Category: Google

Archos CEO keynote video presenting its Generation 8 series of Android Tablets in Beijing China

Posted by – September 23, 2010

I’ve said it before, I am an Archos fanboy, and I am really looking forward to their 5 new tablets coming out on the worldwide market during these next few weeks. I briefly filmed those tablets at IFA, see my videos of the 101, 70, 28, 32 and 43 tablets. Here is the full keynote video of Archos CEO Henri Crohas, showing the Gen8 Archos Android Tablets a couple of weeks ago in Beijing China:

$299 ARM Cortex A8 45nm 1ghz omap3630 10.1″ WSVGA capacitive Android 2.2 tablet 8GB. $349 for 16GB version
$275 ARM Cortex A8 45nm 1ghz omap3630 7″ WVGA capacitive Android 2.2 tablet 16GB, $349 for 250GB version
$199 ARM Cortex A8 45nm 1ghz omap3630 4.3″ FWVGA resistive Android 2.2 tablet 16GB
$149 ARM Cortex A8 45nm 800mhz omap3630 3.2″ WQVGA resistive Android 2.2 tablet 8GB
$99 ARM Cortex A8 45nm 800mhz omap3630 2.8″ QVGA resistive Android 2.2 tablet 4GB, $119 for 8GB version

I think those new Archos Android tablets are very good value for money. Google Marketplace can very likely be installed on all of them as the previous Archos 5 Internet Tablet with Android which was released October 2009, got the Google Marketplace on it through a solution released since November 2009 in the http://forum.archosfans.com

No matter what Google or anyone else says, Android 2.2 is great for tablets, most of the apps from the Google Marketplace, probably 99% of them will work just fine on the Archos series of Tablets, apps requiring a back-facing camera, GPS/Compass, 3G or hardware buttons are a minority. Archos can playback most video formats, including h264 MKV high profile at up to 720p with high bitrates (to be tested and confirmed if that reprensents more than 90% of all 720p movies currently traded on p2p networks).

Archos also released this animation illustrating their advantages in hardware design over the iPad:

This keynote presentation is available as a slideshow with prompter subtitles at: http://www.archos.com/_pres_hc.html Here are a couple of some of the best slides:

Fascinating article about ARM in the New York Times

Posted by – September 21, 2010

ARM CEO and other Executives provide very interesting quotes in a new article in the New York Times:

The number of ARM chips produced a year, which go into many different products, dwarfs the hundreds of millions of chips sold by Intel, the world’s largest chip maker in terms of revenue. Inevitably, analysts often portray the companies as mortal enemies, dueling for dominance in the chip market. ARM executives play down such a dramatic story line in their typical, low-key fashion.

“People want there to be this David and Goliath struggle between us and Intel,” Mr. East said. “It just isn’t that way.”

I wonder also if Intel strategists are resting on their laurels and not seeing ARM as a threat to its Netbook, Laptop, Desktop, Set-top-box (Google TV) and Server markets?

“We don’t look like Intel,” he said. “We’re never going to be a $100 billion outfit.”

Yet ARM just unveiled new chip designs that could carry its products into servers and networking equipment — Intel’s turf.

Is ARM presaging an era with no more $100 billion giant dominant corporations in the consumer electronics industry? ARM solutions enabled Apple to more than triple its gigantic valuation on the Nasdaq over the past 5 years, but are these mega Silicon Valley companies going to continue to be so large?

Investors appear enthralled by ARM’s business. Over the last year, the company’s shares have nearly tripled, to a close on Friday of $18.34, from a low of $6.52. Rumors have swirled that Apple may acquire ARM, though such a move seems unlikely given ARM’s broad partnership model.

“I laughed about it with the folks at Apple,” Mr. East said. “It is completely nonsensical.”

It is simply not going to happen. The EU and ARM’s obligations to its partners would not allow it to happen.

“Apple and the Newton made the company exist,” said Mike Muller, one of the founders of ARM and its chief technology officer. “The Newton never went anywhere, but it got ARM started and gave us some credibility.”

Dealing with hand-held devices and cellphones forced ARM to operate under severe power restrictions. It chased milliwatts, while Intel chased horsepower.

Once ARM has reached the desired level of performance at a desired level of power consumption, then it means ARM can bring competition to a market, which creates an environment for a faster rate of innovation among companies. Once full web browsing is demonstrated to work on ARM, once full WebTV and VOD interfaces fully work on ARM, it will mean that the ecosystem of ARM providers can replace the need for Intel in these areas.

“We’ve always known Cambridge is not the center of the universe,” Mr. Muller said. “If you’re in Silicon Valley, you might make that mistake.”

The company offers choice to customers through various types of licenses. A customer can take ARM’s basic design at face value or choose a license that allows it to create custom products.

“We’re encouraging specialists to do what they’re good at,” Mr. Muller said.

The companies making ARM Cortex A8, A9 and A15 designs, such as Texas Instruments, Freescale, Samsung, ST Ericsson, Nvidia, Rockchip, VIA and Telechips those are using the one type of ARM licence. While Marvell, Qualcomm and Microsoft are using another type of ARM licence which allows them to differently customize their processor technology offerings.

Intel and Microsoft secure the vast majority of profits available in computers and servers, leaving the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Acer to fight over a few dollars per machine.

Apple has shown that the largest profit margins are available in adopting the ARM ecosystem and philosophy of product design and marketing. It is likely that we will soon see all the major PC, Laptop and Server manufacturers shift to using ARM solutions, which will both allow to lower cost to customers and increase the profit margins at the same time!

Source: nytimes.com
Found via: techmeme.com

My top-15 videos filmed at IFA, Best of IFA 2010

Posted by – September 12, 2010

The IFA consumer electronics show was cool, from September 2nd to 8th in Berlin Germany, I video-blogged 65 videos of the best products that I could find at the show. Here, as my Best Of IFA post, I would like to list the top-10 videos of the top-10 products of IFA 2010 that I filmed:

1. Archos 101 Internet Tablet, first 10.1″ capacitive Android 2.2 Froyo ARM cortex A8 45nm Tablet to be sold below $299. It’s really thin, at 480gr it’s 30% lighter than the iPad yet offers 12% wider screen surface (better for movies and TV shows). HDMI output and USB host and full video and audio codecs support. All that for $200 cheaper than the iPad.

2. Archos 43 Internet Tablet, nicely priced below $199 alternative to HTC EVO and Droid X, with no expensive contracts needed for this 4.3″ Froyo Android 2.2 experience

3. Archos 28 Internet Tablet, first ARM Cortex A8 45nm Android 2.2 Froyo device to be priced below $99 with no contracts needed, that’s 2.3 times cheaper than the iPod Touch

(yup, I am an Archos fanboy.. but so is ARM and Texas Instruments too..)

4. Toshiba AC-100 ARM Tegra2 Powered Android Laptop, this is the first mass produced ARM Cortex A9 powered laptop to be brought to the market, it is a significant product. Toshiba has done a super good keyboard and mouse-pad design for it and it is really thin and light. Now of course, all that is needed, is better software for it. I don’t think it is enough for them to just take open source Android and port it to it and add few custom widgets on top. They need to port the full Chrome web browser to Android. They need to officially support a triple-boot configuration on this ARM Powered laptop with Chrome OS for ARM and with Ubuntu for ARM also being optional OS to boot into. Also, I do think the $299 price point is a bit high. The idea with the ARM powered laptops is that they are going to be much cheaper and better value than the Intel powered ones. I think the relatively high price is only due to Toshiba being the first to market and them wanting to enjoy larger profit margins while they wait for all the other manufacturers to join the party. Also, once they get the Pixel Qi screen in there, the battery runtime will be close to 40 hours on such a device.

5. PocketBook 903 Pro, I really like the idea of 3G/WiFi/Bluetooth and Wacom-style digitizer in an A4 sized e-ink e-reader. I would like Chrome-to-phone like features, to throw any article and ebooks from my web browser directly onto such more readable display, and then I would also like to see connected annotation collaboration and communication features added, all those things are just software things.

6. Sony Reader PRS-650 Touch Edition, I am impressed with Sony’s new touch screen technology for their new e-readers. Although I would say it is a bit sad that Sony never updates their e-reader firmwares, that this 229€ version does not include WiFi nor Bluetooth nor 3G for connectivity. Still, the finger and stylus laser based touch screen technology is great for UI navigation and for annotations. I also like the fact that Sony is marketing it to be supporting free library borrowing of all e-books, I much prefer borrowing all ebooks for free and legally than paying $10 per ebook or pirating them. The electronic ebook library concept will be fascinating way for people to access all ebooks for free.

7. Samsung Galaxy Tab, for sure one of the big highlights of this IFA is to see such a huge company as Samsung going all in with the 7″ capacitive Android tablet market, I can’t wait to see how successful their marketing will be with this against the iPad. The whole area of discussions around Google supporting of Android tablets, it is simply fascinating. Of course, obviously, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is highly overpriced at 799€ without contract and 1359€ with 2-year contract. But it sure is a nice product and the tablet market really makes me happy.

8. UMEC Freescale i.MX51 based 7″ Android tablets, I like the features and possibilities of this hardware. See my other Freescale tablet videos such as the one running Chromium OS on it, it should be totally possible.

9. iMuz 5″ Android tablet, this South Korean company seemed to me to have pretty good Telechips ARM11 based Android tablet devices on display.

10. Sharp’s Parallax Barrier 3D screen, it’s pretty amazing to experience it at the trade show on display. This is the 3.8″ WVGA 3D screen that the Nintendo 3DS is going to use. It really works, although probably best with 3D games once the Nintendo comes out than with low quality built-in 3D cameras. You have to hold the screen in the middle and around exactly 30 centimeters from your eyes, my guess though with the Nintendo, this might become easy to get used to hold it like that and I also like Nintendo will have a slider on the side that will enable to lower or to completely remove the 3D effect of the screen.

My follow-ups:

11. Interpad’s Tegra2 Powered Android 2.2 Tablet, a really nice Android tablet too, to be priced 399€. I think it is based on the Malata Android tablet design that I filmed at Computex.

12. Toshiba Folio 100 Tegra2 Android tablet, yet another Tegra2 10.1″ capacitive Android 2.2 Tablet to come out, also priced above 399€.

13. Philips GoGear Connect, one of the first non-3G Android devices based on the Freescale i.MX51 ARM Cortex A8 processor with official Google Marketplace support but price is likely going to be above 249€.

14. Samsung YP-G50, another lower cost Android media player device, also to compete with the iPod Touch, with official Google Marketplace support and a slower Samsung ARM11 processor, the price is also likely to be at least the same as the iPod Touch.

15. Mobile Tech 5″ Android Tablet, this company is also making some interesting Telechips ARM11 based Android tablets.

If you have any other preferences for Best of IFA, you are welcome to post those in the comments.

Impressions from Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s keynote at IFA 2010

Posted by – September 7, 2010

Video cameras were not allowed during Eric Schmidt’s keynote at IFA, so I didn’t try to film it, you can stream the full keynote video now on http://ifa-tv.de and probably that Google will post it later too on http://youtube.com/google. I didn’t get ask my major Google questions during the Q&A, but you can find my question and guessing to their reasoning below. Here are my major impressions:

1. Speech to Speech translation in Android is awesome. They did an on stage demo with an english speaking Google engineer (Hugo Barra, Product manager of Android) and a German speaking Google engineer. They had a fast conversation from one to the other, where the Android system would translate speech from one language to the other. Simply fantastic and awesome! Soon enough, one will be able to approach another user who speaks another language with an Android phone, preferably wear a headset, and simply start talking to each other with a second delay until speech is translated and synthesised in own language.

2. The new version of Street View for the new version of Google Maps on Android is also awesome. The little Street View man can be dragged around on the screen, Google knowing all 3D aspects of all buildings and streets, then it provides a video game like effect zooming in on further down on the street thus potentially navigating around Street View much faster and in a cooler way. It will be fun also once Google starts adding into Street View all the publicly published pictures and videos that any Android user could make, thus improving Street View to include user-submitted more up-to-date imagery from the whole world. Would allow even for entering buildings (with proper rights I imagine opt-in included). Augmented Reality is cool and I think Street View will merge with it.

3. Google TV will revolutionize TV. I spoke with Logitech and Sony representatives here at IFA. My impression is that it will hi-jack TV networks and eventually replace the need for TV channels with a choice for viewers to get access to any video content from anywhere. I also think BitTorrent and live p2p streaming support on Google TV cannot be blocked, so that too will be awesome. HD Video Conferencing should also be included with the box, I expect Logitech will include that as an option but they would not confirm the specifics of it (how their HD webcam would work on the only Intel Atom processor of Google TV, perhaps dual-core Intel Atom I am guessing, but still far lower system configuration than currently required for Logitech HD webcams to use for HD video conferencing.

Here is the question I would have asked Eric Schmidt during the Q&A:

1. I have filmed 100s of Chinese/Taiwanese/korean/french manufacturers showing cheap Android tablets, laptops and set-top-boxes at IFA and at all the other consumer electronics trade shows the past year and a half. None of these devices are allowed by Google to ship with the Google Marketplace. Why isn’t there a special version of Google Marketplace for all these devices? Why doesn’t Google offer an .apk download of Google Marketplace for anyone to download on any Android device for free on Google’s website? The cheapest Chinese Android tablets/laptops are $100, while the Samsung tablet is 799€, Dell tablet is 599€ (both unlocked), the Toshiba laptop is 299€ (no Google Marketplace either). Can’t Google monetize products without GPS/3G/compass just as well? Why require such expensive hardware components if Google’s declared goal (during the keynote) is to reach 3-4 billion people with Android in the next 5 years? Is Google also planning to do just as much evil requiring expensive hardware for access to the application stores on Chrome OS and Google TV?

My guess the answer to this which they wouldn’t have provided would be something like following:

- Google has partnered with major hardware manufacturers for Android, and as an exchange for such huge support for the Android platform, Google promises not to allow for faster disruption in the market to not leave these major manufacturers enough time to make as much profit margins as they can. Basically Android is not much cheaper for the end consumers than Apple iPhone is. While Carriers are making more money with Android than with iPhone (because of lower cost of purchasing the device with more competition in the Android market), the major OEM manufacturers are helped by Google to keep as high profit margins on these Android products as possible. All these companies are jealous of Apple and want to have as much money as possible selling these products.

Maybe the rest of the non-invited lower cost Android industry should partner up around alternatives to the Google Marketplace, such as the Archos http://appslib.com marketplace. App developers should be convinced to submit their app on at least one such alternative marketplaces.

Maybe the media needs to be more involved in critisizing this lack of openness in the way the “with Google” branding happens in the Android ecosystem. Maybe major media should demand an answer from Google and this may speed up the rate of Google responding by simply opening up access to the Apps on Marketplace to all devices for free without unfair hardware requirements.

The other question I would have liked to ask:

2. Is Google TV going to work on ARM Powered devices too? Is Google waiting for ARM Cortex A9 for that announcement to happen?

- I know Google TV will work on ARM Processors too, I see no reason that it would not be supported. As Chrome OS is developed for ARM, as Android runs on ARM and as Google TV is a mix of Android and Chrome technologies. HDMI input and output and the IR blaster can be added to likely any ARM set-top-box device with also preferably powerful web browsing processing support. The overlay features on HDMI throughput might require pretty advanced GPU acceleration.

- I believe ARM Powered Google TV can be made for much cheaper than Intel Powered Google TV. $99 for ARM vs $299 for Intel.

Look at this leaked picture and video of the Logitech Revue Google TV set-top-box, rumored for $300 in the USA (maybe with required cable/satellite package subscription plans) when Google TV launches during the next couple of months in the USA:

Source for these Logitech Revue Google TV images: http://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/logitech-revue-google-tv-hands-on-impressions/

ARM Powered Google TV, how soon?

Posted by – August 20, 2010

Google needs to announce the ARM Powered Google TV to compete with the rumored Apple iTV. Google TV could be sold for less than $99 using ARM instead of $299 using Intel.

Here’s a recent demonstration of Google TV showing its integration with Dish Networks services as reported by Engadget.com:

What hardware requirements will the ARM Powered Google TV have? ARM cortex A9 with DDR3 at the minimum for fast HD 1080p resolution browsing and interfaces? HDMI input and output (pass-through)? IR-blaster?

My guess is that there could be 2 different versions of Google TV for ARM Powered devices:

1. The full version: with full integration with existing cable/satellite box (HDMI in/out and IR blaster) plus same functions as the basic version.

2. The basic version: that only does the IPTV, Internet-only and media streaming features.

Using ARM, the Internet-only basic Google TV version could be sold at or below $49 while the fully backwards compatible with cable/satellite channels Google TV experience could be sold at or below $99.

I don’t think Google has signed any “exclusive” partnerships with Intel, they have a partnership for sure, just as Google has a partnership with Intel powering the more than a million Google servers that are out there. Intel feels left out of the whole Android ecosystem, so they are the ones who have been most desperate to at least be a part of the Google TV initiative. I think it’s more about Google waiting for the next generation ARM Cortex A9 to be ready to support full HD 1080p interfaces smoothly before they announce ARM support. Early next year, Google TV will be open sourced anyways, so by that time all the ARM vendors will have it.

Net Neutrality logic

Posted by – August 16, 2010

Google owns the most servers of any one company out there. Literally, it is rumored to be in the millions. Youtube streams out more than 2 billion video views per day. If an average video view is 30 megabytes, that means Youtube uses at least 60’000 Terrabytes of bandwidth per day. As I am not sure where to find the current estimate of global bandwidth capacity to all home Internet lines, let us compare that with the current reported trans-atlantic bandwidth capacity at around 10 to 20 Terrabit/s, that means a maximum bandwidth between Europe and the USA of 108’000 Terrabytes per day. 2009 price per trans-atlantic 10Gbit/s was $14’000 per month. If Google had to transfer half of Youtube’s daily bandwidth over the atlantic, that would cost $11 Million per day in bandwidth costs. Obviously, that scenario would be totally impossible.

The only way Youtube can provide up to 1080p and even 4K video to everyone, for free, on demand, is by cleverly distributing all the most popular videos on many, hundreds, maybe thousands of sort of caching servers that deliver the Youtube videos to every ADSL, Cable, Fiber to the home users around the world. What Youtube does, is that it tries to deliver the video from a Youtube cache as close to the user as possible. Most likely, that for the past years already, Google has been negociating with all the worlds major ISPs to build those Youtube caching servers right onto the local fiber optic backbones and server centrals of every major ISP.

This means, Google already has had to pay ISPs and major backbone providers for preferential access to its contents. This is the only way Google can provide a service that is fast enough for everyone to experience full bandwidth and fast buffering on all these high quality videos and have it all work smoothly in prime time, and when everyone wants to watch the same popular videos.

I’d like bloggers who critisize Google for it’s stance on Net Neutrality to consider that Youtube may account for about half of current global web bandwidth consumption excluding peer-to-peer like BitTorrent. And that Youtube’s share of global bandwidth consumption can only increase fast as Google TV comes out. What I think is the core issue we have to consider, is that it would be the worst if ISPs somehow because they might be more interested in staying with the status quo, that they may prevent an expansion of web video distribution by limiting the way high quality videos can be distributed freely on-demand to everyone.

While I think it is important to make sure startups don’t have any barriers to present their new ideas and new technical solutions to the web, I also think it is kind of logical that a startup won’t be able to afford distributing HD quality video as smoothly as Youtube does it, a startup cannot afford to buy thousands or even millions of servers and install them on every ISP and backbone around the world. AS once the cache server is embedded directly onto the ISPs backbone, that bandwidth, no matter how much it is, costs very little for the ISP to provide, at least compared to a scenario where the ISP would have to fetch all that data from the other side of an ocean.

I want to see a scalable solution that basically allows Youtube to expand even much further and provide even higher quality. It would be great if 720p 2mbit/s HD, 1080p 4mbit/s HD and even 24mbit/s 4K was streamed at full speed to every user. And imagining a scenario where a larger and larger share of everyone’s 5 hour daily TV watching did stream on-demand from the web. This means that the current 60 Petabytes/day that Youtube consumes today could turn into 6000 Petabytes/day within months.

As for Net Neutrality on wireless networks. I have often tried to ask Telecom companies how much bandwidth there really is in those base stations. The answer I kind of got, was that the bandwidth is not much, maybe only in the tens of megabit/s per base station. So obviously, it may not really matter what generation is used, be it 3G, 3.5G, 3.5G+, 4G/LTC, WiMax, as soon as more than 2 or 3 people start to want to have several megabit/second in an area of a neighborhood or so, the technology just won’t be able to handle it all. So for sure, I think Wireless networks need to be regulated. Especially as there isn’t really enough bandwidth for everyone to stream video on 3G nor LTE networks. Most importantly, I want to see regulation enforce that bandwidth for VOIP usage may not be blocked or down-graded compared to the exact same quality of the bandwidth used for “normal” voice calls.

The only solution to the bandwidth limitations of wireless networks, is to install smaller base stations closer to every user, so called micro-cells, also called Fem2cells. I believe the best spectrum that we should all install those base stations for would be the 700mhz white spaces spectrum, that is why I would like to hear someone say that it would be possible to build a FON.com like network using unlicensed and free to use White Spaces 700mhz. Everyone would install a $20 White Spaces micro-cell routers onto their home wireline ADSL/Cable/Fiber connections, sharing the bandwidth into their neighborhoods, using one same browser based access authentication system worldwide, that will provide enough wireless bandwidth for everyone to do whatever they want.

An upcoming era of revolutionizing $99 set-top-boxes

Posted by – August 12, 2010

Americans watch in average 5 hours of TV every day. Imagine a revolutionary $99 set-top-box which you add to your living room. This one increasingly brings more and more content from the Internet to the HDTV. This one even improves the experience of regular TV channels by overlaying search features and better targeted ads (which can finance better TV content).

Engadget is reporting on the rumored $99 Apple iTV set-top-box. It will basically be like an iPod Touch, without the screen and with an HDMI output and a remote control. It’ll have the latest Apple A4 processor which is based on the Hummingbird 45nm ARM Cortex A8 processor (similar to the one used by Samsung in the Galaxy S) designed by Intrinsity before they were bought by Apple. As usual, I don’t expect Apple to include support for many video and audio codecs and a proprietary iTunes synchronization over the network is more likely than support for the Samba and Upnp local file sharing standards.

The idea here is that by using the optimal ARM processor of the market, a very powerful yet very cheap set-top-box can be made. One that brings full 720p web browsing to the HDTV, but also re-designed and optimized graphics accelerated user interfaces to the HDTV, basically smooth interfaces for Youtube and other video-on-demand sources, to thus be watched directly on the HDTV.

I’ve video-blogged about Android based set-top-boxes such as the $50 design by Webia Technologies and Bonux and the $129 (retail target price) one made by Keenhigh mediatech. Both can run the latest Android 2.2 software (when available) with full 3D graphics acceleration even though their processors are likely ARM9 or ARM11 based.

As Google goes along partnering with Intel to release Google TV soon, I expect the Intel based designs to be sold at $199 or likely above that. I think it would be nice to know how soon the customized Android software that represents the Google TV disribution would also be optimized for use on cheaper ARM Powered solutions. As Android on those cheap prototypes looks great, it would be good for those devices to know they can rely on a Google OS optimized for use with a remote control and optimized for easy access to revolutionary HDTV features. Including the support of Youtube in HD quality on all those cheap boxes.

The basic hardware features needed for full Google TV support on cheap ARM Powered set-top-boxes I think are HDMI input and output (pass-through) for overlaying features to contents from existing Cable/satellite set-top-boxes as well as the IR blaster to control that other set-top-box. But for Internet and media streamer features only, all that is needed is just a Google TV for ARM software release.

Android now leads US smart phone sales, increased by 886% from last year

Posted by – August 2, 2010

According to market analytics company Canalys second quarter 2010 smart phone sales report, Android is the fastest selling smart phone platform in the USA between April and June 2010, with 34% of the sales in the US market, in front of Blackberry RIM who sold 32% of smart phones and Apple iOS who sold 21%.

Canalys’ detailed, globally consistent data shows it is the collective growth of Android device shipments across a range of handset vendors’ portfolios that is most remarkable. With key products from HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG, among others, shipments of smart phones running the Google-backed Android operating system grew an impressive 886% in Q2 2010.

As I posted in my previous post Why are we still waiting for the sub-$250 Android super phones?, this market domination in the USA is reached by the combined Android vendors without them even starting to provide much cheaper Android phones. As in my opinion, the strength of Android is not only the differentiation and increased number of features and choices, I think it is also most importantly the opportunity for competition in the smart phone industry to bring lower unlocked smart phone prices. Once Android super phones are sold below $250 unlocked, and that those can be used for pre-paid plans without long term contracts, I believe that the Android market share will even further increase.

Source: canalys.com
Found via: slashgear.com

Why are we still waiting for the sub-$250 Android super phones?

Posted by – August 1, 2010

New Android super phones are arriving on the market every few weeks, promoted by all carriers and selling twice as fast as the iPhone. We are also seeing a few lower cost Android phones being sold with smaller resistive screens, using slower processors. Specialist sites like isuppli.com have analyzed the Bill Of Material of all those phones and they are saying that even the top of the line of Android super phones can be manufactured for $165 or below. My question is then still, as we are seeing more and more competition in the Android market, when are we going to be able to buy all those Android super phones at below $250, with unlocked 3G and 4G SIM card slots and no obligation to sign up for 2 years of very expensive, often over $2000 of subscriber contracts?

Before the official release of the Nexus One, I had speculated that it may be sold by Google directly to consumers below $200, as I thought that Google wouldn’t be interested in making a profit on the hardware as their strategy is to make a profit on advertising and online services. With probable pressure from manufacturers such as HTC, and from pressure by the big carriers, Google has not been allowed to yet introduce such a disruptive business model to the Android super phone market, at least not yet. It’s the same thing Andy Rubin told me off camera at Mobile World Congress, that Google wasn’t the one deciding what should be the pricing of the Nexus One.

It’s not only consumers in Europe and the USA who I think would be glad to get cheaper unlocked Android super phones, I believe there is a gigantic market available right there to the Android super phone manufacturers if they would aim to provide sub-$250 unlocked Android super phones to the people of developing countries. Each year, over 1 billion phones are bought by consumers worldwide, in fact, mostly in developing countries right now. Those handsets are mostly low cost Nokia phones and the likes. Super phones may be reaching only 100 million units sold each year so far. But that could easily double or triple from one year to the next, as soon as manufacturers decide to sell them at more reasonable cost to the consumers who want unlocked or who only care for pre-paid mobile plans. Most of the world’s nearly 5 billion mobile phone users are using pre-paid plans.

Shanzai.com recently published an editorial analyzing the upcoming wave of sub-$100 Android phones that could be coming based on the new low cost ST Ericsson 416MHz T6719 platform that I filmed in the Acer beTouch E120 and Acer beTouch E130 at Computex. Marvell may also be preparing a lower cost Android super phone platform as demonstrated in the O Phones line of Android super phones that is sold only in China for now. Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Freescale and others surely have some low cost Android super phone platform plans that they must be preparing.

The issue is the conflict of interest that there might be between Android super phone’s current customers, which are the major European and American carriers, and the interest of consumers worldwide to see lower cost Android super phones with less constraints, less obligations and less contracts. Many consumers in Europe and the USA are paying the equivalent of 3 or 4 months rent every year just for their mobile phone contracts, which is insanely expensive when you think about it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if one could get a $250 unlocked Android super phone, with all the latest capacitive screens and fastest available ARM processors, also with 2 SIM card slots, one for eventual pre-paid or subscription based voice/sms SIM card, and the other for an eventual data-centric 3G or 4G service. On top of which it would still have all the WiFi and Bluetooth features, as well as video-chat that works on any network, and fully unlimited and unlocked features of tethering, Mifi function and HD video streaming, also coming on any networks. All that with HDMI output if needed and HD camcorders right there inside. Then also, sub-$125, there would be smaller resistive screens and lower performance ARM and single SIM normal devices but also unlocked and usable for pre-paid plans. Shanzai.com and Visionmobile.com speculate that advanced features can be included on the cheaper Android hardware using Mobile Virtualization.

Virtualization is new to mobile, but established in the data center, fundamental in cloud computing and increasingly popular on the desktop.

Mobile Virtualization lets handset OEMs, operators/carriers and end-users get more out of mobile hardware. It decouples mobile OSes and applications from the hardware they run on, enabling secure applications and services on less expensive devices today and deployment on advanced hardware tomorrow.

Without much of the cheap Android phones yet on the market, already Android is selling twice as fast as the iPhone. Imagine how much faster they will sell once the cheaper Android super phone prices start to be released. Perhaps a bit more competition in this market is needed to trigger this, perhaps manufacturers and carriers will be careful not to cannibalize their huge profit margins in Europe and USA while some of them will launch hundreds of millions of cheaper Android handset options in the developing countries.

I filmed the Augen $99 smartbook 6 months ago

Posted by – August 1, 2010

Engadget and a bunch of other blogs have been reporting these last few days about the cool Augen branded Android Smartbook and Tablets that are being released in the US market at affordable $99 and $149 prices by Super Market chain KMart. I just would like to remind my readers that I posted my video review of the Augen Smartbook 6 months ago on January 29th as it’s based on the Hivision PWS700CA and its cool RockChip ARM9 processor that runs Android in this video: http://armdevices.net/2010/01/29/android-laptop-review-hivision-pws700ca/

and that the Telechips ARM11 800mhz based Augen $149 7″ Tablet that Engadget and plenty other blogs also are talking about seems to be based on the same 7″ resistive tablet hardware design that I filmed 5 months ago presented by MAG Digital at CeBIT 2010 in this video: http://armdevices.net/2010/03/02/mag-digital-presents-windows-ce-that-looks-like-android-in-a-tablet/

To let you know my opinion. I think it is fantastic that Augen and KMart are promoting such cheaper Android Laptop and Tablet form factors as alternatives to the much more expensive Apple iPad and Intel Netbooks. Archos has also been selling the similarly priced Archos 7 Home Tablet on the worldwide market which I video reviewed 5 months ago, which is now broadly available in many retail and online stores below $200 for the 8GB version (and the 2GB version originally planned at $149, then $179 but for now they are mostly selling the 8GB version). That Rockchip based Laptop and Tablet platform also being upgraded to 1ghz still ARM9 to support newer Android 2.2 versions.

But as we have heard from Canonical developers and from hearsay and off camera chatter by Google people at the Google Q&A at Computex about Chrome OS on ARM Laptops, although the second generation 45nm ARM Cortex A8 with faster DDR RAM and faster I/O performance can be enough, the coming of ARM Cortex A9 platforms may be preferable to achieve the full desktop web browsing experience that most consumers may require for them to consider the ARM platforms as fully usable alternatives in the Intel/Microsoft dominated Laptop market. And the iPad and the whole bunch of smart phones that are currently spread all over the market, those may kind of set expectations at capacitive and ARM Cortex A8 performance at the minimum. So it will be interesting, capacitive touch screen manufacturers allowing, to see how soon and how cheap those capacitive Android tablet designs at full user interface speeds can reach the market. ARM9 and ARM11 resistive tablets are not bad for a start, they can give the consumers and bloggers a taste of what can be done with Android at retail prices below $200 and even below $100. The ultimate goal should be though that we should have full speed ARM Cortex versions of all these devices in all the stores, with the best capacitive screens for tablets or non-touch screens for Laptops, preferably Pixel Qi screens, and available below $200 without contracts, running free Linux based Android or Ubuntu OSes.