May 14, 2021, 07:57 AM


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Google is preparing new 'desktop sharing hub' in Chrome

San Francisco: Google is testing a new Chrome feature known as 'Desktop Sharing Hub' or 'Chrome Sharing Menu'.

In essence, the company wants to streamline all the many ways you can share content from Chrome and place it into one simple interface, Android Central reported.

As spotted by Chrome Story, once this new hub is enabled, users will be able to do actions like generating a QR code, sharing to devices, casting a tab and other actions that revolve around sharing the current page to another person or device from a centralised location.

According to the report, it currently exists just behind a "sharing-hub-desktop-omnibox" flag in Chrome Canary and can only be used on Chrome 92.

While Chrome had been more or less stable before 2020 (barring user interface updates), Google has been working on improving productivity features in its more recent releases, the report said.

Things like renaming windows, tab groups, and now sharing hub will go a long way in making Chrome the browser to use, it added.

The company will also be bolstering its Chromebook offerings with any Chrome updates like this Chromebooks recently gained a "phone hub" feature.

Samsung's Harman starts 5G testing lab in India

Samsung's connected technology solutions provider Harman on Wednesday said it has started a 5G testing lab in India to help companies test their devices for operating them on the next generation network. The company said its 5G lab enables a holistic, device-to-cloud performance analysis -- enabling chipset conformance testing, pre-certification testing, network operator approval testing, application performance verification and more.

Harman Digital Transformation Services (DTS) Senior Vice President David Owens said advances in technologies like 5G yield significant opportunity to accelerate innovation across nearly every industry -- from healthcare and manufacturing, transportation to consumer device support.

However, to turn innovation into impact, testing the reliability and effectiveness of new technologies is crucial.

"...with the new comprehensive Harman 5G Testing Lab, technology providers have a one-stop shop to not only test and verify their solutions cohesively from device-to-cloud, but collect additional detailed insight about device performance across multiple variables and truly raise the bar for consumer 5G experiences," Owens said.

The testing lab, set up in Gurugram, will equip technology providers like device manufacturers, chipmakers, telcos and more with the ability to execute a variety of protocol and functional tests, along with validating and examining applications in a real 5G radio environment.

The government had plans to facilitate roll out of 5G commercial services by 2020 but it is yet to firm up its plan on spectrum allocation for the next generation technology.

The Department of Telecom last week approved some applications to start field trials of 5G services.

"Harman's 5G Test Lab enables the device ecosystem including 5G silicon and devices, and the telecom operators to test and validate the readiness of devices and accelerate the roll outs," Harman Senior Director for DTS Prakash Tripathi said.

Sonos boosts sales outlook despite global chip shortage, shares rise

Connected speaker maker Sonos Inc on Wednesday raised its annual sales forecast above Wall Street expectations as the company said it believes it can beat a global chip shortage to keep shipping products, sending shares up as much as 14%.

In an interview with Reuters, CEO Patrick Spence said Sonos has direct relationships with its chip suppliers and started ramping up its orders for semiconductors last year. He said Sonos believes it can work through supply shortages to meet the new forecast and ship its Roam portable speaker.

"We feel like we're mitigating and got ahead of it as much as anyone could have," Spence told Reuters. "We've shown (chipmakers) that this is real demand and we're turning inventory around super quickly."

The Santa Barbara, California-based company forecast fiscal 2021 sales at a midpoint of $1.65 billion, above its prior forecast of $1.55 billion and above analyst expectations of $1.56 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. For the company's fiscal second quarter ended April 3, the company said sales were $332.9 million, up 90% from the prior year, and adjusted profits were 31 cents per share, versus a loss of 34 cents per share a year earlier.

Analysts had expected fiscal second-quarter sales of $248.41 million and an adjusted loss of 22 cents per share, according to Refinitiv data.

Sonos faced competitive pressure when major technology firms such as Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google and Apple Inc released smart speakers, some of which targeted Sonos' core market of premium-priced products focused on audio-quality.

In recent months, both Apple and Google have discontinued their largest, highest-priced smart speakers to focus on smaller, cheaper speakers that showcased their voice-assistants and smart home features. Sonos has stuck to a focus on audio quality and being a neutral player, Spence said.

"Their strategic intent in getting into the space is different than ours," Spence said. "We're the only ones across those big tech companies who support all of the music services, and we also do it for voice assistants."

Bill to ban TikTok on US government devices passes committee

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed a bill that would ban U.S. federal workers from downloading the popular app TikTok onto U.S. government devices, Senator Josh Hawley, a bill sponsor, said in a press statement on Wednesday.

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a similar measure in August 2020. Representative Ken Buck has introduced a similar bill in the House.

The app, which is popular with teens eager to show off dance moves, has come under fire in the United States because of concerns over its Chinese owner, ByteDance. TikTok has sought to distance itself from Beijing with mixed success.

Hawley called the company "an immediate security threat."

"This should not be a partisan issue and I'm glad to see my colleagues in the Senate act together to address Beijing's covert data collection campaign," Hawley said in a statement after the vote.

TikTok India head Nikhil Gandhi quits

 Nikhil Gandhi, the India Head of China's ByteDance-owned short video-sharing platform TikTok, has decided to quit and is currently serving his notice period, IWMBuzz reported.

After the company folded its India business, Gandhi was recently redesignated as TikTok Head for the Middle East, Africa, Turkey and South Asia.

"After much reflection on my time here at ByteDance and looking at my future goals, I have made the difficult decision to leave my role in the company," Gandhi was quoted as saying by IWMBuzz.

"Working with TikTok, I have seen our app shepherd in a new era of connection, communication and cultural appreciation," he added.

TikTok roped in Gandhi in the year 2019 as its India head to drive the next phase of growth for the Chinese short video-sharing platform.

However, in 2020, the Indian government said it was banning 59 apps developed by Chinese firms, including TikTok, over concerns that these apps were engaging in activities that threatened the national security and defence of India.

Based out of Mumbai, Gandhi has worked with Times Network. Before that, he was at The Walt Disney Company for nine years. He also worked with UTV Global Broadcasting and Viacom Media Networks as well.

In a career spanning over 20 years, Gandhi has held leadership positions at leading media and entertainment companies.

Razer upgrades its Blade 15 laptop with 11th-gen Intel H-series chips

This year's CES was a cornucopia for laptop gamers with dozens of high-performance devices and new processors. Now, two of the most exciting products from the event are coming together in the shape of Razer's new Blade 15.6-inch notebooks, which come with Intel's 11th Gen H-Series chips under the hood. At 0.62 inches (15.8 mm) thick, the latest versions are over 2 mm thinner than their predecessors.

We're big fans of the Blade: Its understated design and impressive performance make it one of the most-polished gaming laptops around. And, having added NVIDIA's new RTX 30 GPUs in January, the latest overhaul sees Razer again moving in tandem with graphics and processing upgrades.

This time, Intel's 11th Gen H-Series chip is the headline feature and is available across the six set-ups, with prices ranging from $2,299 to $3,399. At the top of the range, you'll get the Core i9-11900H processor with a boost clock of 4.9 GHz, compared to a Core i7-11800H and up to 4.2GHz max boost on the lower-priced variants.

From $2,999 upwards, you'll also get GeForce RTX 3080 graphics with 8GB VRAM, which is doubled to 16GB on the $3,399 top model. The priciest setup also sees the return of the OLED 4K touchscreen (compared to full HD and QHD displays, with 240Hz to 360Hz refresh rates, elsewhere) at 1ms and a large color gamut that covers 100% on DCI-P3. There's ample storage, too, with 1TB (PCIe) on the $2,299 setup and the addition of an open M.2 slot across the rest of the range. Razer also upgraded the webcam to full HD 1080p with Windows Hello infrared face recognition.

The new Blade 15 Advanced will be available for pre-order May 17th ahead of a June release date.

Alienware teases new X-Series laptops with exotic cooling solution

Dell has teased an upcoming Alienware laptop lineup called the X-Series offering improved thermal performance using new materials. The company also unveiled its latest Alienware m15 R6 laptop with 11th-generation Intel CPUs and RTX 3080 mobile graphics.

The company didn't reveal a lot about the X-Series, other than a few details on the thermal design and a short video. The main gist is that the X-Series will use a new thermal interface material (TIM), likely a pad rather than a paste, that it calls "Element 31." It's made of gallium-silicone that supposedly provides "a decrease to overall thermal resistance over the previous generation and extraordinary improvement in contact resistance as shown in preliminary testing."

It also uses Alienware's new patent-pending Quad-Fan design that "produces dedicated airflow using evacuative fans and dual opposite outlet fans." That extra airflow allows for high performance with a very thin design, the company said, as you can see in the video above. As a tradeoff for the fans occupying more space, there appears to be very little space for connectivity on the side, so the back of the laptop is now filled with ports. Dell also revealed that, not surprisingly, the X-Series laptops will use 11th-gen Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30-series graphics. There's no word yet on pricing or availability for the X-Series.

More tangibly, Dell also unveiled its latest Alienware m15 R6 laptop. It's available with Intel's 11th-gen CPUs with 6-core i5-11400H, 8-core i7-11800H and 8-core i9-11900H CPUs, and graphics options ranging from NVIDIA's latest RTX 3050 Ti up to RTX 3080 GPUs.

As for displays, you can get it with 1080p 165 Hz, 1080p 360 Hz and QuadHD (2,560 x 1,440) at up to 240 Hz models. The latter two support NVIDIA G-Sync and Advanced Optimus technology and include an IR camera supporting Windows Hello biometrics. It also supports up to 32GB of RAM (user upgradeable) and 4TB of storage. Other features include an RJ-45 ethernet NIC port, headset jack, Type-C Thunderbolt 4 and USB 3.2 Gen 3 ports, with the latter supporting Thunderbolt 4 on RTX 3060 and higher configurations. The Alienware m15 arrives this summer starting at $1,300.

NVIDIA's RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti bring ray tracing to affordable laptops

After Samsung spoiled the surprise last month, it was only a matter of time until NVIDIA confirmed the existence of its new mainstream laptop GPUs. Today, the company is officially unveiling the RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti. They deliver the ray tracing and AI features from the rest of its RTX line, but with a much lower starting price around $799. While they're not nearly as powerful as NVIDIA's beefier GPUs, the RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti will offer some serious upgrades for gamers on a budget. And for once, it means they won't have to settle for NVIDIA's aging Turing laptop GPUs, like the GTX 1650 Ti.

In Call of Duty:Warzone, NVIDIA claims the RTX 3050 Ti can reach over 80 FPS in 1080p with medium graphics settings, and upwards of 95FPS when you flip on DLSS. That technology renders a game at a lower resolution and then uses AI to upscale what you're seeing, delivering higher framerates in the process. In comparison, the GTX 1650 Ti reached around 55FPS in Warzone. The new GPU can also reach upwards of 70FPS in Outriders, whereas the 1650 Ti couldn't even crack 40FPS in 1080p.

Of course, the raw power upgrade is to be expected. What makes the RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti intriguing is their support for RTX ray tracing, which can deliver realistic lighting effects in modern games. NVIDIA claims you'll be able to play Control in 1080p with medium graphics and ray tracing settings, along with DLSS, above 60FPS. That game has been my ray tracing stress test for the last few years, and I'd be truly impressed if NVIDIA is able to make it playable with ray tracing on systems below $1,000.

Under the hood, the RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti feature 2,048 and 2,560 CUDA cores, respectively. That's well below the 3,840 CUDA cores on the RTX 3060, but they should still be powerful enough for gamers focused on 1080p performance. It's also worth noting that NVIDIA is only sharing RTX 3050 Ti benchmarks at the moment. I'd be interested to see if the 3050, which also has fewer tensor AI and RT cores, will actually perform with ray-traced games. Both GPUs also come with 4GB of GDDR6 RAM and a 128-bit memory interface, specs that'll limit their performance mainly to 1080p gaming. These are also Max-Q GPUs, which means their performance can be optimized to squeeze into thin laptops. (There's no word of an RTX 3050 desktop GPU yet.)

Second Covid-19 wave to impact Indian smartphone market growth in 2Q21: IDC

The uncertainty around the lasting impact of the second wave of Covid-19 as well as the possibility of a third wave in a few months is expected to impact the growth of the Indian smartphone market in the April-June quarter, according to the International Data Corporation's (IDC) Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

This is after the Indian smartphone market registered a healthy growth of 18% on-year in the 1Q21 (January-March) quarter, totaling 38 million units but declining by 14% from 4Q20.

This growth was driven by the starting of the vaccine rollout program at the beginning of the year that instilled positive sentiments but the second wave of infections towards the end of the quarter dampened the consumer demand.

Thus, the inventory cycle which had shrunk earlier in 2H20 started to get longer since mid-1Q21, IDC said.

"However, the high shipments from the first quarter should be able to suffice for the immediate demand. But IDC estimates the impact to be less pronounced compared with last year, with factories being operational today and only limited restrictions on logistics/transportation and state-level lockdowns instead of a nationwide lockdown", said Navkendar Singh, Research Director, Client Devices & IPDS, IDC India.

Singh added that IDC expects a rebound in consumer sentiments in the second half of 2021 which will lead to a single-digital annual growth.

"However, the degree of growth will be restricted due to reduced discretionary spending, supply constraints, and anticipated price hikes in components in upcoming quarters," Singh further said.

Vendors-wise, Xiaomi continued to lead the market in 1Q21, despite growing by 3% on-year.

Three of the top 5 models nationally were the Redmi 9/9A/9 Power, accounting for 10% of the overall shipments, while Poco, Xiaomi's sub-brand, continued to cement its online position, driven by affordable models like Poco C3 and M3.

Korean handset maker Samsung retained its second spot, growing fastest amongst the top 5 vendors with 43% on-year growth in 1Q21.

China's Vivo was at the third position, with shipments declining by 3% on-year. It regained its title sponsorship for the IPL cricket league, which ensured strong promotional activities around newly launched models in March and April.

Oppo regained its fourth slot with shipment growth of 35% on-year in 1Q21. Its affordable A15 series featured in the highest shipped models nationally, along with newly launched 5G models accounting for 8% of Oppo's shipments, while Realme slipped to the fifth slot after falling 4% on-year in 1Q21.

Feature phone shipments, on the other hand, declined by 8% on-year despite Reliance Jio launching new telco offers bundled with its 4G feature phone JioPhone. However, the 2G segment witnessed 3% growth driven by iTel and Lava.

ASUS ROG goes big with the 16-inch Zephyrus M16 and 17-inch S17

Given our glowing reviews for ASUS ROG's Zephyrus G15 and G14, it's obvious we're big fans of the company's gaming handiwork. Next up for ASUS: a pair of big-screen machines. The Zephyrus M16 squeezes a 16-inch Quad HD screen into a case that's 5 percent smaller than last year's M15. And the new 17-inch Zephyrus S17 now has a rising keyboard, similar to what we saw on the Zephyrus Duo.

Naturally, both machines will feature Intel's powerful new H-series CPUs, as well as NVIDIA's RTX 30-series GPUs. The slim Zephyrus M16 can be equipped with up to an RTX 3070, while the S17 can go all the way to an RTX 3080. You can think of these machines as a step up to the smaller Zephyrus G lineup, with slightly more premium designs. The M16's 16-inch display sounds impressive on paper, with a 165Hz refresh rate, adaptive sync support and a tall 16 by 10 aspect ratio. It also supports Dolby Vision and covers 100 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut, so you can expect bold colors to pop more than usual.

I'm particularly eager to see the M16 in action, if only to gawk at its slim 4.6mm screen bezels. This year, ASUS also managed to shave down the bottom bezel, which gives it an enormous 94 percent screen to body ratio. From the renders we've seen, it almost looks like the screen edges disappear completely. The M16 doesn't seem particularly hefty either -- it weighs 4.19 pounds, slightly less than the 4.3-pound MacBook Air 16-inch.

For those who need the most screen space possible, the Zephyrus S17 also seems like a solid upgrade over last year's model. The rising keyboard allows for more ergonomic typing. And most importantly, it'll create better airflow, which is particularly important if you want to run an RTX 3080. You've got two 17.3-inch panel options, a 165Hz Quad HD screen with G-SYNC and NVIDIA's Advanced Optimus technology (which can easily swap between integrated and discrete graphics), and a sharper 120Hz 4K screen with adaptive sync.

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