Acer Aspire R14 Laptop, Aspire Z3-700 AIO PC With Windows 10 Launched

Acer just announced two new Windows 10 devices at a joint event with Microsoft in Taipei – the Aspire R14 convertible notebook and the Aspire Z3-700 all-in-one PC with a built-in battery.

The latest incarnation of the Aspire R14 features a thinner 360-degree dual torque hinge which lets you switch from using it as a standard notebook to a tablet. It has a 14-inch full-HD display with 10-point multi-touch support for Windows 10. Acer has refreshed the internals with Intel’s 6th Generation Core processors so you have a choice between a Core i7-6500U or a Core i5-6200U. There’s support for up to 8GB of DDR3L RAM, Intel HD Graphics 520, up to 512GB SSD storage (no option for HDD) and Wi-Fi ac with MU-MIMO technology. The notebook will ship with Widows 10 Home 64-bit. The Aspire R14 will first launch in North America and Europe in late October with prices starting at $699 (roughly Rs. 45,300) and EUR 799 respectively (roughly Rs. 59,000).

Acer also announced a brand new all-in-one PC called the Aspire Z3-700. It features a built-in battery which can last up to 5 hours when not connected to wall power. The PC sports foldable legs which transforms it into a giant tablet so you can easily move it around the house. The 17.3-inch full-HD display supports 10-point multi-touch for Windows and weighs around 2kg. Other specifications includes an option of a Pentium N3700 or Celeron N3150 CPU (Braswell platform), up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM, Intel HD Graphics, up to 256GB SSD or 500GB HDD, and stereo speakers with Dolby Audio. The notebook will ship with Windows 10 and will be available by the end of the year for the EMEA region, with prices starting at EUR 799 (roughly Rs. 59,000).

The two newly-launched devices join the rest Acer’s Windows 10 lineup which the company announcedonly a month back at IFA 2015. In India, we should expect these products to hit the market towards the end of Q4, according to Oliver Ahrens, Senior Corporate Vice President of Acer. The company is also heavily focusing on its Predator gaming products to take on the established brands like Republic of Gamers from Asus. This lineup includes gaming notebooks like the Predator 17 and 15, gaming desktops like the Predator G6 and G3, and monitors like the new Z35, a 35-inch curved display with Nvidia’s G-Sync and a 200Hz refresh rate.

We also had a chance to play a bit with the Acer Liquid Jade Primo, which is its upcoming flagship Windows 10 smartphone with support for Continuum. The unit that we saw was a prototype device which was used to demo Continuum through a wireless mode by using Miracast. The phone itself felt very light and slim, and features similar specifications to the Microsoft Lumia 950 such as a 5.5-inch Super Amoled display, 21-megapixel rear camera, and a Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 SoC. Acer has yet to announce the final version, which we suspect could come out during the holiday season around the same time as the new Lumia flagships.

OnePlus to Start Manufacturing Smartphones in India

Chinese smartphone manufacturer OnePlus announced Monday its plans for local production at theFoxconn Rising Stars factory within the Sri City Integrated Business City in the state of Andhra Pradesh by the end of 2015.

Local production of OnePlus’ upcoming devices will start before end of this year at the 30,000 square feet facility, which will have a cumulative peak production capacity of 500,000 units per month, and generate direct employment for over 1,000 full-time workers, the company said, adding the first batch of locally-produced phones would be made available before the end of the year.

At a formal announcement of the event in Bengaluru, Pete Lau, Founder and CEO of OnePlus, told journalists that the move will help step up momentum for the firm in the country, and give further support to the Government’s Make in India initiative.

Pete Lau, Founder & CEO, OnePlus said, “Producing smartphones in India is one of the most important decisions that we have made so far at OnePlus, and we are thankful to the Government of Andhra Pradesh and Foxconn for helping us make this happen. India being one of our biggest markets worldwide, we are committed to a long term sustainable growth path. This move will strengthen our presence and help us step up momentum in India.”

Vikas Agarwal, General Manager – India, OnePlus said that local production will help solve supply chain-related issues, make the company’s operations more efficient and make them available for sale much faster than before. He also added that the OnePlus 2 had seen over five million registrations worldwide.

Asus, Xiaomi, and Gionee had previously announced their plans to assemble phones at the Foxconn’s Sri City facility in Andhra Pradesh.

Lau declined to answer our queries on how many OnePlus 2 units have been shipped to the world so far, and how many units were available as a part of the open sale on Amazon India on Monday, as he didn’t have the information at hand. However, he said that over 15,000 units were sold in under 12 minutes.

Xiaomi Mi 5 Expected to Launch at October 19 Event

Xiaomi has started sending invites for an event on October 19, where the company is expected to showcase its next-generation flagship smartphone, the Mi 5.

The Chinese company announced the event on Weibo and also shared an image with launch date embedded in it. The teaser image shared by Xiaomi read “The next generation of new conference” (Bing Translation). The company however has not indicated any device launch so far. Xiaomi may also introduce its next-generation Mi Band at the same event as the wearable is also likely to receive an upgrade finally.

Considering that the Xiaomi Mi 4 was unveiled back in July last year; we can expect the company to finally refresh its flagship smartphone. The October 19 launch also corroborates with an earlier report that suggested the Mi 5 will be available in November.

Based on leaks so far, Xiaomi Mi 5 is said to be the first to run on the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor. However, considering Qualcomm is yet to announce the final release of Snapdragon SoCs; Xiaomi most probably may use the ‘more popular’ octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v2.1 SoC, also seen on the Nexus 6P. The Mi 5 may feature 4GB of RAM; Adreno 530 GPU; a 5.3-inch QHD (1440×2560) pixels resolution display with pixel density of 554ppi; arrive in 16GB or 64GB inbuilt storage variants with no option for expandable storage; a 16-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash, and be backed by a 3030mAh battery.

A separate report claims that due to delay in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chipsets, Xiaomi may opt for MediaTek deca-core Helio X20 processor – which goes in line with a previous report.

The new report goes on to claim that Snapdragon 820 powered Mi 5 can be expected to ship in early 2016. The MediaTek Helio X20-based Mi 5 is said to be priced at CNY 1,999 (approximately Rs. 20,500).

To recall, the Taiwanese chipmaker had launched its Helio X20 SoC in May and had claimed it to be the ‘world’s first mobile processor with tri-cluster CPU architecture’ and first deca-core SoC for smartphones and tablets.

A recent report also suggested that Xiaomi may use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sense ID fingerprint scanner technology or also known as the “ultrasonic fingerprint recognition” on its Mi 5 smartphone. To recall, Qualcomm had showcased its all-new ultrasonic fingerprint recognition system at MWC this year which allow devices to create a 3D-mapped fingerprint rather than the flat images captured by commonly used capacitive sensors.

Additionally, the Mi 5, apart from a fingerprint sensor, is expected to include a USB Type-C port, possibly the version 3.0.

Dell to Buy EMC for $67 Billion to Add Data-Storage Devices

Dell Inc. has agreed to buy EMC Corp. for about $67 billion (roughly Rs. 4,34,139 crores) in the largest technology acquisition ever, creating a corporate-computing giant that will use a wider product lineup to woo customers as demand slows and competition stiffens.

Dell plans to pay $24.05 (roughly Rs. 1,560) a share in cash plus tracking stock in EMC’s prize holding, VMware Inc., valued at about $9 (roughly Rs. 580) for each EMC share, the companies said in a statement Monday. The price of $33.15 a share is 28 percent above EMC’s closing level on Oct. 7, just before reports surfaced that a deal was in the works. While the agreement has a provision that lets EMC talk to other potential bidders, the company doesn’t expect any, a person familiar with the matter said. EMC rose 2.5 percent Friday to close at $27.86 (roughly Rs. 1,800) on the New York Stock Exchange.

Dell will be run by Michael Dell, the chief executive officer of the company he founded. The deal is expected to close in May to October of next year.

The deal would combine EMC’s dominance in devices that store data with Dell’s No. 2 position in servers, the powerful machines that help companies handle big computing challenges. Dell, which was taken private for about $25 billion (roughly Rs. 1,61,943 crores) in 2013, can expand its product lineup to vie with perennial rivals including Hewlett-Packard Co. and upstarts such as Nutanix Inc.

For EMC, the agreement addresses pressure from activist investors who have been agitating for growth and resolves long- standing questions over succession for CEO Joe Tucci. He has agreed to stay at the company through the close of the deal and may stay beyond that, said the person, who didn’t want to be named because the details haven’t been disclosed. Michael Dell reached out to Tucci about a year ago, and the companies’ boards started working on the agreement in the spring, the person said.

EMC, which has been publicly traded since 1986, had been looking at strategic options for boosting its share price. Activist investor Elliott Management Corp. had pushed for EMC to sell itself or spin off software maker VMware, of which the storage company is the majority owner.

EMC is facing weaker demand for its older, pricey storage models. While the company has been focusing on newer products such as flash arrays that speed up data retrieval, where it’s growing more rapidly, that hasn’t been enough to lift sales growth. EMC’s revenue is projected to increase about 3 percent this year, its slowest rate since logging a decline in 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The deal will help Dell raise its profile in data centers, the modern factories of the digital age that house servers, networking gear and storage systems. EMC had 21 percent of the storage market last year, about twice what Dell had, according to Bloomberg data.

While Dell has been outperforming some of its rivals, the company is grappling with sagging demand for personal computers. During the third quarter, overall shipments declined 7.7 percent, according to Gartner Inc. Still, Dell was able to post a small gain of 0.5 percent while larger rivals declined.

Dell has been investing in growth after escaping the harsh glare of the public markets in 2013 with CEO Dell and Silver Lake Management striking a deal to go private. At the time the deal was announced, the stock had lost more than half its value since January 2007, when Dell resumed his role as CEO.

For all its would-be benefits, the merger carries risks. The prevailing trend in technology is to separate and focus on fewer businesses to compete against nimbler competitors. Hewlett-Packard is splitting in two next month, a step that eBay Inc. took earlier this year. Though Dell and EMC have done business together for years and have complementary cultures, the sheer size of a combined entity could slow decision-making and hamper speedy product-development.

What’s more, EMC bonds came under pressure last week on concern that the purchase would undermine current bondholders’ place in the capital structure.

ZTE Axon Mini With 5.2-Inch Pressure-Sensitive Display Launched

ZTE, after launching its Axon, Axon Elite, and Axon Lux earlier this year, over the weekend launched a new smartphone – Axon Mini. The handset would debut in China followed by Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Russia, Japan, India, Australia, France, Germany, Turkey, Spain and Italy ‘in coming months’.

While the Ion Gold and Chromium Silver colour variants would cost CNY 2,299 (roughly Rs. 23,500), the Rose Gold variant would cost CNY 2,399 (roughly Rs. 24,500). The company also mentioned about a Premium Edition version of the smartphone, which would cost CNY 2,699 (roughly Rs. 27, 600). Unfortunately, the details of the Premium Edition is scarce at the moment. The ZTE Axon NBA version was also launched by the company.

First unveiled in July this year, the ZTE Axon Mini’s claim to fame is its pressure-sensitive touchscreen “that recognizes different levels of touch pressure for enhanced functions and experience, such as interactive gaming, passwords and more.” The smartphone features 5.2-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) resolution Super Amoled display with 2.5D curved-edge screen. The smartphone is backed by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor, clubbed with 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 405 GPU.

zte_axon_mini_ion_rose_gold.jpgIt houses a 13-megapixel rear camera with Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF), and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with a 5P aspherical lens. Sporting a aircraft-grade aluminium-titanium alloy build, the ZTE Axon Mini equips 32GB of inbuilt storage, which can be further expanded via a microSD card (up to 128GB). It is backed by a 2800mAh battery, the handset features a fingerprint sensor and an eye-scan sensor.

“Devices in our ZTE AXON product lines are designed entirely with consumers in mind and to be the nerve center of everything they do,” said Adam Zeng, CEO, ZTE Mobile Devices. “Our high-end flagship strategy is now in full swing and we believe we have all of the ingredients to become a leading consumer electronics brand globally.”

From the looks of it, the Axon Mini specifications match a lot with that of ZTE Axon Elite, which wasshowcased during IFA 2015. However, the latter missed out on features such as pressure-sensitive touchscreen and was powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor.

The company also launched the ZTE Axon Watch in China. While the price of the device has not been mentioned, the company would make the smartwatch available in China starting October 27. The ZTE Axon Watch features a 1.4-inch (400×400 pixels) resolution display covered with Gorilla Glass screen and sapphire coating. The IP67-certified wearable device includes a 512MB of DDR2 RAM, 4GB inbuilt storage, and supports both voice and gesture control. The Tencent OS-based smartwatch is backed by a 300mAh battery. It comes with number of fitness-based applications and also shows handset notifications.

Samsung Galaxy Grand On, Galaxy A9 Spotted on Certification, Benchmark Sites

Samsung’s rumoured Galaxy Grand On smartphone has passed the Chinese telecommunication certification website Tenaa. The smartphone, listed as the SM-G5500, listing features slightly different specifications as compared to last month’s report showing the handset’s benchmark results. Samsung Galaxy A9 smartphone also shown up in AnTuTu benchmark results in a separate leak.

As compared with the benchmarks results from last month, the Samsung Galaxy Grand On as perTenaa (via GSMArena) would sport a 5.1-inch display, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor instead of a 64-bit quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC, and an 8-megapixel rear camera instead of 12-megapixel camera. Rest of the specifications that correspond with the previous report are HD resolution display, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of expandable storage, and 5MP front-facing camera. The smartphone would measure 142×71.9×8.5mm and weigh 140 grams. The handset is listed with the model name SM-G5500 and supports China-based TD-LTE networks.

Meanwhile, the rumoured Samsung Galaxy A9, sporting the codename SM-A9000, also went through AnTuTu benchmark testing. The smartphone, as per the image showing the benchmark results, runs on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop and features a 5.5-inch full-HD resolution display. It would be powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 620 processor, clubbed with 3GB RAM and Adreno 510. 32GB of inbuilt storage would also come housed inside the smartphone. The image was posted by @stagueve on Twitter last week. Looking at the specifications, the smartphone seems to be a high-end offering from Samsung. Nothing is known regarding the price and the launch dates of both Galaxy Grand On and Galaxy A9 smartphones.

Notably, Samsung has sent out press invites from an event in Gurgaon, India, where it is expected to either launch its recently-unveiled Gear S2 smartwatch, or finally launch the much-anticipated Galaxy Mega On or Galaxy Grand On smartphones.

Twitter Poaches Google’s Omid Kordestani for Executive Chairman Post

Twitter Inc lured Google Inc executive Omid Kordestani to become the social media company’s executive chairman, the latest step in the company’s turnaround efforts under Jack Dorsey, who last week was named permanent CEO.

Kordestani’s extensive sales experience could prove a good counterpoint to Twitter co-founder Dorsey’s product knowledge and vision, analysts said.

“It’s rare you get to be at a company with an amazing business that’s also transforming the world,” Kordestani tweeted. “I’ve had good fortune to be at three: Netscape, @google, and now @twitter.”

Kordestani, most recently senior adviser at Google, will join Twitter’s board and will have an operational role at the company, a Twitter spokeswoman said. That will include help with board and employee recruiting and advising executive leadership.

Twitter said last week it would hire an outsider as chairman to allay concerns about Dorsey’s dual role as head of mobile payments company Square Inc, which is reportedly planning an IPO.

“It’s quite a coup,” said James Cordwell, analyst at Atlantic Equities. “He was very well-respected at Google.”

Twitter shares, which are down 18 percent this year, were up about 1 percent in afternoon trading.

The announcement could lead to other changes to the board, long criticized for having too many former Twitter CEOs, an excess that investors and analysts said had hampered the company’s ability to attract executives and high-level employees.

Kordestani, 51, joined Google as its 11th employee in 1999 and stayed for 10 years. After a few years away, he returned full-time in October 2014 as chief business officer.

He became a senior adviser in August, helping the company through its rebranding as Alphabet Inc.

Twitter is working to reignite growth after last quarter reporting its slowest rise in monthly average users since going public in 2013. On Tuesday, it announced plans to lay off up to 8 percent of its workforce, mostly engineers and product employees.

“(Kordestani) has incredible business acumen and can help fine-tune the strategy and attract talent to Twitter,” said James Cakmak, analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co.

At one point, Google was rumoured to be interested in buying Twitter. The two companies have struck partnerships in recent months, including showing Tweets in search results and allowing advertisers to use Google’s DoubleClick service to buy and measure ad views on Twitter.

Twitter did not disclose Kordestani’s pay. He received a $60 million (roughly Rs. 388 crores) equity award from Google in 2014, plus a one-time supplemental equity award worth $65 million (roughly Rs. 421 crores). He also received a bonus of $5 million (roughly Rs. 32 crores) when he returned as chief business officer.

Netflix Blames Weak US Subscriber Additions on New Chip-Based Cards

Video-streaming service provider Netflix Inc reported third-quarter US subscriber additions below its own forecast, blaming a transition to chip-based cards for the miss.

Shares of Netflix, known for its original shows such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black”, plunged about 15 percent after the bell, before clawing back to trade down 2.4 percent.

US credit and debit card companies have been shifting to chip-enabled cards ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline mandated for the switch.

For Netflix, the switch meant that many of the older cards on its file no longer worked as the companies gave new cards to their customers, leading to “involuntary churn,” as Chief Executive Reed Hastings put it in a letter to shareholders.

“It’s just the dumbest thing I’ve heard,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.

FBR Capital Markets analyst Barton Crockett said the issue around the chip cards is particularly confusing, given that these cards have been around for a bit.

“It begs a million questions,” he said.

Netflix said on Wednesday it added 0.88 million US subscribers in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with its forecast of 1.15 million.

“The slowdown in US subscriber growth was particularly disappointing because one would expect that since Netflix just raised rates last week, this number would have been strong,” said Crockett.

Netflix increased the subscription rate for some new members earlier this month by $1.00 a month to $9.99 in the United States, Canada and Latin America.

Internationally, Netflix added 2.74 million subscribers, compared with its projection of 2.40 million.

Netflix, which is also battling competition from streaming services such as Amazon Inc’s Prime Video service and Hulu, has been aggressively building its overseas presence.

The company said it was in the “early stages” of its China entry and said it was “still learning a lot”.

Netflix said in July its plans to enter China in 2016 could be delayed.

Netflix is being “more adventurous” on the news side, company executives said on a post-earnings conference call.

The company added it was not looking at live sports as an offering currently.

“There’s a lot of irrational bidders for sports, we’re not anxious to become another one,” Netflix’s head of content Ted Sarandos said. “Sports on demand is not as exciting as sports live.”

Netflix forecast adding about 1.65 million customers in the United States in the current quarter. It also said it expected to add about 3.50 million subscribers worldwide.

Government Orders Ban on Websites, Facebook Pages With ISIS Propaganda

Cracking its whip on terror propaganda being carried on Internet, government Wednesday ordered banning of two websites and some pages on social networking site Facebook after it was found that they contained material detrimental to the country’s sovereignty.

The decision was taken during a high-level meeting in which officials from Department of Telecom, Home Ministry and central security agencies participated. The meeting was convened by Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), a nodal agency under Ministry of Communications, that deals with cyber security threats like hacking and phishing.

“On the request of the IB and some police, the CERT-In has blocked two websites belonging to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which were spreading outfit’s propaganda, and two Facebook pages which were being run by anonymous people in Jammu and Kashmir,” a senior government officer said.

The two websites spreading ISIS propaganda had details of how to make bombs and training modules of the outfit. The officials said about 55-60 websites and social networking sites pages, related to terror activities, have been blocked by the government this year.

Earlier in the day, Telecommunication Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that steps will be taken to check misuse of social media platforms to disrupt communal harmony and national security.

“Well as far as radicalisation or extremism…communal or pro-terrorist views are concerned, there is a proper mechanism of coordination between Home Ministry and our Ministry,” he told a press conference.

‘Toshiba Likely to Bless a SanDisk-Western Digital Deal’

Toshiba, SanDisk’s partner in making memory chips, is more likely to sign off on a potential takeover of SanDisk by hard drive maker Western Digital than by rival memory chip maker Micron, analysts said.

Micron Technology Inc and Western Digital Corp are in talks with SanDisk Corp about a possible acquisition, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

The report came after months of intense speculation about imminent consolidation in the memory chip industry as a supply glut and cheaper products from China continue to drive down prices.

SanDisk will require Toshiba’s approval to consummate a deal with either party. SanDisk uses Toshiba’s foundries to make its chips and the two companies have an important intellectual property-sharing joint venture.

If Micron, which has its own foundries, buys SanDisk, Toshiba is likely to lose a lot of business. Moreover, Micron has a growing presence in the NAND-flash memory chips market and a tie up with SanDisk will immensely increase competition for the Japanese tech leader.

NAND-flash memory chips power solid-state drives, which are faster and more reliable than traditional hard drives, Western Digital’ mainstay. SSDs are used in cloud computing, data centres, smartphones and laptops.

“From Micron’s perspective … you could take out two competitors at once,” Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Arcuri said.

“If you can extricate SanDisk from the Toshiba JV, then you’ve taken Toshiba out of the NAND business and you’ve taken out SanDisk as well … this would really catapult you to number 2. status behind Samsung.”

Micron and Western Digital declined to comment. Toshiba and SanDisk did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

SanDisk, which had a market capitalisation of about $12.6 billion (roughly Rs. 81,647 crores) as of the stock’s close on Tuesday, has lost 37 percent of its value this year.

The company’s stock rose as much as 14 percent on Wednesday. Micron’s rose 6 percent, while Western Digital’s rose 2.4 percent.

SanDisk itself would be more amenable to a bid from Western Digital, which has strong free cash flow thanks to its cash cow hard-drive business, analysts said.

Western Digital is also expected to receive a $4 billion (roughly Rs. 25,919 crores) cash infusion from China’s state-backed Tsinghua Holdings Co Ltd, if the deal passes regulatory scrutiny in the United States.

The investment could give Western Digital the firepower to speed up SanDisk’s transition from a legacy hard drive maker to a company that makes efficient chips that run data centres.