I was lucky to be able to ask Sundar Pichai, Google Vice President of Product Management some questions during the Google Cloud Computing Q&A session at the Computex 2010 consumer electronics conference in Taipei Taiwan. Here are the questions I was able to ask:
Venturebeat.com reports that it has heard from several sources that Acer is going to launch Chrome OS laptops at Computex in June.
Last year’s Computex, Acer really disappointed me with their “fake” Android netbook, one that booted Android as a dual-boot with Windows on an expensive and power consuming Intel Atom based Netbook.
The big questions are:
– Will Acer’s first Chrome OS laptop use an ARM Processor or will it be based on Intel?
– What type of price point does Acer plan to reach?
The answers to those questions I think could be found by answering following two other questions:
– Does Acer want to be innovative enough and be one of the first big laptop manufacturers to use an ARM Processor in a Laptop form factor to lower the price, increase battery runtime, lower the weight and size of their new Chrome OS line of laptops?
– Does Acer feel it needs to stay in bed with Intel and Microsoft, and thus keep any non-Wintel projects out of their marketing radar?
If they announce it with ARM and Pixel Qi at Computex, hear the drum rolls:
1. 50h battery runtime
2. Instant on, month of standby
3. Below 800gr, 1cm thickness
4. Below $199 retail, no contracts, they sell tens of millions?
5. Built-in 3G module (maybe not included by default) for always connected use
6. Native Code SDK and OpenGL for even advanced video-editing and 3D games
7. Maybe even a swivel screen and the device holds like an e-reader? Touch-screen not absolute necessity for cheap model. Next/previous page and enter/exit buttons on the side would be good enough.
Freescale is showing their reference design for sub-$200 tablets. The target is that tablets can soon be sold below $200 to end consumers that are able to run any Linux-based OS, including Android or Chromium OS – based on the open-source code available at http://chromium.org
In this video, Freescale’s product manager of Software Development demonstrates the status of their optimizations of running Chromium OS on their i.MX51 based devices, among other form factors is the recently announced $199 tablet form factor. It even supports hardware acceleration of HTML5 based video playback.
This means, full power Chromium OS could be made available in the next few months in Laptop and Tablet form factors to be sold well below $200 unlocked without contracts. The main question is how fast and how smooth will the Chromium Browser feel on ARM Powered devices? This is to be seen and tested very soon! Follow my video-blog for hands-on reports showing performance of Chromium OS running on all the ARM Powered devices very soon. Check also for Chrome browser running within Android, or for Chromium OS modified to add Android apps support, thus merging the two.
I also wonder, how much more does a $65 ARM Powered laptop cost if it uses an ARM Cortex A8 processor like the ones from Freescale instead of the ARM9 or ARM11 based ones from rockchip, VIA, Samsung and others. If the price increase is within $35, then welcome will be all the sub-$100 full power smooth ARM Powered Chromium OS laptops and tablets! Without actually knowing the real price difference between the ARM9, ARM11 and ARM Cortex based cheap laptops, my guess is that the availability of sub-$200 and sub-$100 Chromium/Android Laptops/Tablets is a possibility.
How soon will we see Google sell unlocked Chromium/Android on ARM powered laptop/tablet/e-reader convertibles with 50-hour battery life on Pixel Qi screens at http://google.com/laptop?
I am still slowly uploading my remaining 10-15 videos from Mobile World Congress to Youtube, as Internet upload speeds using Swisscom ADSL in Switzerland also are absolutely terrible, where uploads get disconnected all the time, I have to resume an FTP upload 100 times over many hours uploading with an average of 10kb/s and I have to ask someone else somewhere else to be nice enough to upload them to Youtube for you during these next few days.
After the Google keynote on the third day of Mobile World Congress, I was lucky to speak with Andy Rubin product manager at Google of the Android project of which I got several very interesting replies off camera to several of my Android related questions, until I also got to ask Eric Schmidt a couple of questions while he was walking with his team including Google President of Product Management Vic Gundotra to a secret meeting with secret people (that I didn’t try to guess who were) in a secret room behind the scenes of the keynote area:
– How soon are we going to see the Android laptops?
(big smile, everyone in the Google team around the CEO laughs, and looks at me like I know something)
(another smile and laugh from himselft and the Google team)
– I would have to say No Comment on this one.
– Do you think it’s bloated?
– No comment
What I take from those answers, mostly from what I saw in the faces of Eric Schmidt and his team, is that Android in ARM powered Laptops certainly is one of Google’s next big projects although the big tagline of his whole keynote speech was “Mobile First”. I would guess probably that Laptops and Tablets may be supported by Google with one of the next versions of Android. This is also the kind of confirmation that I got speaking to Andy Rubin in the following interview. This is not word for word what he said, he wouldn’t or couldn’t let me film him answer my questions, this is kind of what I remember him answering:
– Do you know the Archos 5 Internet Tablet? (I show mine to him)
– Yes I know it. It’s nice.
– When are we going to see official Android Marketplace support on such kinds of devices that for example don’t have 3G and only have WiFi and also introduce a few new hardware features such as larger screens and Laptop form factors?
– While we were initially asking manufacturers to stay within our hardware requirements and guidelines, we are also definitely going to be supporting Tablets and Laptop form factors as well soon.
– Can Chrome browser run within Android, and if it could, what would need to be done in terms of software engineering to make that work on Laptops and Tablets with WVGA or higher resolution screens.
– Both Android and Chrome are open source, and we have released the Native Android SDK, so any developer could certainly try to port the Chrome browser for Android. But the Chrome browser is more adapted for larger screens such as laptops. It does make sense.
– When are we going to see Android phones sold unlocked below $200? I was the one to falsely circulate the rumor (which though I didn’t present as a rumor but more as a Wish in a simple comment) of the $199 unlocked Nexus One pricing.
– Even for the Nexus One, we are not the ones setting the price. (I don’t know if he simply meant HTC is setting the price or if someone else at Google is setting the price. And I didn’t manage to ask if Google is making a large share of the profit margins on selling Nexus One unlocked or on contracts or if Google “only” makes about the same margin as any other reseller.)
That’s it, I didn’t really present myself as a video-blogger/press/journalist directly to Eric Schmidt in the brief few seconds that I was able to talk to him and I didn’t want to slow them down as I somehow got to be somewhere back stage where I was not really supposed to be. I left my business card to the press relations Google lady asking if there was any way for me to be allowed to Interview Google Engineers in a video for my video-blog about my Android and Chrome related questions.
I was politely contacted the same evening by a Google UK press representative telling me that “Thanks for our interest in doing a videoblog here at mobile world congress. I’m afraid that we don’t have the resources to do on-camera interviews this year. Apologies for any inconvenience.”
No problem, it was fun just to speak with Andy Rubin for a few minutes and to Eric Schmidt for a few seconds.
You have to consider that some of the leaders of the telecom industry were probably in the audience at that very packed keynote room at Mobile World Congress. I did find it slightly fun when some people (possibly with an agenda) did ask quite harsh questions to Eric Schmidt when there were some minutes for the Q&A, for example Danish Analyst John Strange asked if Google was trying to turn the Telecoms into dumb pipes when they rather would want to be intelligent pipes, which fueld several replies from Eric Schmidt and further discussions on the matter also when a Dutch Analyst asked if Google wanted to “steal the voice minutes” from the telecom industry. I found those questions very fun, especially since some in attendance seemed to be cheering against Google for those two questions. I certainly am rooting for Google to disrupt the established telecom industry business models. Sub-$100 fully featured Android phones could reach not only populations of rich countries, but those billions of people in developing countries, even people who currently live in slumps, in misery, and for whome I am convinced access to technology could be a faster solution.
While you wait for my next videos, you can watch Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s keynote at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in the following video:
Marvell is showing a demonstration of Chromium OS running on their Armada 510 processor. There are still a lot of optimizations that need to be done to utilize hardware acceleration to optimize the web browser speed.
This video about the cheap Chromium OS Tablet revolution was a bit too good (smooth Chromium on ARM Powered device!!), so I have been asked to remove it for now and edit some parts out and upload a new video.
I hope to get an edited version of it back online at some point. Or perhaps they will agree to let me film new video about it soon.