NetbookNews.com: iPad2 smart cover not so smart afterall

Posted by – March 21, 2011

After just a week of use, Sasha Pallenberg of NetbookNews.com is reporting on how dirty, scratchy the Apple Smart Cover really is in real use, and it seems it doesn’t protect the display but that it makes big marks on it instead. After antennagate, after verizon-antennagate 2, this could be the beginning of smartcovergate.

This video was posted at: http://www.netbooknews.com/22124/apple-ipad-2-smart-cover-protection-not-at-all/

Archos Gen9 tablets, 1.6Ghz Dual-core, 3G, to be announced in June

Posted by – March 18, 2011

Archos just announced that their revenues are up 44% for 2010 sales compared to 2009 sales, to $118 Million in yearly sales. They also managed to increase their profit margins from 13.5% to 23.3%. In terms of actual profits after R&D, Marketing and other expenses, Archos is about break-even. Archos plans to more than double its revenues and profits in 2011, grabbing about 5% of the worldwide tablet market share expected in 2011 (they captured 22% market share in France for November-December 2010, behind iPad 67% but infront of Samsung 4%, so it should be doable even as tablet competition strongly increases). They plan to do that among other by launching Generation 9 in June (at least show it for the first time), that’s only 3 months from now!

Here are the first few details as reported by bestofmicro.com from what they heard at Archos investors meeting today about the Gen9 tablets (what’s in bold is from the report, the rest of following text are my added speculations and guessing):

- ARM Cortex-A9 Dual-core 1.6Ghz, it’s the fastest processor in a tablet ever unveiled thus far. I expect this to be a customized Texas Instruments OMAP4440, but that is only because I guess Archos will continue their long time partnership with TI that they’ve had for over 10 years now.

- New innovative 3G modem. Yup, we’re getting 3G (at least as an option). What kind of 3G? How they implement it? I dunno, it seems they have a new special way of doing it? I hope they do it with some kind of modem module that can be added or swaped, thus making the tablet compatible with all types of cellular networks current and future and making production and distribution easy, anyone think it could be a module? Somehow allowing for space for a standard USB 3G modem on an “internal” USB host could also be a very innovative way to simply add 3G to the devices, the back of the device could “simply” have some space available to insert any standard compact 3G modem such as the Huawei or ZTE 3G usb dongles that anyone can buy everywhere for as little as $20 unlocked.

- 6 sizes from 5″ to 10″. That’s the sizes it seems they are aiming at. It might mean Archos noticed their 7″ and 10″ Gen8 were much more popular and in demand than the smaller sizes, and it might mean Archos is realizing a tablet has to be at least 5″, perhaps they leave the smaller sizes to the Arnova line? I expect/hope all are capacitive, even the 5″ one. Likely sizes are 5″, 7″, 10.1″, other possible sizes (since there are 6 sizes planned), 9.7″ 4:3 aspect ratio, 5.8″, 8.9″, 8″ 4:3 aspect ratio. I also hope Archos and Pixel Qi can synchronize release schedules so Archos can provide Pixel Qi matte capacitive screen option on all these sizes, at least as an option. Would you pay $50/$100 extra for Pixel Qi if Pixel Qi is not yet fully mass produced? One can hope Pixel Qi is fully mass produced in time, and that somehow Archos sees the opportunity in using it accross the line, thus making Gen9 ready for productivity, ready for real reading, ready for outdoor use, ready for use in professional and study situations, ready for serious collaboration on text annotations, ready to be Kindle-killer and iPad-killer all at the same time.

- All are Android, obviously it has to be Honeycomb (source code for Honeycomb has yet to be released in the open by Google, it should be done any day now), can Google finally open up Android and allow value Archos tablets the full Google Marketplace access? I would expect so, that could hopefully allow Archos to be certified. (this is totally up to Google is my guess)

- Archos says they continue to focus on aiming for the medium range pricing. My guess is it likely stays below $300, but if they do 3G, Pixel Qi and if they are first out with OMAP4440, who knows, perhaps the price might sneak up to something below $400. Archos CEO is planning all this based on offering the best possible value they can, my guess is that they aim to stay below $300 for the basic models.

- They continue to make hard drive versions. Reason being hard drives provide much more storage at much lower cost. My expectation is at least some of the 6 sizes will have hard drive options. Capacity can depend on how thick they can accept that hard drive to be, cause 2.5″ hard drives can go up to 1TB as far as I know, but those are probably too fat. So 250GB for sure, 320GB and 500GB again maybe, if the 320GB or/and 500GB are available in super slim mode.

Well that’s all they have teased for us for now. What other features are you hoping Archos is preparing for us in the Gen9 tablets? write in the comments. You can also comment in the forum: http://forum.archosfans.com/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=43708&p=337531#p337531

Sources: http://www.archos.com/corporate/investors/financial_doc/ARCHOS_2010_Results_en.pdf, http://www.bestofmicro.com/actualite/28876-Tablette-Android.html

Nintendo Wii2 to be be ARM Powered?

Posted by – March 16, 2011

Logo circa 2008

Image via Wikipedia

There are some rumors and speculation that Nintendo might unveil Wii2 at E3 in June. Here’s what I think Nintendo should do:

1. Sell it for $99 as an ARM Powered set-top-box

2. Use ARM Cortex-A9 Dual-core or Quad-core with future proof 1080p graphics, even support 1080p 3D output.

3. Little integrated storage, but include SD card slot(s) and support USB Host for external hard drive storage.

4. It’s a Blu-ray player, but all the games should be downloadable and stored on SD cards or USB hard drives.

5. Nintendo should start unlimited games subscription packages, games are downloaded from the Internet, eventually even use BitTorrent, synchronize also unlimited games onto the Nintendo 3DS and using new official Game Cart for previous Nintendo portable and home consoles. The main problem with this is the disruption of retail stores and the ways they promote the sale of video games. But it’s a change Nintendo has to make. $10-$20 per month in a subscription should give unlimited access to all past and future Nintendo games for home and portable consoles.

6. Wii2 should run Google TV software in my opinion, so it also doubles as the best HDTV VOD Set-top-box, so it disrupts regular TV programming, Nintendo can turn everything to on-demand entertainment in the living room.

7. All previous Nintendo games can be updated online, and can receive new online gaming modes.

8. Built-in HD video conferencing, might require additional HD usb webcam.

9. The Wii2 creates a WiFi hotspot to interact automatically with the 3DS/DSi/DS, and includes Bluetooth also for remote controls, including also a bluetooth keyboard and a bluetooth headset.

10. New innovative virtual reality gaming mechanisms, might add Kinect-style 3D cameras, but more likely, new Wii game controllers, new gloves and even detectors on feet for a full virtual reality experience. Maybe they integrate sensors like the Freescale MMA9550L in their new remotes and compact body sensors. Some type of glasses with two IR emitters perhaps as well using this trick.

11. The size should be barely larger than a dual CD case. With Blu-ray player in there, HDMI output (possibly HDMI input/throughput also for full Google TV like features and easy setup), Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0 host ports, new TV sensor ports.

Which ARM chip provider could get that deal with Nintendo to be mass produced into Wii2? Could it be Nvidia’s Kal-El, OMAP4440, i.MX6, Marvell’s Tri-Core, Qualcomm’s Quad-core? What do you think Nintendo should do for the Wii2? Write in the comments..

ARM sponsors National Electronics Week and exhibits mbed racing robots.

Posted by – March 16, 2011

16 March – National Electronics Week the UK’s premier electronics trade exhibition (NEW:UK) will take place 12 – 13 April at the NEC Pavilion, the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham UK and will introduce a showcase of cutting-edge technology that is both fun and educational.

“We are delighted to have ARM as an exhibitor and as our main sponsor” said Claire Saunders, NEW:UK event director. “ARM is a leading light in the electronics industry and at the heart of today’s most wanted high tech products.”

Running alongside The Gadget Show Live in 2011, National Electronics Week will highlight the connection between today’s most wanted consumer electronics and the UK’s electronics industry, innovation, R&D and the supply-chain behind the best tech on display.

ARM is challenging NEW:UK attendees to test their development and racing skills at the mbed Robot Racing challenge. Competitors will work against the clock to optimize and race mbed-powered robots.

For the brave, workstations will be available so developers can write a program for the mbed microcontroller that will enable the robot to follow a line around the centre of the track. Prizes, based on speed and skill, will be given out at the end of each day.

The first 5000 attendees who register for NEW:UK at www.reg-box.co.uk/new2011 will have a unique opportunity to attend the Gadget Show Live on the trade and press day (10:00 – 16:00 12th April 2011).

Supporting the exhibition, seminars, workshops and panel discussions will also provide rich networking opportunities www.new-expo.co.uk

PR Contacts:
Andy Phillips ARM
Tel: +44 1223 400930
Email:andy.phillips[at]arm[dot]com

Claire Saunders
Events Director
New Events
M: +44 (0) 7908 124 549
Office: +44 (0) 1483 420 229
Email@ claire[at]new-expo[dot]co.uk

Distributed on behalf of New Events Ltd by NeonDrum news distribution service (http://www.neondrum.com)

ARM Cortex-A15 might be 40% faster than Cortex-A9 at same Mhz and number of cores

Posted by – March 16, 2011

ARM Cortex-A15 which might already be available in products next year, is reported by itproportal.com, could be 40% more performance per Mhz per core.

The Cortex-A8 reached 2.0 DMIPS/MHz while the Cortex-A9 reached 2.5 DMIPS/MHz, a 25 per cent improvement. According to our contact at ARM, the A15 has a “published but not formal number” of 3.5 DMIPS/MHz but told us that the performance difference across generation is “dependent on many factors” before adding that “Other benchmarks can show less improvement on specific devices, others a greater improvement”.

What’s more we already know of at least one manufacturer who has published benchmark figures for the Cortex-A15; Last month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, ST-Ericsson revealed that its new system on Chip, the Nova A9600, would have two Cortex-A15 core, runs at 2.5GHz and, more importantly, breaks the 20,000 DMIPS barrier.

This means that the ST-Ericsson’s tweaked implementation of the Cortex-A15 can reach at least 4.01 DMIPS/MHz, which is itself a 14 per cent improvement upon what ARM’s figures.

We’ve also been tipped off by an anonymous source outside ARM that the company will be announcing a major breakthrough by the end of the 2011; just one year after the unveiling of the Cortex-A15.

Source: http://itproportal.com/2011/03/14/exclusive-arm-cortex-a15-40-cent-faster-cortex-a9/

iPad2 review (by Charlie Brooker)

Posted by – March 16, 2011

language and tone of the video may offend some..

If you are in the UK, this video may be blocked, you can watch the whole episode at: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/10-oclock-live/4od (Thursday 3rd March, 10pm, about 25 minutes in) (that streaming service from Channel 4 only works within the UK)

Source: dvorak.org/blog

Why the Motorola Atrix 4G+Dock is better than a Smartphone+Netbook

Posted by – March 14, 2011

While I am eager to see more of the Motorola Atrix 4G (I don’t know if I can get/find/buy a review unit), having tried it at CES (and interviewed the product manager in this 15-minute video) and at Mobile World Congress, having written about how I think this concept is an example of the ultimate ARM Powered device, as the Motorola Atrix 4G is being released in the USA, here are some of my arguments for why this is a taste of the best mobile computing solution for all:

- Cheaper to make (does not mean it’s cheaper to sell, for some reason anything related to telcos is over-priced..). The Bill Of Material of Motorola Atrix 4G is probably close to $150, and the Laptop Dock which consists only of a screen, keyboard and battery must not cost much more than $50 to actually make, even with this pretty high resolution screen.

- Lasts much longer on a battery, Motorola says 8 hours, this thin battery might compare with something like a 2-cell battery on an Intel Atom powered netbook. Since the screen is the most power consuming part of the device, if they used Pixel Qi, the battery runtime might be 30 hours for this setup.

- Thinner

- Lighter (if they didn’t put such heavy metals in the laptop dock), it seems to me the metals used on the laptop dock of Motorola Atrix 4G may make it a bit unnecessarily heavy. But perhaps some people find it just fine and good heavy metals make it seem like good construction quality perhaps.

- More secure, we all know and understand cloud services and embedded OS are much more secure than trying luck with a Windows based x86 PC. If Motorola had used TrustZone and NFC, it would even had been the absolute ultimate 100% secure and unhackable system to use for any online authentication or money transactions.

- Faster than intel atom (if they used a faster processor than Tegra2, with more memory bandwidth, such as Exynos 4210, OMAP4430 or ST-Ericsson U8500, when I tested it at CES and MWC, the web browsing with multiple tabs was not fast enough, I think I understood that that may be due to Tegra2′s slow memory bandwidth perhaps not yet suitable for multi-tab laptop/desktop style web browsing, I hope Motorola/Nvidia/Mozilla have fixed this in software updates since..)

- Simpler, all your data is always there and synchronized, you always know where to find your data. This is the dream of SysAdmins, they can just give all the employees this system and know it just works, auto-updates, if a unit breaks, everything is automatically resynchronized, hardware upgrades are also seamless.

- Much lower power consumption, save money on power, save the earth eventually, using this type of laptop should become mandatory

- Unbloated, no more crappy software that crashes and fills with viruses and malware (would be better if it “simply” ran Honeycomb with that Chrome browser inside and optimized for laptop use)

- Instant boot, no more waiting

- Seamless resume of multimedia playback on different screen

- There is more.. what do you think? Write in the comments..

ARM Powered servers designed by Calxeda could be 10x more efficient than Intel

Posted by – March 14, 2011

Calxeda Inc, formerly known as Smooth-Stone, is the new company formed by ARM Holdings, Texas Instruments, ATIC (same invesors as in GlobalFoundries and AMD) and others that have provided at least $48 Million in investment to set it up. They are optimizing the designs for ARM Powered servers to be implemented by Server OEM partners around the world. As reported by Forrester Research’s Richard Fichera:

While still holding their actual delivery dates and details of specifications close to their vest, Calxeda did reveal the following cards from their hand:

  • The first reference design, which will be provided to OEM partners as well as delivered directly to selected end users and developers, will be based on an ARM Cortex A9 quad-core SOC design.
  • The SOC, as Calxeda will demonstrate with one of its reference designs, will enable OEMs to design servers as dense as 120 ARM quad-core nodes (480 cores) in a 2U enclosure, with an average consumption of about 5 watts per node (1.25 watts per core) including DRAM.
  • While not forthcoming with details about the performance, topology or protocols, the SOC will contain an embedded fabric for the individual quad-core SOC servers to communicate with each other.
  • Most significantly for prospective users, Calxeda is claiming, and has some convincing models to back up these claims, that they will provide a performance advantage of 5X to 10X the performance/watt and (even higher when price is factored in for a metric of performance/watt/$) of any products they expect to see when they bring the product to market.

ARM Powered servers could have 5X to 10X the performance/watt compared to Intel’s x86.

As you can read on Calxeda’s website, the operating expense associated with power and cooling now dominates a server’s cost of ownership, and will eclipse the hardware itself by a factor of 7X in 2012. IDC reports that all servers worldwide consumed $44.5 Billion of electricity in 2010 and require ten additional Gigawatt power plants to be constructed.

Top-6 Embedded World 2011 videos

Posted by – March 14, 2011

On the 3rd of March, I jumped on a train from CeBIT Hannover to Embedded World in Nurnberg, so that I could try to interview the representatives of some of the cool ARM Powered devices shown there. I managed to film 15 videos during that day at Embedded World, here are my top-6 best videos:

1. Worlds first Samsung Exynos 4210 ARM Cortex-A9 tablet presented by Hard Kernel, it’s just awesome to see this $750 dev-kit transparent Tablet design, allowing to see through all the awesome hardware features of this platform.

2. Worlds most compact Tegra2 PC presented by Toradex, the potential is a $150 ARM Cortex-A9 Powered desktop PC, with dual-screen output (one HDMI, one VGA), USB host ports, Ethernet, audio input/outputs and more. It’s cool!

3. $200 Tegra2 slim PC by Trim Slice Compulab, yet another cool looking Tegra2 powered super compact desktop PC, this one may actually seem to be more finalized than the Toradex, in terms of software and in terms of cheap motherboard design availability, though it’s to be seen once it gets released what the status for software and hardware pricing will be then.

4. 4K2K video playback on the new Texas Instruments DaVinci DM816x and DM814x, the powers of Texas Instruments DaVinci ties in with what they do with OMAP, the DaVinci perhaps targetting more video-centric uses such as potentially one of the next $100 ARM Powered Google TV set-top-boxes. 4K2K ARM Powered Google TV at $100 retail would be awesome. Until then, the OMAP4 stuff is not yet in these DaVinci and the video stuff is not yet in OMAP4, but those are merging their powers.

5. Seco shows x86-ARM Cross Platform, they work on making it easy for the industry to get away from using x86 and to use ARM solutions instead. They support OMAP4, Tegra2, OMAP3 and i.MX51 designs among others. It becomes as easy as swapping the one for the other, all other aspects of the design, even the software being interoperable.

6. QNX talks about their software on the Blackberry Playbook, still no confirmation if Blackberry will choose to install a Dalvik Engine on top of this to support Android apps in there, but it’s sure interesting to try to understand how QNX does it to utilize the dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 Texas Instruments OMAP4430 processor to its fullest to provide the smoothest UI and multi-tasking.

Apple’s manufactured scarcity, free publicity, playing for the analysts

Posted by – March 12, 2011

The craze started at the release of iPhone1 in June 2007. I remember watching the live stream on Mogulus, predecesor to livestream.com, it was filmed and broadcast by Max Haost, founder of livestream.com and they were extremely hilarious in the way they would actually make fun of the people standing in line. I find this unbelievably hilarious, it’s the extreme example of the gadget-craze (out-of-control gadget consumerism?)


The ipad 2 line in Houston, TX as reported by Engadget.

Blame the analysts, unless they see lines, they think Apple isn’t selling any products.

This launch was engineered to generate lines (no pre-orders, 3 week waits if ordered on line…) and lots of free publicity…

Comment by Ghostbear1 in that Engadget article.

the scarcity principle is the mother of all marketing techniques (…) We generally perceive that things that are difficult to get are typically better than things that are easily available. If everyone wants it then it must be good right? This actually taps into the principle called social proof

Source: salescrunch.com

Queuing up for a piece of gadget is a really weird concept. In theory, especially for Apple, those devices are mass produced in gigantic proportions in the biggest Chinese factories, somehow Apple would not be able to manufacture enough to sell to whomever would want one?

This whole lining up deal is a situation designed by Apple’s viral marketing department.

This carefully choreographed gadget marketing/pricing ballet has turned Apple into the second largest company in the world, just 3 and a half years after the release of the iPhone. It’s really insane if you think about it. If not for the largest oil company in the world Exxon Mobile, Apple would be the largest company in the world, and most of Apple’s current profits and revenues come from their ARM Powered iOS devices, especially the iPhone.

So now Apple is doing a big push on the tablet market with iPad. And the iPad2 certainly has a nice Dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor in there.

There are Android tablets like Archos 101 Internet Tablet released 6 months ago, that are lighter at 480gr vs 600gr, that have real mini-HDMI outputs built-in, real USB-host built-in, a real kick-stand built-in, and that still support more video and audio codecs (such as all DivX, MKV found on BitTorrents), with Flash support, real multi-tasking for 40% to 60% cheaper price than the ipad2.

In my opinion, Honeycomb is the first real Tablet OS. And I am pretty sure Honeycomb tablets will overtake iPad market share in less than a year, faster than Android overtook iPhone after the Nexus One release.

For some engineering resource/time allocation/prioritisation issues, Google chose not to allow much to happen with tablets with Donut, Eclair, Froyo and Gingerbread. Companies like Archos were left with the open source part of Android, doing the customizations they want, but for some strategic reason, they were left without the full support from Google. Google didn’t want Android Powered iPad and iPod Touch competitors to dominate the market in 2010. They thought they perhaps were busy enough dominating smartphone growth of that year, and gaining the full support by two dozen Smartphone makers in the process.

I think Google’s strategy is to simply let the Apple viral marketing people do their thing first, then get their better open and free software in gear, and riding on Apple’s viral marketing coat-tails, Google’s Android ecosystem can then provide the big push and rapidly dominate.

This is also a dance of technological disruption, and disruption of those disruptors. Google can’t be seen as encouraging the industrys too rapid change, while some companies bet their futures on the Open Handset Alliance, Google had to be careful and let the market move as fast as it can without hurting the feelings of the big partners who invest billions of dollars in this and want to see their investments safely recouped.

In any ways, look forward to the Android Honeycomb ecosystem taking care of making Android the top platform for tablets fast, and look forward to new designs to make tablets even more fun, more productive, and basically turn these gadgets into the user interface of the future of mobile computing for all the people of the world.