The smartphone OS wars are not about functionality or design, they are about the business model. Consumers or tech blog reviewers don't get to chose which smartphone OS wins and looses.
Today, the carriers decide
The main reason Android dominates today is that carriers pay about $200 less per customer on an Android phone compared to an iPhone (about $400 vs $600). The other aspect of Android that carriers like is the customization of it to make more money on extra services. For example, Google provides the carrier with a share from app sales in the Google Marketplace. Carriers can pre-load the devices with apps for on-demand music and videos and other services. Apple does not give carriers any share of revenues from the App Store or iTunes.
The actual bill of materials and manufacturing cost of today's high end Android smartphone or iPhone is less than $150. Amazingly, the average US smartphone consumer pays above $2400 for his smartphone on contracts, for example, Verizon's Average Revenue Per User is $105/month. ARPU is lower in Europe, and much lower in developing countries. The carrier economic aspect of Android winning is only how things are today. Even as there is competition with very good high end Android smart phones provided to the market by Samsung, Motorola and HTC, consumers still pay about the same for these phones as they would with an iPhone.
When the carriers loose control
Things are going to change fast. Soon, the carriers will loose control of the smartphone market, and Android will dominate even more.
As 20 Android smart phone makers compete, there are to be $99 Android phones sold unlocked directly to consumers, such as the Chinese Huawei or ZTE Android phones, there will be alternatives to carriers voice services such as the new VOIP centric version of Google Voice which has become an integral part of Android in Gingerbread.
The next phase of Android means consumers will have choices such as the Archos 28 Internet Tablet at $99, no contracts needed, to do SIP/VOIP/Skype calls on WiFi-only, and depending on the region of the world, there are sub-$20/month even sub-$10/month data SIM cards that will be used to get Data-only experiences of Android. White Spaces could also provide for worldwide free wireless broadband for these devices if setup using the http://fon.com model.
While bloggers analyze smartphone differentiation, fueling a feature war on blogs among constantly improving Android super phone specs, in which new models are represented as destroyers of the ones released the previous week, the fact is brands that sell most don't do it on features, they do it by negotiating the strongest deals with the carriers. If you look at the US smartphone market, it really doesn't matter which high end Android phone consumers buy, they all cost basically the same $2400+ after those compulsory 2-years in contracts. The consumer only really gets a choice once devices are sold unlocked through all retailers. Then, prices for these devices will have a meaning and the best value for feature will clearly win. So if you thought it was fun with all these Android phones coming out through carriers this past year, you haven't seen nothing yet compared to what will happen once phones are sold unlocked directly to consumers.
The next billion sub-$100 Android smartphones
Android smartphones can thus soon be $100 unlocked instead of $2400+ on contract. We are talking about a 24x cheaper Android experiences for the consumer. At that point, the consumer gets to choose who wins the smartphone war. This is happenning. It doesn't matter what Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Nokia and others do. When there are $100 Android phones in every super market, competitors don't get to keep a market share if they don't also provide the devices unlocked for $100 with no contracts needed. You think Apple is looking forward to loosing their 300% profit margins on the iPhone?
What carriers will do to try to keep control
The only ways carriers will try to retain control on their trillion dollar industry will be to block VOIP on cheap wireless data plans, buy out and close down any pre-paid carrier competitors that are offering services that are too cheap on any given market, campaign against unlicensed use of the 700Mhz spectrum for White Spaces, block the licensing of 3G/4G modem technologies in cheap unlocked devices, do anything they can to limit competition in the wireless carrier business. Hopefully all these attempts at keeping control will be defeated by strict regulation and government policies.
The smartphone industry is moving too fast for any Government to regulate it, much too fast even for carriers to adjust and protect themselves against the auto-disruption that is inevitable. Everyone is racing and trying to keep the flow of money going their way for as long as possible.
[I originally wrote this on 16th December 2010 to be published on another blog, but since it wouldn't get published there as is, I decided to post it here, your turn to say what you think in the comments.]
The idea as suggested in this computerworld column, is that the next generation smart phones are to replace all passwords, credit cards, car keys and other identification and authentication functions.
The potential problem I see with Nexus S and the rumored iPhone5's NFC implementation would be if they leave out ARM's TrustZone security system. If those NFC chips are nothing much more than some types of RFID tags for near field authentication, that wouldn't be enough. We need devices with 100% secure modes that are built in the hardware and that are not improvised in software.
As you can see in the video below, as far as I understand it, TrustZone uses a hardware mechanism in the phone's hardware to provide for 100% security in authentication, which could be used not only for secure payments, but for authentication with any kinds of online banking and any passwords for any type of website.
The idea is that you need to be able to put your phone in a 100% secure mode from which the authentication happens in some 100% secure way. The secure mode is a parallel OS mode on the phone, which cannot be hacked nor cannot display spoofed authentication screens.
Here's a usage scenario. You click on any website with a login, be it gmail or any other website, instead of typing in your password on the screen, which could have keyloggers and trojan horses, a login prompt automatically displays on your phone with a light indicator elsewhere than on the screen of your phone lights up letting you know you are in 100% secure mode, the secure mode asks you to authenticate for a given authenticated domain login, you type in your 4-number pin code on your phone in the secure mode, that's it, your phone authenticates your browser logon, no matter what site it is. Basically, your phone becomes as secure as those calculator types authentication systems that online banks use. Those are basically unhackable, because encryption can be so strong, it would take billions of years for all the computers in the world to find the key to powerful encryption. The only way for someone to access your online accounts would be for them to steal your phone and to know your pin code.
I'd like to know, does Nexus S or any upcoming "NFC" type implementations include something like the ARM TrustZone to provide for true secure online authentication or do we need to wait for yet another generation of devices before we have true meaningful online security?
- iPhone 5 and iPad 2 NFC confirmed tip engineers; free NFC payment terminal considered (slashgear.com)
- Apple Aims To Take NFC Mainstream; Perhaps The Greatest Trick They've Ever Pulled? (techcrunch.com)
- Apple job posts point to built-in NFC capabilities for iPad / iPhone (engadget.com)
- Nexus S NFC Writing Capabilities Included, But Hidden (pocketnow.com)
- Stanford researchers demo social NFC applications on the Nexus S (engadget.com)
There are some talks about Nokia CEO giving clues about Nokia announcing the support of another OS soon. I think it definitely has to be Android support.
Nokia is the biggest phone maker in the world, they make about half a billion phones each year, it's insane. The thing is, Nokia makes phones that sell at an average below $20 each, most are being sold in developing countries actually. And even though Nokia makes about 15 times more phones than Apple, they make less than 15 times the profit that Apple does.
Nokia could make the industrys best sub-$100 Android phones, at that price with no subsidy or subscription contracts required. That would completely disrupt the whole iPhone and high-end Android and WP7 market in one swoop. That would focus the market in the area where Nokia is best, at making small margins and large volume.
Nokia could design their own Nokia Android Marketplace if they want, I don't think they should, instead they have to demand custom standard Google Marketplace, as Google does share in App sales profits with the manufacturer.
Nokia could do all kinds of custom Android UI customizations, as Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, HTC, Samsung, Acer, Lenovo and others have done. I don't think they should. They should give up on the urge to differentiate in UI designs and instead concentrate on differentiation in hardware design and smooth support for software features through the hardware design, that is the true purpose of a smartphone manufacturer. Give consumers vanilla Android and let consumers install alternative home replacements if they so wish to. Eventually, design a Nokia home replacement if you absolutely want, have it installed by default but absolutely allow for a full change to vanilla Android home UI in an official, not hidden, one click process.
If Nokia has "better ideas" in terms of things such as integrating Qt development framework with Android, suggest more Native Applications Support (such as faster improvements to the Android NDK) or in terms of pushing Android towards more openness in the development process, then "simply" join Google's Open Handset Alliance and put your full influence on improving the platform for everyone. Be nice.
I am sure Nokia has had a hundred engineers preparing their Android phones for more than a year now, it had probably been some secret projects in their R&D labs that they have been preparing just in case they later find out they need to go the Android route. A big company like Nokia can not afford not to look into Android as the open source releases are released for all to experiment with for free, Nokia could not afford not to prepare some designs just in case, and this is the case for it now.
I think the industry should prepare for the idea that Nokia might make excellent Android phone series to be sold unlocked below $100, below $200, and even some high-end at those below $400 price points. But I think Nokia could aim at the below $200 to feel as good as other companies high-end devices. That is, of course, only, if Nokia is not too much in bed with carriers in a way to prevent themselves from planning to take significant smartphone markeshare overnight by being the mega-disruptor of the Smartphone market, instead of doing like most others do which is to focus on maximizing margins and conspiring with the carriers to trick most consumers into 2-year contracts that are so lame.
What do you think Nokia wants to do and what are they able to do? Post your opinions in the comments.
Larry Page is the new CEO, here's what I think Google should do.
1. Make White Spaces happen. Things are moving far too slowly. I want to see White Spaces deployed to provide free wireless broadband to the whole world as an alternative to the proprietary 3G/4G/LTE networks. It should be deployed using the FON.com model, Google can invest meager $50 million or whatever is necessary to mass produce the first 1 million routers to activate White Spaces sharing all over the world. The idea should be this, users get these routers that may initially cost $50 to manufacture because the White Spaces chipset is new, but could eventually cost below $20 per router. They install it in their homes, connected to whatever ADSL, Cable, Fiber that people already have in the home. This router creates a White Spaces hotspot that reaches much further than within their home, to cover their whole neighborhood with bandwidth. The router is clever in that it can dynamically throttle bandwidth, if you are at home and you need to use your own bandwidth your bandwidth is 100% prioritized for you to use, thus it does not feel at all like you are sharing your bandwidth, that bandwidth sharing is only of the bandwidth which you don't need yourself. The whole global network uses OpenID and such with increased level of verification of every users real ID, to authenticate each user on that network, so this is not used as an untraceable anonymous global Internet access, but where any illegal activity could be traced back by local authorities if needed (obviously, proxies and encryption can always be used if someone really wants to be anonymous).
Listen to Larry Page talk about White Spaces, this is more than 2 years ago. What has happened since?
2. Open Google Marketplace to all devices. If there is one point where I think Google might be evil, it's in their policies to hamper innovation with Android. It's been about a year and a half that Archos has put Android tablets on the market, still they are not allowed by Google to install the full Google Marketplace on the device. Google needs to stop now. Open several versions of the Google Marketplace if they want, for different types of devices. Or basically just add a settings menu in Google Marketplace that allows apps to be filtered and highlighted differently in terms of how they have been tested (mostly by users themselves) to work better or worse on every different type of device. Allow in those settings for the user or device to present itself automatically for example "without 3G", "without compass", "without back camera", "without android buttons", "at this specific screen resolution", then filter apps from there, but never block access to all apps on all devices, if some apps don't work correctly on certain class of devices, so be it. I believe 99% of the 200'000 apps in the Google Marketplace work 100% just fine on about 100% of the cheapest Android tablets on the market.
I understand that Honeycomb should be opening up Marketplace for more devices. For tablets it's kind of a certain. But still, will Google allow even the cheapest ARM9 Tablets full access to Honeycomb OS and Marketplace? Honeycomb for Laptops is a possibility. Honeycomb for e-ink e-readers, maybe.
In any case, it's kind of sad that it took Google more than 2 years to open up Google Marketplace for more devices. This has let Apple all alone in the market of iPad and iPod Touch.
3. Campaign for Net Neutrality on wireless networks for VOIP access. There has been a lot of rage on the blogosphere about Google's partnership with Verizon in the USA leading up to a Net Neutrality proposal that exempted wireless networks.
It is understandable that bandwidth on wireless networks such as 3G, 4G and LTE have to be managed because it only takes a few users to download some BitTorrents at full speed on one base station for a whole area of up to 1km in diameter where users might experience dropped calls and the like. As far as I understand, even for LTE, bandwidth is limited, although it could be argued that carriers should then just build more base stations closer to users, if they do spend significant money to expand their networks or not, it's understandable that wireless networks need to be throttled somehow.
But, that should absolutely not allow carriers to block voice-over-IP usage. That is pure evil. Wireless bandwidth shall be used HOWEVER the user wants to use it. If carriers don't like the idea of becoming dumb pipes of data, that is their problem. They should have considered that possibility when they decided to become carriers.
Carriers have made enough trillions of dollars of profit already, not for them to justify that they should be allowed to continue to gouge the consumer of thousands of dollars per year in completely data bandwidth prices. When you consider the price of 1MB of SMS messages sent costs about $10'000 to the consumer. We are in the year 2011, 1MB of wireless data SHALL NOT cost $10'000 to the consumer.
4. Destroy Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Foursquare and other over-hyped social networks and location based services. This is a call from a user who gets tired of these boring, unoptimized, wastefull, meaningless excuses for social networking and location based services. What a waste of time! Google has to fix this now!
Twitter only benefits famous people. That's why they keep talking about it. For 99% of users, twitter is absolutely useless, for anything else than to follow whichever famous person you like following, in lists of garbled, meaningless, unoptimized, spammy, messy 140-character messages. Make it stop, please.
Facebook is the newer type of Myspace that is a trend in high schools globally. It's for not much more than grouping school kids together and have them waste time on farmville, a tool for massive stalking of a bunch of people you never spoke to for 10 years or more. Make it stop, please.
Social networking will be extremely useful eventually. Location based services will revolutionize everything that we do. Just not in those forms. Google needs to make a social network with location services in a way that absolutely makes sense. Make it so people get to do constructive things in the world, people move more, do more things, people get to be more productive, meet more people. End the global era of wasted opportunities, wasted efforts, mutual disdain, rejection and loneliness that can be felt by everyone.
Social networking that makes sense changes organizations, it changes companies, it changes communities, it changes countries. It auto-regulates humans use of global resources and actually makes democracy work.
Yeah those may be high hopes for Google's social network, but who else than a company of the worlds top 24 thousand Phd software engineers can we rely upon to make this work?
5. Merge Android, Chrome OS and Google TV into one ARM Powered software platform. Google needs to focus on bringing the full Chrome browser on top of Android, provide it with full Google TV features, make it all boot on one ultra optimized ARM Powered software OS image. Read my previous post "Recipe for the ultimate ARM Powered device" for more on how this all-in-one software should work.
6. Bring Internet access to the next billion people faster. It's all good how Android is taking over the smartphone market. It eventually does bring cheaper Android devices mostly made by Chinese vendors themselves. Still it is not going fast enough. Google should make it a priority that a $50 Unlocked Android Phones shall become available globally. Google should invest billions of dollars in One Laptop Per Child, have it run open source software that is supported by millions of people. Reaching the $75 Tablet should be a priority. Invest billions of dollars in Pixel Qi to mass produce their screens as fast as possible, make sure all devices can last 10 times longer on a battery as soon as possible.
The thing is western countries have a lot of electrical power so they don't care enough about not having to recharge a 2300mAh battery every night. Consumers in wester countries don't care enough about the price of the smartphone as most are still buying smartphones subsidized by a carrier who charges upwards $3000 in 2-year contracts that for example most Americans feel are natural thing to sign up for when getting a smartphone.
Getting mobile computing to the next billion people within 2-3 years should be a priority for Google, and if that risks to disrupt the actual business models of the carriers in developed countries by the availability of $50 unlocked Super Phones, $75 Tablet/E-readers and $100 Laptops in every super market, so be it.
7. Monetize independent web video production and make VOD the worldwide standard through YouTube and Google TV. YouTube has already become the worlds largest bandwidth infrastructure, streaming out more than 2 billion video streams per day, hosting and encoding all the worlds video, it's impressive. Yet, Google now has the opportunity to reach much further and completely monetize YouTube. The YouTube Partnership system is a drop in the bucket compared to what they should do. I'm not allowed to become a YouTube Partner even though I have over 12 million video views (including what I put on other channels and what I had put on Google Video), the reason being Google only allowes residents of G20 countries access to even apply to become a YouTube Partner.
Of those that are conservatively monetizing YouTube video views with overlay advertising, they could do so much more. Why not provide a one-click donation button under every video, on every channel page to allow viewers to sponsor the future productions of their favorite content creators? Why not embed price comparison links with commission payments on one-click sales under every video that talks about a product that can be bought by interested viewers? Why doesn't Google provide a global subscription plan à la Hulu, but where it gives access to much more than just established Hollywood/TV contents, but where it also monetizes ads-free or higher definition viewing of all independent content? Why doesn't YouTube offer pay-per-view solutions worldwide, for example, let viewers choose to pay very small amount of money to get a direct link to download any of the videos as an uncompressed video file or on-demand encoded to chosen codec and bitrate/resolutions?
YouTube needs to become much more than the worlds biggest bandwidth infrastructure project. YouTube has to become Google's biggest source of revenues and profits. It needs to become a tool that changes media and ultimately that improves democracy.
What do you think Google should do now that they have a new CEO? Post in the comments.
Android + Chrome OS + Google TV = All-in-one ultimate gadget.
The Motorola Atrix 4G gives us a taste of what's coming. You get one pocketable product, that is, up to 5" for normal pocket (passport sized), and up to 7" for jacket pocket (you'll see, almost every jacket comes with such a pocket), for this summer I think up to 5" is the more likely size but for next Christmas sales the 7" size may win, that device runs full speed Android no slow downs, and when docked to Desktop/HDTV Dock it outputs either Chrome OS for productivity or Google TV for entertainment depending on which mode the user wants to use, and also have this solution power the laptop dock.
- The ARM Powered brains, basically modular Android Tablet should not cost more than $200 at retail this year. Might add $50 for built-in 3G/4G modem. White Space support this year would be good if built in the FON.com model. If someone could miniaturize a reliable swappable and optional 3G/4G/White Space modem module that could be slided into the back of the device, including easily accessible SIM card reader in there, that could be nice. This way the same product is sold worldwide and the unlocked cellular modem would be an optional accessory that could be purchased for $50 separately.
- Desktop/HDTV Dock should be no more than $50. It's just a bunch of connectors. Full Google TV support could also include HDMI input and IR Blaster in that Dock, as well as the multimedia RF remote. Ports should include at least 3x USB host, 1x HDMI, 1x mini jack input, 1x mini-jack output, 1x optical audio output.
- Laptop Dock should be no more than $100, include super good quality 10.1" Pixel Qi screen, capacitive touch, so this also turns this into a 10.1" Tablet.
Fast enough ARM Processors to do it all-in-one.
The ARM Cortex-A9 powering this device should have fast enough memory bandwidth, fast enough I/O, built in a way that it is fully fast enough to run dozens of tabs at the same time in Chrome OS mode, the overlaying features of Google TV mode should have to support full dual-view with overlays when using HDMI pass-through and support all codecs at fully highest bitrates and highest profiles 1080p 60 frames per second.
This may mean that the current Tegra2 in Motorola Atrix 4G may not be fast enough, but that this ultimate product may need to use the upcoming Texas Instruments OMAP4430 (as in Blackberry Playbook), Qualcomm Dual-Core MSM8660 Snapdragon (as in Asus Memo), Samsung Orion (as potentially in Samsung Galaxy S2/Tab2) and let's see/analyse performance and availability of the upcoming Freescale i.MX6, Marvell Tricore, Nvidia Tegra3. Someone knows how Amlogic's ARM Cortex-A9, Nufront's ARM Cortex-A9 and others may perform comparatively? I'm looking forward to post or find web browsing, video playback, battery runtime and pricing benchmarks testings to be done comparing the performance of all these next generation ARM Processor platforms.
Waiting for Google's software
The main problem for a platform maker at this point, is that Google has not yet released Honeycomb source code, not yet released Chrome OS for ARM, not yet released Google TV for ARM, thus a gadget maker not having real-time access to Google's software R&D offices, would have to anticipate this evolution and prepare an all-in-one tablet/smartphone solution that would be compatible with integration of these multi-booting software convergence solutions once Google releases them within the next few months. I don't know for sure how such Atrix 4G like solution would have to work, if each of the Android, Chrome OS and Google TV have to boot all at the same time offering instant swapping between one or the other OS in the user interfaces, or if all 3 of these OS have to be merged somehow first for this to work in an optimal way. Please post in the comments if you know how Motorola does it on Atrix 4G and how this using Android+Chrome+GTV has to work.
My favorite size would be the tablet using the 7" Pixel Qi screen, allowing for smaller battery thus 200grams super light weight and thin form factor, the laptop dock should somehow allow for the tablet to be docked on the side of the 10.1", 11.6" or larger screen, thus actually extending the screen surface, you can thus touch the tablet part and work on the laptop screen. Basically the Laptop Dock could be like shown by Motorola where the pocketable tablet is either behind the laptop screen, but should be with a swivel to be positionned upright next to the laptop screen. Thus this device combines Tablet, E-reader, Mobile Phone, Laptop and Set-top-box functionality all into one.
Non-free, non-open-source alternatives to Android+Chrome+GTV? Fine.
- Someone in the industry thinks they can do it better than Android? Fine. They can try to put RIM's Playbook OS, HP's WebOS, Apple's iOS, Microsoft's WP7 or Nokia's Meego on there if they think that is better or they feel they need to differentiate.
- Someone in the industry thinks another browser than Chrome is better? Fine. Like Motorola does Atrix 4G for now with Mozilla Firefox, Opera might have another browser solution, there's Webkit, IE. All that matters is we get a full speed full resolution ARM Powered web browsing experience with flash and support for all HTML5 web standards including offline web apps, the Native Code and WebGL stuff coming out.
- Someone in the industry think they can do better than Google TV on ARM? Fine. They can load another media player UI on there if they want. Just make sure the user can sit back on a sofa, use a full sized RF keyboard on the USB host, and get near-instant access to all the IPTV, all the VOD, all BitTorrent/RSS downloads, with full codecs support up to 1080p60fps full bitrates, with full NTFS/ETX3 usb hard drive support, full Samba/Upnp/Dlna support, full YouTube 1080p leanback playback and more. Easy plugins for Netflix/Hulu and more is obvious as well. All the while, still sitting in the sofa with that keyboard or fancy lean back mouse pointer, and have a full overlay web experience on top of the video as well, launching overlay apps for chatting, finding other videos, looking up informations, tweeting, video-conferencing and all other features that could be imagined to be done in the living room HDTV.
Who invented this ARM Powered ultimate convergence device?
By the way, this taste of ultimate convergence is not a Motorola invention, although they may be the first to show a sleek ARM Cortex-A9 integration, Archos has been crazy about docks for many years and I'm one of the original Archos Fans (see my other site http://forum.archosfans.com). Archos made the first color screen PMP JBMM20 with Camera/DVR Docks and video outputs 9 years ago, the first embedded Linux Tablet PMA400 (then running Qtopia Linux) 5 years ago, the first Android Tablet Archos 5 Internet Tablet with HDMI 720p Android Dock over a year ago. And Archos has always booted their multimedia OS in parallel with the embedded Linux and more recently Android stuff, both in parallel, thus providing the best of both OS in one same device. But now I believe ARM Cortex-A9 provides enough performance and Google's software is maturing fast enough so I think Archos and the rest of the industry is able to work towards this dream of an all-in-one device.
Between January 3rd and 11th, I am going to video-blog from CES 2011, make sure to often refresh my RSS feed and/or subscribe to my YouTube channel, (at last year's CES I published 75 videos), I'll try to feature the coolest ARM Powered devices that I can find at the show.
Have you got any scoop or ideas for what I should video-blog at CES? What questions would you like me to ask the representatives of which specific companies? If you read on any other blogs about any interesting products showing at this CES, please post your suggestions for what I should film here in the comments of this post. You can also send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can even sms/call me or leave a voicemail between January 3rd and 11th at my US phone number +1 (702) 238 8630 (only active when I am in the USA).
Here are some of the things I am expecting or hoping to video-blog at CES:
- Lots of Froyo, Gingerbread and Honeycomb stuff. Android in everything!
- Several dual-core tablets are rumored. Nvidia's Tegra2 is rumored could be one of the stars of the show, rumored to be the "reference design" for Honeycomb. Sounds great, but I am also looking forward to all the other upcoming Dual-Core ARM Processor platforms and I am wondering if products featuring these will be shown at this CES already.
- How soon are the Dual-Core smart phones and tablets being released and at what prices? Will LG, Samsung, Motorola or other present phones at CES to beat Nexus S already?
- ARM Powered Chrome OS Laptops and Google TV Set-top-boxes, I will be looking for the first clues of these products.
- Tablets, more tablets? Any new design features to allow tablets to be used more for productivity? Are some Honeycomb designs like Archos without the hardware Android buttons? Designs with foldable/swivel keyboards?
- Pixel Qi 7", 10.1", big OEM announcements? Hopefully these LCD screens will be ready for Kindle-LCD, ipad2, samsung galaxy tab2 and more hopefully mass manufactured and everywhere within the next 3 months.
- Texas Instruments next generation nHD pico projector in all kinds of phones, tablets and other devices at CES? Or not to be shown before February at Mobil World Congress? I'd like to see this type of pico projector be used together with sensors to detect when touching in user interfaces projected for example on a table (see my video of a table-pico-projector prototype UI demonstrated at CeBIT 2007), this could turn any ARM Powered device, even pocketable, into a large screen computing device.
- New ARM Powered platforms for cheaper and better smart phones, tablets and laptops? Rockchip may show ARM Cortex-A8 RK29xx, Broadcom may show BCM2157 for sub-$75 Android phones, is it time for VIA and Telechips to show new faster or/and cheaper solutions for new cooler low-cost Tablets, Laptops and Set-top-boxes?
- Are the new ARM Processors capable of full 1080p at up to 60fps with full high profile and full high bitrates of every codecs?
- Nintendo 3DS is coming in February/March, any other manufacturers to mass manufacture products to use that parallax barrier 3D screen from Sharp that doesn't require 3D glasses?
- Are ARM Powered NAS boxes and Pogoplugs/Sheevaplugs going to be powerful enough to download and seed BitTorrents at full speed, allow for full speed gigabit LAN file sharing even on the cheaper solutions?
- How much is going to be LTE, how soon and are anyone showing anything to do with White Spaces yet? How soon could that be deployed and at which cost and with what range and authentication features?
- I'd like to see Sanyo release a HD3000 with WiFi/Bluetooth and optics and sensors closer to that of a DSLR. Or it will be interesting to see more DSLR type optics and sensors in more video camcorders and see how affordable those setups can become. It seems Sony, Panasonic and all other major camera makers are going in that direction for the next generation of best HD camcorders.
Please post your expecations/hopes in the comments or send me an email!
Buy a Gingerbread Nexus S now or wait for Dual-Core Android? That is the question early adopters have.
Nearly a year ago, Nvidia unveiled its awesome Tegra 2 platform at CES, I was there and I filmed it (2), (3). It took a while for Nvidia and its manufacturing partners to start bringing actual products with Nvidia's Tegra 2 ARM Cortex-A9 processor onto the market. Possible delays may have been due to manufacturing problems or a wait for stabilized software, new versions of Android and Flash to support this new type of Dual-Core processor.
Other Dual-Core processors are about to reach products in the market as well:
- Texas Instruments OMAP4430 1Ghz ARM Cortex-A9 based products will be introduced in products to the market soon.
- Qualcomm MSM8660 or faster Dual-Core Snapdragon platform may be imminent.
- Marvell Armada 628 Tri-Core platform available in products soon offers upwards 200 million triangles per second.
- Samsung Orion with Mali-400 was unveiled last month (2), will probably show in products within months. Although some rumors also say Samsung may be using the Tegra 2 platform for some products to be shown even earlier.
- ST-Ericsson is working with Nokia to release some Dual-Core Meego devices probably soon.
- Nufront are releasing their Nufront ARM Cortex-A9 for Laptops and Desktops.
Google may focus on Tegra 2 for Honeycomb as some rumors are saying, just as Google prioritized their "Reference designs" like this:
Eclair + Froyo: Snapdragon (Nexus One)
Gingerbread: Hummingbird (Nexus S)
Honeycomb: Tegra 2 (Motorola's upcoming Tablet)
A "reference design" to Google basically means the actual development hardware Google engineers work on to get their new software released. Though I expect Google and the Open Handset Alliance to bring-up Gingerbread and Honeycomb about as fast on all other Single-Core and Dual-Core platforms as well, just as Froyo got ready on all the other platforms relatively fast.
Dual-Core ARM Processors are probably also what we need for Chrome OS and Ubuntu powered Laptops and Google TV Powered set-top-boxes.
There are rumors that Microsoft will be showcasing some kind of Windows for ARM at CES January 6-9th, but also, it's rumored that actual release may be "an early demo" because of the need for "ARM Drivers"?
What kind of drivers can possibly be needed to be ported for Windows or the like to work on ARM Powered systems?
Webcams? Those are in the SoC anyways aren't they? Printers? Cloud printing solutions such as the one from Google or Apple's AirPrint should solve that shouldn't it?
Since all the main features of an ARM Powered laptop or desktop design are in the SoC, I have a hard time trying to imagine what kind of delay Microsoft would want to argue needs to be brought by hardware makers for their ARM Powered Windows OS to be ready for the market.
More likely Microsoft is working on an ARM compatible applications platform for Windows.
I think that the more likely situation is that Microsoft does not want to make its long time partner Intel think that Microsoft is doing anything to precipitate things away from x86 onto ARM platforms. I believe that Microsoft's main goal is to prepare a Windows for ARM just in case the upcoming ARM Powered laptops and desktops become a huge trend and thus Microsoft would rather not leave that market segment exclusively to embedded Linux OSes like Chrome OS for ARM, Ubuntu for ARM and other optimized Linux OS.
Also likely Microsoft wants to have a strong ARM Powered Tablet oriented Windows OS. Thus the UI for Tablet use could be similar to Windows Phone 7.
Logically, to be competitive, the licencing price of Windows 8 for ARM should be at most half the price of same licencing on Intel.
- Microsoft ARMs Windows for iPad assault (allegedly) (go.theregister.com)
- Report: Microsoft bringing Windows to ARM chips (news.cnet.com)
- Rumor: Microsoft to talk about an ARM version of Windows at CES [Hard to believe] (intomobile.com)
- Microsoft Windows for ARM devices set for CES 2011 (techradar.com)
- Microsoft plans Windows tied to ARM chips: reports (marketwatch.com)
- Microsoft to Announce an ARM Processor Compatible Version of Windows OS (slashgear.com)
- Microsoft to announce ARM-based Windows at CES? (engadget.com)
- Microsoft Plans to talk Windows on ARM at CES, but Products a Ways Off [Mobilized] (mobilized.allthingsd.com)
The New York Times reports Toshiba, LG, Sharp, Samsung and Vizio have Google TV projects going, that they may have been all planning to unveil those at CES but that Google may have asked them to delay their unveiling until next software update including full Google Marketplace support is ready. Samsung may still show a couple Google TV devices at CES, Toshiba has confirmed they won't, Vizio might show some Google TV stuff but only privately and maybe not to be blogged about.
So Google faces challenges in getting American TV networks to agree to allow them to stream TV shows from the web on the Google TV platform. I have estimated that if Google and Adobe wanted, if the negociations with US TV networks wouldn't lead to a solution, that they could unleash a software update to present both the browser and the flash plugin as "User Agent: Generic" making detection by US TV networks impossible and thus forcing them to either remove online TV streaming completely or just regard Google TV as same user terminal as any "normal" laptop or desktop computer.
So let's assume Google TV will have only a limited showing at CES, perhaps Google is trying to coordinate a giant unveiling of second phase of Google TV at CeBIT in March, by that time, more of the major manufacturers could present boxes, Google would present not only Google Marketplace and smoother software integration, they could launch world wide Google TV support (not limited to US anymore), they could also, as suggested by Tudor Brown ARM President last month, present cheaper ARM Powered Google TV devices such as the concept of a $99 ARM Powered Google TV box.
The $99 ARM Powered Google TV set-top-box is an important target, as that makes it affordable enough that everyone will buy one, providing full performance for 1080p YouTube streaming and the HDMI pass-through and IR blaster features, it would provide for the perfect platform to revolutionize TV.
Chrome OS greatest achievement will be the disruption of the whole Windows/Intel/Apple business models of artificially increasing prices of Laptops year after year, as those old silicon valley giants are always frightened to see their multi-hundred billion dollar industry disappear.
What the One Laptop Per Child successfully initiated after 2006, forcing Intel to introduce the Netbook market segment, thus lowering the average price per laptop consumers would purchase by $100-200 overnight, Google is attempting to do even more aggressively with Chrome OS.
These past 2 years, I reviewed several ARM Powered $99 Laptops already, from such Chinese as Hivision, MenQ, Firstview or Indian AllGo Systems, powered by VIA's Wondermedia or other of the affordable ARM9 or ARM11 platforms that are available to these manufacturers for affordable implementation at that time. Sure enough, ARM Cortex A8 and A9, more RAM, faster SoCs are more appropriate for full laptop performance. Every 18 months chips are twice as fast or twice cheaper. How much more do you think that a new ARM Cortex-A9 SoC platform with a larger higher resolution LCD screen costs today compared to an ARM9 from 2 years ago? $30 more? The same? These cheap ARM Powered laptops are interesting because they are early products that have been giving us a taste of the ARM Powered laptops that are coming.
Sure the Cr-48 that Google are beta testing is Intel powered. That is just a question of beta testing of software. ARM Powered Chrome OS probably needs ARM Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 processors to be optimized for large screen laptop computing. The Chrome Browser requires a lot of RAM to be fast. All the I/O and memories on the SoC need to be accelerated to the point the Chrome web browser in a laptop form factor feels 100% as fast on ARM as on Intel.
It may be that the current generation ARM Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 are more suitable for Tablets and Smart Phones than for Laptops and Desktops. More likely, it is that Google has enough to beta test on Intel that they cannot advertise simultaneous beta testing on ARM at this moment as well.
In any ways, it might still be months before mass market Chrome OS laptops are sold to consumers. So clearly the Cr-48 being Intel doesn't have to be an indication of ARM being "not ready" but instead might be simply a question of Google focusing their beta testing program on Intel for now. ARM and Intel based Chrome OS may still actually be released simultaneously to consumers next year.
Also consider the fact Intel CEO Paul Otelinni is also on the board of directors of Google, mysteriously. And that pressure from Intel on Google might convince Google to do such things as Chrome OS and Google TV with Intel first, all the while Google knows that ARM is the best platform eventually for both projects. Although Google TV is released to consumers, it's still limited in size to one similar to beta testing, it's like when Google releases a Nexus phone, they don't do it to sell many Nexus phones, they do it to push their software platform forward, which always turns out that the industry combined sells more Google based devices than all other.
This is what I think Google plans to achieve with lower hardware pricing:
- $99 Google TV -> turns YouTube into larger share of people's daily 5-hour TV watching, 10x increase in YouTube bandwidth when succeeded, changes outcome of elections brings more visionary high-tech favorable politicians to power
- $99 Chrome OS laptops -> realizes cloud computing dream, more ads served per user, enterprise all adopt Chrome OS for speed, security and price, brings in ecosystem for pay-per-web-app.
- $99 Pixel Qi Tablet/E-readers -> platform for Google e-books, full web experience on-the-go, more reading, outdoor use, more personal connection to the web
- $99 Gingerbread Smart Phones -> Google Voice true VOIP replaces telcos, eventually White Spaces is brought in to provide free wireless broadband. Google pushes Local services, location-based advertising brings in next hundred billion in revenues.
It only makes sense Google's platforms will have the absolute largest market share in all these market segments. In all these segments, Google never plans to make profit on hardware, the hardware business is outsourced to manufacturers and brands, Google just plans for their platforms to dominate.
Price of Chrome OS laptops is the true revolution here.
As Google isn't yet announcing the price, it may be hard for analysts to grasp the potential here.
How can a Google Chrome OS notebook be sold at $99?
1. ARM Powered laptops cost half the price to manufacture compared to Intel, even the Intel one can be sold $199, deduct at least Windows licence and Hard drive costs compared to a "regular" netbook, that's 5-10 times cheaper than the Macbook air.
2. Removing hard drive, simplifying motherboard lowers cost.
3. Google makes money later on ads. Seriously, do a calculation how much advertising money Google makes on each of their users, divide their yearly reported revenues by the number of users, Chrome OS users will see even more Google ads than other.
4. Google and Telecoms make money later on selling on-demand 3G/4G wireless data. Even as this should be sold without compulsory subscription plan, the pricing and ease of use should be so tempting, a large share of users will potentially spend hundreds of dollars for on-demand wireless data service. This should be built-in, perhaps not even a SIM card slot, allows Google to also negociate 3G/4G bandwidth deals in all countries worldwide. If prices change in other countries, simply click boom to accept and you've got on-demand wireless bandwidth.
5. Google and Developers will make money later on selling apps. Eventually monetization of web apps will be more than just ads. Even enterprise stuff like Google Apps, Citrix stuff and other Virtualization of Windows/Mac x86 apps, those kinds of services could generate up to thousands of dollars per user in the enterprise.
Critics of Google's Chrome OS based cloud computing need to understand a few things about where it is and where it's going:
- HTML5 apps can work offline and don't have to be slower because of connectivity. Including Google Docs and potential cloud assisted video and photo editing, all can work offline.
- Native code and powerful 3D will be part of it. This means basicaly all apps you can imagine that are on Windows and Mac can also work here. I expect new cloud based versions of http://youtube.com/editor means even video editing professionals will rather want to use this type of cloud based apps for instant encoding and rendering using the power of thousands of grid processing servers on the cloud.
- WebGL and other advances in web browser technology increases potential complexity of web apps.
- A 32GB SD card costs less than $49, a 500GB 2.5" external USB hard drive costs $49, both work in Chrome OS, I even envision a Chrome OS laptop design with available slot to insert a 2.5" hard drive and have it only powered when accessed.
- You can backup and sync your cloud easily on a $49 ARM Powered NAS such as a pogoplug in your home, connect any $99 3.5" 2TB hard drive to that.
- Citrix has demonstrated, any x86 app you want can be virtualized in Chrome OS to actually run faster thanks to cloud grid app hosting than any local PC.