Apple iPhone X, iPhone 8 lack a key feature of the Galaxy S8

Apple presents the iPhone X as the “smartphone of the future.”

But at least in one key area, its new phones fall short of Android phones that have already been out for months.

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The iPhone X has new tech like facial recognition, but not when it comes to cellular radios. 


James Martin/CNET

The iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X lack the ability to tap into a superfast wireless network technology called Gigabit LTE, confirming a CNET report from earlier this year. Meanwhile, there are 10 Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8, LG V30 and HTC U11, that boast the ability to reach a theoretical peak speed of 1 gigabit per second. That’s the highest speed offered by internet service providers, fast enough for you to download a two-hour movie in 15 seconds.

Apple confirmed that the new iPhones will be able to tap into LTE Advanced networks, which have a theoretical peak speed of 500 megabits per second. That’s fast, but not nearly as fast as what their Android competitors can hit.

The lack of Gigabit LTE on the new iPhones is noteworthy because the carriers are starting to trumpet the technology as a big advance that offers more speed and capacity — even if it’s not yet broadly available. When more of these advanced networks go online throughout the next year, you’ll start to see Android phones blow past iPhones when it comes to their cellular connections.

But Apple has never been at the cutting edge of networking tech, and these latest iPhones highlight the fact that the company prefers to wait for things to fully bake before embracing them.

“Apple’s not at the forefront of adopting network technology,” said Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies. “They’re rarely the first ones to do it.”


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Few members of the wireless industry that CNET spoke to were surprised by the move, given Apple’s track record. The company, after all, was late to the game with both 3G and LTE network technologies.

The latest iPhones do pack 27 LTE bands into a single model, making them usable virtually everywhere that LTE is available. It’s the need to reach so many people that likely has the company staying conservative.

“Apple needs to play a global game,” Bajarin said.

Apple declined to comment for this story.

Not just a turbo boost

Even if you don’t actually hit 1 gigabit per second, a Gigabit LTE network is a heck of a lot faster than anything you’re getting now. A test by Australian carrier Telstra saw real-world speeds of 100 megabits to 300 megabits per second, or about 30 times what your standard LTE signal looks like.

But there are myriad other benefits. Beyond the higher speeds, the carriers will be able handle more people on their networks — an increasing number of whom are on unlimited data plans gorging on streaming movies and video games.

Gigabit LTE is still in the early stages of getting rolled out even in the US, let alone the rest of the world. T-Mobile is the furthest ahead and boasts 300 cities with some level of Gigabit LTE.

AT&T calls its form of Gigabit LTE “5G evolution,” which is available in a rudimentary form in Austin and Indianapolis. But the company said a new iPhone and a Galaxy S8 would likely perform at the same speeds in those cities until further upgrades happen. The company plans to light up “5G evolution” upgrades in 20 more cities over the next few months.

Verizon and Sprint have held trials for Gigabit LTE.

The limited deployment of the technology means people aren’t going to care about it when purchasing their new iPhones.

But they may in a year or two. 

Better over time

Here’s the beauty of Gigabit LTE: As more networks get upgraded, your phone gets faster over time. So a Galaxy S8 or LG V30 may get decent speeds now, high speeds in a few months and crazy-fast speeds in a year or two, depending on where you live and how aggressive your carriers are with new network equipment.


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That’s a particular issue for the iPhone X, which Apple pitches as the model with loads of future tech, according to Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights. Given the dramatic price increase, he expects people to hang onto their phones longer, which means they’ll miss out on these speed boosts for a while.

“It’s a big miss,” he said.

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The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus don’t have Gigabit LTE tech either. 


James Martin/CNET

Moorhead said he sees the carriers and phone makers getting more vocal about Gigabit LTE by the end of this year, with broader deployments next year.

Still, network technology is the stuff of geeks and tech enthusiasts, so some people may not care about how much faster the network gets as long as their episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale” stream just fine.

“It’s a nice to have,” Bajarin said. “But it won’t move the needle.”

Tech Enabled: CNET chronicles tech’s role in providing new kinds of accessibility.

Logging Out: Welcome to the crossroads of online life and the afterlife.

Fatal Tesla Autopilot crash due to ‘over-reliance on automation, lack of safeguards’

The United States’ National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) has released its final findings on the fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S operating in semi-autonomous Autopilot mode.

The crash occurred in Flordia in May 2016 when Joshua Brown’s Tesla Model S collided with the underside of a tractor-trailer as the truck turned onto the non-controlled access highway.

Tesla Autopilot system is a level two semi-autonomous driving mode, which is designed to automatically steer and accelerate a car while it’s on a controlled access motorway or freeway with well defined entry and exit ramps.

According to the NTSB, Tesla’s Autopilot functioned as programmed because it was not designed to recognise a truck crossing into the car’s path from an intersecting road. As such, it did not warn the driver or engage the automated emergency braking system.

The report said the “driver’s pattern of use of the Autopilot system indicated an over-reliance on the automation and a lack of understanding of the system limitations”.

The NTSB’s team concluded “while evidence revealed the Tesla driver was not attentive to the driving task, investigators could not determine from available evidence the reason for his inattention”.

It also noted “the truck driver had used marijuana before the crash, his level of impairment, if any, at the time of the crash could not be determined from the available evidence”.

Tesla did not escape blame, with the NTSB calling out the electric car maker for its ineffective methods of ensuring driver engagement.

In issuing the report, Robert L. Sumwalt III, the NTSB’s chairman, said, “System safeguards, that should have prevented the Tesla’s driver from using the car’s automation system on certain roadways, were lacking and the combined effects of human error and the lack of sufficient system safeguards resulted in a fatal collision that should not have happened”.

The electric car maker has since made changes to its Autopilot system, including reducing the interval before it begins warning the driver that their hands are off the steering wheel.

As part of its findings, the NTSB also issued a number of recommendations to various government authorities and car makers with level two self-driving features.

These NTSB called for standardised data logging formats, safeguards to ensure autonomous driving systems are used only in the manner for which they were designed, and improved monitoring of driver engagement in vehicles fitted with autonomous and semi-autonomous safety systems.

Joshua Brown’s family issued a statement through its lawyers earlier this week in anticipation of the NTSB’s report.

“We heard numerous times that the car killed our son. That is simply not the case,” the family said. “There was a small window of time when neither Joshua nor the Tesla features noticed the truck making the left-hand turn in front of the car.

“People die every day in car accidents. Change always comes with risks, and zero tolerance for deaths would totally stop innovation and improvements.”

MORE: Autonomous driving news
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Lack Of Cobalt Could Be A Chokepoint For Tesla – Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA)

Photo of Cobalt Miner via Bing. Mining For Tesla’s Limiting Factor: Cobalt

Tesla’s Cobalt Problem

Tesla’s (TSLA) recently raised $1.8 billion by successfully selling junk bonds set to mature in 8 years, but Financial Times columnist John Dizard argued over the weekend that Tesla might run out cobalt before that debt matures. We elaborate, update our current potential return estimate for Tesla, and look at a way of limiting risk in the event cobalt concerns drag the stock down over the next several months.

Regular readers may recall we mentioned John Dizard’s bearishness on the pace of electric battery advances in an article last month (Tesla’s Technological Challenge). This past weekend, Dizard focussed on one component of Tesla’s batteries, cobalt — Lack Of Ethical Cobalt Undermines Tesla’s Debt Issue — (paywalled here). Dizard argued the bond offering’s prospectus gave insufficient attention to the company’s cobalt risks:

In the 111-page draft prospectus of Tesla’s […] debt offering that came out this week, the word “cobalt” is mentioned once. On page 28 the metal appears on a list of potentially at-risk materials including steel and copper.

Perhaps this cursory mention of the electric carmaker’s dependence on the metal passed a formulaic test of what securities laws require. It is less likely to pass a laugh test among people who are familiar with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which accounts for more than 60% of world cobalt production and is the principal prospective source of new supply. […]

It has become apparent that cobalt supply could be a choke point for the mass production of electric vehicles. Cobalt is a critical component for the high-energy versions of lithium-ion batteries.

After noting that the spot price of cobalt has more than doubled over the past year, to $56,500 per ton on the London Metal Exchange, Dizard points out that that rise in price likely won’t increase the supply of the metal in the next several years:

Cobalt production from existing mines and those under construction does not meet demand projected by Tesla and Chinese and European manufacturers for the next five years. And it usually takes a lot longer than five years to bring a mine into production once sponsors have made initial commitments.

Dizard goes on to counter an anticipated objection that cobalt requirements could be engineered down, arguing that that would likely take a decade, which is consistent with his point last month about the glacial pace of battery technology advancement.

A Silver Lining In The Cobalt Cloud

The silver lining here, if you’re a Tesla long, is that the European and Chinese demand Dizard mentions is evidence that Tesla was right about the bright prospects for electric cars. There was more evidence of that elsewhere in the FT — Schulz Urges EU Quota For Electric Cars — (paywalled here):

The leader of Germany’s left-of-center Social Democrats has proposed an EU-wide quota for electric vehicles, wading into the debate about the future of a domestic car industry badly tarnished by the Volkswagen diesel scandal. […]

“The German car industry must do better when it comes to electric cars,” Mr Shultz told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. The country had “made fun of Tesla”, the US electric carmaker, but could no longer afford to be so “arrogant”, he added.

Automotive powerhouse Germany starting to take Tesla seriously ought to be encouraging for Tesla longs.

Our Portfolio Armor system remains bullish on Tesla, estimating a potential return of nearly 15% over the next several months, as the screen capture below from our admin shows.

Screen capture from the Portfolio Armor admin panel.

In the event we end up being wrong, and cobalt concerns or other factors crush the stock over the next several months, we’ll present a way to limit risk below.

Hedging Your Bet On Tesla

Here we’ll assume, for the sake of this example, that you agree with our system’s potential return estimate for Tesla and you want a shot of capturing that, while limiting your risk to a drawdown of no more than 15% if the stock goes south.

As of Monday’s close, this was the optimal collar to hedge 1,000 shares of Tesla against a greater-than-15% drop by mid-March, while not capping your potential upside at less than 15% by then.

Screen capture via the Portfolio Armor iOS app.

The cost of the put leg, as you can see above, was $21,500, or 5.91% of position value (calculated conservatively, using the ask price of the puts). But as you can see below, the income generated from selling the call leg was slightly more: $21,900, or 6.02% of position value (calculated conservatively as well, using the bid price of the calls).

Screen capture via the Portfolio Armor iOS app.

So the net cost here was negative, meaning you would have collected $400, or 0.11% of position value when opening this hedge, assuming you placed both trades at the worst end of their respective spreads.

Conclusion

Tesla’s been a rollercoaster, and, as we’ve argued previously, in the short term, it’s been resistant to fundamental analysis. Our system, which eschews fundamental analysis in favor of analysis of underlying price action and forward looking option sentiment is currently bullish on Tesla — as of Monday’s close, it was ranked 113 among the 1710 securities in our universe that passed our 2 screens to avoid bad investments. But given the risk John Dizard mentions, plus general market risk, you ought to consider hedging if you are long, particularly when you can essentially get paid to do so as in the example above.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Amazon hands out refunds for eclipse glasses that lack NASA’s approval – GeekWire

Solar viewing glasses
Agena Astro says that its solar eclipse glasses were made by a vendor on the American Astronomical Society’s list of reputable manufacturers, and that reports claiming they’re unsafe are “completely untrue and incorrect.” (Agena Astro Photo)

Amazon says it’s giving customers refunds for solar viewing glasses and filters that aren’t covered by the American Astronomical Society’s list of reputable vendors.

“Safety is among our highest priorities,” Amazon explained in a statement provided to GeekWire. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have proactively reached out to customers and provided refunds for eclipse glasses that may not comply with industry standards. We want customers to buy with confidence anytime they make a purchase on Amazon.com, and eclipse glasses sold on Amazon.com are required to comply with the relevant ISO standard.”

Amazon’s action sent some of the affected sellers scrambling to defend their products, with the Aug. 21 solar eclipse just a little more than a week away.

The brouhaha began a little less than two weeks ago, when the AAS reported that some vendors were selling eclipse glasses that didn’t block enough of the sun’s potentially eye-damaging radiation, and were going so far as to print bogus certification labels on the glasses.

Experts have issued repeated warnings that observers shouldn’t gaze for long at the partially eclipsed sun without proper eye protections, due to the risk of serious eye injury. (Looking at a total solar eclipse with the naked eye is perfectly safe, however. And if you don’t plan to stare up at the sun at all, feel free to go out without special glasses.)

In response to the reports about bogus glasses, the AAS issued its list of reputable manufacturers and resellers, including well-known retailers such as 7-Eleven and Best Buy. NASA is pointing to the list in its safety guidance for eclipse watchers.

Even before the list came out, Amazon customers were registering complaints about third-party vendors whose products seemed to come up short.

This weekend, Amazon sent out refund notices to purchasers of products that the company said were not confirmed as suitable for viewing the eclipse. Here’s the message I received about a pair of binocular filters I purchased several weeks ago:

“We’re writing to provide you with important safety information about the eclipse products you purchased on Amazon. …

“To protect your eyes when viewing the sun or an eclipse, NASA and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) advise you to use solar eclipse glasses or other solar filters from recommended manufacturers. Viewing the sun or an eclipse using any other glasses or filters could result in loss of vision or permanent blindness.

“Amazon has not received confirmation from the supplier of your order that they sourced the item from a recommended manufacturer.  We recommend that you DO NOT use this product to view the sun or the eclipse.

“Amazon is applying a balance for the purchase price to Your Account (please allow 7-10 days for this to appear on Your Account).  There is no need for you to return the product. …

“For more information about safely viewing a solar eclipse please see the NASA and AAS websites.

“If you purchased this item for someone else, please pass along this information to the recipient.”

Similar messages have been cited in reports from Portland’s KGW-TV, The Verge and Techcrunch.

The products affected by Amazon’s refund notice no longer appear on the company’s website.

One of the vendors hit by the notice, Manish Panjwan of Los Angeles-based Agena Astro, told KGW that he could lose out on the revenue from glasses that have already been sold. He also said he could find himself with thousands of unsellable eclipse glasses sitting in Amazon’s warehouses when the eclipse is over.

Panjwan told KGW that his glasses were provided by two of the manufacturers on the AAS list, Thousand Oaks Optical and Baader Planetarium. And indeed, the latest version of the list includes Agena Astro as well.

In a statement posted to its website, Agena Astro said Amazon’s claims about its glasses were “completely untrue and incorrect.”

Another affected vendor, Mascotking, told The Verge that it was “submitting” to NASA and Amazon and would issue refunds to dissatisfied customers.

When the AAS posted its list of reputable vendors, it emphasized that the list wasn’t all-inclusive.

“If we don’t list a supplier, that doesn’t mean their products are unsafe,” AAS press officer Rick Fienberg said at the time. “It just means that we have no knowledge of them or that we haven’t convinced ourselves they’re safe.”

How do you know for sure if your eclipse glasses are safe? In its safety advisory, the AAS says the only things you should be able to see through a properly made solar filter are the sun itself and similarly bright objects, such as a bright halogen light bulb or an arc-welder’s torch.

For what it’s worth, my binocular solar filters meet that standard.

If you didn’t receive a message about eclipse glasses purchased through Amazon, that would suggest the supplier confirmed with Amazon that the product was ISO-compliant. And if you’re not happy with the glasses you bought through Amazon, you can reach out to customer service for a refund. That general advice goes for glasses purchased through other sales outlets as well.

For additional tips, check out the AAS’ general safety advisory or its more detailed advisory about certified solar filters.

Xbox One X Won’t Sell Well As It Costs 2X More Than PS4, Not Because of the Lack of Games

In the last episode of Pachter Factor series, the well-known analyst Michael Pachter has once again expressed his concerns with regard to Xbox One X.

The upcoming Microsoft console, according to him, will not succeed when it is launched in the market on November 7th not because it does not have a sufficiently large launch title, but rather because of its high price.

“I think it won’t sell so well because it cost twice as much as  PlayStation 4,” Pachter said. “I mean I think that’s the easy answer and you know again PlayStation 4 and Xbox One S are nominally are priced at $299 and they’re pretty regularly discounted to $249 and they are almost always bundled with something so the $299 version you kind of have to be a moron to pay $299 for a console now and not get a piece of software for free which does have a perceived value of 50 bucks.”

“You’ll be able to get to Christmas Xbox One X launch date and for $600 you can buy a PlayStation and an Xbox and get a piece of software for each for sure like I promised that and If you can’t get that I’ll give you the 50 bucks difference,” Pachter further stated. “I’ll give you software you’re going to find that during the Holiday Season between Black Friday and Christmas. I promise you at least 5 days in that period you will be able to buy each console for $300 and free pieces of software. For $600 you can buy both consoles and two games, and for $500 you can buy an Xbox One X and no games and if you want to buy two games at least another 100 bucks so the value proposition is ONE CONSOLE TWO GAMES or TWO CONSOLE TWO GAMES.”

What do you think about this statement from Pachter? Will the price of Xbox One X prevent the console from succeeding? Let us know about your opinion in the comments section below.



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MPs to haul Twitter and Facebook chiefs in to explain their lack of action against trolls

WEB GIANTS FACE ROASTING

The news comes after The Sun revealed Twitter refused to investigate lies on its site against Tory MP Byron Davies that may have led to him losing his seat

TWITTER and Facebook chiefs will be ordered to face MPs to explain their lack of action against trolls who heaped abuse on election candidates.

Lord Bew, the independent peer appointed by the PM to investigate, will demand the social media giants set out in a parliamentary hearing how they will crack down on bullying and intimidation.

Twitter and Facebook chiefs will be ordered to face MPs to explain their lack of action against trolls who heaped abuse on election candidates

Getty Images

Twitter and Facebook chiefs will be ordered to face MPs to explain their lack of action against trolls who heaped abuse on election candidates

It comes after The Sun revealed Twitter refused to investigate lies on its site against Tory MP Byron Davies that may have led to him losing his seat.

Prime Minister Theresa May will today lead a Commons debate on how to defeat abuse and intimidation of candidates.

She has admitted she was shocked by the number of Tory MPs who contacted her about intimidation during the election and has pledged firm action.

Lord Bew warned British politics is at a “dangerous moment” and said threats could deter people from running for office.

He said: “We have to talk to Facebook and Twitter. We have to explore every possible avenue and see if anything can be done.”

He added: “In most cases, political violence emerges from a context — and the context is of extremist language.”

Lord Bew, the independent peer appointed by the PM to investigate, will demand the social media giants set out in a parliamentary hearing how they will crack down on bullying and intimidation

Getty Images

Lord Bew, the independent peer appointed by the PM to investigate, will demand the social media giants set out in a parliamentary hearing how they will crack down on bullying and intimidation

 


Labour MP Diane Abbott gets trolled on live TV

The only thing Pence’s NASA speech made clear was the lack of a new direction

Today, Vice President Mike Pence gave a lengthy speech about the future of US space policy, in which he provided no concrete details about what the administration’s agenda for space will look like. During a visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Pence made it very clear in his speech that the US would “once again lead in space,” but didn’t say what that actually meant.

He didn’t mention any new additions to NASA’s leadership team either, which means the space agency is still left without a permanent administrator and no clear direction for its future under President Trump. “Usually you have a leader visit, tour, and give a speech to roll out a detail-oriented policy after it’s been developed,” Phil Larson, a former space advisor for the Obama administration and assistant dean at the University of Colorado’s college of engineering, tells The Verge. “This is backwards.”

The only real news from the speech was that the newly resurrected National Space Council will be meeting for the first time before the end of the summer. Pence is the chairman of the council, a group that is tasked with guiding US space policy. It was in existence during the ‘60s and temporarily formed again under the George H.W. Bush administration. On Friday, Trump signed an executive order to bring the council back, with a few staff members listed and several open positions. But it’s still unclear who else will be on the council and exactly how the group will be involved in making policy.

Pence was vague today about direction. He mentioned that the US “will return to the Moon and put American boots on the face of Mars.” That’s been the plan for a while now. Under Obama, NASA was squarely focused on sending humans to the surface of Mars. Meanwhile, NASA has tentative plans to build a human space station near the Moon called the Deep Space Gateway. The agency would then use that outpost as a way to train for future crewed trips to the Martian surface. Pence didn’t say whether returning to the Moon meant putting people on its surface.

Pence’s comments suggested NASA would prioritize human spaceflight — with more public-private partnerships. “In conjunction with our commercial partners we’ll continue to make space travel safer, cheaper, and more accessible than ever before,” he said during the speech. He complained that he missed SpaceX’s launch yesterday from Kennedy Space Center. Does that mean commercial companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin will have more opportunities to work with NASA on future projects? Here as well, Pence wasn’t specific.

That’s the problem: it was a speech with very little substance. There were many anecdotes about the US’s past achievements in space, Pence argued that recent administrations had failed to “match the spirit of the American people” when it came to creating space policy. Multiple times he insisted that Trump would open “a new era of American space leadership.” But the most recent presidential budget request calls for cutting NASA’s funding, as well as canceling some of the agency’s offices and programs. Space is expensive. How does Pence plan to match our ambitions with our missions if there isn’t a detailed money plan?

So, six months into the Trump administration, NASA doesn’t have any space policy priorities or definitive leadership. NASA administrators are often instrumental in steering the direction of the space agency, and without one, the agency will lack a strategy for how to move forward. This is now the longest amount of time NASA has been without a new permanent administrator; the record was previously held by President Richard Nixon, who took 164 days after his inauguration to fill the position, according to the Planetary Society. NASA’s current acting administrator Robert Lightfoot, who took over temporarily when Trump was inaugurated, has now served longer than that. And there’s no indication when a new administrator will be named.

“Depending on the details, this backwards speech could signal a backwards space policy, meaning rolling back the progress that’s being made instead of building on the commercial space policies that Reagan started and Obama continued,” says Larson.

Pence’s speech, full of vague platitudes, wasn’t a space policy. It remains unclear when the Trump administration means to create one.

Reggie – more Switch announcements to come, Animal Crossing mobile talk, lack of indies at E3, shutting down AM2R, more

Yet another interview with Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime was posted today. This time, Waypoint published its own conversation with the executive. While the two sides were speaking, Reggie touched on Switch’s lineup and somewhat teased future announcements, Animal Crossing for mobile, why indies weren’t showcased at E3, shutting down AM2R, and more.

We’ve shared some of the comments from Reggie below. Waypoint has the full interview here.

On E3 announcements and Switch lineup…

Reggie Fils-Aimé: The response to what we’ve showcased, and it really is just a small tip for 2018, has been exceptionally positive. You’ve got fans seeing Metroid Prime 4, hearing that Mr. Tanabe, who’s been involved in all of the Metroid Prime games, is going to be at the helm of that, the fans are tremendously excited. To hear that there’s going to be a core Pokémon RPG experience on the Nintendo Switch, the fans are incredibly excited. To see a traditional Kirby experience, with him inhaling enemies and copying abilities, fans are excited about that. And then the Yoshi game that we showcased, with that unique, you know, motion to go “behind-the-scenes,” so to speak, has people really intrigued. So just by showcasing those four games, and giving a little bit of a taste, yeah there’s a lot of excitement to what 2018 can hold.

But to be clear, we look at E3 in the here and now. Our focus is on games that are largely going to be available between now and the end of the holiday season. And when you look at that lineup, there’s a strong game coming literally every month, starting tomorrow with Arms, and then Splatoon 2, then in August is the Mario + Rabbids game, September, October with Super Mario Odyssey. We’ve got that great pace of content, and I can tell you there’s more to be announced.

On Switch shortages..

So, again, to unpack this, for March we had publicly committed that we would sell-in 2 million units. Where actually, we sold-through, so not even sell-in, sold-through 2.7 million units.

So, clearly that’s a signal that we are aggressively producing the hardware. You look at what we’ve now committed for the next twelve month time frame, 10 million units, what’s interesting is if you look at that roughly 54 week time frame, that includes just one holiday season, that means that we will have sold into retail roughly, roughly 13 million units. That’s about the same as what we did for the Wii, to put it in perspective. So, we’re talking large significant numbers that we are producing, that we are flowing into retail. So it’s not a situation where we’ve somehow under called the production or had some issue. It really is a situation where the demand is extremely strong and we’re working hard to catch up.

On third-party games for Switch…

You know, the conversations we have with external partners really is more about, “How do you bring your current best and brightest content to the platform?” Because again, that’s a different situation. There weren’t many third-party exclusive games for the Wii U, and more what we want is certainly yes, a Mario + Rabbids type of experience that’s new and fresh, but also what we want are the best current games, like a FIFA 18, to come on the platform.

On Animal Crossing for mobile…

So, specifically now, Animal Crossing. Animal Crossing development continues quite strongly, the teams are very excited about what they have. It’s an application that is going to launch this year, as we’ve committed. And we’ll be sharing more information in due course. We believe, just as we’ve seen with Pokémon Go, just as we’ve seen with Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes, we believe that the application will help broaden the user base for Animal Crossing, and it’s going to end up having a positive impact on our dedicated video game business of Animal Crossing.

On indies…

Well, I actually disagree with the comment. And here’s why, and again, it’s all about the setting, and where we do these activities. For the last three years, we’ve done major activity prior to PAX, showcasing indie content, big events. And so, we very much are, not just welcoming to the independent developer community, but we’ve made it a priority to showcase that content.

And I’ll give you a very specific example, I met with the team from Nicalis, outside these doors, and they were talking about how excited they are about the sell-through that they’re having on our platform, and how excited they are on the content that’s coming on Nintendo Switch. And so, from our perspective, if the issue or the concern is “Boy, why weren’t we part of the Spotlight?” OK, I hear the point. But, boy, please don’t generalize that we’re not supporting the independent developer and the Nindie developer, because we’re supporting them at a very strong level.

On indies who want to see their contribution to the platform included when trying to sell the platform to an audience…

And again, you know, I think it comes down to the specifics. This is not an independent developer game, but let’s take our own Snipperclips. Digital-only content, that we featured strongly, and has an exceptionally strong attach rate to the hardware. And so, to me what it demonstrates is: we believe in digital-only content, our marketing approach is strong, whether it’s on device or off device, in terms of Nintendo.com and all the other ways that we support digital-only content. And for us, we want, again, the very best of that content available on our platform. And when it’s there, we think we do a great job driving it forward.

On whether Nintendo may pursue something like Snipperclips again…

Absolutely, and again, we have a history of this. Not exactly the same execution, but look at Shovel Knight. That’s something that our team saw very early. I think Yacht Club Games at that point was a three person studio versus a six person studio, but it’s something that we saw very early on. We were excited about it, we helped them—and, let’s be clear, they created a fantastic game—and what it was able to do with the Amiibo and moving into package as well, it’s been great.

So, yes, we’ve got a dedicated team that helps, not only from a technical standpoint with independent developers, but help from all of the different ways that we can help guide a project to make it as good as it can be.

On AM2R and fan projects…

So, I think there needs to be clarity in what the line is, and, in our view, the line is when an initiative crosses from being an homage to something that is monetizing our IP. We allow homages to exist in a variety of different ways. And, for me personally, as a fan before I was an executive, I understand the attraction that you could have to our IP. But, when it transitions to something that… now, you’re trying to monetize, you’re trying to sell, you’re trying to profit off of, that is what broaches or breaks through that line for us, where we have to claim our IP protection.

But again, to differentiate this, we have had conversations with entities that started as fans and became more of a business partner. Those conversations happen all the time, but again, when something transitions to a commercial product, and that’s what [AM2R] was—there wasn’t a charge, but it was now a commercial product.

Well, again, it’s all about… How do we protect our intellectual property? How do our creators, like Mr. Sakamoto, who created Metroid, and Nintendo control that intellectual property so that we can drive where it’s going, versus someone else driving where it’s going.

That’s where the line is very clear for us. And again, we could go on to YouTube and a variety of different places and see fans doing interesting things with our IP. But when it turns to driving the direction of the IP, or somehow monetizing or becoming a commercial project, that’s where for us, the line has been crossed.

FIFA 18 Switch producer – custom-built engine, lack of certain modes, 60 FPS, much more

Eurogamer caught up with FIFA 18’s Switch producer Andrei Lazaresco yesterday. The discussion was extremely interesting, with Lazaresco commenting on the technology behind the game, why certain modes are missing, confirmed that it runs at 60 frames per second, and much more.

Continue on below to read up on what Lazaresco had to say about FIFA 18 on Switch. You can find Eurogamer’s original piece here.

On whether the engine has a fancy name…

Andrei Lazaresco: No. When we first started looking at the platform and asked what are its unique features and what can it do, we decided to build a custom version of an engine. We felt the experience we were going to build would be the best by doing that, and leveraging what is unique about the platform.

We’re using physical-based rendering. The crowds are 3D. The grass is 3D. The lighting is new. And on top of that you’ll have Ultimate Team for the first time on Nintendo – and for the first time you’ll be able to take it on the go. You’ll be able to play on a plane, on a bus, even from just a hotspot.

On whether FUT works on Switch as other platforms…

Andrei Lazaresco: Almost the same. There won’t be any Champions on Switch.

On lack of Champions…

Andrei Lazaresco: For the first year we put in Draft Mode, Squad Building challenges, Seasons, Tournaments, Team of the Week challenges – all of those are there. Remember, this is the first year we introduce Ultimate Team to Switch players. We’re taking it gradually. We’re going to announce more about Ultimate Team at Gamescom later this year.

On buying packs…

Andrei Lazaresco: Yeah, in the same way, but through Nintendo, obviously.

Andrei Lazaresco: Yeah. The core of Ultimate Team, everything you know about Ultimate Team is retained within Switch. Imagine, for example, an airline that provides Wi-fi – you’ll be able to connect to Ultimate Team. Sure, maybe we won’t be able to play a match together, but you’ll still be able to connect for the transfers and manage your club.

On whether FIFA 18 draws a new animation ever frame instead of every player step…

Andrei Lazaresco: No. We used the fundamental base of FIFA code and innovated it. These are normal animations, so we’re not using that new system.

On whether it’s more like last year with animation…

Andrei Lazaresco: Yeah, if you want to make a comparison. But everything you see is custom-built, so I wouldn’t compare it to anything else, because there is no reference point. This is the first game we put on Nintendo Switch. It’s not that game downsized. It’s not gen three up-rezzed. It’s something that has been built with this console in mind entirely.

On challenges bringing the game to Switch…

Andrei Lazaresco: Every time you put a new game on a new platform for the first time, it’s not easy. There are technical challenges. There are design challenges. What we’ve ended up with, what we’re going to launch in September – it’s going to launch at the same time as all the other platforms – I have absolutely no worry saying we’ve built one of the best games you’ll be able to play on the Switch. Even putting aside graphics, even putting aside gameplay, it just feels right.

On those who will say FIFA 18 on Switch doesn’t look as good and is missing some features…

Andrei Lazaresco: I look at this as being on a very different console. It’s a completely different experience than what we have on the PS4 and the Xbox One. This is a FIFA experience for people who play on the go.

On the lack of The Journey…

Andrei Lazaresco: The Journey is powered by Frostbite. When we looked at the platform and its unique features, we made the choice of custom-building the game. And while it doesn’t have The Journey, it’s still the best portable FIFA experience we ever did. It has Ultimate Team, which is our most popular mode. It has Career Mode, and you’ll be able to play as a manager and a player. It has local seasons, kick off, tournaments, seasons, it has all of that.

On whether Frostbite can be on Switch…

Andrei Lazaresco: It’s not that you can’t get Frostbite on it. It’s just that we felt this custom-built engine would build the better experience.

I’m not a tech person. I create games. I know what the game should feel like. Me seeing people actually enjoying the game, for me means the world.

On whether FIFA on Switch could reach parity with other versions…

Andrei Lazaresco: I wouldn’t close the door on that. But I wouldn’t make any promises either. We need to see where the platform goes from here.

From a technical standpoint, the platform is not on a par with the PS4 or the Xbox One. You can’t just take that [the PS4 version] and put it here [on Switch]. It doesn’t work like that. But, I get the question. When people get their hands on it, they will enjoy it. Regardless of The Journey or not, this is packed with features, and all of them you can take them on the go. That is by far the most important thing.

Extra tidbits

– Custom-built engine; different from PS4 and Xbox One
– Engine isn’t Frostbite
– Icons are in, and Ronaldo is the first
– 60 FPS
– Crossing overhaul in other versions of FIFA 18 are on Switch
– New hard tackle also in
– Quick substitions from other versions not in, will be put on the list
– Making a good foundation base that can be built upon for the future

Model Confusion, Losses and a Distinct Lack of SEX at Tesla

Elon Musk + Tesla Model S Circa 2011

Tesla CEO Elon Musk isn’t getting any. By that we mean profits, as the electric automaker reported a $397 million first-quarter loss yesterday, adding to the red ink spilled in the previous quarter.

While the company’s revenue rose 18.4 percent in Q1 and deliveries climbed 12 percent, spending on Model 3 production more than offset the increase in cash flow. Musk took the loss in stride, playing the long game in a quarterly investors call, and claimed a combination of higher production numbers and lower operating costs will send those gray clouds packing.

Finances aside, the conference call yielded far more interesting topics, including details of the upcoming Model Y. Also, it seems people are becoming confused by Tesla’s naming strategy, and Musk has no one but Ford — and a dirty mind — to blame.

Back in 2014, Musk explained efforts to trademark the Model E name were deep-sixed by Ford, which threatened to sue if Tesla didn’t drop the moniker. Having already created the Model S and X, Musk and a friend joked that “E” would make a great name for the automaker’s third model. The joke — a lineup that spelled “SEX” — stuck. However, when Ford (which plans to roll out its own Model E) intervened, Musk was left looking for new name.

He chose Model 3 because the number is just E backwards, which is awkward at best and confusing for customers. Musk said during yesterday’s conference call that some would-be buyers have avoided purchasing a Model S because they think the Model 3 is just a newer version of the larger sedan.

“It’s a bit confusing because one is a letter and one is a number,” Musk, declining to say how many orders were lost due to the misunderstanding.

The CEO claims Model 3 production remains on schedule for a July start date, with the company’s Fremont, California plant expected to hit a production rate of 5,000 vehicles per week later this year. That number should double some time next year, he added, casting doubt in his previous prediction of hitting the 500,000-vehicle-per-year mark in 2018.

To lay the groundwork for the Model 3’s service needs, Tesla has announced a plan to add 100 mobile repair trucks in the second quarter of this year. Existing service locations are few, meaning Tesla would be overburdened (and impatient customers angered) without an alternate solution. Musk claims 375,000 reservations exist for the Model 3.

“Tesla’s mobile strategy is unique given the direct relationship we have with our customers and because our cars are designed so that most repairs can be done without raising the car on a vehicle lift,” the company said in a financial statement. “Our mobile strategy scales quickly, is capital efficient and lowers cost because proactive service and scheduling more than offset technician drive time to the customer.”

Thinking beyond the Model 3, Musk provided a few clues about the company’s next product — a crossover called the Model Y. (“S3XY” doesn’t sound nearly as cheeky as the intended lineup.) Musk plans to develop a new platform for the Model Y, providing the underpinnings for a next-generation Model S and X. The new model should start production in 2020, he said, adding that it will ditch the traditional 12-volt electrical system.

[Sources: Los Angeles Times; TechCrunch] [Image: Tesla]