pro retailing back at the original price of $399, but is often found on sale or in discounted bundles. According to Damian Thong, an analyst for Macquarie Capital,

Consumers will benchmark their expectations based on the PS4 Pro and PS4. If Sony prices above that, it would likely be to balance a need to offset higher materials cost, against risk to demand.

This means that we could see Sony pricing the PlayStation 5 higher than the $470 price point, expecting component prices to continue to rise. On the flip side, Microsoft's poorly named Xbox Series X opted to go with a lot of custom components for the core system, meaning that they have more control over the end price of components. That doesn't mean that the price of the elements won't change, but it does allow the company to have a better grip on their costs than where Sony seems to be today.

Amazon's Ring in trouble again, might be sharing data with Facebook

posted Sunday Feb 16, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Amazon's Ring in trouble again, might be sharing data with Facebook

Since Amazon's purchase of connected home device company Ring, it has seemed that the brand cannot keep itself out of trouble. First was a series of data breaches, which included people having unwanted conversations with strangers who were connected to their indoor cameras. Then came a revelation that Ring gives access to video captured by cameras to law enforcement without a warrant, and without notifying the owner. The data is so readily available that Ring themselves might not even know when law enforcement is viewing your camera video.

As consumer confidence began to wane, and competition in the video doorbell space has heated up, the company released a Control Center during CES 2020. The new feature is intended to allow customers to manage their privacy settings, including opting out of police data sharing. However, it may not be quite as useful of a feature, as a study from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reveals that Ring shares data with way more than just law enforcement.

It turns out that Ring shares data with Facebook and Google, whether or not you have an account with these companies. The data shared includes "time zone, device model, language preferences, screen resolution, and a unique identifier." It all could have been made innocent, save for that last bit there. Through the unique identifier, the companies could use other telemetry data to determine exactly who you are, adding to their tracking capabilities. Ring told CBS News that customers will eventually be able to opt-out of this data sharing "where applicable," meaning that sometimes, you're in it whether you like it or not.

So, as of today, law enforcement, Facebook, and Google have access, either directly or indirectly, to the location of every Ring doorbell in use, and law enforcement has access to the video produced by those devices. This is a level above the privacy concerns that usually go along with connected home devices, which usually centers on the security of those platforms. Now we have to be concerned about the inappropriate sharing of our most private data, in this case, video of our homes, from the companies we are supposed to be able to trust with that data.

ViacomCBS wants to bring you yet ANOTHER video streaming service

posted Saturday Feb 8, 2020 by Scott Ertz

ViacomCBS wants to bring you yet ANOTHER video streaming service

If you read our site often, this will sound familiar to you. A major media company is working to bring a video streaming service to the market that will put a focus on their content. In the past year or so, we've been inundated with new streaming services like Disney+ and CBS All Access. There have also been entries from premium services like Showtime and HBO. We also know of future services like Peacock from NBC. That is in addition to existing services from the likes of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Comedy Central, FX, CNBC, MTV, and more.

Another streaming service?

It makes sense, with the market being so crowded, that yet another streaming service would be pitched. The newly merged ViacomCBS is working on bringing its own streaming service to market.

The new platform will allow the company to have one place to bring all of its content together, whether it be shows form CBS or Showtime, or movies from the vast Viacom and Paramount catalogs. This means that, for the first time ever, all of the Star Trek shows (CBS) and movies (Paramount) will be able to find a single home. But it's a crowded space, with lots of options, and a lot of content.

Where does it fit?

That's a good question. This merged company already operates a ton of streaming services. From CBS All Access, to the network-specific apps for their networks like Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and more. Plus, this behemoth also owns premium channel Showtime, which has its own streaming service.

The most logical move for the company would be to bring an end to the myriad of platforms and offer all of the options under one banner, whatever that might be called, and have tiered subscriptions. The things that were available for free on previous services could remain that way, while things that are hidden behind a paywall, like Star Trek: Picard, could remain that way, as well.

But, good ideas seem to be lost in this era of too many choices. ViacomCBS plans to keep all of the existing platforms operating as-is and introduce the new service as yet another choice. If consumer fatigue hasn't already kicked in, having this many platforms for the same content is likely to get us there.

Clearview AI's facial recognition is polarizing the tech industry

posted Saturday Feb 8, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Clearview AI's facial recognition is polarizing the tech industry

There's a small, secret startup that you might have heard of recently - Clearview AI. The company has produced what is possibly the most polarizing facial recognition product ever produced. The people it is made for, law enforcement, are in love, but the tech industry wants to hinder its growth and future potential.

Law enforcement loves it

There's no doubt that the use of facial recognition technology is causing problems for those who use it. New York tried it in schools, and that immediately drew criticism. But, the place where the technology, especially that produced by Clearview AI, is being used the most is law enforcement. While publicly recognizing the potential for abuse, law enforcement is using it with perceived success.

According to The New York Times, agencies have been using Clearview AI to identify the victims of child exploitation, both in photo and video. In Indiana, they ran photos of 21 victims through the system and came back with 14 identities. This allowed them to contact the victims and ask if they wanted to provide statements.

Does privacy matter?

According to the company's policies, it would appear that the answer is no. Because of how the company acquires and stores images, privacy advocates argue that it creates new kinds of harm. The company stores the images uploaded by law enforcement, known as probe images, forever. Yes, the internet never forgets, but the accumulation of this kind of imagery by Clearview AI creates a new way for these images to make their way into the public's hands.

Tech companies hate it

Probe images are not enough to produce a viable facial recognition technology. So, how did they get a usable database of images? Exactly where you think - social media. The company has scraped public photos from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more, to produce a database of billions of photos of faces.

These companies, who are against the use of these photos in the Clearview AI platform, have ordered the company to stop scraping data and to stop using data they have already scraped. While the sites' privacy policies may prohibit the behavior, there is a legal precedent against them. LinkedIn lost a battle to prevent similar behavior from a company called hiQ. hiQ had been scraping public data from profiles for years and was granted permission to continue. The court concluded that data made public was just that - public.

As with the discussion around outlawing encryption, the question comes down to whether or not law enforcement can and should regularly violate our privacy to combat child exploitation. There is no way this is the end of the story - it is likely just the beginning.

Nvidia's GeForce Now service makes Google Stadia look like a relic

posted Saturday Feb 8, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Nvidia's GeForce Now service makes Google Stadia look like a relic

Here's the pitch: A service that allows you to stream videogames to be able to be played on any device you own. This is what everyone had hoped for when Google launched Stadia, though it was not to be. Like other services that came before, the service was very limited. The biggest limitation is that you have to get the game from Google Stadia, whether you already own it or not. It also meant that if Google didn't support the game, you couldn't play it. However, GeForce Now has taken a different approach.

Play your games

Nvidia's been testing its game streaming platform, GeForce Now, for about a month in closed beta, and years before that in various states. This platform sets itself apart from the rest of the pack in several important ways. The most important is that the games library is not closed, like with Stadia. Instead, you can play games from the markets that you already use.

The platform, which left closed beta this week, currently supports the most important game marketplaces: Steam, Epic Games Store, Battle.net, and Uplay. It runs an instance of the store, under your credentials, in the cloud, and uses that account to install and stream the game. Because of this model, it means that you can sync your saved games from these stores and pick up where you left off.

Play where you want

Another of Stadia's major drawbacks was the questionable device support. For a platform billed as play anywhere, you couldn't play on many devices. With GeForce Now, the supported device list is extensive. For Android, the minimum system requirements are "An Android phone with 2GB with Android 5.0 (L) or later, and OpenGL ES3.2 support or higher." To put the device age into perspective, Android 10 is the current version.

The most prominent downside to the platform is a lack of iOS support. That means that iPhone and iPad owners are currently out in the dark. This could be for several reasons, the most likely of which is Apple's previous removal of similar apps from the App Store. It might also involve Apple's controller support limitations. But, for those with Windows, Mac, Android, or Shield, you can play now.

One surprising aspect of GeForce Now is the price. The company currently offers a free option, which allows for 1-hour gaming sessions, or $5 per month for extended sessions and priority access.

AMD is gaining ground and partners as Intel stalls on development

posted Saturday Feb 8, 2020 by Scott Ertz

AMD is gaining ground and partners as Intel stalls on development

Over the past year or so, Intel seems to have forgotten that they are in the processor business, letting their biggest competitor, AMD, gain ground. While Intel has not released any processors on upgraded architecture or smaller silicon footprints, AMD has continued to innovate, recently releasing 7nm chips. This constant forward movement from AMD has had a positive impact on the company, bringing their desktop market share to 18.3 percent and mobile share to 162 percent for the fourth quarter.

What it means for AMD and Intel

These gains are big news for both AMD and Intel, as an increase for AMD means a decrease for Intel. Considering AMD's nearly non-existant market share just a few years ago, it shows the importance of continued innovation in the PC space, despite the belief that the industry is in decline. In reality, the PC space has been growing for the past few quarters.

As they have pushed the processor business, the company has added hardware partners. While Microsoft has used AMD hardware for its Xbox products, the Surface line has always been Intel. That is until this generation, where a custom AMD Ryzen option was added to the lineup for some new models. There has also been an increase in the number of available laptops running Ryzen mobile processors, helping to lead to the 4 percent increase over last year.

A new partner emerges

A new partner might be about to appear - Apple. According to some code in macOS, five new hardware pieces from AMD have support added, including system processors. The company has been rumored to be looking for a way out with Intel, with the most common rumor pointing to an Apple-designed ARM processor. However, as everyone in the industry has noted, switching to ARM processors would mean huge changes for developers and users. However, a switch to AMD (which Apple already uses for video hardware) would be a lateral move for both groups.

This move could indicate a change for both Apple and Intel. For Intel, it would be the first potential complete loss of a hardware partner, one that made a big move years ago to switch from Motorola to Intel. But, the biggest signal is from Apple, which has mostly ignored their computer business for the past decade. As the tablet market shrinks and the PC market grows, they might be ready to put effort into that division once again.

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