17 October 2017

Microsoft's Surface Book 2 is a laptop, tablet and a portable studio, too

Microsoft has announced the latest member of the Surface family, Surface Book 2 – a powerhouse laptop with enhanced graphics and up to 17 hours of battery life that can handle mixed reality, artificial intelligence and immersive gaming.

Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate VP, Windows and Devices Group, Microsoft said in a blog post: "We are building Surface to be the ultimate laptop, infusing versatility, performance, and design into every product we make and creating a stage for the best of Windows and Office. More than ever there is a need for a class of high-performance devices that don’t compromise the versatility and style of a laptop customers want."

Available in 13” and 15” options, Surface Book 2 is built to offer the power of a laptop, the versatility of a tablet and the freedom of a portable studio. It has up to five times the graphics performance of the original Surface Book and is twice as powerful as the new MacBook Pro.

Sporting the latest 8th Generation Intel Dual-Core and Quad-Core processors and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 and 1060 discrete graphics options, Surface Book 2 can easily run compute-intensive software from Adobe, Autodesk and Dassault. The 13" model weighs about 1.5kg and the 15" model, about 2kg. 

"The 15” Surface Book 2 delivers almost seven million dazzling pixels – 45% more than the MacBook Pro – giving artists and professionals alike amazing pixel density on an even larger creative canvas," observed Panos Panay, Corporate VP, Microsoft Devices in a blog post.

Panay shared that the detachable display and hinge of Surface Book 2, has been redesigned to provide a smoother, faster detach into tablet or studio mode. The device also has USB-A and USB-C ports as well as a full-sized SD card reader.

Source: Microsoft. The Surface Book 2.
Source: Microsoft. The Surface Book 2.
Explore:


Surface Book 2 starts at US$1,499. Pricing and availability for the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions are not yet released.

Your Windows device is going to help you get more creative really soon

Source: Microsoft. The possibilities of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, sketched on a Microsoft Surface by Michael Mindflyer.
Source: Microsoft. The possibilities of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, sketched on a Microsoft Surface by Michael Mindflyer.

Microsoft has announced that the free Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will start rolling out to Windows 10 users worldwide, starting today. The fourth major update to Windows 10 is all about creativity, and is engineered to bring mixed reality and 3D to Windows users, enhancing gaming, audiovisual content and mixed reality.

Some highlights include:

Windows Ink gets better

With the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, users can now ink directly onto PDFs. Smart Ink also allows users to make squares more easily, or automatically turn doodled boxes into a proper table.

Create in 3D

"3D will offer the next major boost to human productivity, enabling a next generation of computing that moves far beyond the 2D world we’ve been confined to. This is so powerful because 3D is truly representative of the world you live in – improving the way you comprehend, retain, and learn," said Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate VP, Windows and Devices Group, Microsoft in a blog post.

Microsoft Paint users can now migrate to Paint 3D, where they can create and share 3D objects. 3D objects are supported by Microsoft Office - rotate and animate objects within documents and presentations.

Source: Microsoft blog. This is what Windows Mixed Reality can do.
Source: Microsoft blog. This is what Windows Mixed Reality can do.

See 3D creations in the real world

With Mixed Reality Viewer, users can view 3D objects in the real world and snap pictures of the virtual 3D objects using the world-facing camera on the PC. This is part of Microsoft's push to introduce the world of Windows Mixed Reality.
For accurate immersion in a virtual world, virtual reality technology often needs to track where a user is looking, for example by mounting cameras around a room. Acer, Dell, HP, and Lenovo are launching the first Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which come bundled with advanced motion controllers. "Windows Mixed Reality headsets are the only headsets that don’t require you to drill holes into your walls and you can take them on the go," said Mehdi.

Acer and HP will offer Windows Mixed Reality Headsets with motion controllers; the Lenovo Explorer headset is ergonomically designed; and the Dell Visor features 1,440 x 1,440 LCD panels for a sharp and smooth 360° panoramic experience. Samsung’s just-launched US$499 mixed reality headset, the Samsung HMD Odyssey, will be available November 6. The Samsung HMD Odyssey has dual AMOLED high-resolution displays, a 110-degree field of view, built-in premium AKG headphones, and integrated six degrees of freedom (DOF) inside-out position tracking.

The headsets will be supported by Windows Mixed Reality PCs and Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PCs. Windows Mixed Reality PCs refer to desktops and laptops with integrated graphics. When plugged into these devices, the new immersive headsets will run at 60 frames per second. 

Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PCs are desktops and laptops with discrete graphics. Discrete graphics is typically more powerful than integrated graphics. When plugged into these devices, the headsets will run at 90 frames per second, which would deliver a smoother experience.

Save disk space

All files in OneDrive can now be accessed On-Demand, whether they have been synched to the PC or not. In essence, the files will appear in the File Explorer window without taking up any storage space on the PC hard disk.

Explore:

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update can be experienced on a wide variety of Windows 10 PCs and on the new Windows Mixed Reality headsets. The headsets begin at US$399. 

A calendar created in partnership with Singapore-based illustrator Michael Mindflyer provides a painless way to adopt a creative mindset over 21 days while getting to know the Fall Creators Update better. Day 1: start a creative checklist in Microsoft OneNote, and start doodling with Windows Ink's SketchPad on day 2. Download a high-resolution version of the calendar (PDF).

Dell refreshes Inspiron laptop family, introduces new commercial devices

Watch the Inspiron 7000 series unveiling Instavideo.
Watch the Inspiron 7000 series unveiling Instavideo.

- Dell unveils new suite of commercial devices; Inspiron 7000 series and Alienware’s latest gaming peripherals at the revamped Dell Exclusive Store in Singapore

- The new Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 brings stunning visuals and powerful performance in a small footprint 

- The Inspiron 15 Gaming Laptop allows for greater game immersion integrated with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 discrete graphics 

- Award-winning XPS 13 now up to 44% more powerful with new 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processors

Source: Dell. The Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 laptop.
Source: Dell. The Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 laptop.

Dell today revealed a new suite of devices to provide the most immersive and comprehensive computing experience available at the Dell First Look Showcase & Gaming Event at the Dell Exclusive Store @ Plaza Singapura in Singapore. The event also saw some of Singapore’s top e-sports players and Ray Wah, SVP and GM, Consumer and Small Business Product Group, Dell battling it out in a gaming showdown on the newest Microsoft racing game.

A view of the new Dell Exclusive Store layout.
A view of the new Dell Exclusive Store layout.
It was the first time Dell’s commercial products such as the Latitude and OptiPlex range have been made available at the Dell Exclusive Store, for its consumers in Singapore. Commercial products, for business use, are traditionally available from channel partners rather than at retail outlets. The product range is now available for purchase and customisation in-store.

The new offerings include the Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 and 15-inch laptop with new 8th Generation Intel Core processors, and Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming Laptop. Designed for the mobile multitasker or multiuser household, the new Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 brings stunning visuals and powerful performance in a small footprint. 

Chi Tran, CEO and Co-founder of Loop, offers "priority passes" for co-working that are ideal for the on-the-go professionals that Dell's laptops are designed for.
Chi Tran, CEO and Co-founder of Loop, offers "priority passes" for co-working that are ideal for the on-the-go professionals that Dell's laptops are designed for. "We believe that you can work anywhere. We believe that collaboration is the new currency," he said. "In co-working spaces you have a great mix of people. You don't want to be stuck somewhere at one desk. In the new gig economy everyone wants to travel and be somewhere." Tran uses an XPS laptop. "Being mobile is very important," he said. "Form factor is most key for me."

Source: Dell. Eugene Soh, Artist and Game Programmer on the left, with Wah on the right. Soh spoke about being hospitalised and still being able to code with an XPS 15. He also commented that the Inspiron 7000 15 laptop has the power to provide a smooth, comfortable virtual reality experience with Oculus goggles.
Source: Dell. Eugene Soh, Artist and Game Programmer on the left, with Wah on the right. Soh spoke about being hospitalised and still being able to code with an XPS 15. He also commented that the Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop has the power to provide a smooth, comfortable virtual reality experience with Oculus goggles.

Enjoy an immersive, visual experience with a narrow border and FHD in-plane switching (IPS) touch display supporting an active pen for digital drawing, writing and note-taking. With the new Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1, consumers can watch movies or video chat uninterrupted thanks to SmartByte streaming technology co-engineered by Dell, which prioritises streaming and conferencing above other network activities. It also offers longer battery life and quieter performance with standard solid state drives (SSDs) or optional PCIe non-volatile memory express (NVMe) SSDs.

“From our Inspiron range to the renowned XPS 13 powered by 8th Generation Intel Core processors, the launch of these cutting-edge devices at our revamped Dell Exclusive Store reinforces our commitment to customers,” said Jarebb Chua, Country Manager, Consumer Business, Malaysia & Singapore, Dell.

Watch Wah in an Instavideo commenting on PCs.
Watch Wah in an Instavideo commenting on PCs. "It is 
really the customer who inspires us," he said.
For those who prefer a traditional laptop, the new Inspiron 7000 laptopshave a slim, light and thin-bezel design in Platinum Silver or Pink Champagne. Available in 15", the Inspiron 7000 offers a brilliant FHD IPS display for a crisp, detailed picture, viewable from a wide range of angles without sacrificing image quality. The laptops take advantage of the outstanding performance, responsiveness and hardware enabled security built into the 8th Generation Intel Core processor.

With the new Inspiron range, consumers can now experience exceptional performance and immersive experiences with new 8th Generation Intel Core processors, DDR4 memory; and flexible connectivity options with USB Type-C with support for DisplayPort and Power Delivery.

“Dell’s global leadership in innovation and gaming across personal computing is driving the very best gaming experiences for every level of gamer. We are supporting the growth of e-sports and making gaming a global cultural phenomenon,” said Wah. “With the new Inspiron 7000 series, we deliver an incredible video and audio experience and exceptional gaming performance - all at an affordable price.”

The new Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming Laptop offers NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 discrete graphics and NVIDIA Max Q Design technology, 7th Gen Intel quad core CPU options and dual fans to keep the system cool and quiet while powering through challenging games. Anti-glare IPS wide viewing angle FHD display provides excellent visual clarity while Waves MaxxAudio Pro software delivers precise audio. 

The laptop’s new 2x2 Wi-Fi antenna design provides great wireless performance, while the SmartByte software prioritises gaming and video content to keep games and videos smooth even during large file downloads. A new quick-charge battery gets up to 80% capacity within an hour and the Thunderbolt 3 multi-use port connects multiple devices (including support for up to two 4K displays) to the laptop with transfers up to 40Gbps.

Latitude laptops on display at the Dell Exclusive Store.
Latitude laptops on display at the Dell Exclusive Store.

The XPS 13 now offers up to 44% more performance with the latest 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processors and Dynamic Power Mode*. With the new 8th Gen processors, with four cores versus two, experiencing exceptional performance while multi-tasking and running multiple applications is possible. The XPS 13, the smallest 13.3" laptop* on the planet, also boasts an outstanding viewing experience with the optional Quad HD+ InfinityEdge (optional touch) display, with sharp visuals and vivid and accurate colour.

John Gillooly, Technical Product Marketing Manager, Asia Pacific South at NVIDIA, said that NVIDIA G-SYNC is ideal for e-sports. G-SYNC delivers smoother, tear-free gameplay at refresh rates up to 240 Hz, and is found in Alienware's new premium displays.  To prevent blurring and deliver crisper moving images, the backlight pulses 144 times a second, he said.
John Gillooly, Technical Product Marketing Manager, Asia Pacific South at NVIDIA (left), said that NVIDIA G-SYNC, found in Alienware's new premium displays, is ideal for e-sports. G-SYNC is adaptive refresh rate technology that delivers smoother, tear-free gameplay at refresh rates up to 240 Hz. To prevent blurring and deliver crisper moving images, G-SYNC pulses the backlight at 144 times a second, he said. G-SYNC also prevents tearing, which displays information from different frames at the same time because of synchronisation issues between the display and the video feed, by changing the monitor resolution constantly.
The event also unveiled the latest Alienware Gaming Monitors, Keyboards and Mice.

Details:

All products are available immediately, unless otherwise stated, through Dell and its authorised partners:

Product
Starting price in S$/Availability
Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 (7373)
From $1,599. Available now.
Inspiron 15 7000 (7570)
From $1,599. Available now.
Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567)
From $1,599. Available now.
XPS 13 with 8th Gen Intel Core processor
Available by end October.









Catch #DellGameOn event activities on Facebook and Instagram as well as the Facebook Live replay of the Gaming Showdown

Hashtag: #DellGameOn

*Based on July 2017 internal testing using BAPCo’s SYSmark 2014 SE performance benchmark, comparing an XPS 13 9360 with 8th Generation Intel Core processor with Dell Dynamic Power Mode versus similarly-configured systems with 7th Generation Intel Core processors without Dynamic Power Mode, which offers a blended view of performance in productivity, media creation, data/financial analysis and responsiveness scenarios.  Actual results will vary. For more information, please refer to https://bapco.com/products/sysmark-2014-se/

**Based on Principled Technologies' Report of April 2017, the smallest refers total surface area of the notebooks. (PDF)


Watch the Instavideo of the Microsoft Forza Motorsport Challenge.
Watch the Instavideo of a gamer participating in the Microsoft Forza Motorsport Challenge.

16 October 2017

Ransomware economy heats up

Carbon Blacks Threat Analyst Unit (TAU) has launched an investigation into the Dark Web and found a 2,502% increase in the sale of ransomware from 2016 to 2017. According to The Ransomware Economy report, 2017 is shaping up to be the most notorious year on record for ransomware, says the security firm.

It is all about supply and demand, Carbon Black said, with cybercriminals seeing that they can make money easily through ransomware. "Unlike many other forms of cyberattacks, ransomware can be quickly and brainlessly deployed with a high probability of profit. As our research found, these Dark Web economies are empowering even the most novice criminals to launch ransomware attacks via do-it-yourself (DIY) kits and providing successful ransomware authors with annual incomes into six figures," stated the company in an executive summary to the report.

According to the research:

- There are currently 6,300+ estimated Dark Web marketplaces selling ransomware, with 45,000 product listings. Prices for do-it-yourself (DIY) kits range from US$0.50 to US$3,000. The median price is just US$10.50.

-  The ransomware marketplace on the Dark Web has grown in value from US$249,287.05 to US$6,237,248.90, from 2016 to 2017 year-to-date, a growth rate of 2,502%. This economy extorts, according to the FBI, ransom payments that totalled about US$1 billion in 2016, up from US$24 million in 2015, according to the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report (volume 22) released in April 2017.

- Some sellers of ransomware are making more than US$100,000 per year simply retailing ransomware. In contrast, a legitimate software developer earns US$69,000 on average according to figures from PayScale.com. In Singapore, the average is S$49,014 per year. 

- The most notable innovations contributing to the proliferation and success of the Dark Web ransomware economy have been the emergence of Bitcoin for ransom payment, and the use of the anonymity network Tor to mask illicit activities.

- Ransomware sellers are increasingly specialising in one specific area of the supply chain, further contributing to ransomware’s boom and economy development.

Source: Carbon Black. Ransomware sales have gone through the roof this year.
Source: Carbon Black. Ransomware sales have gone through the roof this year.
Interested?

Read The Ransomware Economy report (PDF)

HP's ElitePOS designed for retail 2.0

HP Inc. is reimagining the retail industry with a versatile all-in-one point-of-sale (POS) system, the HP ElitePOS. The company is transforming the in-store experience by enabling the right balance of technology to help increase sales while streamlining processes.

HP research has found that 69% of shoppers would be more likely to buy in-store if given access to digital self-help tools like interactive displays and kiosks1, for example.

The HP ElitePOS.
The HP ElitePOS.

“As retailers seek new ways to interact with customers and reinvent in-store experiences, technology must empower sales associates and engage customers in a way that feels like a natural extension of the brand,” said Daren Ng, Director of Mobility Solutions, Asia Pacific and Japan, HP Inc. “The new HP ElitePOS solution is built for versatility with a sleek and stunning design that can adapt to multiple retail and hospitality environments, while still offering the security, performance and long-term durability that our customers expect from HP.”

The ElitePOS features a modular design with modern lines, unlike the familiar large, boxy POS terminals commonly used in retail environments. Its design is also functional, supporting use cases beyond checkout: interactive signage, employee attendance, and self-service applications like a customer check-in and access to additional product offerings in the “endless aisle”.

For retailers who want a clean and clutter-free counter space, or who need greater versatility in the placement of their point-of-sale terminal, the display can be separated from the input/output (I/O) base for maximum placement versatility.

Accessories add further customisation options. An optional receipt printer that integrates into the column stand, and an optional magnetic stripe reader built into the display, create a cleaner counter space for retail environments. The optional barcode scanner and optional standalone printer offer a consistent design aesthetic across peripherals.

The ElitePOS is built to be retail-durable. It is MIL-STD tested2, will handle minor spills by channelling liquid out the device, and provide efficient cooling with side venting for improved
reliability.

"Line-busting" - disrupting queues by serving people who are mid-queue - is easier with Windows 10, fast DDR4 memory, and 7th generation Intel Core products and services.

“As the retail and hospitality industries undergo a revolutionary shift, the point-of-service device will be a critical hub in delivering the in-store experience for customers,” said Leslie Hand, VP, Retail Insights, IDC.

“But with this rapid transformation in digital business also comes increased threats, in the form of targeted attacks and malware. Retail POS systems, including the new HP ElitePOS, must be able to balance the growing needs of the customer and the brand while also acting as a guardian of the sensitive information that passes through the device on a daily basis.”

With point-of-sale devices increasingly targeted by hackers, security continues to be top of mind for the retail industry. According to Verizon, 64% of breaches in the retail industry that contained data loss were caused by point-of-sale intrusions3. This has led HP to expand its security solutions to the ElitePOS with both hardware and integrated software security features, including:

• BIOS-level device security to provide protection in the event of a malware attack with HP Sure Start Gen3, a self-healing BIOS, and HP BIOSphere Gen3 firmware ecosystems.

• User authentication technology, including an optional fingerprint reader for secure login; Credential Guard4 for secure user authentication and password protection, and Device Guard5, which lets IT managers create rules to run only signed, trusted, and approved applications on the POS system to help protect against walk-up and low-level attacks through USB ports.

• Physical security of the device itself with an optional bolt-to-counter configuration, VESA mounting K-Lock features and external fingerprint reader for secure login through Windows Hello6.

1 2016 Reality of Retail Report, InReality.

2 MIL STD 810G testing is pending and is not intended to demonstrate fitness for US Department of Defense contract requirements or for military use. Test results are not a guarantee of future performance under these test conditions. Accidental damage requires an optional HP Accidental Damage Protection Care Pack.

3 2016 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR).

4 Requires Windows 10 Enterprise Edition.

5 Windows 10 Enterprise and Device Guard are only available for installation through HP Custom Integration Services to enterprise customers with a volume license to use Windows 10 Enterprise. Device Guard is not available with Windows 10 Pro.

6 Mounting hardware, lock cable and biometric fingerprint reader sold separately.

OCBC Bank, StarHub partner to support Singapore's collaborative economy

Source: OCBC Bank. OCBC Bank’s Group CEO, Samuel Tsien (left), and StarHub’s CEO, Tan Tong Hai (right), forge Singapore’s first bank-telco strategic partnership with the first store-in-store at OCBC Bank’s orchardgateway branch.
Source: OCBC Bank. OCBC Bank’s Group CEO, Samuel Tsien (left), and StarHub’s CEO, Tan Tong Hai (right), forge Singapore’s first bank-telco strategic partnership with the first store-in-store at OCBC Bank’s orchardgateway branch.

OCBC Bank and StarHub have announced Singapore’s first bank-telco strategic partnership to drive Singapore’s collaborative economy, also known as the ‘We Economy’. To mark the start of this partnership, the two companies launched the first store-in-store at OCBC Bank’s orchardgateway branch, which illustrates the benefits customers can expect out of the We Economy.

Combining OCBC Bank’s financial capabilities and StarHub’s catalogue of info-communications and entertainment services, customers can now seamlessly manage their banking and digital lifestyle needs in one store. This store-in-store concept will be expanded in stages to cover more retail outlets.

The partnership between OCBC Bank and StarHub is the first step in a multi-year plan towards bringing together essential businesses across industries. These include transport, retail, insurance, health and wellness, and real estate. The partnership will welcome companies that share the same ideology to be part of its We Economy ecosystem.

OCBC Bank and StarHub identified the potential of the We Economy from working on two key thrusts for many years – digital innovation and customer experience. OCBC Bank started the use of data analytics in 2002 to obtain deep consumer insights in its continuing drive to find new ways to better serve its customers. It was the first to roll out fingerprint biometrics (2015), voice biometrics (2015), speech recognition (2016), open APIs (application programming interfaces) in 2016, specialised AI chatbots (2017) and transactional APIs (2017).

StarHub, Singapore’s first fully-integrated info-communications and entertainment service provider, innovates continually to bring greater benefits to customers, from streaming Asia’s first ‘live’ virtual reality concert to enabling Singapore’s first autonomous hotel room service robot and comprehensive mobile device after-sales support. Earlier this year, it also launched a new facility called Hubtricity to help accelerate Smart Nation initiatives and to showcase its deep capabilities in connectivity, cyber security and data analytics.

Samuel Tsien, Group CEO of OCBC Bank said: “This partnership is born out of the strong belief by both of us that by innovating together, rather than each doing its own thing, we can serve our consumers more comprehensively, effectively and efficiently. StarHub and OCBC have been very active in the space of digital innovation. Our partnership is the beginning and a part of a multi-year plan towards building Singapore’s first We Economy.”

Tan Tong Hai, CEO, StarHub said: "In this new economy, effective collaboration can drive business success. We are happy to team up with OCBC Bank, leveraging our shared strengths in digital lifestyle solutions and omnichannel engagements to deliver enhanced customer experiences. Our form of collective intelligence becomes even more vital as it enables us and our partners to anticipate and better respond to customers’ evolving motivations and preferences.”

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All current and new customers affiliated with both OCBC Bank and StarHub can sign up online to receive an additional 3% rebate on their StarHub bills for 12 months. The rebate of up to S$5 per month will be credited into customers’ OCBC credit card or bank account. Customers can look forward to enjoying more perks in future.