Category: Opinions

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Will Intel have to make ARM processors again?

Posted by Charbax – May 4, 2010

ARM’s advantage is not only a question of performance per milliwatt and price, it’s also mostly about it being a processor technology licenced by several processor makers. More makers of processors means lower prices, means more features. When manufacturers who are making the next Laptop, Tablet, Phone, Set-top-box, E-reader devices have more choices for the components that they can use, it helps bring prices down, it helps bring a more diverse set of hardware designs and features to the market.

As consumers and as fans of technology and progress, we should welcome more choice, more competition to the market.

While I can’t know Intel’s next generation performance and price, my guess though is that while they can probably bring something with their billions of dollars in R&D, it’ll likely still not be able to match the work done by the dozens of huge ARM processor makers all combined. As ARM is just a core set of processor IP, a lot of work is done on top of that by Texas Instruments, Marvell, Freescale, Qualcomm, Samsung, ST Ericsson, Nvidia, VIA, Broadcom, even AMD-spin-off Global Foundries is investing Billions in differentiating their way of doing ARM Cortex A9 multi-core using High-K Gate, 28nm process and more.

The performance we need is simply one that displays a web browser instantly on all screen sizes. So really, while we would like cloud computing performance to increase, the performance of our internet access devices only need to reach a certain magic level where all websites and web apps can be displayed instantly. From then on, processor improvements that bring savings on power consumption and price will be much more valuable than further increases in performance.

Sure Intel has lots of money and engineers in R&D, but one must question their motive; I think Intel wants to stay in control of the bulk of the PC/Laptop product categories than it really cares about value for consumers and about much improving access to computing for the more than 4 billion people who still don't have access to the Internet.

Flash support on all ARM Cortex A8, A9 devices

Posted by Charbax – April 29, 2010

Up until last year, I didn't like the business model around Adobe Flash at all. My theory was that Flash was basically used by Microsoft, Apple and Intel to block mass adoption of open source Linux and embedded Linux operating systems as there was no good enough Flash support on open source computers and embedded devices.

On the other hand, and as I am not a developer with access to Adobe's source code so I can't really know how hard it is for them to optimize their proprietary source code, perhaps Flash isn't as bloated as I thought, but that it really represents graphics intensive animations and embedding of videos which actually are really hard to process using multi-purpose processors and which really perform much better once it can be made to use the latest hardware acceleration.

Check out my video filmed with Adobe Flash products manager Richard Galvan at Mobile World Congress 2010 demonstrating Flash support on the ARM Cortex A8 based Nexus One and Motorola Droid as well as a very interesting demonstration of the controversial Creative Suite 5 authoring software suite on which Adobe is demonstrating the infamous "Export to iPhone" option, where developers can input any Flash application based on ActionScript3 and output it in the iPhone applications format. Thus develop once and output all hardware platforms.

The big talk right now on Techmeme is the funny war going on where Apple doesn't want to support the Flash format on the ARM Cortex A8 based iphone, ipod touch and ipad. Even though technically, Flash certainly could work on those devices. It's probably just a question of a few megabytes of plug-in code that would have to be installed with the Safari browser on those devices.

My guess? Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer are angry at Adobe's Open Screen Project. Up until last year, Microsoft and Apple had the exclusive platforms to have hardware accelerated Flash support on X86. Nobody else could get full Flash support, especially as Flash 9 fragmented into ActionScript3 based Flash projects which more and more displayed either not at all on Open Source OSes or displayed really badly, without hardware acceleration. My guess also is that Microsoft's attempt with releasing Silverlight may also be a provocation against Adobe which pushed them further to optimize Flash for embedded Linux and thus support Flash everywhere else than Microsoft/Apple/Intel.

My point? To some degree, one of the main reasons Linux hasn't yet caught on for mass market mass consumer adoption on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones has so far been the lack of decent Flash support. Sure, there are many many other factors. But Flash support was an important problem that up until recently released Ubuntu 10.4, hardware acceleration of Flash wasn't even available for Linux!!

Of course I still wish Adobe would bluntly just announce that they will open-source Flash and licence it out for free (they can still release proprietary authoring tools that they can sell for lots of money to developers). And for sure, I am a proponent of HTML5, Ogg Theora 2.0 (based on Google's On2 VP8 codec), for sure I can't wait to see Google's Native Client plugin for Browsers, Google's 3D plugin for Browsers (like the very impressive new Google Earth for Google Maps in the browser (not for Linux yet)).

For now, especially as I expect Flash support in Android and Chrome OS can be fully hardware accelerated, run smoothly and nicely as Adobe has been investing hundreds of full time engineers in optimizing this process over the last couple of years. As I don't expect any other aspects of Android and Chrome OS will feel any slower or any more bloated by adding Flash support. I don't think Apple's choice of excluding Flash is a good choice for their users.

What will happen? I think consumers will enjoy Flash support on Android, Chrome OS and other embedded Linux it also looks very impressive and nicely hardware accelerated in Ubuntu 10.4. If Apple persists in wanting to exclude the Flash plugin for non-technical reasons, consumers will likely buy Android and Chrome OS devices instead. In any ways, competition is good and in the coming months, it will be very interesting for me to film demonstrations of Android Tablets, Phones and Laptops with hopefully full and smooth Flash support.

Android 8-levels of secrecy

Posted by Charbax – April 16, 2010
Image representing Android as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Nice article at http://www.visionmobile.com/blog/2010/04/is-android-evil/comment-page-1/

How does Google control what services, software and hardware ships in Android handsets? The search giant has built an elaborate system of control points around Android handsets.

To dig deeper we spent two months talking to industry sources close to Android commercials – and the reality has been startling. From a high level, Google uses 8 control points to manage the make-up of Android handsets:

I love Android, yet I am also the webmaster of the Archos Fans community. Archos is basically so far still the only Android Tablet manufacturer in the world (although 50+ Android Tablets have been shown at trade shows, nearly none of those are yet available on the market). Thus Archos, this little French company with less than 100 engineers, has had an Android device on the market since September 2009 and yet NO legal official way for them to pre-install the Google Marketplace, Gmail, Gtalk on their devices. There are illegal ways to install Google Apps on the Archos tablets, even a very simple .apk to transfer to the tablet over USB that does all the necessary Google Apps installations pretty easily.

This whole unofficial Google Apps deal is absolutely not sustainable, it's like some kind of cyanogen thing. The mass market consumers that buy ipod touch and ipads would never accept to have to go through such unofficial channels to get some sort of "Google Experience" on their device. For the 50+ Android Tablets to be released to the worldwide markets these next few months, Google will have to unlock the Google Experience for more hardware configurations.

As the roadmap of Android is top secret, as Google geniuses prepare their Knock Out blows against Apple/Microsoft/Nokia/Intel, I think we as Android fanboys can also rather straight forwardly guess what that roadmap likely is going to be.

I see it a bit like some kind of trojan horse approach. Deep down I am sure Google does not want to do evil, but to reach the goal of providing sub-$100 Android devices that do all the VOIP, VOD, Credit Card and ID replacement, RFID, Augmented Reality, GPS, Social Networking and all that other stuff, Google first simply has got to play it nice with the largest Manufacturers and the largest telecom carriers.

I was at the Mobile World Congress recently at the Q&A with Eric Schmidt, you could hear really fun questions being asked by provocative telecom industry people, such as Google wanting to "Steal the telecom industry's voice minutes", that Google wants to "Transform the telecom industry into dumb pipes". Those transformations are for real, and I am sure the Google top strategists are aiming to reach those goals as soon as possible. But Google alone, even though they have the most and best PHDs cannot make the $100 unlocked Google Phone/Tablet/e-reader/set-top-box happen. So they have to work in certain levels of secrecy with the right big companies that need to have their investments recouped before Google opening up the next level of Android openness to the whole industry.

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I would have liked to video-blog at Hong Kong and Shenzhen fairs

Posted by Charbax – April 16, 2010
Hong Kong Trade Development Council Logo
Image via Wikipedia

The Hong Kong Electronics and Sourcing fairs and the China Consumer Electronics Fair were just held in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. I had tried for 3 weeks after CeBIT to find a sponsor to cover my flight and hotel costs so that I could go there and bring you 50 videos of all the new products that I expected to be shown there. But I did not succeed to convince any sponsor for going to film in Asia this time, so I am for now staying in Copenhagen where I am currently filming some interviews at the Cphpix Copenhagen Film Festival: 1, 2, 3.

I've then been trying to find other sites covering those trade fairs with video, pictures and infos, but I have not found much thus far. Google News has some things about CCEF and about HKTDC in Chinese, clonedinchina.com has a few posts showing such things as a new Rockhip powered Android phone, SmartDevices R7, Onda VX560 7-inch PMP, Kinstone Windows CE MID, Huawei C8600 Android phone, MDO Avatar G580 Android phone, lots of cheaper ipad-like tablets.

I don't know for sure how much innovation and new products were shown by the Chinese manufacturers at these Trade Shows these past few days. I didn't yet spend enough time translating all the Chinese blogs and searching more for those most interesting Android tablets, new cheaper Android phones, new interesting e-readers, ARM Powered Laptops and more.

I guess also that this year's CCEF, HKTDC and HK Spring Sourcing fairs may not have been too popular among those European and US based bloggers that I know. Maybe they don't go there for a reason.

Anyways, I will try to bring you exclusive videos of a bunch of awesome ARM Powered products that I have right here to review, I've got a $95 10" Android VIA-ARM Powered laptop (watch me showing a brief preview of it in the video below), I've got an Intelligent Mobile Hotspot Mifi adapter by Novatel Wireless, I've got the touch-screen PocketBook 302 with WiFi/Bluetooth and I've also got a Bluetooth wireless foldable keyboard by Chinfai Leicke. I'll post extensive video reviews of those and more as soon as I find the time.

This video was posted at: netbooknews.com

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Drobo FS brings automatic NAS backup solution to the market

Posted by Charbax – April 6, 2010

Data Robotics have just announced the release of the new faster gigabit-connected Drobo FS NAS storage device. Check my video interview with Drobo at CES 2010 where I asked them about Ethernet NAS features: http://armdevices.net/2010/01/08/drobo-at-ces-2010/

It supports up to 5 SATA hard drives, hot-swappable, 1 or 2 drives can fail in their special RAID configuration and all files stay intact, different sized hard drives are supported automatically (when you buy new larger drives, just replace the oldest smallest ones with those). Now also with some Gigabit ethernet local and remote file sharing features.

I am eager to find out how this new Drobo FS NAS performs as it's said to have a new faster processor. Reaching super fast data transfer, data copy, data backup performance using the newest fastest ARM Processors, keeping very low power consumption especially when the hard drives are idle (which they would in most cases), and especially providing all this at lower prices. I do believe that the Home Server NAS market is potentially going to grow very rapidly. Even though Cloud Computing is revolutionizing storage, 2TB, 1.5TB and 1TB Hard Drives are getting cheaper every day, it makes perfect sense to store a huge amount of data at home as a buffer and cache to the cloud hosted in people's homes. Also, cloud storage at places like Google and Amazon still costs about 16 times more per terrabyte per year compared to buying TB hard drives on the open market and hosting it oneself using a clever ARM Powered NAS in the home (not including cost of NAS and power consumption). As consumers create and download more and more video, audio and high resolution photo files, I believe we all need solutions to manage all those cheap hard drives at home.

Source: engadget.com

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The iPad promotes the ARM Powered Tablet market segment

Posted by Charbax – April 6, 2010
Tablet PC Icon
Image by ichibod via Flickr

The swarms of Apple fans buying and talking about the Apple iPad during these next days and months, are rapidly popularizing the demand for ARM Powered tablets in the worldwide market. This should be a great opportunity for the many companies working on releasing Android Powered Tablets during these next few weeks and months.

1. Will consumers prefer cheaper and more powerful Android powered tablets?

- Archos is already selling an $249 Android Tablet with a pocketable 4.8" screen, they have been selling it since September 2009, check out some of my videos of it: 1, 2, 3, 4

- As you can see in my Tablets category http://armdevices.net/category/tablets/, there are more than 50 Android Powered tablets coming to the market from all major manufacturers during these next few months.

2. All the best tablets should have sunlight readable, reflective Pixel Qi LCD screens. Watch some of my Pixel Qi videos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

3. This can accelerate the release of many ARM Powered laptops. As consumers see that ARM Powered embedded platforms load the full screen full resolution websites fast, consumers will demand there be regular laptop form factors available as well using the same technology.

This video was released at: laughingsquid.com
Found via: techmeme.com

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Auto-updates (and more platforms?) coming with Android Froyo and Gingerbread

Posted by Charbax – March 29, 2010
Google Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

Chris Ziegler writes at Engadget.com that with the upcoming Android Froyo software release, Google will be

decoupling many of Android's standard applications and components from the platform's core and making them downloadable and updatable through the Market, much the same as they've already done with Maps. In all likelihood, this process will take place over two major Android versions, starting with Froyo and continuing through Gingerbread.

This means that Android may get built in a way where software and component updates come from the central software update system controlled by Google, and as long as the hardware follows a certain set of hardware requirements, that manufacturers will not even have to work to update their customized firmwares anymore, but where Google will be taking care of the software releases centrally providing all the different hardware platforms with component, feature and application updates automatically.

This brings us to another important aspect of the fragmentation of Android which I certainly expect to see Google add support for with Froyo:

- Google's Support for Android on Laptops, Tablets, E-readers and Set-top-boxes.

Which means that Google has to provide a set of customized Google Marketplaces for all those different categories of products.

Android Tablets:
I see no reason Google wouldn't want to support a market of Android tablets to compete with the iPod Touch and the iPad. Customizing Android for WiFi-only small or large Tablets with or without Cameras, accelerometers, GPS and 3G should be easy. It's just a matter of Google adding a few filters to apps in the Marketplace based on the hardware configurations of each device.

Android e-readers:
I am convinced Google wants to help provide an Android platform for e-readers to better access the Google Books, Google Reader and Google News, to create a powerful platform for the competition to the Amazon Kindle in e-ink based e-readers. An e-ink based e-reader with Android-powered RSS, Bookmarks sync, e-mail, webkit based web browser, Google Fast-flip, Google Reader Play, Aldiko/FBreader, WiFi and text-input all those apps and components will make e-ink based e-reader much more powerful.

Android Laptops:
Although Google is coming with Chrome OS, the way I see Chrome OS for ARM, is basically that Google is optimizing the web browser for all ARM based Linux platforms. So there would be no reason not to just include the full Chrome Browser simply as a Web Browser icon inside of Android. What Google needs to customize though in Android is a User Interface adapted for mouse and keyboard input of Laptop form factors instead of touch-screen inputs. The filter for laptops will highlight the best high resolution Android apps.

Android set-top-boxes:
The core here is to provide Youtube support on set-top-boxes. But also it is to provide apps with optimized user-interfaces to be used on a remote control on the TV. Customized Widgets, user interfaces for overlay Chat, Polls, Debates, all that will work on an optimized software platform like Android. The HDMI-passthrough features recently rumored could make the Android-powered "Google TV" set-top-boxes even more impressive as they would bring in all the interactivity on top of all existing TV tuner platforms, be them any existing Cable, Satellite or DVB-T tuner platforms. So the Android set-top-box not only realizes Video-on-demand, it also improves existing live broadcast television.

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Google TV with HDMI pass-through?

Posted by Charbax – March 26, 2010

Following are opinions, not facts:

The Google TV box can be made for $50 if they use an ARM processor based platform, which is much lower power and much cheaper than Intel and provides all the same if not more 1080p and video streaming features.

The idea of implementing Google TV using the HDMI pass-through option (as "reported" by videonuze.com) and adding stuff to HDMI from the existing Cable/Satellite set-top-box sounds like a genius plan. If HDCP or however all those copy protection technologies of HDMI don't prevent that solution from happening or to be turned off by broadcasters, then my guess is that Google could provide a $100 retail solution including HDMI pass-through and infrared emitter that would basically be compatible with all existing set-top-boxes, no matter what Comcast and DirecTV think about this.

HDMI pass-through and the infrared emitter would allow Google to replace your existing remote control with a more web centric remote control (and keyboard), display any overlay graphics and informations on any video contents, even "take over" existing programming, such as streaming customized advertisements instead of the broadcasted ads (with the agreement of the broadcaster of course). Possibilities could also include overlay chats, IMs and status updates, overlay community features like polls, discussions, ratings. It could include real-time user-generated recommendations for programming, even time-shifting to allow Google to overlay automatically generated subtitles, even translated subtitles. Time shifting could also allow for launching of related Youtube searches and videos at any time and then resume normal programming.

My guess though, even though Google TV will kill current broadcast monopolies and TV stations eventually, the Google TV solution will also completely revolutionize advertising for all TV stations. Basically, a TV station and broadcaster could opt-in to have Google manage personalized advertisment instead of the existing common denomiator type of TV advertisement. By doing that, the revenues from TV ads would go up 10 times overnight. So either they can decide to show 10x less ads for the same content, or they can make 10x more money and use some of it to create better contents.

In my opinion, the real deal here is to bring Youtube to the HDTV. But also to provide a recommendations box for broadcast TV as well. Imagine the Google TV learns what you like, because the Google TV remote control will have one big green "Like" button, users click it when they are watching something that they like. That will help Google learn your taste. And if you want to watch TV but you are too lazy to research what content is available, Google can generate recommended content queues for you, of either live or on-demand content, and a mix of both.

A cool little app that will change the TV and movie business seriously, because Google TV is open source, integrated BitTorrent downloads and RSS will not be stoppable. Which means, you want a movie, just type in the title and the device will start the BitTorrent download automatically, be it legal or not. And StreamTorrent type technology can even let you nearly instantly stream any contents using p2p technology. Net Neutrality will make this great.

I originally posted these estimates and opinions at: videonuze.com

Google subsidizes Android and Chrome OS devices with advertising

Posted by Charbax – March 25, 2010

The point of Kyocera's newly announced Android phone is to be the first pre-paid Android smartphone in the USA. It will be sold for $169 at Virgin Mobile, Cricket and MetroPCS. No contracts. The phone might be SIM-locked to that pre-paid carrier, but there is no subscription plans required to have an Android smart phone.

The fact is that Android phones cost around $150 to manufacture at the moment. The Nexus One might cost $50 more than Kyocera's phone to manufacture (perhaps $175 vs $125), due to the more expensive components. But in general, the cost of parts and manufacturing is around $150.

Same with Android or Chrome OS on ARM processors for Laptops and Tablets. Those can also be manufactured for around $150 or even less if you don't include the 3G modem in the device and use the lowest quality components.

Of course Google can subsidize the price of the devices with advertising. In fact, I think we can expect Google will sell $99 Android Phones and $99 Chrome OS laptops on google.com/phone and google.com/laptop within long.

For Internet access, there will be pre-paid deals for using 3G and LTE networks without contracts, and there will be WiFi-only devices or 700mhz White Spaces ones in those products, to thus route the VOIP through data and provide near-free wireless broadband usage on these products. So $99 devices without contracts, without subscription plans is doable.

The question is only how soon does Google want to disrupt the whole market?

I originally posted this as a comment here: paidcontent.org
Found via: techmeme.com

Nintendo 3DS and my feature Wish-List

Posted by Charbax – March 23, 2010
Image representing Nintendo as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

The Nintendo 3DS has now been announced by Nintendo in this official press release:

March 23, 2010
To Whom It May Concern:
Re: Launch of New Portable Game Machine
Nintendo Co., Ltd.(Minami-ward of Kyoto-city, President Satoru Iwata) will launch “Nintendo 3DS”(temp) during the fiscal year ending March 2011, on which games can be enjoyed with 3D effects without the need for any special glasses.
“Nintendo 3DS”(temp) is going to be the new portable game machine to succeed “Nintendo DS series”, whose cumulative consolidated sales from Nintendo amounted to 125 million units as of the end of December 2009, and will include backward compatibility so that the software for Nintendo DS series, including the ones for Nintendo DSi, can also be enjoyed.
We are planning to announce additional details at E3 show, which is scheduled to be held from June 15, 2010 at Los Angeles in the U.S.

I'm a big fan of Nintendo, while I would be very impressed if this 3D screen technology (rumored to be Sharp/Hitachi's parallax barrier) actually doesn't look like some blurry crap, which is my opinion of all the 3D screens that I have seen at consumer electronic shows so far these past few years, with and without glasses. Here are my feature wish-list for Nintendo's next portable game console:

- It should be possible to deactivate the 3D screen effect and the screen must be just as clear as the market's best LCD screens

- Game downloads, Nintendo needs to be bold and provide $1 Game downloads, for all games, including affordable $15/month game subscription plans that gives access to all the games. Online games means they get updated often and new games could even be streamed when they are based on pre-installed game engines.

- 3G module for extra $50, there should be a module slot in the back of the device where users should be able to add such things as a modem for 3G and its SIM card. The 3G module shoulds be unlocked so anny SIM card on any carrier can be used.

- Android OS, Nintendo surely has enough money and power to do their own OS if they want. I would find it much more interesting if Nintendo was so courageous and simply base their next portable on Android. At the same time announce that games will work on other Android phones that have graphics hardware acceleration. This would instantly add thousands of apps to the platform and make all UI and feature design work compatible with the rest of the industry.

- SD card slot but perhaps even a built-in hard drive compartment. Adding a 1.8" or 2.5" hard drive in the back of the device could be really cool to thus have enough storage for hundreds of big games, videos and music.

- HDMI output, this should basically be even more powerful than the Wii in terms of graphics outputting full 720p and 1080p games to HDTVs.

- At least dual 4" screens, perhaps a larger version with dual 4.8" screens. The screens should be close enough to each other so when the device is opened or put on a table, it would look like one big screen.

- Keyboard add-on should cover one screen and thus turn the device into a pocketable laptop form factor. The keyboard should be foldable, thus providing a full sized keyboard typing speed.

- Nintendo should do the marketing for using it for VOIP and IM, it should be compatible with SIP, Skype, Google Voice, video-conferencing and more. Over WiFi and 3G and even other networks as the modem module shall be replacable with other networking technologies. Thus Nintendo should market this as a replacement for smartphones.

- Full video codecs playback at up to 1080p and full bitrates also for high profile. Somehow video playback battery runtime should be at least 10 hours. Youtube HD support should be included.

- Pixel Qi screens so the Nintendo portable can be used for reading, with 50 or more hours of battery runtime. Comon Nintendo, when you order 100 million screens, you can make any screen technology you want. Be the first to announce 4.8" Pixel Qi LCD screens. Including even that 3D layer on top if you want.

- Usable for education. Instead of teachers and schools banning the Nintendo DS from the classrooms (I've seen this happen for some of my young cousins), Nintendo should work to include the hardware in class rooms. Thus it needs educational contents, it needs to provide productivity such as the web browsing and text input needs to provide a full speed experience.

- Pricing should be below $200, preferably $150 without the 3G module.

What do you think?

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