Sony Launches 2017 Lineup of Its 4K HDR TVs in India

Sony has launched the 2017 models of its 4K HDR TV line-up in India, starting at Rs. 72,900 for the 43-inch model. A total of 17 models are being launched across six different series: X95E, X94E/ X93E, X90E, X82E, X75E, and X70E. While most of them go on sale this week in Sony stores across India, some will be releasing in the near future. There’s no mention of Sony’s OLED 4K TV, which stole the show at CES 2017.

The biggest and most expensive of the lot is the 75-inch X94E, which costs a whopping Rs. 6,04,900. The X95E is Sony’s new top of the line 4K HDR TV, priced at Rs. 3,04,900 for the 55-inch model, and Rs. 4,04,900 for the 65-inch one. The X93E comes after that, coming in at Rs. 2,64,900 for 55-inch, and Rs. 3,64,900 for the 65-inch.

Stepping down further, you get the X90E series, which starts at a slightly more reasonable Rs. 1,54,900 for the 49-inch model. The 55-inch and 65-inch X90E models cost Rs. 2,04,900 and Rs. 2,84,900 respectively. Further down the line you’ve the X82E, costing Rs. 87,900 for 43-inch, Rs. 1,24,900 for the 49-inch, and Rs. 1,54,900 for the 55-inch.

In the X70E line-up, you can choose from the aforementioned 43-inch model, at Rs. 72,900. If you need something bigger, the 49-inch X70E costs Rs. 94,900. That leaves the X75E – in 43-, 49-, 55- and 65-inch variants – which don’t have prices or a release date yet.

Sony Launches 2017 Lineup of Its 4K HDR TVs in IndiaThe reason the X94E is so expensive isn’t just for its size (75-inch), but also because it has direct LED technology in its panel, as opposed to edge LED on the rest of the 2017 Sony line-up. That means the LEDs are behind the panel, which provides better contrast and brightness, at the expense of thickness and a premium. The X90E models also have direct LED.

To compensate on the X95E and X93E (which have edge LED), Sony is touting “Slim Backlight Drive+” for more brightness, which it says brings more accurate local dimming control. From X90E upwards, the Sony 4K HDR TVs also have better systems for picture processing, and clarity, and contrast enhancement.

In terms of connectivity, you get four HDMI inputs on X82E onwards. While the X82E has two on the side and the back, X90E has three on the side and one on the back. There is one on the side and three at the bottom in the X93E, X94E, and X95E. The X70E has three in total, two on the side and one in the back.

The entire Sony X-series runs Android TV 7.0 Nougat by default, with Sony’s own interface running on top of it. The Android aspect is stressed on the remote as well, with dedicated buttons for Netflix, Google Play Store, and YouTube. All of Sony’s 2017 Android TVs are part of Netflix’s recommended programme, if that’s a checkbox for you.

Watchmen TV Show Reportedly in Development at HBO With Damon Lindelof

DC Comics’ Watchmen is in development again at HBO as a TV series, according to multiple reports. Damon Lindelof – co-creator and showrunner on Lost – is said to be in talks with the network, fresh off the completion of his critically-acclaimed drama The Leftovers.

According to unnamed sources who spoke with Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, the project is in the early stages of development, with no official deal in place as yet. Hence, both HBO and Warner Bros. Television – which holds the rights to Watchmen – have declined to comment.

If true, this is HBO’s second attempt at getting the iconic limited comic book series to its platform, after an initial attempt back in 2014. Zack Snyder, who directed the Watchmen feature film in 2009, was attached to the TV project, but isn’t a part of the new discussion. That seems obvious, given Snyder temporarily stepped away from film-making last month to focus on his family after his daughter’s suicide.

Watchmen TV Show Reportedly in Development at HBO With Damon LindelofLindelof will be starting from scratch on the revived series development, according to Variety. Though The Leftovers failed to ever get a sizeable audience on HBO, it was a hit with critics, particularly towards its end. That seems to have been enough for HBO to place its trust with Lindelof.

For those unaware, Watchmen – created by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colourist John Higgins – ran for 12 issues between 1986-87. It depicted an alternate sci-fi history where the emergence of superheroes in the 1940s helped US later win the Vietnam War, and followed a bunch of former heroes come out of retirement to investigate the murder of one of their own.

Lindelof has co-written a number of sci-fi films previously, including Star Trek into Darkness, Prometheus, Cowboys & Aliens, and Tomorrowland. For HBO, a Watchmen series – which would take at least a few years of development – would help fill the gap that Game of Thrones is soon going to create.

Google Catches Fidget Spinner Fever, Has One as an Easter Egg

We’ve officially reached peak fidget spinner, as Google has added one to the ever growing list of Easter eggs in search. The search giant has a long history of adding funny results in search, and with the latest one, you can actually bring up a virtual fidget spinner and play with it right in your search results. To bring up the Google fidget spinner, just search for the word ‘spinner’ and you’ll see the result. There are actually two different spinners – a number wheel that you can spin to randomly generate a number between one and six, simulating the results of a dice roll, or a fidget spinner. The number wheel moves slowly and delivers results quickly enough, but if the toggle is set to Google fidget spinner, it moves fast and keeps you watching for a long time.

What is a fidget spinner?

If, in all this, you’re scratching your head and wondering what we’re talking about, then here’s a quick explanation. Fidget spinners are a hugely popular type of fidget toy that has pretty much taken over huge swathes of the world by now. As we noted in an earlier article, fidget spinners are just one type of fidget toy, which also include fidget cubes, and other toys based around springs and magnets. The spinners, however, have eclipsed all the others by now, and you can find them all over the world and in India too.

In the US, fidget spinners are being sold on the streets and in souvenir shops. In India, they were the preserve of online stores just a month or two ago, but now they’re being found in supermarkets and toy stores. The question here has moved from “what is a fidget spinner”, to “where can I buy one”.

The idea is that a fidget spinner gives you something to do with your hands and helps you to otherwise focus and concentrate, and can be genuinely helpful to people with conditions such as ADHD. However, these have largely just caught on as toys, and are popular with children and adults both, looking for something new to play with.

fidget spinner copper

In Germany recently customs officials in Frankfurt prevented the entry of 35 tons of fidget spinners, saying that the toys were choking hazards, and the government plans to crush these toys to destroy them.

Google fidget spinner

With the rising popularity of the fidget spinner, it was only natural that others would try and cash in on the trend. That’s why you have, for example, a number of different fidget spinner apps that promise the experience. Of course, a large part of actually playing with a fidget spinner is to give you something other than your phone to fiddle with, and there is a strong tactile element to it as well, as you feel something solid moving around in your hands, and that’s not something you can replicate on the phone.

The apps largely miss the point of why people like fidget spinners, but now, Google has gotten on board the bandwagon as well. We searched for ‘spinner’ in Google and took the fidget spinner for, well, a spin. It loads quickly and there’s a certain hypnotic quality to it, true, as the spinner turns and slows steadily, much like the real thing. There’s no sound though, and of course, it’s just an animation on your screen, so it’s the kind of thing that you might want to spin once or twice, but after that the gag loses a fair amount of charm.

Still, if you are obsessed with fidget spinners but your boss won’t let you carry one to office, or your teacher won’t allow them in class… this could tide you over.

Massive Disk-Shaped Dead Galaxy Discovered

Astronomers have detected a first-of-its kind compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the Big Bang.

Finding such a galaxy early in the history of the universe challenges the current understanding of how massive galaxies form and evolve, the researchers said.

The finding, published in the the journal Nature, was possible with the capability of NASA’s Hubble space telescope.

When Hubble photographed the galaxy, astronomers expected to see a chaotic ball of stars formed through galaxies merging together.

Instead, they saw evidence that the stars were born in a pancake-shaped disk.

This was the first direct observational evidence that at least some of the earliest so-called “dead” galaxies – where star formation stopped – somehow evolve from a Milky Way-shaped disk into the giant elliptical galaxies we see today.

“This new insight may force us to rethink the whole cosmological context of how galaxies burn out early on and evolve into local elliptical-shaped galaxies,” said study leader Sune Toft from University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Massive Disk-Shaped Dead Galaxy Discovered“Perhaps we have been blind to the fact that early ‘dead’ galaxies could in fact be disks, simply because we haven’t been able to resolve them,” Toft said.

The remote galaxy was three times as massive as the Milky Way but only half the size.

Rotational velocity measurements made with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) showed that the disk galaxy was spinning more than twice as fast as the Milky Way.

Using archival data from the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH), Toft and his team were able to determine the stellar mass, star-formation rate, and the ages of the stars.

Why this galaxy stopped forming stars was still unknown. It might be the result of an active galactic nucleus, where energy was gushing from a supermassive black hole.

This energy inhibits star formation by heating the gas or expelling it from the galaxy. Or it might be the result of the cold gas streaming onto the galaxy being rapidly compressed and heated up, preventing it from cooling down into star-forming clouds in the galaxy’s centre.

But how do these young, massive, compact disks evolve into the elliptical galaxies we see in the present-day universe?

“Probably through mergers,” Toft said.

Foxconn Plans US Display Plant for Over $10 Billion, Scouting for Location

Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics maker and a major Apple supplier, plans to invest more than $10 billion (roughly Rs. 64,588 crores) in a display-making factory in the United States and will decide on the location of the plant next month.

The Taiwan-based firm has been eyeing US investments for some time and its CEO, Terry Gou, had previously said the company hoped to spend over $7 billion to set up a display-making plant in the country – which has no panel-making industry but is the No.2 market for televisions.

Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, is currently considering Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina as possible locations, Gou told reporters after the company’s annual shareholders meeting on Thursday.

“In July we will make a conclusion,” Gou said, adding the company would invest the money over five years.

Foxconn operates vast factories in China, where it employs a million people and makes most of Apple’s iPhones, but so far it has not invested heavily in manufacturing in the United States.

“This time we go to America, it’s not just to build a factory, but to move our entire supply chain there,” Gou told shareholders, without providing specific details.

While the plant would create jobs, Gou added it would not employ as many people as in its China plants, as the cost of labour is higher and the plant would rely on automation.

“In the US, the state governors’ sincerity and confidence to attract investment … is beyond my imagination,” Gou said.

Foxconn Plans US Display Plant for Over $10 Billion, Scouting for LocationPresident Donald Trump has called for firms to build more products in the United States. He has made several announcements since his election in November about US investments by both foreign and domestic manufacturers, building on his campaign focus on preserving and creating American jobs.

According to Tai Jeng-wu, CEO of Foxconn’s Japanese unit Sharp, six US states were being looked at for a possible location for the display-making plant.

Foxconn already has operations in Pennsylvania.

Gou said that an agreement announced four years ago to invest in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was still pending.

Foxconn Says Pursuit of Toshiba Deal ‘Not Over’

The head of Taiwan’s tech giant Foxconn said Thursday its pursuit of Toshiba “is not yet over”, a day after the Japanese firm announced it preferred another group of bidders to acquire its prized chip business.

Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai, is controlled by billionaire Terry Gou and reportedly had Apple as a financial backer in its multi-billion dollar bid for Toshiba’s memory chip unit, seen as crucial for the cash-strapped Japanese firm to turn itself around.

Toshiba said Wednesday it would hold exclusive talks with a consortium of US, South Korean and state-backed Japanese investors, dashing Gou’s ambitions.

But the Foxconn chairman vowed to keep pursuing the acquisition, saying the Taiwanese firm still has a chance.

“The Toshiba case is not yet over. It is very similar to the Sharp deal,” Gou told shareholders at an annual meeting in New Taipei City.

He was referring to his takeover last year of the Japanese electronics firm for $3.7 billion, a move he described as “really worth it.”

Foxconn Says Pursuit of Toshiba Deal 'Not Over'Gou is known for his aggressive dealmaking prowess, shown by his dogged determination to acquire Sharp despite concerns over the Japanese firm’s mounting losses.

“We still have a big chance,” he said at Thursday’s meeting of the Toshiba quest, adding there were still “a lot of variables”.

The inclusion of Japanese investors in the selected bidding group by Toshiba will ease reported government concerns about losing a sensitive technology to foreign owners.

But a Foxconn official criticized Japanese authorities for taking a protectionist approach.

“There’s no end to their corporate crisis if they are not able to open up,” said Tai Jeng-wu, who took over as president of Sharp after Foxconn’s buyout.

The Taiwanese firm is the world’s largest contract electronics maker and is best-known for assembling products for international brands such as Apple and Sony.

Gou said earlier this year he was mulling a $7 billion investment to make flat panels in the United States in a joint project with Japan’s Softbank.

He also said Foxconn aimed to increase investment in China this year to try to boost Sharp’s market share in the country.

Google to Push for Law Enforcement to Have More Access to Overseas Data

Alphabet’s Google will press US lawmakers on Thursday to update laws on how governments access customer data stored on servers located in other countries, hoping to address a mounting concern for both law enforcement officials and Silicon Valley.

The push comes amid growing legal uncertainty, both in the United States and across the globe, about how technology firms must comply with government requests for foreign-held data. That has raised alarm that criminal and terrorism investigations are being hindered by outdated laws that make the current process for sharing information slow and burdensome.

Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel, will announce the company’s framework during a speech in Washington, DC, at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that wields influence in the Trump White House and Republican-controlled Congress.

The speech urges Congress to update a decades-old electronic communications law and follows similar efforts by Microsoft.

Both companies had previously objected in court to US law enforcement efforts to use domestic search warrants for data held overseas because the practice could erode user privacy. But the tech industry and privacy advocates have also admitted the current rules for appropriate cross-border data requests are untenable.

Google to Push for Law Enforcement to Have More Access to Overseas DataThe Mountain View, California-based company calls for allowing countries that commit to baseline privacy, human rights and due process principles to directly request data from US providers without the need to consult the US government as an intermediary. It is intended to be reciprocal.

Countries that do not adhere to the standards, such as an oppressive regime, would not be eligible.

Google did not detail specific baseline principles in its framework.

“This couldn’t be a more urgent set of issues,” Walker said in an interview, noting that recent acts of terrorism in Europe underscored the need to move quickly.

Current agreements that allow law enforcement access to data stored overseas, known as mutual legal assistance treaties, involve a formal diplomatic request for data and require the host country obtain a warrant on behalf of the requesting country. That can often take several months.

In January, a divided federal appeals court refused to reconsider its decision from last year that said the US government could not force Microsoft or other companies to hand over customer data stored abroad under a domestic warrant.

The US Justice Department has until midnight on Friday to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court. It did not respond to a request for comment.

US judges have ruled against Google in similar recent cases, however, elevating the potential for Supreme Court review.

Companies, privacy advocates and judges themselves have urged Congress to address the problem rather than leave it to courts.

Google will also ask Congress to codify warrant requirements for data requests that involve content, such as the actual message found within an email.

Chris Calabrese, vice president of policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, said Google’s framework was “broadly correct” but urged caution about the process for letting countries make direct requests to providers.

“We need to make sure the people in the club are the right people,” he said.

Google Allo Can Now Make Duo Calls Within a Chat

Google this week rolled out an update to its messaging app Allo that enables users make a Duo video call directly within the chat window.

To be able to use the feature, both Allo and Google’s video calling app Duo need to be installed on both ends, the company said in a statement.

“So when you’re at the mall and are finding it difficult to pick the perfect pair of shoes, quickly starting a Duo video call with your friend makes it so much easier than typing a description of those great-looking runners,” the statement added.

A Duo icon in the upper-right corner of the chat screen immediately launches a Duo call by tapping it.

With the Allo update, users can also add stickers to their photos before sending them in a chat. The latest Allo update is available for both Android and iOS platforms.

Earlier this month, Google rolled out the v12 update of Allo, bringing the big Selfie Clips feature, along with other changes like a redesigned compose bar.

Google Allo Can Now Make Duo Calls Within a ChatSelfie Clips essentially lets you use the front camera to make GIF loops of yourself or anything in the front camera view, and send them in chat conversations. Earlier, to send GIFs, you’d have to use third-party material, and a tool to create one was not available in-app. With this update, Allo adds the ability for iPhone and Android users in-app. This feature was announced by Allo team head Amit Fulay. Furthermore, the selfie sticker feature that was only launched for Android first, has now been made available to iPhone users as well.

The new compose bar was also mentioned by Fulay and it basically gets rid of the ‘+’ icon that hid all the compose buttons, and shows them all above the message bar itself. This makes them more accessible than before, as earlier they were hidden behind the ‘+’ button, and could only be seen when the button was pressed.

Reliance Jio Dismisses Airtel, Vodafone Allegations Over TRAI’s Network Testing

Telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have questioned regulator TRAI’s timing of recent paper on refining mobile network test rules, calling it a ‘disguise’ after the damage was done by Reliance Jio.

The Mukesh Ambani-led Jio has dismissed the charges saying the incumbents have created a non-issue around network testing, despite clarity in present rules and it is necessary to clear all ambiguities in the existing framework.

The incumbent telecom operators, under the umbrella of industry body COAI in August 2016, alleged that Reliance Jio is bypassing regulations by offering full-fledged services under the guise of test connections and requested the Department of Telecom to ask Reliance Jio to immediately stop all connections provided to 1.5 million users.

At the time, Jio was providing free unlimited 4G data services and voice calls in the test phase. The company launched its commercial service on September 5, 2016.

Reliance Jio had refuted charges as “malicious, unfounded, ill-informed, and frivolous and are contrary to actual facts”.

Reliance Jio Dismisses Airtel, Vodafone Allegations Over TRAI's Network TestingThe tussle between incumbents and Reliance Jio led to exchange of communications between the DoT and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The regulator issued a consultation paper on May 1 this year to refine rules on network testing.

Airtel, in its submission to the TRAI, said that there are no grey areas or ambiguities in the existing guidelines and the paper is no more relevant as damage has already been done.

It said that the present rules clearly state that the enrolment of subscribers is not permitted before the commercial launch of services and the regulator has “failed to act on a suo motu basis over the violation of these rules”.

“However, these guidelines have been blatantly violated by the new entrant. Therefore, we are surprised that instead of taking an action against the new entrant, TRAI has issued a consultation paper over the issue,” Airtel said.

It added that the delay in action from Trai allowed the new entrant to amass subscribers in the guise of test users and offer all its services for free.

Vodafone alleged that the TRAI, instead of examining the compliance of licensing terms and conditions by Reliance Jio, has condoned the actions of Reliance Jio in the consultation by citing lack of clarity and converted the consultation into future discussion.

“…the present consultation appears to be disguising these violations by claiming lack of clarity in the license regarding time period for testing, limiting number of SIMs and enrolment of subscribers during the test phase,” Vodafone said.

Idea Cellular said the the consultation on network testing has only been issued almost after nine months of having received the formal reference from DoT which “clearly demonstrates the lackadaisical approach of the TRAI towards dealing with such a critical issue” that has resulted in a plethora of problems for the entire telecom industry.

Idea said that the conduct of the TRAI on this specific issue raises serious questions on the Authority’s approach towards this issue with regard to the guiding principles of fairness and transparency.

Reliance Jio Seeks CCI Nod for RCom Spectrum Sharing

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm has sought CCI approval for the proposed spectrum sharing deal with younger sibling’s Reliance Communications.

The company is awaiting approval from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for agreements entered into with Reliance Communications (RCom) and its subsidiary Reliance Telecom Ltd (RTL). These pacts are for using 800MHz spectrum.

Reliance Jio is the latest entrant in the highly competitive domestic telecom market and launched its services in September last year. The company had entered into a pact with RCom for acquisition of right to use certain spectrum in the 800MHz band.

Reliance Jio Seeks CCI Nod for RCom Spectrum SharingBesides, it had inked agreements with RCom as well as RTL providing with the option related to use of spectrum in the 800MHz band. All the three agreements were entered into between the parties concerned in January 2016.

The agreements were “pursuant to the guidelines for trading of access spectrum by access service providers” issued by the Department of Telecommunications on October 12, 2015, as per the notice submitted to the CCI.

According to the notice, Reliance Jio was testing its network for providing mobile telephone services, high definition voice, video, data and messaging, in India as on the date of entering into the agreements.

As per CCI website, the deal is under review.