Friday, August 24, 2007

Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3 Sales Skyrocket in the U.S. – Report

According to figures released by NPD Group late on Thursday, game console market was up in July with Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 sales skyrocketing as Microsoft Corp. suffered from the scandal with malfunction Xbox 360 game consoles.
Apparently, Nintendo Wii still has space for growth, as it managed to set a six-months’ record last month with about 425 thousand game consoles sold through in the United States. Meanwhile, following the price-cut on the PlayStation 3 60GB, the latest game machine by Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. was preferred by 159 thousand of gamers in the U.S., according to figures by NPD. Due to the scandal with faulty game consoles, fewer people acquired Microsoft Xbox 360 in July compared to June, however, the X360 is still ahead of the PS3 with 170 thousand units sold through.



In general, the market of game consoles was up 3% sequentially in July with both PlayStation 3 and Wii enjoying sales increase, whereas Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2 became less popular on the U.S. market.
Surprisingly, the market of portable game consoles shrank in July by about 27% to approximately 706 thousand of units. Nintendo sustains its leadership in the field with 405 thousand of Nintendo DS sold through and 87 thousand of Game Boy Advance bought by gamers across the USA. Sales of Sony PlayStation Portable also declined to 214 thousand of devices.





Earlier this week it was reported that lifetime to date sales of Nintendo Wii surpassed those of Microsoft Xbox 360. While the main reason for that is Nintendo’s success in Japan and Microsoft’s failure to make the Xbox 360 popular in the country of the rising sun, if Wii continues to be more popular than the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 combined in the U.S. and Europe, then soon the least powerful new-generation console will find itself on the throne even in these regions, where Microsoft and Sony have historically been very strong.

Matsushita to Cover Nokia’s Battery Recall Costs

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which is best known for electronics equipment produced under Panasonic brand-name, said on Friday that it would cover all the costs of the battery recall performed by Nokia, a large partner of Matsushita Battery Industrial Co.
“The estimated costs will be between ¥10 billion and ¥20 billion ($86 million and $172 million). The company will accrue those costs in the first half of 2008,” Matsushita said in a Friday press release, reports InfoWorld web-site. The costs include money Nokia had to spend on logistics and call centers as well as the replacement battery costs.
Earlier this month Nokia said it had identified that in very rare cases the Nokia-branded BL-5C batteries could potentially experience overheating initiated by a short circuit while charging, causing the battery to dislodge. There had been approximately 100 incidents of overheating reported globally with no serious injuries or property damage, Nokia indicated. Nokia is working closely with Matsushita and will be cooperating with relevant authorities to investigate this situation.
Nokia has several suppliers for BL-5C batteries who have collectively produced more than 300 million BL-5C batteries. According to Nokia, about 46 million batteries manufactured by Matsushita between December 2005 and November 2006 may be replaced at a customer’s request.
Matsushita has established a corporate lithium-ion battery customer support and management division to help deal with the impact of the recall, the company is reported to have indicated.

Via Officially Launches 1W Eden Microprocessor

As expected, Via Technologies on Thursday officially unveiled its Via Eden ULV microprocessor that has thermal design power reduced to approximately 1W. The new chip is mainly positioned for embedded low-power solutions that do not need high performance, but would enjoy common building blocks as well as versatility of the x86 architecture.
“Giving our customers the building blocks to create innovative systems and driving PC technology into new markets defines our ‘Small is Beautiful’ strategy. With its performance, energy efficiency and compact size, our new VIA Eden ULV processor provides a way for embedded developers to add real value to their systems and push the market forward,” said Richard Brown, vice president of corporate marketing, Via Technologies.
Not much is known about performance of the new Via Eden ULV (ultra low voltage) chip. What is known is that it is made using 90nm process technology, operates at 500MHz, uses 400MHz V4 processor system bus, sports 128KB of level-two cache, features MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3 instruction sets and has Via PadLock security engine. In addition to 500MHz version, Via also has 1GHz Eden ULV processor with 3.5W thermal design power.
The new processor can be combined with the ultra compact VIA CX700/M system media processor, an all-in-one digital media chipset with a maximum operating power of just 3.5W supporting a wide range of multimedia, connectivity and storage options and enabling system platforms with a maximum power of less than 10W.
According to Via Technologies, a number of companies, including AAEON, Acrosser, Adlink, Advansus, Advantech, Aquila, Arbor, Avalue, Axiomtek, Biostar, Bona, Boser, Commate, E-TOP, Flexus, Freetech, Ibase, IEI, Inhand, IPOX, Kontron, Lanner, Liantec, Maple, Nexcom, Posiflex, Portwell, Termtek, Unication and Unicorn, are interested in 500MHz Via Eden ULV product. Some of these customers will have products on show at the Embedded System Conference event taking place in Taipei on 23-24 August 2007.

Toshiba Unveils World’s First 32GB Secure Digital Card

Toshiba Corp., a leading maker of consumer electronics, announced on Thursday its new Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) memory cards that can hold up to 32GB of data and are the first of their kind. The new cards will allow consumers to take loads of high-resolution photos or even shoot video with decent quality for a long time.
From now on, Toshiba’s lineup of SD cards includes 32GB and 16GB SDHC options as well as 8GB microSDHC card for tiny devices that support the recently unveiled high capacity standard for Secure Digital flash memory cards. The 16GB SDHC card will be available worldwide from October, and the 32GB SDHC card and 8GB microSDHC card will be launched worldwide in January next year, the company indicated.
The market for high-density memory cards is growing fast, driven by increasing demand for personal digital equipment able to handle motion pictures and high-resolution images. Demand for high-density microSDHC cards is expected to emerge in the mobile phone market, as on-board cameras advance multi-megapixel capacities, and demand for music and motion pictures are expanding as well.
Customers can fit up to 8000 photos made in 3840x2160 (8.4MP, 16:9) resolution on a 32GB SDHC card, which is considerably more than anyone pictures while on vacation. However, as digital cameras evolve and improve, the demand for memory cards larger than 4GB will pick up.
Pricing of the new cards was not touched upon by Toshiba at this time.

Seagate Plans to Manufacture Solid-State Drives

Even though flash-based solid state drives (SSDs) do not offer capacities common for magnetic media-based hard disk drives (HDDs), the SSD market is growing pretty rapidly and has all chances to represent a significant amount of devices in the coming years. In order to follow the trends, Seagate Technology, market leader of the hard drive industry, said it would produce SSDs going forward.
“We are going to have a solid state drive, probably for enterprise first. We think we can make these drives better,” said Bill Watkins, chief executive of Seagate Technology, in an interview, reports Cnet News.com.
Since solid state drives use only chips and no moving mechanisms, flash-based SSDs are considerably faster and more reliable compared to traditional hard disk drives that use rotating media, moving heads and so on. Unfortunately, nowadays solid state drives are tangibly more expensive in terms of cost per gigabyte compared to HDDs. But while it is hardly possible to store all the data on SSDs, it is possible to combine usage of traditional hard drives and flash-based drives to keep mission-critical data safe on SSD, enjoy high-performance of SSD in certain cases and still being able to store hundreds of gigabytes of data on an HDD.
Seagate does not believe that solid state drives will replace hard disk drives in foreseeable future, however, it expects SSDs to account for 7% of PC storage market in the coming years. Seagate believes that it is capable of offering competitive SSDs thanks to its expertise in making hard drives and will be able to fight for those 7% of the market too.
“The storage component – flash chips or magnetic platters – are only one component of a drive. There are also chips, boards and lots of software. Hard drive has a million lines of code in it. The million lines of code make it a solution,” said Mr. Watkins.
Seagate Technology these days is looking forward a flash supplier for its future SSD products, hence, there is currently no information about solid state drives lineup from Seagate.

Auzentech Ships Audio Card with Creative X-Fi Chip

For the first time in history, a third party add-in card supplier releases an audio card that carries Creative Technology’s X-Fi audio processor. The news confirms intentions of Creative Labs to allow other companies to manufacture sound cards featuring Creative’s technologies.
“The Auzen X-Fi Prelude 7.1 soundcard marks the first time Creative has permitted a third-party soundcard vendor to use the Creative X-Fi chipset in its own soundcard design. The Auzen X-Fi Prelude 7.1 soundcard will fully support EAX 5.0 and have the same expandability as the Auzen X-Meridian 7.1,” a statement by Auzentech company claims.
Auzentech X-Fi Prelude audio card is based on Creative Labs X-Fi CA20K audio processor and uses Auzentech’s own design of print-circuit board, which allows the company to declare somewhat better characteristics compared to the original Creative X-Fi audio card. The new audio card is supported by Creative’s software, therefore, it features such capabilities as ASIO, EAX 5.0, Crystallizer, CMSS-3D and so on.
The novelty from Auzentech is now shipping. According to the manufacturer, end-users will be able to acquire X-Fi Prelude audio card in the U.S. and Canada via popular online stores such as Newegg or NCIX, whereas retailers in several European countries will initiate sales starting the first week of September.
Auzentech X-Fi Prelude audio card is the first of its kind, but according to some previous reports, from now on Creative Technology will sell its audio processors to third-party makers in a bid to popularize high-quality audio solutions for personal computers, as today the market is dominated by moderate-quality integrated audio solutions, which come for free and which made Creative Labs to almost withdraw from the market.
In addition to add-in cards, Creative targets mainboard makers with its relatively affordable audio solutions. Earlier this year it was reported that MicroStar International will use a low-cost X-Fi chip in its mainboard.

European Commission Accuses Rambus of “Patent Ambush”

European Commission has send a statement of objections (SO) to Rambus, a leading developer of memory and interconnection technologies, accusing it of infringing European antitrust laws, claiming unreasonable royalties from industry players due to so called “patent ambush”.
Rambus claims it owns patents on key-technologies used in modern dynamic random access memory that is deployed in every single computer sold. The company is trying to force all makers of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) to pay royalties to Rambus for every single SDRAM, DDR SDRAM and DDR2 SDRAM chip sold. However, DRAM makers believe that Rambus obtained the patents by deceiving JEDEC organization.
The SO outlines the Commission’s preliminary view that Rambus engaged in intentional deceptive conduct in the context of the standard-setting process, for example by not disclosing the existence of the patents which it later claimed were relevant to the adopted standard. This type of behaviour is known as a “patent ambush”, claims a memo by the European Commission.
Against this background, the Commission provisionally considers that Rambus breached the EC Treaty’s rules on abuse of a dominant market position by subsequently claiming unreasonable royalties for the use of those relevant patents. The Commission’s preliminary view is that without its “patent ambush”, Rambus would not have been able to charge the royalty rates it currently does.
In parallel proceedings in the USA, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an order in August 2006 and in February 2007 whereby it found that Rambus had engaged in illegal monopolisation and imposed a remedy applicable to U.S. patents and foreign patents to the extent that they relate to import or export of relevant products into or from the U.S.
“The issues raised by the European Commission include Rambus’ participation in JEDEC that ended over a decade ago. These are largely the same issues examined by a number of US courts, the Federal Trade Commission, and currently before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. We are studying the Statement of Objections and plan to respond in due course,” commented Thomas Lavelle, senior vice president and general counsel at Rambus.
Rambus said it would present its response to the Commission’s statement of objections over the next several months.

AMD Readies Cost-Efficient ATI Radeon HD 2900 Graphics Cards


In a bid to regain positions in the market of high-performance graphics cards, Advanced Micro Devices is reportedly preparing a number of new graphics cards that use the company’s top-of-the-range graphics processing units (GPUs), but fit into $199 - $399 price gap.
According to a variety of media reports, ATI, graphics product group of AMD, is mulling about ATI Radeon HD 2900 Pro and GT graphics solutions, which would feature cut-down ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT technology. Currently no actual information is available, despite of the fact that the launch of such products should be imminent if the Sunnyvale, California-based graphics chips designer wants to sell it during back-to-school season.
Already now AMD ships ATI FireGL V7600 professional graphics accelerator, which comes with fully-fledged ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT/R600 chip with 320 unified shader processing units, but features 256-bit memory bus instead of 512-bit memory bus on the high-end models. Theoretically, ATI Radeon HD 2900 Pro and GT may also feature 256-bit memory bus and even reduced amount of shader processors.
Currently AMD has no DirectX 10-compliant products to compete against Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB as well as GeForce 8600 GTS graphics cards that retail for $199 and $299. The firm originally promised that dual-chip ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics card named “Gemini” would rival the GeForce 8600 GTS, but the part is nowhere to be found, whereas the competitor for the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB has never been even announced.
Currently AMD has a gap in its DirectX 10 lineup starting from $179 and ending at $399. To fill that gap the company either needs to tremendously accelerate its efforts and release the code-named RV670 product, which is believed to be the company’s new-generation performance-mainstream part, in October or November, which is unlikely to happen, or present one or two cut-down versions of its Radeon HD 2900-series offerings.
Officials for AMD did not comment on the news-story.

Nintendo Wii Becomes Best-Selling New-Generation Console – Market Tracker

Without advanced graphics core, innovative central processing unit, high-definition video player and without the hefty price-point, Nintendo Wii has become the best selling new-generation game console, according to a market tracker.
Recently released figures from Video Game Chartz indicate that to date Microsoft Corp. has sold through 10.51 million of its Xbox 360 game machines, whereas Nintendo has succeeded in selling 10.57 million of Wii game consoles. Only 4.32 million Sony PlayStation 3 game consoles have been acquire by end-users so far, VG Chartz indicate.
“Two years ago, very few analysts would have predicted the Nintendo Wii would be market leader this generation against the established PlayStation and Xbox brands. But analysts can be in error: Vgchartz.com data, which is based on sample data from retailers all over the world indicates that the week ending August 23rd Nintendo’s Wii passed Xbox 360 lifetime sales, making Nintendo the new market leader in both the home and handheld videogame console businesses,” a statement by the company reads.

As weekly data from vgchartz.com shows, the Nintendo Wii game console outsold Microsoft’s Xbox 360 by a margin of 2.3:1 worldwide on average each week since its release in November, 2006, selling at an even faster rate than the most successful console ever created, Sony’s PlayStation 2, despite still being sold out in most major markets.
Nintendo Wii is the least technically advanced new-generation game console. Its success is a direct result of its relatively low price as well as unique motion-sensitive control devices. The main target auditory for Wii are casual gamers, children and those new to video gaming.
Vgchartz.com projections are based on sampled retailer data from all over the world. The market tracking firm collects data from a carefully selected group of retailers and determines projected sales figures for entire regions with knowledge of market size, retailer market shares, retailer bias and so forth - the same methods used by larger and more established sales tracking firms.

Industry Experts Claim Lithium-Ion Batteries Have Fundamental Flaw

Lithium-ion batteries are used almost everywhere nowadays, but the recent recalls of them by top makers like Matsushita/Panasonic, Sony Corp. and Sanyo Corp. indicate that something is wrong with their manufacturing, industry experts believe. The battery specialists claim that fabrication process for those batteries needs to be altered to ensure their safe operation.
“There is a fundamental flaw with the way lithium-ion batteries are currently designed and if the companies genuinely care about safety, they need to completely change their production methods. A lithium-ion battery is quite a dangerous little box of energy,” Masataka Wakihara, of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who advises the Japanese Government on battery safety, is reported to have said in an interview with The Times.
According to specialists from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, existing lithium-ion batteries submerge the electrodes in an organic solvent that acts as the electrolyte, and separates them with a film of perforated plastic, which is expensive to produce. An alternative, chemical engineers argue, is to encase the electrodes in a solid polymer electrolyte – a structure that might have to be heated slightly to ensure good function.
In fact, Matsushita Battery Industrial (MBI), a division of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. last year announced battery cells with improved materials that separate cathodes from anodes, however, it is unclear which of the company’s products utilize the new technology and whether it is as robust as proposed by the academics. Sony also announced that it would use a new technology to produce li-ion batteries going forward, but did not unveil its details.
Unfortunately, specialists from the Tokyo Institute of Technology as well as the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science do not reveal how much more expensive the lithium-ion batteries made with a solid polymer electrolyte are compared to existing ones. Without such information available to smaller producers of accumulators, it is hardly possible to expect them to start using new methods of manufacturing overnight. As a result, manufacturers will test various technologies virtually on end-users.
“Battery companies are still learning because the [lithium-ion battery] technology is young,” said Mr. Wakihara.

Intel Shows Off New Extreme Processor for Laptops

In a bid to offer the world’s fastest central processing unit for mobile computers, Intel Corp. demonstrated at Games Convention conference its new “extreme” chip that cranks up performance of laptops and allows notebook manufacturers to overclock it even further, providing gamers on the go even higher speed.
The new Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900 processor features two processing engines, 4MB of unified level-two cache, uses 800MHz processor system bus and operates at 2.80GHz. As the previous enthusiast-class processor for mobile computers, the new model X7900 comes with bus ratio locks (over-speed protection) removed, which means that both system makers and end-users can overclock such processors to desired level and obtain additional performance virtually for free.
“The Intel Core 2 Extreme mobile processor X7900 is Intel’s highest performing notebook CPU from Intel and provides outstanding capabilities for high-end gaming and demanding applications – at home and on the go,” a statement by Intel reads.
The new Core 2 Extreme X7900 central processing unit features power-saving capabilities available on other mobile offerings from the company, however, considering that the chip allows relatively easy overclocking, its power consumption is a floating figure and so is laptop battery life.
The Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900 mobile dual-core processor running at is immediately available to system makers at a price of $851. Notebooks from Asus, Dell, Medion and others with the new “extreme” processor from Intel will become available within the next four weeks.

Ageia Unveils PhysX for Mobile Computers

Ageia, currently the world’s only provider of dedicated physics processing units (PPUs) for personal computers (PCs), announced on Wednesday at Games Convention conference its first physics accelerator for mobile computers. While Ageia targets the rapidly growing segment of high-performance laptops for gamers, it is unlikely that mobile PhysX card will sell in significant volume.
Ageia PhysX 100M is a specially designed solution that can provide equal performance compared to already shipping Ageia PhysX add-in cards for desktop personal computers, but with power consumption not exceeding 10W, according to Ageia. The chip designer claims that the solution is developed in a way to allow notebook creators to integrate the PhysX 100M into their designs without substantial problems. Nevertheless, considering that print-circuit boards of notebooks usually have no free space, integration of PhysX into mobile computers may not be an easy task to accomplish.
Ageia claims that “leading” notebook producers will present their solutions featuring PhysX 100M soon, though, it does not pre-announce any actual notebooks from its partners. It can be expected, however, that those machines will be aimed at hardcore gamers on the go, therefore, the laptops will be pretty large and powerful. But despite of the fact that Ageia only positions PhysX for games at this time, the chip itself may be used in a variety of applications and the company said early this year that it was working with software designers on employing PPUs into other applications.
“The PPU can be used for accelerating other calculations in scientific, engineering and financial applications such as DCC [digital content creation], video encoding/decoding, financial options pricing, CAD applications, medical imaging etc. We are working with partners on each of these applications,” said Manju Hedge, chief executive of Ageia, in an interview, adding that the company plans to offer software that would allow running generic C code on the PhysX chip.
Ageia’s PhysX is the world’s first physics processing unit (PPU), which offloads software physics processing from central processing units and graphics processing units to it. The architecture of the PhysX PPU is tailored for multi-threaded processing of vertexes, which allows game creators to develop detailed, soft and precise animation and simulation of movements, hair, clothing, liquids, fluids and other. Currently Ageia’s PhysX is the world’s first and only dedicated physics processing unit, but the company expects more startups to offer similar technology.
To take advantage of advanced capabilities the PhysX has, game developers have to create games using Novodex SDK supplied by Ageia, which requires some additional effort from them. According to Ageia, more than one hundred games designed for and supporting the Ageia PhysX processor are in development from over 60 software creators and publishers.

Sony Boosts PlayStation Portable’s Functionality with Communications, Navigation

In a battle against arch-rival Nintendo, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. teamed up with British Telecommunications and on Wednesday introduced software that allows turning Sony PlayStation Portable into a communication device that can make video and voice calls and also send instant messages. Separately, the company said it intends to release a navigation hardware and software for the PSP device.
BT, which unveiled plans for telecommunication services for Sony PlayStation Portable back in late May, said it would kick off the project in January 2008 in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, targeting 8.5 million PSP users in the European Union. Mobile gamers will have to subscribe to BT and install appropriate software.
The software itself is free, and customers do not need to have BT broadband to use the service, which allows for free calls from one PSP user to another, but customers have to pay for calls between PSP users and mobiles or landline phones, reports Telegraph.co.uk. Although BT yet has to release a pricing structure, the group said today it would be similar to the Softphone charges.
Currently, local and national calls are £0.03 ($0.059) per minute using a BT Softphone, while calls to UK mobiles cost between £0.075 ($0.014) and £0.125 ($0.24) a minute. International calls cost up to £0.10 a minute ($0.19), plus a £0.06 ($0.11) call set-up fee.
BT will roll-out the VoIP PSP service in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania with the support of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd., Sony’s gaming division responsible for PlayStation products in territories that use the PAL television color system. However, since Sony is not strongly interested in the service, the feature may not be available in markets like Americas, Japan or Asia, it was earlier reported.
Separately, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. said it would market a special global positioning (GPS) accessory for PSP starting February, 2008, further boosting functionality of its portable game console.

Intel Improves Graphics Functionality of Its Chipsets

Intel Corp. has released a new driver package for its Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3000, boosting its functionality and graphics performance. The move emphasizes that graphics performance gains importance at Intel, but unfortunately the new package is only available for Microsoft Windows XP and is designed to support already outdated Shader Model 3.0.
The new Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) version 14.31.0.4859 driver for its integrated graphics processors (IGPs) adds support for hardware vertex shader 3.0 to GMA X3000 graphics core as well as resolves certain amount of problems, including those with graphics quality and performance in variety of popular three-dimensional video games. The new driver supports Intel GMA 950 (945-series chipsets), Intel GMA X3000 (963-, 965-series chipsets) as well as Intel GMA X3500 (3-series chipsets) IGPs, though, it should be observed that all of those graphics cores still have different feature-sets.
The release of the driver almost a year after Intel launched its Intel G965 core-logic set with declared DirectX 9.0c Shader Model 3.0 support and rumoured DirectX 10 functionality support highlights Intel’s unwilling to position IGPs for gaming, despite of the fact that the company does declare that its GMA graphics cores are suitable for casual gaming. Given that all games today use hardware DirectX 9.0 shaders and other graphics capabilities available on discrete graphics chips for many years, Intel has been criticized for several quarters for poor drivers, which did not even let end-users to play three years old Far Cry game.
“Now Intel G965 owners can boast much higher performance and support for more games. Games like Call of Duty 2, Far Cry and Battlefield 2 (which didn’t even run) are now playable. Overall, expect a significant boost in performance for many games,” said Nick Knupffer, a PR manager at Intel Corp. in the company’s official blog.
The company promised to release a similar driver for Microsoft Windows Vista operating system “soon”, however, the chipmaker did not reveal when it plans to release a driver that will enable DirectX 10/Shader Model 4.0 functionality on current-generation 3-series chipsets with Intel GMA X3500 IGP.

AMD Admits Technical Problems Delayed Quad-Core Opteron

Advanced Micro Devices, the world’s second largest maker of x86 microprocessors, has been receiving criticism for the postponement of its new quad-core chips as well as chips based on the new-generation micro-architecture for months. But only now, a little less than a month ahead of the launch the firm is ready to talk about its problems.
Chief executive of AMD admitted that the highly-anticipated quad-core AMD Opteron is half a year late to market because of a variety of technical issues. At the same time, he predicts that the battle between the chip code-named Barcelona and products by Intel Corp. will be very intense this fall and world’s first single-die x86 quad-core processor will not have an advantage AMD Opteron had over its rivals.
“We’re doing something that nobody has ever done. As strong as our competitor is, they have not done a [monolith] quad-core on a chip… Every time we ran into a gotcha (a technical glitch), it created a six-week or so hole in the schedule as we went back and fixed it. We hoped we wouldn’t get many of those, but in the Barcelona case, we got more than we thought. By the time we got through fixing them all, we were six months-plus late from where we originally wanted to be,” said Hector Ruiz, chairman and chief executive of AMD, in an interview with Mercury News.
Six months delay from the original schedule not only means that the company has missed its revenue predictions, but also indicates that the chipmaker will have to compete against Intel’s products that it did not originally target with the first breed of quad-core AMD Opteron “Barcelona” offerings. As a result, the competition between the new server chips will be fierce across all aspects, including performance, scalability, power consumption, pricing, manageability, cost of ownership and so on.
“I expect us to regain position in the server market because Barcelona is a very strong product. It won’t have the huge impact Opteron had. If you remember at the time Intel had no new product (to compete against it). So it will be more challenging. What we’re anticipating is that Intel and AMD are going to be very competitive in every space going forward. We’ve become big and strong enough and credible enough that we are going to flip back and forth in leadership,” Mr. Ruiz said.
Quad-core AMD Opteron processors code-named Barcelona are based on the company’s next-generation micro-architecture and will be produced using 65nm process technology. Among the highlights of AMD’s new chips the manufacturer lists shared 2MB L3 cache, 128-bit floating point units (FPU), SSE4A instructions, support for dual-channel DDR2 memory and other innovations. The first Barcelona processors are scheduled for shipments in August with product availability in September.

Toshiba Launches Notebook Drive with Industry’s Largest Capacity

Toshiba Corp. on Tuesday announced a new lineup of hard disk drives (HDDs) for mobile or portable applications that offer either increased capacities or leading performance. One of the hard drives, in fact, has set the record in 2.5” HDD capacity with 320GB of storage space.
The new members of two product families – MK-GSX and MK-GSY – boast with either recently launched 160GB platters, providing maximum storage capacity, or 7200rpm motor with 16MB buffer, giving customers additional performance. Both models support an optional Free Fall Sensor function, which detects falling HDD and parks the head before it crashes. The new drives in 2.5” form-factor may be used in both mobile computers as well as various consumer electronics applications that require relatively small footprint amid capacious storage or high performance.
The flagship Toshiba MK3252GSX model has two 160GB platters that feature total capacity of rather unprecedented 320GB. The new hard drive features Serial ATA-300 interface, 5400rpm motor, 8MB buffer and 12ms average seek time. Other members of Toshiba MK-GSX family sport similar technical characteristics, but feature capacities of 250GB, 160GB, 120GB or 80GB.
The top-of-the-range member of Toshiba MK-GSY family – MK2049GSY – uses two 100GB platters and has capacity of 200GB. The two main advantages of the HDD are 7200rpm motor as well as 16MB buffer, which may provide additional performance and responsiveness. Toshiba declares that the new drive increases the maximum transfer rate by approximately 46% and the average random access time by approximately 8% when compared to current MK1637GSX model. Other new members of the family feature capacities of 160GB, 120GB or 80GB.
Toshiba will feature the new drives at the IFA 2007, one of the worlds’s largest consumer electronics trade fairs, which will be held in Berlin, Germany, from August 31 to September 5. The drives will also feature at DiskCon USA 2007, organized by The International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association (IDEMA), which will be held in Santa Clara, California, from September 19 to 20.
Toshiba Corp. did not reveal when the new HDDs are planned to be commercially available.

Corsair Introduces New “Dominator” DDR3 Memory Modules

Corsair Memory, a leading supplier of advanced memory modules for overclockers and performance enthusiasts, has quietly announced its 1600MHz and 1800MHz DDR3 memory modules. This time the company cannot claim “industry’s first” modules at the new speed bins, however, it is hardly a problem, as DDR3 still has to gain popularity on the market.
The new Corsair Dominator DDR3 memory modules – which come as 2GB dual-channel kit – can operate at 1800MHz with CL7 7-7-20 with 2V voltage setting. Currently Corsair’s modules can claim highest performance among ultra high speed memory offerings, as products at similar clock-speeds from Cellshock, OCZ Technology and SuperTalent feature higher timings, which means lower performance. The new Dominator products from Corsair are equipped with advanced heat-spreader that cools both memory chips and print-circuit board.
In addition, Corsair Memory also revealed XMS3 memory modules operating at 1600MHz with CL7 7-7-20 timings with 1.9V voltage, proving additional choice for consumers seeking for the highest possible performance.
Even though both PC3-14400 and PC3-12800 memory modules from Corsair feature interesting combinations of clock-speed, latency settings and voltages, they are unlikely to become popular overnight even among enthusiasts. The reason for that is the lack of additional performance provided by DDR3 over DDR2, which slowdowns the adoption of the new memory type even by those, who tend to be on the leading edge of technology.
Pricing of the new Corsair Dominator DDR3 and XMS3 memory modules remains to be seen, however, it is very likely to be extremely high even for enthusiasts.

Foxconn and HP Unveil Intention to Build a Plant in Russia

Foxconn Electronics, one of the world’s largest contract manufacturers, and Hewlett Packard, currently the world’s largest supplier of personal computers (PCs) on Tuesday confirmed that it would set up a plant in the Russian Federation. The new plant will manufacture PCs as well as liquid crystal displays (LCDs). The new plant will not only strengthen positions of Foxconn and HP on the market, but may revolutionize it as well.
The planned joint venture between HP and Foxconn is currently seeking for a location for its fab in Saint Petersburg industrial areas and is projected to start construction as early as this fall. The fab can be as large as 60 000 square meters and may employ up to 5 thousand of workers, according to some reports. It is claimed that the plant will manufacture PCs and LCDs, but it is possible that it may also build notebooks as well. The investments into the plant may reach $50 mollion.
Currently Foxconn has over 200 thousand employees worldwide, thus, adding another 5 thousand is hardly a big deal for the company that produces loads of various electronics and computing devices. Nevertheless, the intention to build a plant in Russia together with HP may have dramatic consequences both for the Russian PC market as well as the relations between current third-party partners with HP and Foxconn.
Foxconn produces a lot of components for HP’s rivals, such as Dell, whereas HP uses manufacturing capacities of Foxconn’s competitors. Given that the plant in Saint Petersburg will not only be able to produce cost-efficient displays and PCs for the domestic market, it may eventually serve Easter and Northern Europe markets too, something, which may upset certain companies among those served by Foxconn Electronics using plants in mainland China.

Nokia Recalls Batteries for Mobile Phones

Nokia, the world’s largest manufacturer of cell phones, has announced the recall of its batteries, which were originally made by Matsushita Battery Industrial Co. (which is primarily known for Panasonic brand). The replacement program concerns tens of models and may involve tens of millions cell phones.
Nokia said it had identified that in very rare cases the Nokia-branded BL-5C batteries could potentially experience overheating initiated by a short circuit while charging, causing the battery to dislodge. There had been approximately 100 incidents of overheating reported globally with no serious injuries or property damage, Nokia indicated. Nokia is working closely with Matsushita and will be cooperating with relevant authorities to investigate this situation.
Nokia has several suppliers for BL-5C batteries who have collectively produced more than 300 million BL-5C batteries. According to Nokia, about 46 million batteries manufactured by Matsushita between December 2005 and November 2006 may be replaced at a customer’s request.
“While the occurrence in the BL-5C batteries produced by Matsushita in the time-period specified is very rare, for consumers wishing to do so, Nokia and Matsushita offer to replace for free any BL-5C battery subject to this product advisory,” a statement by Nokia reads.
Nokia BL-5C batteries are used in variety of Nokia’s phones, including models among 1000-, 2000-, 3000-, 6000-, 7000-, N- and E-series. Consumers who wish to find out whether their batteries can be replaced free of charge have to go to Nokia’s web-site and enter a special 26-digit code located on their batteries into a special form.
This is the second major battery recall announcement from a Japan-based maker in the recent quarters. Last year numerous notebook manufacturers had to replace batteries that contained cells manufactured by Sony Corp.

Microsoft Xbox 360’s Graphics Chips Now Fully Made at TSMC

Microsoft Corp. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. have announced that TSMC will supply embedded dynamic random access memory (eDRAM) chips for Microsoft Xbox 360 game console. The result of the deal could be reduced building costs of the machine.
Graphics sub-system of Microsoft Xbox 360 game console, which is known as Xenos, consists of two chips, the first one has 48 unified shader processors and provides processing horsepower, whereas the second consists of render back ends as well as 10MB of high-speed eDRAM, providing full-scene antialiasing without performance drops. Until today, the eDRAM core was produced by NEC, but Microsoft decided to switch the manufacturer, most likely to reduce the production costs.
“TSMC provides the proven manufacturing and chip implementation services required to build a competitive silicon component in volume. The TSMC 90nm eDRAM process is exactly what we need to further strengthen our position in console gaming and entertainment,” said Bill Adamec, senior director of semiconductor technology of Microsoft.
Technically, the new eDRAM core of the Xenos graphics sub-system is the same as that used now: it has capacity of 10MB and can operate at 500MHz with minimal latencies. The only change is believed to be lower production cost. However, Microsoft did not say whether it would terminate or prolong the agreement for eDRAM core with NEC.
Microsoft Xbox 360, which is based on a custom PowerPC microprocessor developed by IBM, uses components made by different suppliers, some of which directly compete against each other. Currently Xenos graphics processor is fully made at TSMC, central processing unit is made by Chartered, whereas I/O processor, which was engineered by SiS, is produced by United Microelectronics Co.
Microsoft, like all suppliers of game consoles, is constantly looking forward to reduce production costs, as gaming machines are typically sold with a loss. Even though Microsoft managed to reduce build-up costs of the Xbox 360 by 40% in the first year, it recently decided to make the product more affordable and started to cut its pricing around the world.

AMD Proposes Hardware Methods to Boost Multi-Core Processors’ Performance

Advanced Micro Devices has announced a technology, which will allow future multi-core microprocessors to choose the best way of execution themselves, improving performance and making it easier to create software for multi-core microprocessors. The new tech may also eventually help the world’s second largest chipmaker to promote general purpose computing on graphics processors.
For years programming for multi-processor or multi-core machines has been a complex task, as software developers had to parallelize their code to take advantage of numerous processing engines. In the recent years this task has gained importance dramatically, as dual-core chips became widespread, however, efficient programming for such computers did not become much easier than before. But Advanced Micro Devices believes that it had found a way to solve this, as its newly-introduced Light-Weight Profiling (LWP) technology will allow chips to decide the most efficient way of execution themselves.
According to AMD, LWP is designed to enable code to make dynamic and real-time decisions about how best to improve the performance of concurrently running tasks, using techniques such as memory organization and code layout, with very little overhead. The LWP is a set of hardware features in future versions of microprocessors by AMD, thus, it is very likely that a part of the technology is a new set of instructions found in the forthcoming micro-architectures from AMD, such as Bulldozer.
“AMD understands the challenges developers face when creating multi-threaded software, and so we are taking a step to evolve new methods to ensure that software applications are optimized for multi-core technology,” said Earl Stahl, vice president, software engineering at AMD. “In the spirit of AMD’s commitment to open innovation and fostering industry discussion, we are making the Light-Weight Profiling specification available to encourage discussions with the developer community around how to make native and managed code perform better in multi-core computing environments.”
In fact, hardware parallelization is not something particularly new. Back in late 2005 NEC introduced a complier that was meant to be loaded onto a field programmable logic array (FPGA) and automatically parallelize software. The different between NEC’s technology and AMD’s proposal is that the latter promises real-time optimizations, whereas NEC’s technology was aimed at faster offline optimizations of programs.
Potentially, real-time increases in efficiency of execution may lead to a hardware arbiter, which will be able to decide on which computing engine to use. Given that AMD plans to introduce Fusion microprocessors that will feature both general-purpose (GP) central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU), the LWP technology may eventually be able to handle certain tasks to GPU, which is a highly-parallel computing engine itself. On the other hand, LWP ensures that software performance scales according to the amount of symmetric computing engines.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

First Intel X38 Express Based Mainboard From Gigabyte

Although the first mainboards based on the new third-series Intel chipset are scheduled to be officially launched only in September, some mainboard makers are already announcing their solutions. The first one to come to the market with the new Intel X38 based platform was Gigabyte that introduced an inexpensive solution called GA-5BXWV-RH.
Based on Intel’s X38 (Bearlake-X) chipset, GIGABYTE GA-5BXWV-RH is designed for single processor based platform in entry level, general purpose workstation, especially for small/middle level business user, graphic editing service, engineering 3D graphic processing, and advanced workstation user or game player.


GA-5BXWV-RH works with 1333/1066/800MHz FSB supporting mainstream Intel desktop processors including upcoming 45nm quad-core/dual-core (Yorkfield/Wolfdale). It can accommodate 4 DIMMs with maximum capacity of 8GB of dual-channel cost-saving unbuffered ECC DDR2-667/800 memory. It features one PCIe x16 slot for advanced high-performance visualization, and 4 PCI slots for legacy PCI devices such as sound cards. In addition, 5 SATA ports support advanced RAID functions, and one PCIe x4 is reserved for future expansion needs.
The detailed mainboard specs are given on the scheme below:
Note that Gigabyte GA-5BXWV-RH is an inexpensive solution. It features only one PCI Express x16 graphics card slot, and doesn’t use the chipset Crossfire support. It cannot boast any sophisticated chipset cooling systems onboard and is equipped with a four-phase processor voltage regulator.
GA-5BXWV-RH is expected to cost like similar Intel P35 based solutions, since X38 and P35 chipsets differ only by $17. Gigabyte GA-5BXWV-RH should appear in stores within the next few weeks.

AMD Launches Athlon 64 X2 6400+ Black Edition

As we have predicted, AMD today announced their new dual-core Athlon 64 X2 6400+ processor. Working at 3.2GHz frequency, this CPU becomes the fastest desktop solution from AMD these days.
However, Athlon 64 X2 6400+ is still based on the old K8 micro-architecture and uses Windsor core manufactured with 90nm process. The 3.2 GHz dual-core processor features an integrated 128-bit dual-channel memory controller, DDR2 memory up to and including PC2 6400 (DDR2-800) unbuffered memory, and a dedicated 2MB L2 cache. The AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processor 6400+ Black Edition is now available in the channel in North America, Japan, Korea and parts of Europe, priced at $251 WOF (without a fan) for PIB (Processor in a Box).
The launch of Athlon 64 X2 6400+ processor is no revelation. AMD has been shipping 3.2GHz CPUs manufactured with 90nm process for a while now. They are the server Opteron 2224 SE and Opteron 8224 SE. Just like them, the new Athlon 64 X2 6400+ Black Edition feature higher heat dissipation than their slower counterparts: 125W.
Athlon 64 X2 6400+ Black Edition is a niche solution, it is unlikely to enjoy very wide demand in the market. The competitor’s products, for example, the dual-core Core 2 Duo E6850 costs less, offer higher performance and lower heat dissipation level. So, looks like the newcomer is most likely to become of interest only to dedicated AMD fans. That is why AMD decided not to arrange any big launch events and simply sent out a press release.
Besides launching the Athlon 64 X2 6400+, the company has also made a few changes to their price list. Mobile Turion 64 X2 processors in Socket S1 form-factor welcomed a new addition to their line-up – a Turion 64 X2 TL-58 (1/9GHz) processor featuring to cores and 2 x 512KB L2 cache, which is officially selling for $184. At the same time they also dropped the price on their Turion 64 X2 TL-56 (1.8GHz) from $184 to $154. They also included a dual-core mobile Athlon 64 X2 TK-53 in Socket S1 form-factor. It is made with 65nm process, supports 1.7GHz nominal clock speed and 1600MHz HyperTransport, features 2 x 256KB L2 cache. This CPU is already used in notebooks from leading manufacturers. Its TDP is 31W. Athlon 64 X2 TK-53 is selling for $144 (wholesale price).
Besides, they have also included into the price list a low-cost 65nm Sempron LE-1150 (2.0GHz, 256KB L2, 45W TDP) for Socket AM2 systems.

64-Core Embedded Processor from Tilera Announced



ilera Corporation today launched the TILE64 processor, the first in a family of Tile Processor chips based on a revolutionary architecture that can scale to hundreds and even thousands of cores. The TILE64 processor contains 64 full-featured, programmable cores - each capable of running Linux - and delivers 10X the performance and 30X the performance-per-watt of the Intel dual-core Xeon, and 40X the performance of the leading Texas Instruments DSP. Initial target markets for the TILE64 processor include the embedded networking and digital multimedia markets.
The idea to create a two-dimensional array of small cores connected with a high-speed interface is not that new, but it was the basis for the TILE64 processor concept. Each of the 64 cores is somewhat self-sustained: it can launch Linux OS. Each core in this processor features 8KB L1 data cache, 8KB L1 instructions cache and 64KB L2 cache. It is typical that all this cache memory can be virtually turned into 5MB of shared L3 cache, if the software developers need it. These cores work at 600MHz, 750MHz and 900MHz frequencies, and the idling cores can switch to power-saving mode. The bandwidth of the interface between each core and the four ones next to it is 500Gbps. As a result, Tilera claims that one 64-core TILE64 processor is 10 times faster than the dual-core Xeon and 30 times better than Xeon in terms of performance-per-watt ratio.
In order to minimize total system power, cost and real estate, the TILE64 processor integrates four DDR2 memory controllers and a complete array of high speed I/O interfaces, including two 10 Gbps XAUI, two 10 Gbps PCIe, two 1 Gbps Ethernet RGMII, and a programmable flexible I/O interface to support interfaces such as compact flash and disk drives.
The TILE64 processor is ideally suited for high performance embedded system markets. In the networking and telecommunications areas, the TILE64 processor is designed into switches and security appliances to provide unmatched performance of up to 20 Gbps of L4-L7 services. In the digital video and multimedia market, the TILE64 delivers an unprecedented two streams of broadcast-quality, high-definition H.264-encode capability in a single chip, and more than ten streams of encode for high-definition video conferencing applications.
The TILE64 processor is available now in three different device variants based on frequency and I/O capabilities. Production pricing for the TILE64 family starts at $435 in 10K unit quantities. Tilera's roadmap also includes plans for a 36-core and a 120-core device. More information on Tilera and the TILE64 processor can be found on Tilera's new web site, also launched today, at www.tilera.com.

Asus to Start Shipping Eee PC in September

Asus Company is going to start manufacturing ultra low-cost notebooks first demonstrated at Computex 2007 that are considered extremely promising solutions. According to Digitimes, this September already the company is going to start selling its first Eee PC 701 series notebooks prices between $199 and $369 depending on the features and region. Note that they are planning to supply about 20,000 units next month into USA, Taiwan, China and Europe, with the $349-model being the biggest part of the supply. However, as the production increases, more affordable models should become widely available also. In 2007 they intend to ship 500,000 units of this series, and in 2008 the production should hit 3-5 mln units.
In addition to securing orders from the mentioned countries, Asustek has also landed orders for its Eee PCs from a number of education organizations, insurance companies and emerging markets, the sources noted.
Eee PC 701 is a compact notebook in plastic casing with a 7-inch screen diagonal and 800x480 resolution (although the unit is slightly larger than the screen to accommodate the speakers). It is based on Intel mobile chipset and CPU (supposedly it will be integrated Intel 910 chipset and 900MHz Intel Celeron-M ULV 353 CPU). It is equipped with 512MB of DDR2-400 memory and 2-16GB of flash memory instead of the hard drive. There will be three USB ports, audio jacks and VGA Out for communication with the rest of the world. As for the network interfaces, there will be a 10/100Mbps port and wireless WiFi (802.11b/g) interface, as well as a 56K modem. The device will be equipped with a card-reader and a 0.3Mpixel web-cam.

Besides ultra-mobility, Eee PC will also have other advantages, such as Shock Proof Design, wireless connectivity and ease of use.
Eee PC 701 will ship with a 4-cell NiMH battery that should last for about 3-4 hours of non-stop operation. The notebook will be 225 x 165 x 21 (35) mm big and will weigh only 800-900g. It will come with Linux OS preinstalled by default, but Asus claims that it will also be Windows OS compatible. By the way, the manufacturer positions this solution not as a notebook, but as a more mobile addition to a notebook you may already have, or as a portable device with Internet access.

IBM and TDK Combined Efforts for Advanced MRAM Development

IBM and TDK Corporation today announced a joint research and development program to develop high capacity MRAM (Magnetic Random Access Memory) technology utilizing the spin momentum transfer effect. The companies believe that harnessing the spin momentum transfer effect will allow a much more compact memory cell than is possible with present approaches.
The companies will leverage their respective expertise in areas of fundamental research for new memory technology and magnetic device development to create a high density, high capacity MRAM integrated circuit which can be used as standalone memory or embedded into other IC solutions.
IBM has been a leader in the development of MRAM memory technology and a pioneer in the fundamental research and development of the magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) and in the prediction and study of the spin momentum transfer effect upon which the memory is based. TDK Corporation is the leader in applying MTJ technology into recording heads for Hard Disk Drives. Both companies have extensive research and patents in design and materials for magnetic data recording.
MRAM offers significant advantages over competing memory technologies including low power usage, high speed, unlimited endurance (read and write cycles), and inherent non-volatility (retains data without the need for continued power). Market adoption of MRAM has been limited by the inability to cost effectively increase capacity. Spin momentum transfer technology enables MRAM to significantly reduce cell size and thereby increase capacity cost-effectively while maintaining the low power, endurance and non-volatility advantages, potentially making MRAM a preferred solution for memory applications in the automotive, cell phone, handheld computing, and industrial controls.
"This collaborative initiative reinforces IBM's commitment to explore new phenomena for memory applications," said Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president, Science and Technology, IBM Research. "The project will focus on creating and demonstrating advanced magnetic materials in demanding memory chip designs."
IBM and TDK's joint efforts in development of MRAM technology should result into the launch of so-called spin torque transfer RAM (random access memory) or STT-RAM. In STT-RAM, an electric current is applied to a magnet to change the direction of the magnetic field. The direction of the magnetic field (up-and-down or left-to-right) causes a change in resistance, and the different levels of resistance register as 1s or 0s.
Under the current plan, IBM and TDK, an integral player in magnetic recording components for hard drives, will develop a 65-nanometer prototype within the next four years.

Paramount Drops Blu-Ray Support in Favour of HD DVD Format

Paramount Pictures, a part of Viacom media company and a leading Hollywood studio, announced on Monday that it would not release new movies on Blu-ray discs (BDs) going forward, concentrating on exclusive support of HD DVD. The move may not only emphasize that popularity of the BD format is decreasing, but also may indicate that Paramount now bets on hybrid high-def players and chooses a the most cost-efficient format.
“Part of our vision is to aggressively extend our movies beyond the theater, and deliver the quality and features that appeal to our audience. I believe HD DVD is not only the affordable high-quality choice for consumers, but also the smart choice for Paramount,” said Brad Grey, chairman and chief executive of Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc.
Nevertheless, movies directed by Steven Spielberg will still be available on both types of new-generation DVDs.
Recently it was reported that sales of Blu-ray standalone players’ sales saw a 27% decline from Q1 to Q2, and Blu-ray software sales were down 5%, which essentially lowered Paramount’s interest in supporting Blu-ray in addition to HD DVD. On the other hand, companies like Blockbuster and Target announced exclusive support for Blu-ray, which means that only BD movies will be available for rent at the former and only BD players will be obtainable from the latter.
The war between two formats caused confusion among consumers, who decided not to acquire any high-definition video player until there is a clear winner. Companies like LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics decided to respond to this confusion with the launch of universal players, which can playback both Blu-ray and HD DVD. As such devices gain popularity, movie studios will have less interest in supporting both formats, which means that going forward companies like Warner Bros may drop either Blu-ray or HD DVD in order to cut-down manufacturing costs.
Among large Hollywood studios HD DVD is supported by Warner Bros. Studios, New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures, whereas Sony Pictures, Walt Disney, Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox endorse Blu-ray.