Monday, December 24, 2007

A-Data, Walton Chaintech Make 2.0GHz Memory Modules a Reality

While a lot of memory module manufacturers have been talking about DDR3 clock-speeds of about 2.0GHz and beyond, not many have so far managed to introduce such blazingly fast memory. However, A-Data, a large maker of memory modules, as well as Walton Chaintech, recently unveiled their PC3-16000 products.

A-Data Vitesta DDR3-2000X memory modules can operate at 2.0GHz with CL9 9-9-24 latency settings and 2.05V – 2.15V voltage settings. A-Data sells its Vitesta DDR3-2000X as 4GB dual-channel kit (two modules per 2GB), though, pricing of such memory modules is unknown.

Walton Chaintech, the company that used to be known primarily for its graphics cards and mainboards several years ago, also plans to introduce its Apogee GT Blazer-series memory modules, which will feature 2.0GHz clock-speed and CL9 8-8-24 timings, reports VR-Zone web-site. Pricing of such memory modules is also unclear.

The highest speed memory modules presently available from well-known memory module brands, such as Corsair Memory or OCZ Technology, can work at about 1.8 – 1.86GHz.

While 2.0GHz clock-speed may be considered as a milestone for memory modules, this milestone may be too high for the vast majority of chipsets and mainboards available. Theoretically, memory controller of the latest Intel X38 can handle 2.0GHz memory; however, according to people with knowledge of the matter, in reality it depends on the actual ASIC. Therefore, not many enthusiasts will be able to take advantage of 2000MHz memory modules at present.

Apple Interested to Produce Intel-Based Mobile Internet Devices – Rumours

Apple, the maker of iPod portable digital media player and Macintosh computers, plans to utilize Intel’s code-named Silverthorne central processing units (CPUs) next year. While the details about the exact device are uncertain, it is known that Silverthorne was designed specifically for so-called mobile Internet devices (MIDs).

According to AppleInsider web-site, Apple would “soon emerge as one of the largest supporters of Intel’s ‘Menlow’ mobile Internet device (MID) platform”. The Silverthorne processor is projected to be used in a number of devices from Apple due in 2008, though, there is no information, what kind of devices from the popular maker of gadgets will be based on Intel’s latest chips for mobile products.

The Menlow platform is based on Silverthorne microprocessor, which uses Intel Core 2 micro-architecture, and next-generation chipset, codenamed Poulsbo. Also featured on the Menlow-based designs are optional standardized communications capabilities such as Wi-Fi, 3G and WiMAX to enable more of an always-connected experience.

Currently companies like Asustek Computer, BenQ, Compal, Electrobit, HTC, Inventec and Quanta are developing their MIDs and UMPCs, whereas Intel is developing even more advanced reference platform for small Internet devices.

In fact, Apple iPhone is also positioned by its manufacturer as a mobile Internet device. Since the next-gen iPhone must have 3G connectivity among other improvements, potentially, it can be based on Intel Silverthorne. Besides, Apple might develop an ultra-mobile personal computer (UMPC) powered by Intel’s 45nm microprocessor.

Even though development of an UMPC would not fit into Apple’s general strategy even a couple of years ago, the release of such devices may make sense for the “new” Apple, which is expanding into various markets.

Mainboards Blamed for Intel’s New Quad-Core Microprocessors' Delay

The delay of Intel Corp.’s new breed of microprocessors manufactured using 45nm process technology was not caused by an error in chips, but was necessary to ensure compatibility of new central processing units (CPUs) with already available mainboards.

As reported, Intel decided to postpone the commercial launch of its microprocessors made using 45nm process technology recently due to issues with processor system bus (PSB). According to a news-report from PC Watch web-site, the issues with quad-core code-named Yorkfield processors occur on affordable mainboards that utilize 4-layer print-circuit boards (PCBs) and do not affect expensive platforms that are based on 6-layer PCBs. As a consequence, the world’s largest producer of x86 processors decided to create a new version of its chips to retain compatibility with mainstream motherboards.

Nowadays the majority of Intel’s quad-core microprocessors for desktops – which consist of two dual-core dice on a single piece of substrate – utilize 1066MHz processor system bus and only two Intel Core 2 Extreme processors QX6850 and QX9650 use 1333MHz PSB. Since Intel’s “extreme” chips that retail for over $1000 a unit are installed into expensive mainboards, no problems occur. In fact, Intel Xeon processors, some of which feature 1600MHz PSB, also do not have any troubles with such high speed. But apparently current design of Intel Core 2 Quad microprocessors with 1333MHz bus made using 45nm technology results in excessive “PSB noise”, which prevents normal operation.

Since many mainboards based on Intel P35 chipset that are based on 4-layer PCB are already available and are utilized by large system vendors, it is hardly possible for Intel to ask motherboard makers to revise their designs. Typically, mainboard redesign can take several weeks and validation and compatibility processes may take up to two months. As a result, Intel has decided to slightly alter its chips so that they could work in existing infrastructure, the Japanese web-site reported.

The new quad-core microprocessors from Intel, which are now projected to emerge in February or March, are expected to be fully compatible with existing infrastructure.

Friday, December 21, 2007

ATI CrossFire Technology Remains Open

ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, said on Thursday that it remained committed to its open eco-system strategy with multi-GPU technology. In fact, every company, including Intel Corp., might get the ability to use the “ATI CrossFire” logotype to push their platforms, provided that they had passed a validation process.

“We remain committed to an open ATI CrossFire eco-system,” said Chris Hook, a spokesperson for AMD.

ATI CrossFire and ATI CrossFireX are multi-GPU technologies that allow several graphics processing units to work in team to double or even triple the speed of a single high-end graphics accelerator.

Intel Corp. is the arch-rival of AMD in the market of x86 central processing units (CPUs). Besides microprocessors, Intel competes against AMD with its chipsets featuring built-in graphics cores. Still, all current Intel chipsets that have two PCI Express controllers as well as future chipsets, such as Intel X48 and P45, that have reportedly passed the validation tests of AMD and can support ATI CrossFire or ATI CrossFireX multi graphics chip technology.

“We are constantly working with the third-party companies, including Intel,” said Godfrey Cheng, who is in charge of ATI CrossFire multi-GPU technology at AMD.

There's no license fee for ATI CrossFire technology, the company said.

ATI CrossFireX is an improved version ATI CrossFire multi-GPU technology that has features like 3-way, 4-way GPU rendering on a single monitor.

Set the Stakes High: First Official Online Overclocking Contest Kicks Off

For years enthusiasts of performance computing as well as so-called professional overclockers shared their achievements online with other people without getting anything in return. But Gigabyte Technology, a leading maker of various computer components and other electronics equipment, wants to change that by kicking off its overclockers’ contest with prices equal to $12 thousand.

Gigabyte wants owners of Intel P35- and Intel X38-based mainboards from Gigabyte to share their results in 3DMark06 benchmarks. Since the results depend on central processing unit’s (CPU’s) performance, those, who manage to clock their microprocessors at a highest clock-speed possible, will have a high chance to win the competition. Winners of the contest will be determined based upon the same chipset motherboard, either Intel X38 or Intel P35.

The motherboard manufacturer also demands that a video of overclocking and the process of result’s obtaining were filmed, uploaded to YouTube web-site and made available to the public. Only North American residents can participate in the contest.

The winner of the contest is promised an Intel X48-based mainboard as well as $2500 in cash. Other leading participants will get from $200 to $200 along with some other prizes.

“The top 10 video winners will also take home Gigabyte wind breakers, Omega pen and laptop protectors are also given out to add excitement to the competition,” a spokesperson for the company said.

Gigabyte’s overclocker’s contest emphasizes two important trends. Overclocking of computer components is not only becoming akin to a minor tuning of a vehicle, but may actually be seen as an essential selling point. In addition, social web-sites, such as YouTube, have gained enough credibility to pay thousands of dollars just based on a video and a benchmark number submitted.

Toshiba Reveals Laptops with Rewritable HD DVD

Toshiba Corp., a leading maker of various electronics equipment and the main backer of HD DVD high-definition video format, announced this week that on Friday it would begin to sell the world’s first portable computers with rewritable HD DVD drive. The new multimedia center notebooks will not only be able to receive TV channels and playback HD DVD, but also to record high-def shows on modern media.

The new laptops from Toshiba are Qosmio G40/97E with 17” full-HD (1920x1200) screen and Qosmio F40/88EBL with 15.4” display that supports 1280x800 resolution. Both machines will come with 2GB of DDR2 memory, hard disk drive(s) from 160GB to 200GB, built-in TV-tuner that can receive two channels to allow end-users to watch one and record another. The new Qosmio notebooks feature Intel Core 2 Duo microprocessors as well as Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics accelerators that feature acceleration of HD DVD playback as well as quality high-definition video post-processing engines.

The key feature of the new Qosmio notebooks is HD DVD RW drives, which can playback, record and re-record HD DVD media. According to Toshiba, the capability will allow its customers to record high-definition TV shows on appropriate media, which has capacity of 15GB or 30GB. In addition, people will be able to record high-definition content on normal DVD media thanks to HD Rec technology. Given that 15GB HD DVD bulk media costs about $10, whereas a 4.7GB DVD costs about $0.25, the HD DVD burning capability will hardly become truly popular in foreseeable future.

The new portable computers from Toshiba are not light and will hardly be used as mobile PCs. But since they come with remote control, their positioning seems to be a multimedia center for small flats in Japan, where notebooks have gained popularity due to space constraints.

The 17” is expected to sell for about $3500, while the 15.4” version will be priced at about $2600, reports InformationWeek web-site. Presently the new Qosmio machines are only announced for Japan and it is unclear whether and when they are set to be offered in other regions.

EVGA Kicks off Motherboard Upgrade Promotion to Promote Nvidia nForce 780i

EVGA, well-known supplier of Nvidia-based graphics cards and mainboards, has initiated a promotion under which existing owners of Nvidia nForce 680i-based mainboards will be able to upgrade their platforms to those based on Nvidia nForce 780i. The program will allow original purchasers of rather expensive motherboards to get support of PCI Express 2.0 as well as Intel’s 45nm chips for $89 or €79.

The owners, who are interested in upgrading to an EVGA 780i mainboard, should register their EVGA 680i mainboards at EVGA web-site, fill-in a special upgrade form on the company’s web-site and send her or his EVGA 680i mainboard to the company in “like new condition” with all the accessories. The campaign is only available to those, who own fully-featured EVGA 680i platforms and those, whereas EVGA 122-CK-NF68-RX “will not be eligible for this promotion as this was sold as a recertified product”.

When the firm receives the motherboard and identifies that it works without issues and was not modified in any way, the vendor will charge $89 or €79, depending on end-user’s location, and send EVGA 780i platform back to the customer.

Present EVGA 680i owners will receive the following for their money:

* New EVGA 780i mainboard with two PCI Express 2.0 and one PCI Express 1.1 slots that supports ESA capability;
* 3-way SLI Bridge ($20 or €14 value);
* Free ground shipping ($10 or €7 value);
* New upgrade warranty (A1 lifetime/T1 2 year warranty).

EVGA’s intention to upgrade its Nvidia nForce 680i mainboards is a logical move to keep its motherboard customers loyal. Since Nvidia nForce 780i core-logic cannot provide a lot of innovations and its benefits compared to its predecessor are limited to support of 45nm microprocessors by Intel Corp. as well as rather inferior implementation of PCI Express 2.0 (via a PCI Express hub), hardly a lot of EVGA customers would upgrade at full price.

EVGA’s promotion campaign is subject to terms and conditions and will last for about two months.

Intel Sells off Telecom Optical Platform Assets to Emcore

Emcore Corp. and Intel Corp. have announced a definitive agreement for Emcore to acquire the telecom-related portion of Intel’s optical platform division. The acquisition will enhance Emcore’s presence in the telecommunications market and expand its fiber optics product portfolio, allowing Emcore to provide telecom clients with a broader product lineup. The sale of the division will allow Intel to concentrate on its core initiatives.

Under the terms of the transaction Intel will receive $85 million. The telecom assets to be acquired include intellectual property, assets and technology relating to tunable lasers, tunable transponders, 300-pin transponders and integrable tunable laser assemblies. The transaction is subject to regulatory review and certain other closing conditions, and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2008.

“The optical telecom components business continues to be an attractive market opportunity, but we believe this business and its assets are an optimal fit with Emcore. The two companies will work together following the close of the transaction to complete a smooth transition of the business,” said Doug Davis, vice president, Intel digital enterprise group, and general manager, embedded and communications group.

The sale of these telecom-related assets enables Intel to focus its investments on core communications and embedded market segments in line with its platform strategies. In addition to this announced transaction, Intel is currently exploring strategic alternatives regarding the enterprise-focused portion of its Optical Platform Division.

“We are excited about this acquisition and the opportunity to continue building upon Intel’s leading tunable laser technology, strong product quality and history of customer service and satisfaction. The acquired assets should drive substantial product cost reduction, and the combined product portfolio should enable Emcore to gain a greater share of customer spending. Emcore estimates these assets will generate $65 million of revenue in 2008, and believes this acquisition will accelerate its path to earnings per share profitability as expected in mid-2008,” said Reuben Richards, chief executive of Emcore.

Toshiba’s Next-Generation HDTVs to Use Rambus’ XDR Memory

Toshiba Corp., a leading designer and producer of consumer electronics, this week said that it had licensed XDR memory technology from Rambus, a leading designer of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and interface technologies. Toshiba plans to use XDR memory along with its next-generation core-logic for high-definition televisions (HDTVs).

Toshiba has licensed its XDR memory controller interface cell (XIO) and XDR memory controller (XMC) for next-generation high-definition television (HDTV) chipsets. The XIO and XMC will be implemented in Toshiba’s 65nm process and XDR memory will operate at 4800MHz. The new HDTVs are projected to be based either on the Cell processor developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba, or Spurs Engine processor, which was developed by Toshiba; or derivatives of the aforementioned.

Higher memory performance as delivered by the XDR architecture enables the advanced features of next-generation HDTVs such as 1080p+ resolution, 120Hz refresh rates, 12-bit color, multiple full HD Picture-in-Picture (PiP) data streams, and advanced image enhancement algorithms, said Rambus. Toshiba did not unveil any details concerning its next-gen HDTVs.

Rambus solutions are backed by comprehensive engineering support services that range from chip design to system integration. XDR DRAM licensees include Elpida Memory, Qimonda AG, and Samsung Electronics.

“HDTVs now require as much memory bandwidth as many PCs in order to deliver the advanced features consumers demand. With the XDR memory architecture, we are able to achieve both superior performance and a reduced bill of materials for our customers’ HDTV applications,” said Hideki Moriyama, deputy general manager of the system LSI division at Toshiba’s Semiconductor Company.

Intel Set to Postpone Introduction of New Quad-Core Microprocessors

Intel Corp. may postpone the actual release of its quad-core microprocessors produced using 45nm process technology due to an undisclosed defect and the fact that both Intel and its partners have a lot of central processing units (CPUs) with four processing engines made using 65nm tech in stock. It is unclear whether the delay will affect the world’s largest x86 chipmaker financially.

Initially Intel planned to roll-out its code-named Wolfdale and Yorkfield microprocessors that are projected to be marketed under Intel Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme brand-names on the 10th of January, 2008. But the plans have changed and, according to a news-story at HKEPC web-site, Intel will only be able to release dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo 8000-series (Wolfdale) processors in February, while Intel Core 2 Quad 9000-series (Yorkfield) will only see the light of the day in February or March.

The media report claims that Intel has discovered a “slight processor system bus defect” in its quad-core processors code-named Yorkfield. In addition, there are Intel Core 2 Quad 6000-series processors made at 65nm process technology, which are still unbeatable by AMD Phenom rivals with four processing engines. In fact, the release of the Intel Core Q9000-series chips would negatively affect sales of already available quad-core products.

Currently Intel commercially ships a family of processors made using 45nm process technology, which includes its Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 processor for high-end desktops and workstations as well as a lineup of various Intel Xeon processors with two or four processing engines for dual-pcoressor workstations.

Each of Intel’s dual-core central processing units made using 45nm process technology have 410 million transistors, up significantly from 291 million of current dual-core Conroe processors, however, thanks to 45nm process technology, the chips will have die size of 107 square millimeters, down about 25% from 155 square millimeters of the Conroe, which means significant cost reduction. Intel’s quad-core chips consist of two dual-core dice on a single piece of substrate.

Intel’s new CPUs produced using 45nm process technology have greater instructions per clock (IPC) execution, which means that they will be faster and more efficient even at the same clock-speeds with the current generation chips. Besides, the new chips should be able to run at higher clock-speeds compared to today’s Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad products.

The major micro-architectural improvements for new Intel Core 2 processors, besides SSE4 instruction set, include the so-called Unique Super Shuffle Engine and Radix 16 technique. The Super Shuffle Engine is a full-width, single-pass shuffle unit that is 128-bits wide, which can perform full-width shuffles in a single cycle. This significantly improves performance for SSE2, SSE3 and SSE4 instructions that have shuffle-like operations such as pack, unpack and wider packed shifts. This feature will increase performance for content creation, imaging, video and high-performance computing. Radix 16 technique, according to Intel, roughly doubles the divider speed over previous generations for computations used in nearly all applications. In addition, Intel also improved virtualization technology as well as added some features to dynamic acceleration technology, which is supposed to boost single-threaded applications’ performance on multi-core chips.

AMD Unleashes AMD Phenom Microprocessor for Overclockers

Advanced Micro Devices on Wednesday announced its new AMD Phenom 9600 Black Edition microprocessor designed specifically for gamers and overclockers and which performance can be customized using AMD’s OverDrive utility directly from Microsoft Windows operating system.

Quad-core AMD Phenom processor 9600 Black Edition will operate at 2.30GHz clock-speed, 2MB shared L3 cache and 512KB dedicated L2 cache per core and will have support for dual-channel PC2-8500 (DDR2 1066MHz), just like the typical AMD Phenom 9600 chip. However, the Black Edition processor has unlocked clock multiplier, which allows enthusiasts to clock the new chip higher than 2.30GHz without any issues that are associated with overclocking.

The customizable clock multiplier and auto-adjustable memory frequency of the new chip enables amateurs and value-conscious enthusiasts to maximize the performance of their desktop computers without substantial hassles. Typically enthusiasts have to increase base HyperTransport bus speed from default 200MHz, which eventually causes not only CPU clock-speed boost, but also alters HT bus and memory frequency, meaning that other components apart from the microprocessor also should be able to handle increased speeds. Previously customizable clock multiplier were only available on high-end AMD Athlon 64 FX processors that used to retail for as much as $1000 per chip.

The newest Black Edition processor from AMD enables customizable platform performance with AMD OverDrive software, a comprehensive Windows-based performance tuning utility. Previously AMD Athlon 64 X2 Black Edition chips could only be overclocked using BIOS settings of a mainboard, which might not be convenient enough for some end-users. Nevertheless, AMD stressed that it is not responsible for damages caused by overclocking even when overclocking is enabled with AMD OverDrive.

According to a statement by AMD, the AMD Phenom 9600 Black Edition central processing unit has the same price as previously introduced AMD Phenom 9600, or $283 in 1000-unit quantities.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Memory Makers Set to Reduce Supply to Keep the Pricing Up

The market of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) is a complex eco-system, where each player has to find a right balance of manufacturing costs, production output, capital expenditures, bit growth and other things to stay competitive. While typically DRAM makers cannot ensure that the prices favour their business all the time, some analysts believe that they have good chances to do so next year.

Average spot price of 1Gb DDR2 667MHz (128MB PC2-5300) memory chip dropped from about $4.5 in January to $1.6 in late November this year, according to data from DRAMeXchange, a market tracker company. The same industry observer claims that contract price of 1Gb DDR2 667MHz reduced from $3 in early October to $2 in early December, a substantial decline in a relatively short period of money.

The reasons for such declines are well known by DRAM manufacturers: as personal computer makers were stockpiling memory for holiday sales hike, the prices remained on relatively high level, but as the demand towards DRAM fell, the prices dropped too, which is a negative situation for companies like Samsung Electronics or Hynix Semiconductor, who control about a half of memory market on the planet.

But DRAM producers may reduce the amount of memory produced and increase the pricing, which they did a couple of weeks ago. As a result, 1Gb DDR2 667MHz now costs $2 on the spot market, claims DRAMeXchange, who says that memory manufacturers are well positioned to control the prices in 2008. There are several reasons for successful execution of the strategy:

* Taiwanese DRAM makers announced plans of reducing capital expenditure next year.
* Qimonda has announced its plan to reduce production in its European operation so production output from its European operation will reduce to 30% of total production from 40% currently.
* The slowdown in 300mm wafer capacity expansion and the continued decrease in 200mm wafer production capacity.
* Global DRAM supply bit growth is set to decrease from 92% in 2007 to 57% next year.

“From the market perspective, when prices fall below the variable cost, it becomes highly possible for major DRAM manufacturers to reduce their production volume in spurring prices to rise. Samsung and Hynix in combination own nearly 50% of the global DRAM market, once they or other DRAM makers decide to reduce production, we will then see a chance for DRAM market to reach a balance between supply and demand next year, and potentially a rise in DRAM chip price instead,” a statement by DRAMeXchange reads.

Toshiba Plans to Enter Solid State Drives Market Next Year

Toshiba Corp. one of the world’s largest producers of flash memory, on Monday said that in 2008 it would enter the market of solid state drives (SSD) with up to 128GB offerings. With more companies on the market of drives that combine performance of flash and capacities of hard disk drives, SSDs are likely to drop in price faster.

The first SSDs from Toshiba will be compatible with Serial ATA-300 interconnection and will be available in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities. Toshiba promises that its NAND flash-based drives will feature maximum write speed of 40MB/s and maximum read speed of 100MB/s. Initially, in March ’08, solid state drives from Toshiba will be available in modules, but eventually, in May ’08, the company will offer them in 1.8” and 2.5” hard drive form-factors.

Toshiba’s new SSD integrate the company’s own MLC (multi-level cell NAND flash) controller supporting fast read-write speeds, parallel data transfers and wear leveling, and achieve performance levels comparable to those of single-level NAND flash SSD, the manufacturer indicated. By applying MLC technology, Toshiba has realized a 128GB density in a 1.8” form factor.

Toshiba expects the launch of its SSD line-up to speed up acceptance of solid state memory in laptops and digital consumer products, and to widen the horizons of the NAND flash market.

According to market tracker iSuppli Corp., Toshiba commanded 27.5% of NAND flash memory market in Q2 2007. Only Samsung Electronics – which sold 45.9% of NAND flash memory was a bigger player, whereas companies like Hynix Semiconductor or Micron Technology could only boast with 14.6% and 5.4% of revenue share, respectively. Toshiba’s decision to enter the market of SSDs seems to be important not only for the company, but also for the whole market itself.

Toshiba’s SSDs will be showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, from January 7th to 10th. Samples and mass production will follow from the first quarter (January to March) of next year.

Nvidia Updates GeForce 8800 GTS Graphics Adapter with New Chip

Nvidia Corp. on Tuesday unveiled a new version of its famous GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card, which is based on the recently unveiled code-named G92 graphics processing unit (GPU). The new board has chances to offer unprecedented computing power and increase performance in modern games at price-points below $349.

The new GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB graphics card based on the G92 chip features 128 stream processors at 1626MHz, 64 texturing units, 16 render back-ends as well as 256-bit memory bus. The base clock for the chip is 650MHz and Nvidia recommends its partners to install 1940MHz memory onto the board.

The new “8800 GTS” model sports more computing power than the “8800 Ultra”, the top-of-the-range board unveiled half a year ago that retails for $849, but lacks 384-bit memory bus, as on the high-end graphics cards. As a consequence, the peak bandwidth of its memory bus is 64GB/s, tangibly lower compared to nearly 104GB/s of the GeForce 8800 Ultra.

Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB features PureVideo HD video processor with high-quality video post-processing as well as PCI Express 2.0 bus, which doubles interface bandwidth over the first generation of PCI Express bus. As a result, the new GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB is the highest-performing graphics solution from Nvidia with advanced video capabilities.

GeForce 8800 GTS 512 MB graphics cards are available now from leading add-in card manufacturers, retailers, and system builders in the $299 - $349 price-range.

“If you want the best experience on the PC games coming out right now, then buying a new GPU should be top on your list of upgrades. GeForce 8800 GTS 512 is a fantastic option that we are providing gamers in time for the holiday season,” said Ujesh Desai, general manager of GeForce desktop GPUs at Nvidia.

AMD’s Next-Gen Microprocessor Still Does Not Exist – Company

Advanced Micro Devices said that while its next-generation code-named Shanghai processor is scheduled to be unveiled in the second half of next year, the world’s second largest chipmaker still has not produced a single working sample of it. As a result, it now depends on luck whether the firm is on-track to release its 45nm chips not much later compared to Intel Corp.

“We have 45nm on the way. We will have initial samples also in January. I’m fairly confident that those puppies are going to boot,” said Mario Rivas, executive vice president of computing products group at AMD, in an interview with CRN web-site.

AMD Opteron quad-core and dual-core processors code-named Shanghai, which are expected to be released in the second half of 2008, will use AMD’s K10 micro-architecture that will be present already in the code-named Barcelona processors, but will contain some performance enhancements. Thin 45nm process technology will allow AMD to install 512KB of L2 cache per core as well as 6MB of unified L3 cache, which is a significant enhancement compared to Barcelona.

Recently AMD discovered an erratum inside its Barcelona design and said that it would take it about three months to apply the fix to the shipping central processing units, which are made using three months. As a result, the company is projected to start shipping the new chips sometimes in February or March, 2008. Since the initial samples of Shanghai are not expected to contain the fix, it means that it will take AMD another three months to fix the design of its 45nm server chip too. Still, AMD seems to be optimistic about its development of the 45nm product.

“The 45nm, we consider it Rev C of the device. So all the learning, all the hard knocks that we had on Barcelona, we're going to apply it to Shanghai,” Mr. Rivas added.

Intel Corp., the world’s largest supplier of x86 central processing units (CPUs) and the arch-rival of AMD, demonstrated its first working code-named Nehalem processors, which are made using 45nm process technology and feature new micro-architecture along with some other improvements, back in September, 2007. While this does not guarantee that those Nehalem chips are errata-free, what is obvious is that Intel’s Nehalem chips are currently four months ahead of AMD’s Shanghai. More importantly, Intel is already shipping its 45nm chips based on Core 2 micro-architecture, enjoying performance advantages along with potential decreased manufacturing costs.

The destiny of AMD’s next-generation desktop processors code-named Deneb, Prophus and Sargas, due to be out in the second half of 2008, which support DDR3 memory as well as are intended for socket AM3 platforms, is currently unclear.

Samsung Quietly Drops the Price of Blu-Ray Disc Player

Samsung Electronics, a leading maker of various equipment, has quietly started to sell its BD-P1400 Blu-ray disc (BD) player for $299 in certain locations. The decision moves Blu-ray format into the same price range as HD DVD players from Toshiba that support 1080p output and may pose a serious threat to the standard pushed by Microsoft and Toshiba.

At press time, Best Buy, Circuit City and Costco offered Samsung BD-P1400 players for $299, which is tangibly below the official manufacturer suggested retail price of $499 for the device, reports HighDefDigest web-site. Unfortunately, it is still not completely clear whether the price slash is temporary, or end-users will be able to get the BD-P1400 for $299 going forward too.

By offering a Blu-ray disc player for just $299 Samsung Electronics makes the BD technology available at the price-point of Toshiba’s HD-A20/HD-A30 players, which sport 1080p (1920x1200, progressive scan) output. Even though there are players from Toshiba that cost $199, they do not have full-HD output capability, which is important for those, who have large flat-panel TV with maximum resolution.

With pricing of Blu-ray and HD DVD players equal, the former may find itself being more popular than the latter because of enlarged media capacities and broader support from consumer electronics companies. Still, even $299 is the price-point that it too high for average buyers, which is why it will take quite some time before either Blu-ray, or HD DVD wins the format war against each other.

Blu-ray and HD DVD formats compete for replacing the DVD standard. HD DVD discs can store up to 15GB on a single layer and up to 30GB on two layers. Its competitor, Blu-ray, can store up to 25GB per single layer and up to 50GB on two layers, but Blu-ray discs are more expensive to produce. The HD DVD is pushed aggressively by Toshiba, NEC, Intel and Microsoft, as well as being standardized at the DVD Forum, which represents over 230 consumer electronics, information technology, and content companies worldwide. Blu-ray is backed by Sony and Panasonic, which are among the world’s largest makers of electronics. Among Hollywood studios HD DVD is supported by New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Studios, whereas New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney, Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox endorse Blu-ray.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Nintendo Claims Demand for Wii Is Higher than “Ever Anticipated”

Nintendo Corp. said on Friday that it was thinking about withdrawing TV advertisements of Wii game console-related products for some time. The motive for such an extraordinary decision was claimed to demand, which exceeds expectations of Nintendo and the company’s potential inability to fulfill it.

“[The demand for Wii] has been unprecedented and higher than Nintendo could ever have anticipated,” a spokesperson for the company is reported to have said in an interview with Times Online web-site.

Advertisements of Nintendo Wii attract attention not only to Wii and its unique capabilities in particular, but also to video game consoles in general. As a result, when a potential Nintendo Wii customer comes to a store and sees that the desired game system is sold out, he or she may pay attention to other options available on the market, such as Microsoft Xbox 360 or Sony PlayStation 3 or 2. The consequence of such situation for Nintendo is a missed opportunity to get another gamer into the Wii camp during holiday season because of short supplies. That said, Nintendo wants to move some of its ad campaigns into early 2008, when the demand will still be strong, but not incredible, like in December.

“[Nintendo] is looking at moving some advertising on some products into early 2008 [so to] act responsibly,” the spokesperson is reported to have said.

Nintendo Wii is the least technologically advanced new-generation video game console, its rivals – Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 – have much more computing power inside and therefore can display more realistic graphics. But Wii has unique motion-sensitive game controller and games that appeal even to those, who do not typically play video games either on game consoles, or personal computers.

The question that analysts and observers ask these days is whether the market of novice gamers has capacity to grow further, or it is relatively limited and unparalleled demand towards Wii is heading to its end sometime in 2008; which is why, some think, Nintendo in intentionally undersupplies Wii to create hype and additional publicity for its latest game system.

“The issue of supply management has to be questioned, not least because 2008 is going to be the crunch year for the Wii. It’s then that we’ll discover whether it’s a fad or something with legs,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, an analyst with Screen Digest research company.

Nintendo Wii features IBM’s custom PowerPC architecture-based microprocessor named Broadway clocked at 729MHz and code-named Hollywood chip with built-in graphics core, DSP and I/O features from ATI that operates at 243MHz, earlier reports suggested. Nintendo Wii uses 91MB of memory in total: 23MB of “main” 1T-SRAM, 64MB of “external” 1T-SRAM and 3MB texture buffer on the GPU. Nintendo’s Wii does not feature a hard disk drive, instead, it boasts with 512MB of flash memory and has a card reader, which allows further storage expansion.

Nintendo set the recommended retail price of ¥25 000 (about $204) in Japan, $249 in the U.S. and €249 ($342) in Europe.

Dell’s Personal Computers Head to Best Buy Stores

Dell, one of the world’s largest suppliers of personal computers in the world, said that it agreed with Best Buy, a large retail chain in the U.S., to sell its desktop and notebook computers via its stores. Perhaps, the move is a little late to be a sales driver for dell this holiday season, but the fact that Dell will have about 900 new locations may indicate that the computer maker is on the right way with its retail push strategy.

For years Dell used to sell its black personal computers through the Internet and shipped it directly to end-users, which guaranteed low price, but at some point it ceased to guarantee customer’s satisfaction. Not only users started to demand systems that would not be dull black or grey, but also some started to desire to touch their purchase before getting it and, perhaps, even try. Since the Internet can hardly provide such opportunities, Dell had to change and since the beginning of this year it agreed with several retail chains both in the U.S. and overseas.

Dell recently announced relationships with Carrefour in Europe, Staples in the U.S., Courts in Singapore, Gome in China, Bic Camera Inc. in Japan, Carphone Warehouse in the U.K. and Wal-Mart in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Mexico. With the agreement with Best Buy, Dell products will be available in nearly ten thousand retail stores around the globe.

Dell said that it will sell a variety of XPS and Inspiron notebook and desktop computers, including the new XPS One through more than 900 Best Buy locations in the U.S. in the next few weeks. Best Buy will stock a variety of notebooks, including the Dell XPS M1330 in white, the Inspiron 1521 in blue and black, and the Inspiron 1420 in black. Additionally, the Dell XPS One desktop will be available. Other desktops to be sold in Best Buy include the Dell Inspiron 530, 531, and 531s. Additional models and colors will be available in coming months.

“Seeing the latest fashion colors of our Inspiron and XPS notebooks or previewing the ultimate gaming experience on a high-performance system can be an important part of how people shop. In the next few weeks, people looking to upgrade to a Dell notebook or desktop in the U.S. can visit their local Best Buy to check out and purchase our award-winning line of products,” said Michael Tatelman, vice president of sales and marketing for Dell’s global consumer business.

Dell hopes that by offering its computers via its online store as well as via retail chains it will be in good position to recapture the market share it owned sometime back.

Microsoft Xbox 360 Gets DivX Playback Capability

Shortly after the PlayStation 3 from Sony got support for DivX movies playback, its more successful rival – Microsoft Xbox 360 – also obtained the same functionality. The move came without any loud public statements; however, it is very likely that both Microsoft and Sony will put DivX support as another serious advantage over Nintendo Wii, which is on-track to outsell PS3 and X360 combined eventually.

“The convenience of full-screen movie previews and enhanced video codec support further expand the options when it comes to the Xbox 360 entertainment experience,” a short statement within a long coverage of improvements of the most recent Xbox 360 Dashboard update reads.

December 2007 Video Playback FAQ from Xbox Team does specify that that with the latest software update Microsoft Xbox 360 game console obtained support for decoding of video streams encoded using MPEG-4 Part 2, Simple & Advanced Simple Profile codec, which means that from now on Xbox 360 can playback DivX and Xvid movies.

The DivX and its brother XviD formats are used to distribute copyright protection-free movies typically by the Internet and usually without content producer approval. Both codecs are based on MPEG 4 ASP and offer balance between video quality and file size. To date, over 100 million DivX Certified products have been shipped into the market, and it is anticipated that Sony PS3 and Microsoft X360 will expand that number by nineteen million of units already sold through.

Microsoft Xbox 360 can playback DVDs, HD DVDs with a special add-on drive that sells for $129 as well as files downloaded from the Internet. Sony’s PlayStation 3, which comes with built-in Blu-ray disc (BDs) drive, can also playback standard DVDs, BDs as well as various other content. However, the main threat for both consoles – Nintendo Wii – does not have support for movie playback in any form currently. As a consequence, Wii cannot be positioned as a fully-featured multimedia hub, which is exactly what Microsoft and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. tell about their latest game machines.

Microsoft Xbox 360 console is based around microprocessor developed by IBM, high-definition visual processing unit designed by ATI Technologies, I/O controller engineered by SiS and some other key components. The gaming machine provides a broad set of multimedia capabilities in addition to games. Currently Microsoft Xbox 360 is available for $279, $349 or $449 depending on the version.

IBM Files Complaint with ITC Against Asustek Computer

IBM on Thursday said it had filed a complaint against Asustek Computer and its subsidiary in North America with the United States International Trade Commission. The inventor of the personal computer (PC) claims that certain products and components which Asus makes and sells infringe its patents. IBM demands ban for those products from import into the U.S.

In particular, IBM alleges that certain products by Asustek infringe its patents that cover PC power supply (U.S. Patent No. 5,008,829), automatic fan speed control (5,249,741) as well as a method and hardware that make a cluster of computers appear as a single host on network (5,371,852). If the first two patents may be infringed by Asustek’s notebook computers, barebone systems, servers as well as system components, then the third one is may be infringed by Asus network equipment and servers.

IBM indicated it had made repeated attempts to reach a licensing agreement between the companies. IBM’s position has been – and remains – that Asustek either must license or stop using IBM’s patented technology. In the complaint IBM requests an exclusion order against the importation of infringing Asustek computer products and components into the United States.

While Asus is a well-known brand for computer components, notebooks and some other products, the company also makes systems for other computer vendors, such as Dell or Sony, using its manufacturing capacities in China. It is unclear whether those products also infringe IBM’s patents and should be banned from selling in the U.S., or Dell, Sony and other clients of Asustek Computer have licensed the aforementioned patents of IBM.

IBM annually invests billions of dollars in research and development and has extensive patents and other intellectual property in areas including personal computing, servers, networking, semiconductors and other computer components. In fact, IBM has been the top beneficiary of patents for many years.

Microsoft Wants Stripped-Down Windows XP to Run on OLPC’s XO Next Year

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday confirmed that a special cut-down version of Microsoft Windows XP operating system (OS) that would run on XO laptop created by OLPC non-profit organization is being developed and tested by the company. But while the company started to port its most popular OS to the XO in early 2007, the work will not be done until mid-2008.

“We are hard at work on the project here, and we are using an approach that is a little unusual for Microsoft. […] We are managing the entire process of adapting and testing an existing version of Windows for a new PC. Usually the hardware vendor does this,” said James Utzschneider, a member of marketing and communications team from Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Group, in his blog.

The XO laptop from One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization – which currently uses Linux operating system – is aimed at developing countries and is meant to assist education of children over there. It is important for Microsoft Corp. to enter the emerging markets with its products since in other scenario the markets will rely on competing Linux OS and Microsoft will have to invest into advertising and marketing programs to enter those markets eventually. Moreover, if the youth in those emerging countries will only have skills to operate Linux, it may be even harder for Microsoft to persuade them to pay for an OS from the software giant.

Currently Microsoft is working on a cut-down version of Windows XP for the XO machine, but the work will only be completed in mid-2008 at the earliest. But the good news is that the company plans to start field testing of the OS already in January, 2008. The actual “field trials” will allow Microsoft to collect feedback from the users as well as determine whether it can fulfill the demands at a price-point that governments purchasing the XO laptops would accept.

“Between Microsoft employees and third party contractors that we have brought into the effort, we have over 40 engineers working full-time on the port. We started the project around the beginning of the year and think it will be mid-2008 at the earliest before we could have a production-quality release. Because of this, we have not announced formal plans to support the XO yet, and we will not do so until after we start getting feedback from our first limited field trials starting in January before we make the final call,” Mr. Utzschneider said.

It is interesting to note that current hardware limitations of the XO prevent Microsoft from creating a fine port of Windows XP for the device. It is obvious that 1GB of NAND flash memory built into XO is not enough for Windows, Office and educational programs. As a result, Microsoft asked OLPC to tweak the XO so that more memory could be installed.

“The XO actually only comes with 1GB of flash, and we asked the OLPC to add a slot for an internal SD card that will provide the 2 GB of extra memory needed to run our software,” said Mr. Utzschneider.

Current OLPC XO laptop features AMD Geode LX-700 processor with 433MHz clock-speed and built-in graphics controller, 256MB of PC-2700 (DDR 333MHz) memory, 1GB NAND flash that substitutes hard disk drive, 7.5” screen with 1200x900 resolution, wireless and wired network adapters as well as integrated webcam, microphone, speakers and so on.

Asustek Unveils Graphics Card with Unprecedented Amount of Memory

Asustek Computer on Thursday unveiled the world’s first graphics card based on Nvidia’s performance mainstream graphics processing unit (GPU) with 1GB of memory. The board has chances to offer performance somewhat higher than that of currently available products of the similar category. The only question is whether the performance increase will justify the price, which is projected to be higher compared to rivals.

Asus EN8800GT/HTDP/1G graphics card, which is based on Nvidia GeForce 8800 graphics chip, features 1GB of memory as well as improved cooling system. The novelty will come with Nvidia recommended stock clock-speeds of 600MHz/1500MHz for core/stream processors and 1800MHz for 1GB of GDDR3 memory. In addition, Asus will provide its SmartDoctor tool, which will allow to clock the core and stream processor array independently and boost performance of the product by “more than 10”.

The Achilles’ heel of Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 GT is usually claimed to be its cooling system, which is blamed for insufficient cooling of the GPU and memory. As a result, Asus’ Glaciator Fansink may be just what the doctor ordered for the GeForce 8800 GT, a graphics card with mainstream pricing and high-end performance.

While modern games do demand more than 256MB of onboard memory from graphics accelerator, not a lot of games actually require more than 512MB of memory. For example, ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB has no tangible performance advantage over ATI Radeon HD 512MB graphics board, but was priced considerably higher. The actual price of Asus EN8800GT/HDTP/1G is unclear, but if it seriously higher than that of typical Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT-based graphics boards, Asustek’s new solution may not gain popularity among enthusiasts. Nevertheless, the company is optimistic about its new product.

"From what our customers tell us, discerning gamers demand hardware that can truly unleash immersive graphics and unreal gaming performance. Our approach is to combine the most powerful GPU from Nvidia with 1GB of high speed Qimonda GDDR3 memory. We are proud to be the first manufacturer to introduce such revolutionary product,” said C.P. Wu, general manager of Asus graphics and multimedia business.

The Asus EN8800GT/HTDP/1G will be available through Asus authorized dealers in North America by the end of December.

Microsoft Windows Vista on Track for 10% Market Share by Year End

Microsoft Corp.’s latest operating system (OS) – Windows Vista – is on track to be installed into 10% of personal computers (PCs) that are currently in use by actual customers. But despite of relative popularity of Vista, the share of personal computers running Windows decreased this year by nearly 1%, whereas Apple’s Mac OS- as well as Linux-based computers increased their relative presence.

According to Net Applications, a provider of various Web tools, the share of PCs with Windows Vista installed that are used to browse the Internet increased to 9.19% in November, 2007, up more than one percent from 7.94% a month before. Consequently, the share of system equipped with Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows 98 dropped to 78.37%, 2.97% and 0.76%, respectively.

But the overall market share of Microsoft Windows based PCs decreased by 0.07% in November: from 92.49% to 92.42%, whereas shares of Apple Mac OS and Linux systems increased by 0.22% to 6.80% and by 0.07% to 0.57%, respectively. In fact, Windows has lost 0.91% market share from January, whereas Mac OS X and Linux gained 0.58% and 0.22%, respectively.

The nearly 1% market share drop in about 11 month is not a catastrophe for Microsoft, which operating systems still control 92.42% of the PCs currently in use. However, the trend may continue going forward as Linux-based low-end personal computers along with cheap systems for developing countries gain market share.

But what is much more important for Microsoft than simplistic computers with limited capabilities is that Windows has lost 2.82% of the market since December, 2005, when it was used on 95.24% of systems. Meanwhile, Apple’s Mac OS increased its share by 2.45%, by gaining from 4.35% to 6.80%.

It was unclear at press time how many computer systems Net Applications tracked in November, 2007.

Dell Releases World of Warcraft Edition XPS Notebook

Dell, one of the world’s largest makers of personal computers, this week announced World of Warcraft (WoW) Edition notebook for gamers. The machine, which will retail for $4499 and upwards, promises unprecedented performance for mobile gamers thanks to pre-overclocked microprocessor, two graphics chips, physics accelerator, solid state drive and some other innovations.

The system is emblazoned with custom World of Warcraft artwork, inside and out, that leaves no question as to purpose – pure, unadulterated gaming action. The XPS M1730 features Intel Core 2 Extreme Edition processor for notebooks with up to 3.40GHz clock-speed, two Nvidia GeForce 8700M GT graphics processors in SLI mode, Ageia PhysX 100M physics processing unit, optional two hard drives with 7200rpm spindle speed, optional 64GB solid state drive, optional Blu-ray drive, 17” monitor with 1920x1200 resolution as well as other leading edge components.

The Dell XPS M1730 will be available to all U.S. customers on December 11 via Dell’s web-site.

“This truly legendary collaboration with Blizzard reinforces Dell’s commitment to design excellence and dedication to delivering the best possible gaming experience. World of Warcraft players can now have the ultimate system to reflect their passion for the game,” said Glen Robson head of XPS systems at Dell.

The World of Warcraft edition notebook sports a number of exclusive features from Dell and Blizzard, the developer of the game that has become legendary, besides visual design enhancements:

* World of Warcraft and World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade pre-loaded on system, including the latest content updates;
* Original desktop background artwork and screensavers;
* A World of Warcraft-themed backpack that includes: retail box copies of World of Warcraft, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, and the Warcraft Battle Chest , which includes with Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Warcraft III: Frozen Throne. Latest Brady Games strategy guides for World of Warcraft, The Burning Crusade, Warcraft III and The Frozen Throne, World of Warcraft DVD with a behind-the-scenes look at “The Making of WoW”;
* A special Quest Envelope that ships separately with exclusive rare items: a Golden Ticket allowing customers to receive a special custom FigurePrint based on the actual World of Warcraft character that they play; an Account Upgrade Certificate enabling the upgrade of a World of Warcraft account to receive the Collector’s Edition pets from both the original World of Warcraft Collector’s Edition and the World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Collector’s Edition; a World of Warcraft Beta Club Card to enable customers to take part in upcoming public beta tests.

Microsoft Accused of Eventual Blu-Ray, HD DVD Formats Fiasco

Both Blu-ray disc (BD) and HD DVD have been available for a little less than two years now, but neither of them have become truly popular on the market. Perhaps, the reason is that high-def movies are sold for $28 instead of $15, the price of typical DVD, or because the players retail for $200, $400 or even more, but not for less than $100, like DVD. But Michael Bay, a famous director, says that the root of all problems is Microsoft Corp. and its support of HD DVD.

Michael Bay, the director of popular movie “Transformers” who criticized Paramount Pictures for turning HD DVD exclusive, accused Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest developer of software and one of the backers of HD DVD format, of supporting HD DVD in order to make both high-definition formats – Blu-ray and HD DVD – to fail eventually. In addition, Mr. Bay accused Microsoft of bribing studios hundreds of millions of dollars so that they would support HD DVD instead of Blu-ray.

“What you don’t understand is corporate politics. Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty secret no one is talking about. That is why Microsoft is handing out $100 million dollar checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and not the leading, and superior Blu-ray. They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads,” said Mr. Bay in “Ask Michael Bay” forum at Shoot for the Edit web-site.

Microsoft currently sells and lends movies in standard and high-definition via its Xbox Live service; just like Apple, which sells movies via its iTunes store, the most popular Internet music store, and supports Blu-ray format. Microsoft’s chairman Bill Gates did say that BD and HD DVD are the last physical formats in future removable media will be substituted by streamed content as well as delivery of the content via the Internet.

“Understand that this is the last physical format there will ever be. Everything's going to be streamed directly or on a hard disk. So, in this way, it's even unclear how much this one counts,” Mr. Gates said in an interview almost two years ago. In the same interview the co-founder of Microsoft called Blu-ray copyright protection technologies as “anti-consumer”.

Earlier this year Paramount Pictures, a part of Viacom media company and a leading Hollywood studio, announced that it would not release new movies on Blu-ray discs (BDs) going forward, concentrating on exclusive support of HD DVD. Nevertheless, movies directed by Steven Spielberg will still be available on both types of new-generation DVDs, therefore, will be available for wider audience. Michael Bay’s transformers are currently only available on HD DVD.

Blu-ray and HD DVD formats compete for replacing the DVD standard. HD DVD discs can store up to 15GB on a single layer and up to 30GB on two layers. Its competitor, Blu-ray, can store up to 25GB per single layer and up to 50GB on two layers, but Blu-ray discs are more expensive to produce. The HD DVD is pushed aggressively by Toshiba, NEC, Intel and Microsoft, as well as being standardized at the DVD Forum, which represents over 230 consumer electronics, information technology, and content companies worldwide. Blu-ray is backed by Sony and Panasonic, which are among the world’s largest makers of electronics. Among Hollywood studios HD DVD is supported by New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Studios, whereas New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney, Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox endorse Blu-ray.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Samsung Announces GDDR5 Memory at 6GHz

Samsung Electronics, the world’s top maker of dynamic random access memory, unveiled its first GDDR5 memory chips that can work at unprecedented clock-speed. The new chips will be able to power ultra powerful graphics cards or enable currently maximum level of performance on more affordable graphics boards.

Samsung’s GDDR5, which will be introduced at a density of 512Mb (16Mb x 32) chips, is capable of transmitting data at 24GB per second, which means that the new chips can operate at 6GHz clock-speed. Nowadays the fastest GDDR4 memory chips are capable of working at about 2.50GHz.

“We’re pushing image enhancement to a limit never before realized, enabling the smoothest, clearest animation that gamers have yet to experience. Samsung’s 512Mb GDDR5 will enable the kind of graphics hardware performance that will spur software developers to deliver a new level of eye-popping games,” said Mueez Deen, marketing director, graphics memory, Samsung Semiconductor.

The new Samsung graphics memory operates at 1.5 volts, representing an approximate 20% drop in power consumption over today’s most popular graphics memory chip – the GDDR3 – that requires 1.8V voltage to operate.

Samples of Samsung’s new GDDR5 chip have been delivered to major graphic processor companies last month and mass production is expected in the first half of 2008.

Samsung expects that GDDR5 memory chips will become the de facto standard in the top performing segment of the market by capturing more than 50% of the high-end PC graphics market by 2010.

A technical paper on Samsung’s new 6Gbps graphics chip is the only one on GDDR5 technology to be selected for presentation at ISSCC 2008, the company indicated.

AMD Abandons Plans for Dual-Processor Enthusiast Platforms

Advanced Micro Devices said on Thursday it currently has no plans to develop its dual-processor (DP) platforms for enthusiast. The decision essentially cancels any efforts in regards of the well-advertised FASN8 platform and forces the world’s second largest supplier of x86 microprocessors to leave the market of the so-called extreme enthusiasts.

“[…] AMD has discontinued future planning and development of its eight-core enthusiast platform at this time. […] We will continue to support customers that have an existing Quad FX with DSDC and are also working on an upgrade path for those customers. [The upgrade path] likely won’t be a Phenom-branded product,” Ms. Suzy Pruitt, a spokeswoman for AMD, said in an interview with TechReport web-site.

Following the release of Intel Core 2 Duo and then Intel Core 2 Quad microprocessors by Intel Corp., which immediately become favorites among computer enthusiasts, AMD had to find a way to offer even higher performance. As a result, the chipmaker introduced its Quad FX platform last year with two dual-core AMD Athlon 64 FX-70-series processors to compete against Intel Core 2 Quad. Moreover, it promised that its quad-core processors will be compatible with the Quad FX platform, which would allow end-users to switch processors without changing the rest of the platform.

But Intel was not standing still and shortly after AMD unveiled its Quad FX, the world’s largest maker of x86 chips started to tout its V8 platform that employed two quad-core central processing units (CPUs). As the time went by, Intel unveiled its code-named Skulltrail platform, which is set to employ two specially designed quad-core processors that cost over $3000 alone and feature other enthusiast-relevant capabilities.

AMD did not manage to introduce its AMD Phenom processors at really high clock-speeds to compete against Intel’s products and also had to postpone the release of its higher-price faster CPUs for workstations. Moreover, the company had to delay the release of AMD Phenom FX for enthusiasts. Currently the highest-speed AMD Phenom chip with four processing engines runs at 2.30GHz and cannot be compared against Intel’s Core 2 Extreme processors.

Since the company does not have “FX” parts for performance-demanding customers, it decided to offer AMD Opteron processors and platforms to those enthusiasts, who really need speed, and who needs it badly from AMD.

“While AMD is not actively promoting AMD Opteron processor as a 2P enthusiast solution, we recognized that there are enthusiasts who are looking for two-socket solutions and think an Opteron platform is well-suited to meet that demand at this time,” Ms. Pruitt added.

Apple to Release iPhone 3G in 2008 – AT&T Executive

Apple will release 3G version of its Apple iPhone cellular phone in 2008, said chief executive of AT&T, the exclusive carrier that sells iPhone in the U.S. The new phone will allows faster Internet access, but fans of Apple and iPhone are likely to demand something else too.

“You’ll have [Apple iPhone 3G] next year,” said AT&T chief executive officer Randall Stephenson in response to a question about when the 3G iPhone would debut. He said he did not know how much more the new version will cost compared to the existing model, which sells for $399, but indicated that Apple “will dictate what the price of the phone is”, reports Bloomberg news-agency.

The ability to work with third-generation wireless networks will give Apple iPhone an opportunity to compete for customers who often use data intensive services, such as web-browsing of “data heavy” web-sites and downloading music from the Internet on the go. Currently Apple iPhone relies on much slower GPRS and EDGE networks, something, which essentially makes useless data transfer intensive functions of the device, such as Google Earth or YouTube Web applications. Currently, the lack of 3G data transfer rates is likely to trim iPhone’s popularity in Asia and Europe.

While any version of 3G network connection (EVDO, HSDPA, etc) will indisputably improve user experience with iPhone by boosting network connection speed, end-users, who already have an iPhone would probably insist on some other additional features for the device that has become a cult one for some people. Perhaps, making a cell phone that would work in Europe, Japan, the U.S. and other regions could be a goal for the next iPhone.

Officials from Apple did not comment on the news-story.

Apple iPhone combines digital media player, phone, Web browser and personal digital assistant’s features. The device is equipped with 3.5” touch-screen instead of keypad, includes support for quad-band GSM, EDGE, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 EDR wireless technologies. The iPhone also features a 2 megapixel (2MP) camera along with a photo management application. Apple iPhone costs $399 in the U.S. and various sums in the rest of the world.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

AMD Aims Higher Price-Points with Forthcoming Phenom Chips

Advanced Micro Devices, the world’s second largest maker of x86 chips, will not be able to sell its latest desktop AMD Phenom central processing units (CPUs) for $1000 a piece for several months from now, but next quarter it hopes to be able to target higher price-points than today with AMD Phenom models 9700 and 9900.

“AMD intends to offer the following new processors in Q1 of 2008: a processor model 9900 (2.60GHz) priced below $350 and a Phenom processor model 9700 (2.40GHz) priced below $300,” a spokesperson for AMD said, referring to prices for large customers in 1000-unit quantities.

The recently unveiled quad-core AMD Phenom 9000-series processors are made using 65nm process technology and are initially available at 2.20GHz (model 9500) and 2.30GHz (model 9600). The new chips have thermal design power (TDP) of 95W, a not so low value. AMD Phenom processors 9600 (2.3GHz) and 9500 (2.2GHz) are now available for orders by AMD customers for $283 and $251 respectively in 1000-unit pricing.

Presently, $283 per chip is the highest price that AMD currently asks for a desktop microprocessor. The company also offers dual-core AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400+ Black Edition processor clocked at 3.20GHz for $220 in business quantities as well as dual-core AMD Athlon 64 FX-74 (3.0GHz) chips for 2P platforms for $599 a pair; but the FX-series chips are hardly popular nowadays.

AMD badly needs to be able to increase pricing of its microprocessors as well as improve its profit margins these days. The company lost $1.6 billion in its fiscal year and currently has debts that equal $5.3 billion. Moreover, after the chipmaker acquired graphics and multimedia chip developer ATI Technologies, it lost inconceivable share of its revenues and profits, which now also pulls the whole company down.

Provided that the numbers of the new Phenom chips with higher frequencies are sufficient and the products are introduced on time, the introduction of the AMD Phenom 9900 processor in Q1 2008 will help Advanced Micro Devices to boost its revenues substantially, as the chip has all chances to become popular among certain groups of end-users.

Intel Corp. currently sells its Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700 (2.66GHz) chip for $530 and if AMD’s Phenom 9900 (2.60GHz) shows higher performance amid lower price, then the new CPU will be successful on the market. But if Intel drops the price of the model Q6700 tangibly, AMD’s model 9900 will have to show its potential, or reduce the price.

Intel’s Mainstream Nehalem Chips Expected to Eliminate North Bridge Necessity

Intel’s code-named Nehalem processors have been projected to tangibly change Intel-based personal computer (PC) architecture thanks to new micro-architecture and built-in memory controller. But the actual transformation of Intel PC platform may be even more dramatic, as the forthcoming chips will have built-in graphics core and PCI Express support.

The first version of the Nehalem processor family will be the code-named Bloomfield chip aimed at extreme desktops/workstations, high-end desktops and servers as well as on some other quite expensive systems. The central processing unit (CPU) will have built-in triple-channel memory controller, will use Quick Path Interconnect (QPI) bus to connect to other chips within the system and will utilize LGA1366 form-factor. In general, Bloomfield-based PC platforms will resemble traditional AMD64 system architecture with CPU, North Bridge and I/O controller.

But microprocessors from the Nehalem family aimed at mainstream market – code-named Lynnfield and Havendale – will have substantial differences compared to Bloomfield, which will catalyze dramatic changes to PC architecture going forward, reports PC Watch web-site.

Intel’s Lynnfield processor is a Nehalem micro-architecture-based monolith quad-core microprocessor in LGA1160 form-factor with dual-channel DDR3 memory controller as well as PCI Express 2.0 x16 interface to connect add-on graphics cards.

Intel’s Havendale processor is multi-chip module (MCM) in LGA1160 form-factor containing Nehalem micro-architecture-based dual-core CPU as well as graphics and memory controller hub (GMCH) that features dual-channel DDR3 memory controller, PCI Express 2.0 x16 interface to connect add-on graphics cards as well as integrated graphics core. It is projected that both chips on the MCM are made using 45nm process technology.

Since both Lynnfield and Havendale have memory controller as well as PCI Express interconnection inside, there will be no need for GMCH (or North Bridge) on the mainboard. Instead, the new processors will connect directly to code-named Ibexpeak platform controller hub (PCH) that will carry hard drive controller, wired and wireless network controllers, monitor physical interfaces, PCI controller and other input/output as well as platform-related capabilities.

If today’s mainstream personal computers usually employ three chips that feature the core functionality of the system – CPU, (G)MCH and I/O controller – then in the Nehalem era mainstream systems will be based only on two chips: CPU and PCH. Both Lynnfield and Havendale are projected to emerge in the first half of 2009.

Intel officials did not comment on the news-story.

Nintendo Wii, DS Set Sales Records in Thanksgiving Week

Nintendo of America announced on Wednesday that during the Thanksgiving week, the first week of holiday shopping season, record numbers of Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii game consoles were sold in the USA. The figures prove that game devices from Nintendo have all chances to become the must-have holiday gift.

According to the company, Nintendo of America has sold more Nintendo products than at any other time in its history. This includes more than 653 thousand Nintendo DS portable video game systems, 350 thousand Wii home systems and millions of games and accessories throughout the United States.

“Nintendo’s 350 thousand Wii systems represent the highest one-week U.S. sales total outside of its launch week one year ago. Nintendo DS set a new all-time sales record for Thanksgiving week, eclipsing the previous mark of 600 thousand Game Boy Advance systems sold during the same period in the United States in 2005,” a statement by Nintendo reads.

These are internal Nintendo of America numbers that represent sales from Sunday, November 18, through Saturday, November 24. It is unclear whether the figures stand for sold-in number of devices or sold-through estimations.

According to the U.S. market tracker NPD Group, around 100 thousand of Nintendo Wii home game consoles were sold-through weekly in the last couple of months. Thus, if 350 thousand has any relation to the number of devices sold by customers, it means that demand towards the device is nearly extreme and it can easily surpass the 1.5 million units sold-through in December.

“As shoppers look for ways to maximize their limited holiday spending money, they turn to gifts that can be used by the entire family. Wii and Nintendo DS offer something for every member of the family. They’re the most fun video game experiences at the most affordable price,” said George Harrison, Nintendo of America’s senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications.

Nintendo Wii has manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of $249.99, while Nintendo DS has an MSRP of $129.99.

AMD Readies “Black Edition” Phenom Processor, Phenom FX May Face Further Delay

Advanced Micro Devices said at a presentation of its new platform in Japan that although it will not be able to offer any high-end AMD Phenom FX processors for many months from now, it will unveil “Black Edition” of its AMD Phenom 9600 chip that will allow easy overclocking capabilities already in December.

AMD Phenom processor 9600 Black Edition will operate at 2.30GHz clock-speed, 2MB shared L3 cache and 512KB dedicated L2 cache per core and will have support for dual-channel PC2-8500 (DDR2 1066MHz), just like the typical AMD Phenom 9600 chip. However, the Black Edition processor has unlocked clock multiplier, which allows enthusiasts to clock the new chip higher than 2.30GHz without any issues. If the roadmap that AMD recently unveiled in Japan is correct, then AMD Phenom 9600 Black Edition is due in December, 2007.

The customizable clock multiplier and auto-adjustable memory frequency of the new chip enables amateurs and value-conscious enthusiasts to maximize the performance of their desktop computers without substantial hassles. Typically enthusiasts have to increase base HyperTransport bus speed from default 200MHz, which eventually causes not only CPU clock-speed boost, but also alters HT bus and memory frequency, meaning that other components apart from the microprocessor also should be able to handle increased speeds. Previously customizable clock multiplier were only available on high-end AMD Athlon 64 FX processors that could retail for as much as $1000 per chip.

Earlier this month AMD said that it could not release any high-end AMD Phenom FX or even AMD Phenom processors clocked at 2.40GHz and above due to errata that causes system instability under high load. Even though the company said that the errata can be corrected by implementing a fix into BIOS of AMD Phenom-supporting mainboard, AMD itself has no plans to release current revision of Phenom at speeds beyond 2.30GHz. As a consequence, it is unclear whether AMD Phenom 9600 Black Edition provides high overclocking potential without causing system instabilities or not.

AMD did not reveal pricing of the new central processing unit (CPU), but it will hardly be considerably more expensive than $283, the price of AMD Phenom 9600 chip in business quantities.

Separately, AMD reconsidered the release timeframe of its AMD Phenom FX processors as well as AMD Phenom 8000-series triple-core chips. If earlier it was claimed that the novelties will emerge in Q1 2008, then now AMD slides imply that the new CPUs will be available only in the first half of 2008, which typically would mean that the new chips are only projected to emerge sometime in Q2, a massive delay from initially announced Q4 2007 timeframe for the new high-end enthusiast platform called FASN8.

Nvidia Withdraws Triple-SLI Promise for Latest Performance-Mainstream Product

Nvidia Corp.’s public relations department has denied that the latest performance mainstream GeForce 8800 GT supports triple-SLI multi-GPU technology, which was announced by the head of the graphics company recently.

Nvidia Corp.’s chief executive officer Jen-Hsun Huang said during the company’s most-recent conference call with financial analysts that Nvidia’s latest performance-mainstream offering – GeForce 8800 GT – will support triple-SLI technology, which means that consumers would be able to install three of such boards into a single personal computer to get three times more rendering horsepower.

"From [two GeForce] 8800 GT [graphics cards], you could obviously do SLI and soon you’ll be able to do three-way SLI, so you are going to be able to put a lot of GPU horsepower into your system, starting with a very affordable 8800 GT, and so – this is our focus for now," Jen-Hsun Huang, the chief executive of Nvidia.

Unfortunately, the chief exec had made a mistake and triple-SLI will remain prerogative of Nvidia’s high-end offerings GeForce 8800 GTX and Ultra, which retail for $599 and $849, respectively.

“Simple typo/slip on his part… The plans haven’t changed,” said Derek Perez, public relations director at Nvidia, reports The Inquirer web-site. It is unclear whether “the plans” have been announced, or they exist only within Nvidia and its add-in-card partners.

Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 GT graphics cards have only one so-called MIO interface connector per card, meaning that only two of such boards can be connected into a pair. Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 GTX and Ultra models feature two MIO interface connectors per board, allowing to connect two, three, four or even more graphics cards between each other. It should be noted that Nvidia allows inexpensive graphics cards to work in pairs without MIO interconnection and use PCI Express bus for communication between graphics chips. Nevertheless, the company decided not to enable this capability for its GeForce 8800 GT, which retails for $199 - $259, depending on the model.

Based on benchmark results, Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT with 112 unified shader processors may be as fast as the much more expensive GeForce 8800 GTX, thus, even two of such boards are likely to leave both 8800 GTX and 8800 Ultra far behind in games that can take advantage of multiple graphics processing units (GPU), whereas triple-SLI configuration based on the model 8800 GT is likely to offer performance higher than that of two 8800 GTX/Ultra boards. Given that enthusiasts are willing to pay massive amounts of money even for relatively small performance boost, leaving triple-SLI only for graphics cards that cost over $500 is a logical step from economic point of view.

ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, promised to support triple- and quad-GPU configurations with its CrossFire X technology early next year for ATI Radeon HD 3850/3870 graphics cards that retail for $179 - $239, which may inspire enthusiasm among gamers. It should be noted that ATI currently has nothing to offer for $500 and above, thus, extensive multi-GPU support on performance-mainstream products is completely justified.

Activision Chief Exec Calls for $199 Video Game Consoles

Chief executive of Activision, a large game publishing company, said at a media summit on Tuesday that Microsoft Corp. and Sony need to aggressively reduce pricing of their latest game consoles to $199 if they want to find the gaming machines truly popular on the market.

Both Microsoft Corp. and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. have invested quite a lot into the advanced hardware inside Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but Nintendo Wii, who has the least advanced technology under the hood sometimes manages to outsell Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 combined easily, which distracts games developers from the platforms and cause people to bye Wii due to higher popularity overall and due to higher amount of games available.

“The Wii at its price point is now setting a standard and an expectation, and people say, ‘Well, the Wii is less complex technically’. I don’t think that really matters as much to the consumer. In the next 24 months they all will need to be at that $199 price point, and you can imagine Nintendo will be down to the $129 price point over the next few years,” said Bobby Kotick, chief exec of Activision, at the Reuters Media Summit in New York, the news-agency reports.

Currently Microsoft Xbox 360 is available for $279, $349 or $449 depending on the version; Nintendo sells its Wii, which is the most successful new-generation game console, in the U.S. for $249; whereas different models of Sony’s PlayStation 3 cost end-users $399 or $499.

Game publishers are interested in affordable game consoles, as more people buy such hardware and then start to get new video games as well. On the other hand, technically-advanced and rather expensive game machines, such as PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are acquired by so-called hardcore gamers, who buy massive amounts of software too.

So far both Microsoft and Sony have been relatively reluctant to slash pricing of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 since both lost plenty of money on the latest consoles. It is believed that while Microsoft is not losing money on each Xbox 360 sold, Sony is more than likely to subsidize manufacturing of every unit by a substantial sum.

In case of the prior generation game consoles Microsoft had to slash the price of its Xbox from $299 to $199 half a year after the launch due to slow sales in mid-2002, whereas Sony only reduced the cost of PlayStation 2 from $299 to $199 about 1.5 years after the introduction in the U.S. Nintendo GameCube was released with $199 price-tag in November, 2001, and faced $50 price-cut in May, 2002.

ATI Readies New High-Performance Mobile Graphics Processor – Rumours

Advanced Micro Devices plans to return ATI Mobility Radeon back into high-performance notebooks with the new graphics product called ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3800, which is based on the company’s new graphics architecture.

ATI Technologies used to be the absolute leader in mobile graphics market just several years ago thanks to low power consumption of graphics chips, stability of drivers and proper support. But when the company released its ATI Radeon X1800 and then, already as graphics product group of AMD, ATI Radeon HD 2900, the company was unable to deliver a truly high-performance mobile graphics processing unit (GPU) due to exceptionally high power consumption. However, this situation may change, once AMD releases ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3800.

According several reports around the Internet, ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, readies ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3800 GPU to finally return to the market of notebooks for gamers, who demand high-performance graphics. Some web-sites even claimed that the novelty will be available in Toshiba Dynabook Satellite TXW/69W for Japanese market, however, the manufacturer itself offers ATI Radeon HD3800-series graphics adapters with its novelty, according to its web-site. Since mid-range mobile GPU and high-end mobile chip are most likely to use different form-factor, it is hardly possible for Toshiba to allow end-users to select the graphics component.

Actual specifications of ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3800 remain unknown, however, they are more than likely to resemble those of the desktop model HD 3800. The ATI Radeon HD 3800-series graphics processors sport 320 unified shader processors (SPs), 16 texture units (TUs), 16 render back ends (RBEs), Avivo HD post-processing engine along with universal video decoder (UVD) for high-definition video and is equipped with 256-bit memory controller. The novelty is made using 55nm process technology, which means reduced power consumption for both desktop and mobile computers, and features DirectX 10.1 capabilities, something that rivals lack, but also a feature that gamers will hardly need for a considerable amount of time from now.

Currently the highest-performing graphics component for mobile computers from AMD is ATI Mobility Radeon X1900, which is based on the architecture announced back in 2005. As a result, AMD’s graphics product group badly needs to renew its lineup of high-end mobile GPUs as the market of such components brings relatively high profit margin, which the whole company truly needs these days.

It is not completely clear when AMD plans to unveil the new Mobility Radeon product, but given that the novelty features PCI Express 2.0 along with advanced power saving capabilities, the chipmaker may delay it till its next-generation notebook platform is available. Nevertheless, as rumours about the new part are starting to loom already, the Santa Clara, California-based company may speed up its release in order to better compete against recently released high-performance Nvidia GeForce 8800M-series GPUs from its arch-rival.

Officials from Advanced Micro Devices did not comment on the news-story.

Promo Groups Oppose Achievements of Blu-Ray and HD DVD Formats

Both Blu-ray disc (BD) and HD DVD promotion groups on Tuesday released statements claiming achievements of their formats. The Blu-ray disc Association said that one million of movies on BD have so far been sold in Europe, whereas the HD DVD Promotional Group in North America boasted that 750 thousand of HD DVD players have been sold through in the region.

One Million BD Movies Sold in Europe, 0.6 per BD Player

Blu-ray disc Association (BDA) is reported to have said that one million Blu-ray movies have been sold so far in European countries where such movies are available. The information is based on data from Media Control GFK International market research firm and should reflect actual amount of movies sold to end-users. It is interesting to note that with game BDs combined, Sony and other members of the Blu-ray camp have sold 21 million discs in Europe.

According to the market tracker, Blu-ray disc commands 73% of high-definition video market in Europe, reports Reuters news-agency.

Earlier this month HD DVD Promotional Group said citing Media Control GFK International that in Europe customers have bought 3.8 movies with each HD DVD player sold whereas every owner of a Blu-ray disc player (including both standalone players as well as PlayStation 3, which also features BD capability) has acquired only 0.6 movies. Such a low attach rate is not a surprise: the vast majority of installed Blu-ray players are Sony PlayStation 3 game consoles, which are acquired mostly for gaming. Therefore, the fact that BD video games outsell BD movies by a factor of 20 is hardly unexpected.
HD DVD Camp Celebrates 750 Thousand Players Sold in the USA

The North American HD DVD Promotional Group announced on Tuesday that sales of dedicated HD DVD players exceeded the 750 thousand mark. The data is based on retailer reports and other point of sale data, thus, should represent the actual number of HD DVD hardware units that was acquired by end-users.

The promo group decided to include both standalone set-top players as well as the Xbox 360 HD DVD add-in drive in the number of “dedicated HD DVD players” sold so far. Even though sales of HD DVD add-on for Microsoft’s latest game consoles have been weak, according to reports, they still somewhat distorted the number of sold-through dedicated HD DVD players that were acquired by video enthusiasts. HD DVD player movie attach rate in the U.S. is unknown.

“HD DVD continues to gain momentum and market share with consumers. With more than four weeks left for holiday shopping, HD DVD is turning out to be a perfect consumer electronics gift,” said Ken Graffeo, executive vice president of HD strategic marketing for Universal Studios Home Entertainment, and co-president of the HD DVD Promotional Group.

Blu-ray disc Association has not released the amount of standalone BD players sold so far. According to NPD Group, nearly two million PlayStation 3 game consoles have been sold in the USA, considerably more than 750 thousand of HD DVD devices. Moreover, according to some data, Blu-ray movies outsell HD DVD by two times. Still, since PS3 is likely to be acquired primarily for gaming, eventually HD DVD movies may find themselves more popular compared to Blu-ray.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More Analyst Expect TSMC to Make AMD’s Processors

As Advanced Micro Devices strongly denies outsourcing of its central processing units’ (CPUs’) manufacturing to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), more analysts predict the forthcoming deal between the world’s second largest maker of x86 microprocessors and the world’s top contract semiconductor maker.

Two investment banking firms, Caris & Co. and Lehman Brothers, are quoted as saying by Barron’s magazine’s Technology Trader section that AMD is considering to outsource some of its production to TSMC and is also looking forward to outsource more of its chips to Chartered and, perhaps, even to IBM. While the rumours are hardly new, they come from totally different sources amid the facts that AMD announced its “asset lite” strategy earlier this year and also postponed its financial annual analyst day from November to December, which may indicate that the company is working on a move that may not be expected.

Caris & Co.’s Daniel Berenbaum is reported to have said that a partnership between the two companies is “more advanced than expected,” and that TSMC will start pilot production for several non-mainstream AMD products in the first half of 2008, much sooner than the analyst firm expected. According to Caris & Co, the products involved include CPUs as well as Fusion/Falcon chips that integrate both graphics and x86 cores, both targeted at the low end of the PC market.

It should be noted that Mr. Berenbaum does not expect AMD to sell of its foundry to TSMC and that the potential deal “falls well short of the radical ‘fab light’ strategy that some were hoping for”.

Tim Luke from Lehman Brothers reported, according to the magazine, that AMD and TSMC may be planning an arrangement under which the latter would produce low-cost microprocessors for the former. Besides, it is said, AMD may be considering outsourcing to Chartered or IBM.

“We believe that the initiation of this long awaited manufacturing partnership may begin with a limited volume with some technical issues remaining, but that it is likely to be viewed as constructive for AMD,” the report from Lehman Brothers reads.

Contract semiconductor manufactures like TSMC and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) develop so-called bulk process technologies that are tailored for usage model of a chip, but are not tailored for its micro-architecture. But supplying state-of-the-art x86 chips requires developers of those chips and appropriate process technologies to work very closely together and tailor both for each other. Still considering that manufacturing technologies by contract makers are continuously improving, while AMD’s Fusion chips are not intended for high-performance applications, TSMC may truly have chances to land orders from AMD.

AMD did not comment on the news-story.

NEC and Toshiba Plan to Jointly Develop 32nm Process Technology

NEC Electronics and Toshiba Corp. on Monday said they would proceed to with 32nm fabrication process development without Sony Corp.’s participation. While the decision demonstrates commitment of both companies to semiconductor manufacturing, the destiny of 32nm technology alliance between Toshiba and IBM remains unclear.

Toshiba and NEC Electronics have been working together on 45nm process technology development since February 2006 at Toshiba's Advanced Microelectronics Center in Yokohama. Under the new agreement, the two companies will extend the scope of their collaboration at the site to the 32nm generation, with the aim of accelerating development and sharing development costs.

At the 32nm generation, extremely advanced technologies and significant development resources are required to secure improvements in performance and power consumption. As a result, global semiconductor companies are responding by establishing alliances to achieve more resource-efficient development of process technologies. Toshiba and NEC Electronics have decided to combine their efforts in process technology development for production of devices based on 32nm technology.

Nearly two years ago, in early 2006, IBM, Sony and Toshiba agreed to develop 32nm process technology. However, this year Sony decided to withdraw from further development of fabrication processes as well as manufacturing of advanced chips, such as Cell processor that is utilized in Sony PlayStation 3 game machine. Given that Toshiba hardly requires two different 32nm process technologies, it is likely that the agreement with IBM has been scrapped, which also implies that neither Sony, nor Toshiba, nor IBM are interested in further co-development of Cell processor.

The development of derivative and differentiated process technologies will be discussed separately by the two companies. Additionally, Toshiba and NEC Electronics continue to discuss joint manufacturing, and expect to reach a decision concerning this in 2008.

Intel Quietly Acquires Graphics Software Firm

Intel Corp. has quietly acquired graphics software company called Neoptica. The decision once again outlines importance that graphics technologies represent for the world’s largest maker of x86 central processing units (CPUs). Unfortunately, it is unclear what will the company’s do as a part of Intel.

“Neoptica has been acquired by Intel, where we are working on a number of exciting efforts in interactive computer graphics,” a short statement from Neoptica’s web-site reads.

Previously, Neoptica developed software tools for development of advanced “interactive graphics”. Based in San Francisco, California, the company was founded by ex-Nvidia and ex-Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. employees who used to work on software development positions. Besides, some of Neoptica’s employees were involved into GPGPU (general purpose computing on graphics processing units) projects.

Presently Intel commands the largest share on the market of graphics adapters with its chipsets with built-in graphics cores. However, it is rumoured that Intel is working on high-performance discrete graphics processing units (GPUs), which is why the company is hiring additional personnel experienced in development of graphics hardware and software.

Intel has not yet released any statements regarding the Neoptica take over.

OLPC Extends Give One, Get One Program for XO Laptop

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) non profit organization has extended its offering to residents of Canada and the USA to buy one XO laptop to a child in a developing country and get one such laptop to himself/herself. Additionally, for those who participate in the program T-Mobile will offer one year free Wi-Fi hotspots access.

From now through December 31, 2007, OLPC is offering a Give One Get One (G1G1) program in the United States and Canada. For a donation of $399, one XO laptop will be sent to empower a child in a developing nation and one will be sent to the buyer. $200 of the donation is tax-deductible. For all U.S. donors who participate in the Give One Get One program, T-Mobile is also offering one year of complimentary HotSpot access.

Earlier this year it was projected that OLPC’s G1G1 promotion will only run till November 30, 2007. However, due to the fact that production of XO notebooks started later than expected and not all potentially interested customers donated, it was decided to extend the campaign.

Current OLPC XO laptop features AMD Geode LX-700 processor with 433MHz clock-speed and built-in graphics controller, 256MB of PC-2100 (DDR 266MHz) memory, 1GB NAND flash that substitutes hard disk drive, 7.5” screen with 1200x900 resolution, wireless and wired network adapters as well as integrated webcam, microphone, speakers and so on.

The non profit organization also reminds potential donors that quantities of OLPC XO are limited. As a result, not everyone may get the XO in time for holidays.

“Please be aware that we will make every effort to deliver the XO laptops by the holidays, but quantities are limited. Early purchasers have the best chance of receiving their XO laptops in time for the holidays, but we cannot guarantee timing,” a statement from OLPC reads.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sony Celebrates One Year PlayStation 3 Birthday, Claims U.S. Sales Skyrocket

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) this week celebrates the first year anniversary of the PlayStation 3 game console release. Even though the console has hardly managed to become successful, it is fighting hard and the recent price cuts, according to Sony, substantially increased the number of game consoles sold in.

“When we designed PS3 our goal was to introduce a system so technically advanced that it could stand the test of time and could take the industry in a whole new direction, which for PS3 was high-definition entertainment. While we’re excited by the progress we’ve made this first year, we know that like our other platforms, the best is still yet to come, especially given our new hardware and software line-up, and that PS3 will continue to take the industry to new heights for years to come,” said Jack Tretton, president and chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA).

Despite of Jack Tretton’s optimism, actual statistics is hardly positive for Sony, which still loses money on each PlayStation 3 game machine sold. According to figures by market tracker NPD Group, Microsoft sold through more than two times more Xbox 360 game machines compared to Sony PlayStation 3 in the last twelve months: 4.232 million Vs. 1.978 million, whereas Nintendo Wii was acquired by 5.038 million gamers.

Sony PlayStation 3 is more successful than Microsoft Xbox 360 in Japan, where 1.341 million of PS3s and 0.6 million of X360s were sold through life-to-date, according to figures by Media Create market tracker. Still, Nintendo Wii beats both competing platforms combined with 3.816 million units that have been sold to end-users so far.

Recent data for Europe and other PAL regions was not available at press time. But some market observers said this Summer that Xbox 360 outsells PlayStation 3 by more than a factor of two in the rest of the world.

But troubles of SCEA may head to their end, as one of the major disadvantages of the PS3 was named its price, which was as high as $599 for the premium version of the game console. Sony has slashed the premium PS3’s price to $499 and also introduced a $399 version which features all the advanced multimedia capabilities of the PlayStation 3, including Blu-ray movie playback, but lacks backwards compatibility with games developed for PlayStation and PlayStation.

According to SCEA, PS3 sales “increased by 192% at the top 10 retailers in North America” following the price-cut of the premium unit and the introduction of the $399 model. Typically Sony reports sold in figures, which means that the company tracks down only the number of game consoles supplied to distributors. Keeping the particular situation in mind, 192% increase of shipments is likely to reflect three factors: increased demand towards game consoles in November overall, increased demand towards PlayStation 3 in particular as well as stockpiling of game consoles by retailers for demand skyrocket in December.

T-Mobile Sells Apple iPhone without Contract for $1500

The German court ordered T-Mobile to start selling Apple iPhone without a contract, which will allow customers to get the device and use it in whatever network in whatever country that has GSM/EDGE networks. But the device will cost its owner €999, or nearly $1500, the cost that users have to pay for premium-class stylish mobiles.

Vodafone’s German unit was behind the action to stop T-Mobile from capitalizing on its exclusive deal with Apple, reports News Factor web-site. The company petitioned the court to block sales of the iPhone in Germany until its complaints about an exclusive agreement between Apple and T-Mobile are addressed. But even though the device can be acquired without a contract, hardly a lot of those, who can afford a €1000 cell phone, actually get the iPhone.

Earlier customers who wanted to obtain Apple iPhone in Germany had to sign a contract with T-Mobile and pay a certain sum of money every month in the course of many months while using services provided by the operator. On the other hand, customers had to pay €399, which is a lot for a mobile phone in Europe and which is much more than the price customers have to pay for the iPhone in the U.S.

German customers who obtained Apple iPhone after the court’s ruling can have their phones unlocked to work with any other network carrier, however, many of the functions will only be available to T-Mobile clients only with the complete tariff package, the company is reported to have said.

Apple iPhone combines digital media player, phone, Web browser and personal digital assistant’s features. The device is equipped with 3.5” touch-screen instead of keypad, includes support for quad-band GSM, EDGE, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 EDR wireless technologies. The iPhone also features a 2 megapixel (2MP) camera along with a photo management application.