Sony and Microsoft place their pawns for the next generation of consoles

Microsoft is preparing its revenge. The American journalist Jason Schreier, always very well informed, reports that the company is about to buy the video game studio Obsidian, author of the excellent role plays Fallout New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity. A strategic acquisition, with a view to developing Microsoft’s medium-term editorial offer, whether for PC or its future console.

Nearly five years after the launch of the Xbox One, the Redmond firm knows the long-lost part of this generation of machines. Microsoft no longer reports the sales figures of the latter, estimated at around 30 million copies following the indiscretions of the publisher Electronic Arts. A way of comparison, the PlayStation 4 has already exceeded 82 million and 19 million switch only a year and a half.

It’s time to reconquer. On the occasion of the E3 Video Game Show in June, Microsoft had formalized “hard work on the architecture of the next Xbox consoles”, and lifted the veil on Halo: Horizons, which is the Renewal – a priori open world – for its flagship video game franchise. Recently, the company has also bought several studios, including English Playground, authors of the intoxicating Forza Horizon, to put them also on a blockbuster in an open world.

If its next machine is not expected before 2019 at the earliest, Microsoft also announced on October 8 the project xCloud, a streaming game service scheduled for 2019. The brand will also be held on November 10 and 11 in Mexico. X018, its first show dedicated to the news of the Xbox range, which intends to return to the front of the stage.

Sony is positioning itself

For its part, Sony plays low profile. Its console is leading the cumulative sales of this generation and the short-term future of the PlayStation 4 is assured. At the end of October will release a pack including the console and the main exit celebrations, Red Dead Redemption 2, by the authors of GTA V. The highly anticipated The Last of Us 2 in 2019, after one of the most acclaimed games of the decade, should do that confirm the trend.

But behind the scenes, the builder is busy preparing the sequel. Sony’s Japanese CEO, Kenichiro Yoshida, confirmed in the Financial Times columns on Tuesday (October 9th) that his group was working hard on the successor of PlayStation 4. “At this point, what I can say is that he is necessary to have a new generation machine “evasively affirmed the leader, while refusing to speak expressly of “PlayStation 5”.

Google persists in the smartphone market

This could just as well fall. Scheduled on Tuesday, October 9, the announcement by Google of its latest products was preceded by the revelation, the day before, a massive security breach in its Google + social network, which affected the data of at least 500 000 users. The scandal could have disrupted the agenda, but of that, there was no question during the presentation made from New York. Google expected no doubt that one new hunt the other.

In terms of communication, the blow is tough for the firm in Mountain View (California), which strives to establish credibility as a manufacturer of technological devices. This year again, a whole range of new products that the company has unveiled: phones, connected speakers, tablets.

The most anticipated announcements focused on the Pixel range of phones, which are now in their third generation. The presentation especially highlighted the new features created around the camera, such as the one that does not miss the perfect shot: when capturing an unusual scene, the camera starts taking pictures even before you have pressed the button

For the French public, the main announcement is the availability, for the first time, Pixel phones on the territory hexagonal. Offered in two sizes (5.5 and 6.3 inches), these devices will be available on November 2 from respectively 859 and 959 euros. Sign that Google is more aggressive to conquer market share in this sector. Until now, his phones were only available in nine countries; they are now in three more.

“Today, the challenge is marketing, distribution,” notes Thomas Husson of Forrester. While in the United States, the brand has relied on an exclusivity from Verizon, the choice has been made in France of a wider distribution. The Pixel will be present at Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR, as well as in the banners of Fnac, Darty, and Boulanger

Very disappointing sales

Google’s appetite for the smartphone market is not new. With the series of Nexus first, as early as 2010, developed with various manufacturers (HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola, Huawei), then with the Pixel range, since 2016. The purchase of Motorola, in 2011, for 12.5 billions of dollars (about 11 billion euros at the current price), resold for barely 3 billion less than three years later, and very disappointing sales of its phones (barely 3.9 million units issued in 2017), could have discouraged the Mountain View company from persisting in this way.

But, under the leadership of Sundar Pichai, who came to Google in 2015, the hardware division was reorganized, with the arrival of Rick Osterloh. Objective: to better cooperate the software and hardware divisions. The check made in September 2017 to HTC to be able to hand over 2,000 of its engineers has since confirmed the willingness of the company to accelerate the development of its products.

Above all, Mr. Pichai has placed artificial intelligence at the heart of the development of every product offered by Google. With the emergence of virtual assistants such as those of Amazon (Alexa), the use of Google services has become less essential than before to its users: a simple voice call, the owner of an enclosure Amazon Echo can order a book without searching on Google. And the owner of an iPhone will be able to ask his way to his phone thanks to Siri without going through the mapping service of his competitor. Queries that will escape Google, while all its economy is driven by the knowledge of its users to advertising purposes.

It is up to Google to demonstrate that its assistant is more efficient than its competitors, and on all media (phones, speakers, etc.). Even the camera of the last pixel is like a search engine, able to recognize this pair of glasses that you would be fixing. Basically, even turning increasingly to the hardware, Google does not change job.

Google’s Pixel 3 smartphones will be marketed in France

Google Smartphones are Finally here

It’s been two years since the fans of Google waited for the French release of Pixel, the first smartphones designed entirely by teams of the California giant. They will be happy to learn that the third generation of Pixel smartphones will finally be marketed in France. Pixels have a trump card for Android enthusiasts: they are the first to receive new versions of this central software to its release, a few weeks before the most responsive Pixel competitors and a few months before the others.

The two advertised phones embark the same ultra-fast electronics and display a resembling design. Their back is adorned with a reflective lacquered strip of paint, characteristic of pixels. The Pixel XL, however, is distinguished by its noticeable notch at the top of the screen.

The format of these two Pixels 3 is poles apart. With its small 5.5 inch screen, the compact model is less than 7 centimeters wide, it looks particularly comfortable in hand, like the Samsung Galaxy S9. With its 6.3 inch screen, the Pixel XL looks much less comfortable but much more spectacular for the eyes.

Elitist rates and features

The Pixel 3 camera has only one sensor, but its pixels are wide, and the software that exploits them is particularly sophisticated, which should allow it to capture remarkable images if its quality fits in the continuity of his predecessors. In portrait mode, it will be possible to strengthen the background blur, as on the latest generation iPhone, or mitigate it.

The Pixel 3 is equipped with the latest version of Android. Their menus are upset: the three buttons at the bottom of the screen disappear, replaced by gestures commands close to that of the iPhone. Pixel 3s benefit from exclusive features, such as suggestions for smart answers, or the Google Lens visual search engine, built directly into the camera.

Both Pixels 3 are waterproof, and you can charge them wirelessly. They will be available soon at SFR, Orange, Bouygues, as well as at Darty, Boulanger, and Fnac. It remains to be hoped that their availability will be good because Google has had problems supplying certain generations of pixels.

The price of these two smartphones is high perched: 860 euros for the compact model and 960 euros for the XL model. It will be necessary to add a supplement to go from 64 GB of memory to 128 GB. An approach and rates far removed from Nexus phones, smartphones much cheaper than Google have produced for many years, in collaboration with major manufacturers, such as HTC, LG or Motorola.

A smart charging stand

Google has imagined a new kind of charging base, the Pixel Stand, which will be sold separately. When you put a smartphone Pixel 3 on this particularly thin base, the mobile automatically turns into an intelligent assistant. The power of its speaker is however limited compared to that of speakers Google Home, which should make its operation more difficult in a noisy environment.

The base Pixel Stand reveals its interest when removing several in the house. The Pixel 3 recognizes each individually, so we can ask him to change differently depending on the parts. For example, Pixel 3 can be programmed to turn into a dawn alarm when placed on the bedroom base and automatically switch to “do not disturb” mode. At the show, we can ask him to broadcast photos and music. The Pixel Stand will, unfortunately, be billed at a price that may cool the ardor of consumers: 80 euros per unit.

Small headphones

Google took advantage of the event to announce the upcoming availability in France of Pixel Buds, very small wireless headphones. Launched in November 2017 in the United States, they received a rather mixed critical reception. Pixel Buds have a feature that sets them apart from the competition, which is quite rich in this segment: instant translation. But according to many American journalists, this function is very slow and makes many mistakes. These headphones will be available at a price of 180 euros.

United States: a screening assistant

The US Company also takes the opportunity to announce the Hub, a connected speaker with a screen, whose size seems close to that of a tablet. The Hub does not include a photosensor, which will reassure consumers who care about their privacy. The Hub’s competitors, the Amazon Echo Show and the Facebook Portal, both have photosensors.

Google demonstrated the functions which it considers the most useful: the photo frame can draw pictures in the library with Google Photos and disseminate those it considers the best. In the kitchen, the Hub can broadcast recipes. The home automation menu, which allows you to control your lights or your heating connected for example.

The menus of the Hub seem particularly refined. According to Google, the wizard would be able to recognize the voice of different family members to customize the results it displays. It will for the moment be marketed exclusively in the United States at a price of 150 dollars.

Smartphones Why the Samsung A9 stacks four photo lenses

In 2018, in the small world of mobiles, the big attraction was the front of smartphones: their screens grew visibly by devouring their margins. In 2019, we will probably have to look at the back of smartphones to gauge their evolution. Several three-goal phones have been announced recently, including the LG V40.

The Lenovo Z5 Pro goes further by embedding four goals. This will also be the case of the Samsung A9, the new mid-range mobile number one in France, announced on Thursday, October 11. A heavy choice of consequences, because under each lens hides a photo sensor that weighs a few grams, takes a few millimeters, costs a few euros, even a few tens of euros.

What justifies this stacking?

The multiplication of the objectives answers to a real problem, which penalizes the smartphones since their birth: the absence of optical zoom. The smallest compact camera at 70 euros now has an X5 zoom; however, the majority of smartphones are deprived of optical zoom.

Many users do not know because they can zoom in with their smartphone. It is, in reality, an artificial zoom. When it is used by spreading its fingers on its screen, the photosensor stops using all its pixels: it only uses the pixels of the center. The quality of the photos drops drastically.

Until recently, the best-equipped smartphones had a two-position X2 optical zoom, which took its first steps in 2016. Now, we can count on a three-position X4 zoom:

A spectacular super-wide angle, convenient for photographing buildings and landscapes.

A classic wide angle, the one that fits most smartphones.

A very modest telephoto lens that captures portraits that distort faces less and allows, occasionally, to get a subject a little bit distant.

Note the fundamental difference between compact cameras and smartphones. The first embark only one photo sensor and a single lens, a zoom, capable of traveling from wide angle to telephoto. Smartphones have several sensors and so many objectives.

There are many reasons for this. The first is that a zoom, like the one that fitted the Nokia N93 released in 2006, takes a lot of space. But the motives are their size wasp. The second is that the zoom lenses are optical compromise penalizing they leave less come to light. The more specialized objectives of smartphones capture more, which is a master advantage in the photographic competition that manufacturers are engaged in: their night photography is better.

What will be the fourth purpose of Samsung?

The fourth lens in the Samsung A9 will support the camera’s “portrait” mode, capturing the third dimension of the image. This allows you to better separate the subject from the landscape to recreate a nice background blur, which softens the photo. Google manages, however, to do without this depth sensor on its Pixel 3, which however offer a simulation of the background blur.

This detail aside, the multiplication of photosensors is really useful for photography enthusiasts. It would almost come to wish the coming off a fifth objective, a true “tele objective” which sees very far and authorizes beautiful photos of the sportsmen in the stadiums, musicians during the spectacles, boats on the beach, etc.