To say the current corporate climate in Japan is terse right now is somewhat of a surreal reality. For a country largely associated with “pure” and honest business practices, a traditional commitment to protect the tenure of the employee (at times to the detriment of the company’s own well-being) and the origin of some of the world’s most respected companies, the current scandal Toshiba has been charged with is truly mindblowing, perhaps all the more so given how the numbers in this one continue to rise as it progresses.
Toshiba has been manipulating its accounting records for over half a decade
For over half a decade now, Toshiba has been manipulating its accounting records, ultimately resulting in the fradulent reporting of a staggering $1.2 billion in false profits. The scandal, which has been wreaking havoc on everything from the company’s share price to its daily operations has reached a new milestone as the President and CEO, Hisao Tanaka resigned today, along with two other top executives bringing the total to eight departures. No legal proceedings have been filed yet. The deception was set up in order to achieve performance expectations following the Lehman financial meltdown in 2008.
Specifically, “the resignations come after a report showed that top executives set unrealistic profit targets that systematically led to flawed accounting. The accounting irregularities were ‘skillfully’ hidden from outside observers, according to the investigation.” It is likely that more resignations might occur as the situation continues to unravel. Whereas the Olympus accounting fraud scandal from a few years ago was based on a lie spun in the 1980’s, this particular case has been of a much larger nature, and a modern one at that.
Given the complexities involved, it would follow that the consent and understanding of any number of top-level executives was required, though the fact it took this long for the scandal to surface shows a highly contained situation. Many large blue-chip companies in Japan have multiple independent accounting firms auditing their books and thus it is all the more impressive for Toshiba have hidden this from so many.
While Toshiba isn’t a well known consumer brand in the Android world, the company is invested in the development of components that go in many mobile devices, including camera sensors and some specialized chips. The company is also heavily involved in Project Ara and is manufacturing some Android tablets.
While the outside world at-large might not care much about Toshiba, here in Japan it is a vital part of the economy, being involved in not just consumer electronics, but also the construction of nuclear power plants, air-traffic control systems, railway infrastructure, semiconductors and more. The very fact that it has been lying to investors – and ultimately to the very country it resides in – will likely serve as a permanent scar on its reputation, if not Japan large. As Naoki Fujiwara, chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management said, the issue “leaves foreign investors with a vague feeling of uncertainty toward Japanese corporate earnings…it impacts all Japanese companies going forward, and we may see a lack of buying.”
We knew it was coming, but Toshiba’s CEO and president Hisao Tanaka is no longer at the company. As the electronics giant attempts to recover from the fallout following the disclosure that it declared $1.2 billion in false profit, Tanaka and two other executives have announced their resignations to take responsibility for the scandal. An independent investigation found that management lied about operating profits for over six years in a bid to meet internal targets, starting just after the financial crash seven years ago.
Toshiba says chairman Masashi Muromachi will fill the vacant chief executive role for the time being and help appoint a new management team. Including Tanaka, vice-chairman Norio Sasaki and former president Atsutoshi Nishida, eight high-level executives have now resigned after it was found they’d been cooking the books. Toshiba estimated a 55 billion yen ($442 million) writedown, but today’s report revealed it was almost triple that figure. The company will now explore selling property and other assets to raise money to cover the blots on its balance sheet.
Source: Toshiba (PDF)
Toshiba might be in for a rough, rough ride. Reuters sources claim that the tech giant is going to rack up the equivalent of $2.4 billion to $3.2 billion in charges due to “overstated profits” over the past six years. Investigators are still trying to determine whether or not executives played a role, and they won’t reveal the extent of what went wrong until sometime next week. However, their findings may not matter much for CEO Hisao Tanaka — he’ll reportedly have little choice but to resign for letting this scandal happen on his watch. More than half of the board of directors may get the boot, too.
If the reports of bad accounting are accurate, they show that Japan still has a ways to go in its bid to improve the occasionally shaky leadership of its local tech giants. While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is backing a corporate reform campaign, there haven’t been many revelations yet. It’s not clear whether Toshiba will be the most prominent example, or if it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
[Image credit: Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images]
Filed under: Misc
Camera technology has always been an important feature in smartphones but this generation of flagships have been putting particular emphasis on the quality of their camera modules. So it seems worthwhile to dive on into the world of camera sensors and take a look at who is building the best and most popular products.
We’ll start with one of the biggest and that is Sony. The company has a long legacy in the image sensor market and has been at the forefront of mobile camera technology for a number of years. The company accounted for roughly 40 percent of all smartphone image sensors in 2014.
Sony’s image sensors have found their way into numerous smartphones and tablets, even if the company doesn’t provide the whole module. If you’re curious, the difference is that image sensors are responsible for converting the light into digital information, which determines the number of megapixels, pixel size and density, recording frame rates, etc. The broader camera module determines focus, aperture and other attributes.
Sony’s high-end image sensors fall under the Exmor RS brand name. Its latest model is the Back Side Illuminated (BSI) 21 megapixel IMX230, which has started to find its way into the latest smartphones. It’s IMX240 powers the Galaxy Note 4 and some S6 models, while the IMX234 forms the basis of the LG G4’s camera.
The company isn’t just catering to the very high-end market, Sony’s 8MP and 13MP mid-range sensors have been in high demand from Chinese smartphone manufacturers looking to decent cameras at a reasonable cost. The 13 megapixel IMX214 has proven particularly popular with manufacturers like Huawei and Oppo over the past twelve months.
|Sensor||Resolution||Sensor Size||Pixel Size||Handsets examples|
|IMX 135||13 MP (4224 x 3176)||1/3.06″||1.12 um||LG G3, Note 3, Moto X|
|IMX 214||13 MP (4224 x 3176)||1/3.06″||1.12 um||Find 7, Honor 6, OnePlus One|
|IMX 220||20.7 MP (5344 х 4016)||1/2.3″||1.2 um||Xperia Z2, Xperia Z3, Meizu MX4|
|IMX 234||16 MP (5312 x 2988)||1/2.6″||1.12 um||LG G4, ZTE Nubia Z9|
|IMX 240||16 MP (5312 x 2988)||1/2.6″||1.2 um||Galaxy S6, Note 4|
As well as basic sensor hardware, Sony has also developed Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) technology, in-sensor HDR, and high speed shooting modes for its sensors, which is helping to keep the company at the forefront of the market.
So important is its image sensor business that Sony is willing to invest billions into additional production capacity by issuing new shares for the first time since 1989, just in order to keep up with demand.
OmniVision is another big name in the smartphone image sensor business, but you’re more likely to find its products in the low and mid-tier markets, rather than high-end smartphones.
The company’s typical sensor selling price is just $1.79, compared with upwards of $7 from Sony. As a result, OmniVision is expected to capitalize on the new demand for lower cost CMOS sensors from the growing Chinese and Indian smartphone markets.
|Sensor||Resolution||Sensor Size||Pixel Size||Full Video Capture|
|OV5640||5 MP||1/4″||1.4 um||15 fps|
|OV8825||8 MP||1/3.2″||1.4 um||24 fps|
|OV13860||13 MP||1/2.6″||1.3 um||30 fps|
|OV16825||16 MP||1/2.3″||1.34 um||30 fps|
|OV23850||23.8 MP||1/2.3″||1.12 um||24 fps|
That said, the company’s hardware has occasionally cropped up in high-end devices, including the last generation HTC One M8. The company also used to supply image sensors to Apple before Sony took the contract.
Not too long ago OmniVision announced its 23.8 megapixel OV23850 image sensor for smartphones, which comes with PDAF, video binning, and 4K video recording.
In a separate bid to cater to the high end market, OmniVision has been pushing its 13MP PureCel design. This is a slightly larger image sensor with bigger 1.3um pixels to capture more light for better looking images. You’ll probably recognise this idea from HTC’s Ultrapixel idea, which OmniVision was involved with.
Toshiba is another large company with a strong legacy in the mobile camera business. The company’s sensor may not be appearing many high-end smartphones these days, but it was behind the impressive 41 megapixel sensor that powered the Nokia 808 PureView’s camera.
The company has most recently been working on further reducing the size and power consumption of its smartphone image sensors. The company also launched a 240fps slow motion capable T4K82 sensor back in March of this year.
Typically, Toshiba produces 13 and 8 megapixel sensors for smartphones and also has a 20 megapixel sensor for the high-end market. The Toshiba’s BSI T4KA7 is apparently powering the HTC One M9’s rear camera. Like Sony, Toshiba has integrated PDAF into its sensors and has its own 3D depth mapping technology and bright mode technology for improving the visibility of slow motion videos.
At last check in, Toshiba was looking to focus on providing sensors to Chinese smartphone manufacturers and had turned to automotive and medical markets for further growth. Although it did show off some neat modular prototypes for Project Ara as well.
SK Hynix, a South Korean semiconductor supplier, is also a key player in the low cost smartphone camera market. Much like its competitors, the company produces a range of sensors and its 8 and 13 megapixel option are moving popular in mainstream handsets and it is focusing its operations in the growing Chinese market. SK Hynix had also previously provided low end cameras for Samsung’s budget smartphones.
Last year the company announced that it had a high-end 21 megapixel sensor in development. SK Hynix isn’t really doing much that hasn’t already been done by the competition, instead it appeals to manufacturers based on its low price point.
Samsung has tried its hand at producing many key smartphone technologies itself and is also in the image sensor game. Although not as large of an operation as Sony, Samsung has been attempting to grow its image sensor and camera module businesses.
Samsung has quite a large catalog of sensors, including Front Side (FSI) and Back Side Illuminated (BSI) sensors. Its high-end technology uses the company’s own ISOCELL pixel type, which aims to reduce noise compared with its traditional BSI sensors by reducing interference between different color pixels.
|Sensor||Resolution||Sensor Size||Pixel Size||Pixel Type||Full Video Capture|
|S5K3H5||8 MP||1/3.2||1.4 um||BSI||30 fps|
|S5K4H5YB||8 MP||1/4||1.12 um||ISOCELL||30 fps|
|S5K3L2||13 MP||1/3.06||1.12 um||BSI||30 fps|
|S5K3M2||13 MP||1/3.06||1.12 um||ISOCELL||30 fps|
|S5K2P8||16 MP||1/2.6||1.12 um||ISOCELL||30 fps|
Although we may typically associate Samsung with high-end products, the company’s average sensor selling price is only $1.93. You can find a range of products from small 1.3MP sensors for the low end market, up to 16MP sensors found in the flagship Galaxy S6. Samsung also develops complete modules for its sensors.
Most recently, Samsung’s own image sensors have found their way into the Galaxy S5 and S6 smartphones. However, due to its limited production capabilities, Samsung has to mix its own and Sony image sensors in the Galaxy S6. Closer inspection revealed some noticeable differences between the two, but without a side by side comparison you would probably struggle to notice any major differences in quality, suggesting that Samsung is managing to keep up with Sony.
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Much like Samsung, LG is both a component and product manufacturer and is making strides with its camera components. LG Innotek is the division of the company that focuses on components and designed the impressive camera inside the company’s latest G4 flagship.
However, unlike Samsung, LG doesn’t make its own image sensor components, but designs the wider camera module instead. LG’s high-end smartphone cameras have all been based on Sony Exmor image sensors. LG has most recently pushed the boat with its f/1.8 aperture camera in its LG G4, which will let in around 80 percent more light than the G3’s f/2.2 module. This is the wider aperture that we’ve seen yet in a smartphone.
Not only that, but LG’s research teams are also developing complimentary hardware components for its camera modules. Back with the LG G3 the company announced its laser autofocus system and the LG G4 comes with an infra-red colour correction circuit to better compensate for environmental lighting.
As the company doesn’t have to worry about sensor development, it has more time to work on refining the other module components, which has resulting in some rather interesting and practical camera designs.
Much like LG, HTC is not in the image sensor business, instead it has had a few attempts at designing its own camera modules.
The company coined the phrase “Ultrapixel” for its larger 2.0um pixel smartphone cameras but these actually made use of ST Microelectronics and OmniVision constructed sensors, specifically the VD68969 and OV4688. The company has also experimented with dual-sensor set-ups with the One M8, making use of a 2.1-megapixel OmniVision OV2722 sensor to collect additional depth information.
Despite the novel ideas, the company’s camera technology does not appear to have kept up with the competition lately; the handset scored poorly in our blind test shoot-out.
What to expect next
There are a number of other manufacturers in the mobile image business which produce either their own lens modules or sensors, for example even OnePlus developed its own lens for its smartphone. Hopefully though, I have covered enough of them to give you an idea of what the market is like.
Samsung and Sony are likely quite safe at the top of the sensor market
Samsung and Sony are likely quite safe at the top of the sensor market, but smartphone CMOS sensor demand is inherently tied to the smartphone market. Huge growth in low margin handsets is driving demand for competitively priced image sensors with moderate specifications and this is opening the door for OmniVision, Toshiba and others to collect new business and expand their market share in Asia.
At the high-end, we’re quite likely to see OEM companies continue to differentiate their products by tweaking the broader camera modules to bring out subtle improvements in quality. Ideas like dual-image sensors, wider apertures and laser auto focus will probably keep cropping up from time to time, but final image quality is inevitably tied to the limited space for sensors within smartphones.
Toshiba just unveiled its back-to-school laptop lineup, and while mainstream notebooks are normally a bit of a snooze, there’s at least one detail that makes these worth a second look. Everything in the line, from the $395 entry-level model to the souped-up 4K editions, has a built-in keyboard button to launch Cortana in Windows 10. Just hit what appears to be a search key in the Function row, and you’ll bring up Microsoft’s voice assistant, which can respond to commands like “what’s the weather?”, “tell me a joke” and “sing a song”. (With all due respect to Cortana voice actress Jen Taylor, you might want to skip that last one.) Toshiba is not the only PC maker that’s chosen to add extra features related to Cortana, but the built-in hotkey is still pretty novel.
Other than that Cortana key, these new models are fairly unremarkable. Here’s a summary:
- The Satellite C series. Toshiba’s entry-level notebook comes in 15- and 17-inch sizes, with your choice of Intel or AMD processors. The design is dominated by what Toshiba calls “textured resin,” which is a fancy word for plastic. Specs include up to 8GB of RAM and up to a terabyte of storage (spinning hard drives only). There’s also a touchscreen option, if you’re willing to pay a bit more. Prices start at $395.
- The Satellite L series. This is Toshiba’s mainstream laptop, designed to hit a sweet spot between price and performance. Available in 15- and 17-inch sizes, it steps up to stronger AMD/Intel processors, along with options for faster 802.11ac, 16GB of RAM and a full HD display. For the money, you’ll also get a few extra amenities, including a backlit keyboard, Skullcandy audio, 4K HDMI output and a Sleep and Charge USB port. Prices start at $530 for the 15-inch version and $570 for the 17-incher.
- The Satellite S series. At this point, you can say goodbye to AMD processors; it’s Intel-only for the S series. Depending on how much money you’re willing to spend, you can get optional NVIDIA graphics, along with a Core i7 processor (dual- or quad-core), up to 16GB of RAM and either a 2TB hard drive or a dual HDD-plus-SSD setup. Though the S series starts with 1,600 x 900 resolution, it’s also offered in full HD and 4K. As you’d expect, you get all the same perks as on the L series, except this has a nicer aluminum design, and 802.11ac WiFi is standard. Prices start at $720 for the 15-inch model and $875 for the 17-inch.
- The Fusion series. Toshiba’s new “Fusion” series is kind of what it sounds like: a Yoga-like laptop with a 360-degree hinge that transforms into (excuse me: fuses into) tablet mode. This one’s offered with just a 15-inch screen (no 17-inch option), and the specs are higher-end than what we’ve seen on some of the other models. These include an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, up to 12GB of RAM and a choice between either an HDD or a solid-state drive. It also includes many of the same features mentioned earlier: a Sleep and Charge port, 4K HDMI output, Skullcandy audio and a backlit keyboard. Prices start at $650.
- The Radius series. In terms of the form factor, the Radius is very much like the Fusion. Why’s it called the Radius, then? Because it’s exclusive to Best Buy, whereas the Fusion will be sold in various other retail stores. Toshiba already had an 11-inch Radius laptop, and today it’s adding fresh 14- and 15-inch versions as well. Though they have the same form factor, it’s clear the 15-inch model is the more premium machine, with a 4K screen option and nicer-looking aluminum enclosure (the 14-inch mixes a plastic chassis with a metal palm rest). Also, the 15-inch version is Intel-only, whereas the 14-incher can be configured with Intel or AMD. Prices start at $585 for the Radius 14 and $843 for the Radius 15.
With the exception of the S series and the 17-inch Satellite L, all of these will be available June 21st and will initially ship with Windows 8.1. Like all Windows 8 machines, they’ll be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10 once the new OS comes out in July.
Filed under: Laptops
If you happen to be shopping in Japan sometime soon, don’t be surprised if the first offer of help comes from a machine. Toshiba has just installed Aiko Chihira, a humanoid greeter robot, at Tokyo’s Mitsukoshi department store. The kimono-clad automaton will guide you around the shop while it blinks and smiles — at once helpful and, as you can see above, a little creepy. It can’t respond to questions yet (don’t yell at it over a faulty product), but it’s capable of handling both spoken and signed languages. No, Aiko isn’t as interactive or relentlessly adorable as SoftBank’s Pepper, but it’ll be a big time-saver if it prevents you from getting lost in the aisles.
[Image credit: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi]
Filed under: Robots
Source: Toshiba (translated)
For a large group of people, Netflix has become the primary platform for watching TV shows and movies on a big screen TV. Digging into a menu and launching the app every day can be a pain though. The solution? TV remotes that offer a dedicated Netflix button, of course. They’ve been available in the US for years, but finally they’re coming to Europe too. For starters, Netflix is partnering with Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Philips and Vestel to offer the new remotes with several of their smart TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes. The company says the move is part of its larger mission to work more closely with hardware manufacturers and optimize its service for subscribers. If that leads to a reduction in the time spent between switching on the TV and watching Bloodline, count us in.
[Image Credit: AP Photo/Neflix Inc.]
Filed under: Home Entertainment
Today, Toshiba announced that it has begun commercial production of its new T4K82 CMOS image sensor for smartphones and tablets. The sensor packs in high-end features which could give a boost to next-generation products.
The T4K82 is a 13 megapixel BSI (back-illuminated) CMOS image sensor, which is a match for most modern high-end smartphones. However, the big talking point is that Toshiba’s new chip is capable of 240fps interlaced slow-motion video capture with a full 1080p resolution, which, on paper, is the highest frame rate available in the industry. It can also scale down its resolution to QVGA (320×240) for 900fps equivalent video capture.
To accomplish this, Toshiba makes use of its own “Bright Mode” technology to boost frame brightness by up to four times. This is achieved through “charge binning”, which adds the charges of two pixels and outputs the sum as one pixel with double brightness. Typically, high speed frame capture suffers from underexposure due to the shortness of time available to capture light. Toshiba provides an interlaced video output when using Bright Mode, effectively doubling the perceived frame rate of the video.
However, you won’t be able to view interlaced playback on a typical smartphone display. Instead, Toshiba provides its own interlacing-progressive conversion program to output high-speed capture to a progressive format. Depending on the quality of the conversion and how well charge binning works, the motion may or may not be quite as polished as a normal progressive capture could be at this frame rate and resolution. Even so, this technology should still offer additional smoothness and clarity over existing slow-motion implementations in the mobile space.
Slow motion video capture has become an increasingly popular feature in high-end smartphones. The new Galaxy S6, HTC One M9, Xperia Z3, and OnePlus One, among others, all support 120fps slow-motion video capture at resolutions of 720p. Toshiba’s sensor will double the equivalent frame rate and increase image clarity over current smartphones capable of slow-motion recordings.
While no products fitted with the T4K82 sensor have been announced yet, entering mass production means that we could well see 240fps, full HD video capable smartphones available later in the year.
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News on Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone has been picking up steam as of later, and we’re starting to see the first developmental modules for the device.
Today, we have pictures and information regarding Toshiba’s camera module for the device, which is still in development.
In these pictures,we can see a 2MP front shooter, as well as a 5MP and 13MP rear cameras. Development is set to be complete in 2016. Hit the break for more.
The modular device is expected to launch in Puerto Rico by the end of 2015, so we’ll be getting a ton of more information in the coming months about Project Ara.
Source: GSM Dome
Come comment on this article: Check out Toshiba’s first camera modules for the Project Ara smartphone