Adobe to Stop Updating and Distributing Flash Player in 2020

Today’s topics include Adobe phasing out Flash Player by 2020; Harvard researchers finding the Prezi app to be more effective than PowerPoint; Qualcomm fighting back against Apple, Intel and the CCIA; and Microsoft’s plans to outfit the HoloLens augmented reality headset with an artificial intelligence chip.

Adobe announced July 25 that it will end support for its ubiquitous Flash Player at the end of 2020, effectively pulling the plug on one of the foundational developmental tools of the internet.

Steve Jobs, who died in October 2011, was one of the first and most vocal opponents of Flash Player, contending that it never worked very well and was a continual open door to hackers, among other irritants. Ironically, Adobe and Apple grew up together in Silicon Valley and have been business partners and customers of each other's products for nearly three decades.

During the past 20 years, digital firms have used Flash content for everything from clickable ads, to games, to interactive learning and rich internet applications.

Microsoft’s PowerPoint has recorded more than 1 billion installations since it debuted in 1990 and is still going strong with about 90 percent of the market. However, despite the prevalence of PowerPoint in professional and educational presentations, surprisingly little is known about how effective such presentations are. All things being equal, are PowerPoint presentations better than purely oral presentations or those that use alternative software tools?

To address this question, researchers from Harvard's Department of Psychology re-created a real-world business scenario in which individuals presented to a corporate board. Participants playing the role of presenters were randomly assigned to create and deliver PowerPoint, Prezi or oral presentations.

Statistically, the Harvard researchers found Prezi significantly more organized, engaging, persuasive and effective than both PowerPoint and presentations with no visual aids.

Qualcomm’s legal battle with Apple over technology used in the iPhone continues to escalate, with more tech vendors jumping into the fray and the chip maker pushing back at the assertion that its efforts are targeted at rival Intel.

The company ramped up the issue earlier this month when it asked the International Trade Commission to ban imports of some Apple iPhones that officials said infringe on multiple Qualcomm patents that drive performance and battery life of the devices. That drew the ire of Intel as well as the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which filed comments with the ITC against Qualcomm’s proposed iPhone ban. Both Intel and the CCIA accused Qualcomm of anti-competitive behavior.

In its own filing with the ITC this week, Qualcomm fired back, claiming that the proposed iPhone import ban has nothing to do with quashing competition from Intel and everything to do with protecting its patents.

HoloLens, Microsoft's self-contained augmented reality headset, is set to receive an artificial intelligence upgrade. The Redmond, Wash., technology giant is working on an AI co-processor for the next HoloLens, the company revealed this week.

Currently, HoloLens packs a custom chip dubbed the Holographic Processing Unit, which enables the device to map out a user's environment and anchor virtual objects to those surroundings, among other tasks required to turn sensor data into convincing mixed-reality experiences.

The next HPU will feature an AI co-processor with deep neural network capabilities, announced Harry Shum, executive vice president of the Artificial Intelligence and Research Group at Microsoft, during this week's Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Hawaii.