A recent Washington Post article about the lack of growth in VR got me thinking....
A recent Washington Post article about the lack of growth in VR got me thinking....
June 15th 2017 is a landmark date in mobile telecoms.
New EU legislation comes into effect which means that Mobile Operators can no longer "penalize" EU consumers for using their phones within EU countries. Roaming charges have long been a problem for both consumers and businesses. The concept was that if you were a person using a phone whilst abroad, the operator could charge you an additional fee over and above your usual fee (a "roaming charge") for using your phone for voice or data, and even worse your bundled minutes, texts and data were not accessible whilst abroad.
The new legislation means that for most operators, and most EU countries, you can use your bundled minutes, text and data, and anything used outside of your allowances will only be charged as if you were still in your home country.
Great news for consumers, even better news for Corporations with mobile workforces. Not great news for the Operators who will see a huge impact on revenues.
We should exercise some caution here. The devil (as ever) is in the detail. People should still check their specific contracts to ensure that there are no clauses that affect them. Some Operators are applying for exemption, others have clauses that include or exclude certain countries from their roaming packages.
Even more so, there is still a potential for significant consumer confusion. Roaming charges are those where you are calling someone from the same home country as you. Being a UK resident visiting France and calling someone in France will still be treated as an international phone call and incur the relevant charges. Countries not formally part of the EU or European Economic Area (for instance, Switzerland, Andorra, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Vatican City, Monaco, Gibraltar) are dealt with by each Operator on a case-by-case basis and consumers will need to check their own details, but may not immediately think about the implications when travelling.
For UK residents and companies, there is no clarity on post-Brexit impact, but for the next couple of years at least, the legislation is beneficial.
A quick straw poll of the top 20 operators in Europe (by subscriber) showed that (at the time of writing), only 12 of them mention the roaming changes on their home page. 2 of them mention the changes in featured tweets on the page. The remainder don't mention it. Interestingly all of the 12 that are pro-active appear to position it (outwardly at least) as a benefit of joining their network, rather than legislation.
We can see that there will likely be an uptick in consumer inquiries, both online, chat and phone based by concerned consumers that may not understand the implications and want reassurance of how they will be affected during travel.
WWDC 2017, Apple released details of the new iOS11.
It's the usual story, faster, better, more features, more secure. All good stuff, all stuff that you would expect from a major Operating System release, all stuff that you would expect from Apple.
The challenge here is that it's a 64 bit OS, something that Apple have not previously released on iOS. Despite the fact that the last few generations of iPhone and iPad have used 64 bit processors, iOS has remained 32 bit. In basic terms, this means it is slower than necessary, and doesn't manage memory as well as it could.
So, all good. No, not really.
In releasing a 64 bit iOS, this means older devices will no longer be able to run the latest OS. Quite a few devices in reality;
If you (or your customer) own an older device, then iOS will not upgrade beyond the current 10.3.2. Not a major problem for most people, but there are hidden challenges to this change.
1) These devices will not receive new features.
2) These devices will not receive updates to existing features (for instance iTunes, Podcasts, Calculator, Maps, etc)
3) Security updates that are intrinsically part of the OS will cease.
In addition, from the other side of the coin, those with newer devices will get their new OS, and everything is fine. Right ? Wrong - apps that were originally written for the 32 bit iOS will need to be updated. Some will work, some will not. This means a lot of work for app developers, but also potential downtime for people that are reliant on their phone for certain reasons.
A quick glance at Settings > General > About > Applications > App Compatibility will show potential problems
Arguably this is progress. Who wouldn't want the latest iOS, with all the new features. Most poeple would leap at the chance, yet many can't. This community of people are arguably later adopters, people who don't need or can't afford the latest & greatest kit. However, many of them will not be tech-savvy, and the "You can't update" message that they will inevitably get will leave them confused, frustrated and wanting to find out why.
I am guessing that Apple will be forward-thinking with their strategy on how to pre-empt this, but other companies that also support iOS devices will need to get their act together, understand the implications, prepare well and expect an increase in inquiries.
NVIDIA have released their latest graphics card for gamers (and VR enthusiasts). Arguably for users with incredibly deep pockets. This is a continued theme in the world of cutting-edge PC upgrades. If you want the latest, you pay a pretty price. However, this technology is rather like the world of Formula 1. It's an expensive, and elite, taster of the kind of technology that will make the mainstream in the next few years.
My existing PC rig was already creaking at the seams when it came to graphics power. It had three of the previous generation cards, the GTX980, and it could cope with just about anything I would throw at it. The current "gold standard" for gaming is 4K. This essentially requires the PC to process the equivalent of 4 x 1080 "High Def" pictures, ideally at the silky-smooth 60 frames per second. Imagine that, having to paint 8.3 million pixels 60 times a second ! Even this three card setup struggled to cope with that amount of pressure. Will the new darling of the games press live up to the hype ?
I have seen a lot of the tech sites showing benchmark data for the new 1080 compared to various other graphics cards. But given my "interesting" position of having a three card setup, I thought it would be very interesting to compare 1 card against 3, and even more interestingly, 2 cards against three. So here you have it, our 980 vs 1080 SLI benchmark.
Asus Rampage V Extreme (BIOS 1701)
Intel Core i7-5960X @ 3.00Ghz (Haswell-E)
32Gb Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 2666Mhz (8 x 4Gb)
Samsung 850 EVO Solid State Drive
Windows 10 Pro x64 10.0.10586 Build 10586
MSI Geforce GTX 980 OCV1 x 3 with Asus ROG 3 Way SLI Bridge
NVIDIA Founders Edition GTX 1080Ti x 2 with NVIDIA 2 Way SLI HB Bridge
NVIDIA Driver 378.78
“Manage 3D Settings” as Default
SteamVR Performance Test
Passmark Performance Test 9.0 (Build 1008)
Unigine Heaven 4.0
Unigine Valley 1.0
3DMark (Time Spy 1.0, Fire Strike 1.1)
Batman Arkham Knight
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Shadow of Mordor
All were on Ultra / 4K default settings where possible. If anyone would like to find out more specific information about graphical settings, please contact us.
This set of benchmark tests were designed to see how the new NVIDIA Geforce 1080Ti stacks up against the last generation of GPU. Specifically, we were interested in seeing how it performed singly, and under 2-way SLI against a 3-way SLI 980 configuration.
All non-essential applications were shutdown, on a fresh reboot of the PC.
Each benchmark application was set to a common standard and the tests performed three times each. The average score across all three runs was used in the reporting.
The tests were performed from a cold initial PC at the same time of day in order to maintain temps as best as possible.
Tests were not performed in lab conditions or in a freshly installed PC. This was completed on a working machine which is used daily for VR, gaming, graphical editing and other workstation activities.
There are some anomalies in these results, most notably;
SteamVR - the standard benchmark does not take into account SLI (more than one card) configurations, so effectively we are testing a single 980 against a single 1080Ti
Batman Arkham Knight - not sure of the implications here. It is perhaps a bottleneck in processor or RAM. Initially I thought it may have been the dreaded VSYNC issue, but my monitor runs at 60Hz so it's not that. I will rerun these tests at another time to double check.
Bioshock, Alien Isolation, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Passmark all act as I was expecting - the single 1080Ti out performing the Tri-SLI 980s, and the twin 1080's blowing everything away.
The Unigine benchmarks show an interesting trait of the 980s having stronger performance that the single 1080Ti.
The 3D Mark tests demonstrate that the 1080Ti is strong in specifically native 4K benchmarks (Firestrike Ultra, DirectX12).
NVIDIA have clearly set another standard with the 1080Ti. If you are looking for a gaming card, and have the resources, there is nothing out there that can touch it, and it will comfortably run the current generation of software in 4K resolution, with all the bells and whistles, at a comfortable 60FPS. Adding a second card is the very definition of overkill right now. However, with a new generation of 120 and 144Hz 4K monitors heading our way, and software developers stretching the art of the possible with graphics engines, it won't be long before the extra power will be useful.
In terms of VR usage, a single 1080 handles everything that SteamVR is expecting, at the best quality, with it's hands tied behind it's back. For that there is absolutely zero concern.
Great job NVIDIA, this is a truly epic card.
The latest Nintendo games console initially arrived to almost universal praise. In an interview with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime, is has been revealed that the Switch had a record-breaking launch weekend in the US shipping more units than any other Nintendo system in history.
Even now, there are continued stories of the console being sold out in major retailers such as Target, Gamestop, Best Buy and Amazon.
So, overwhelming success, right ?
Since launch, the first reports of issues have started propagating throughout social and news sites. A lot of these appear to be down to poor design decisions, quality control issues, or perhaps even a simple lack of testing / insight on Nintendo’s behalf.
Not good for any consumer electronics launch. Definitely not good for a unit that costs £280 / $300. Even worse, and luckily for Nintendo, the initial buyers will likely be Nintendo fans, experienced gamers, people that are relatively well-off. These people will forgive a lot when it comes to the customer experience, allowing failure because it’s new and exciting.
But what happens when the Christmas retail swell happens and parents are buying it for their kids ? What happens when people have waited for the initial excitement to die down and the games catalogue to expand ? If the Nintendo Wii was anything to go by, it opened up a market to classically non-gamers as well. These people will not forgive the failures in the same way that the early adopters have.
In my own personal experience, having documented the unboxing experience, I noted several shortcomings that will really be amplified when the next wave of owners start buying the Switch.
1. There are only a couple of basic diagrams on the box and in the supplied manual to help you put everything together. There are no real signposts to guide a user as to the correct, and preferred method of setting it up. There is actually quite a lot of assumed knowledge in the way it is presented.
2. I did actually install the Joycon handgrips on the wrong controllers and ended up with them stuck for 10 minutes.
3. I had to investigate the menus to see if there was a software update. My intuition and experience said there was bound to be a “Day One” update, but it was hidden in the settings menu rather than front-and-center.
4. I can see how people can easily scratch the screen. Given that experienced, and careful users are managing to scratch it, imagine when a more “carefree” user or child gets hold of it.
5. It took me several attempts to get my existing Nintendo account setup on the new machine. In the end I had to use a combination of my iPhone and my PC to log in to Nintendo’s website and find out the relevant information.
So far I have not had any of the hardware issues that appear to be plaguing other users. So I believe I am lucky in that respect.
From a customer experience standpoint, Nintendo are incredibly far off the mark here. Yes, there are some helpful and friendly articles on the console’s news screen. Yes, there is information on their website. But the in-box material is next-to-useless, the hardware and OS design are less-than-optimal, and in reality the self-serve information is too-little-too-late.
But what is worse, what is unforgiveable, is that this is a games machine pitched at a very broad audience, pitched as the ultimate in convenience. Yet the company has allowed these multiple faux-pas to exist, all of which will amplify considerably as the buyers change from early adopter to more mainstream consumers. For a company that has been selling consoles to generations of gamers for over 30 years, you would think this kind of customer experience would be a science, an art, and would be absolutely nailed.