Saturday, October 27, 2007

Microsoft to Install Windows on Laptops from OLPC

Microsoft Corp. this week said that it is working on a version of Windows XP operating system compatible with laptops from One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) non-profit organization. The company said that Windows XP may work already on the current XO model, which was once supposed to sell for $100, however, the software giant is likely to aim future versions of the notebook too.

“We’re spending a nontrivial amount of money on [making a basic version of Windows XP compatible with OLPC’s XO]. […] We remain hopeful with our progress to date, we still have significant work ahead to finalize our analysis and testing processes. At the end of the day, there are no guarantees,” Microsoft corporate vice president Will Poole said in an interview on Thursday, reports Reuters news-agency.

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 operating system and Microsoft will have to invest into advertising and marketing programs to enter those markets eventually.

Among the concerns that Microsoft has in regards of the OLPC’s XO personal computer are performance constraints. Minimum system requirements for Windows XP include 233MHz x86 central processing unit and 128MB of memory, which is something that the current OLPC laptop has, but besides Windows XP requires 1.5GB of hard disk drive space, which means that Microsoft needs to substantially cut-down features of the system in order to fit it onto 1GB flash storage of the XO.

“We still have plenty of work to do in determining if the highly constrained performance, power, and memory in the first generation XO laptops will be compatible with Windows and popular Windows applications,” Mr. Poole added.

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.

Intel Begins Volume Manufacturing of 45nm Microprocessors

Volume production of a new generation of microprocessors for desktop personal computers, laptops, servers and other computing devices officially began today inside of Intel Corp.’s first high-volume 45nm manufacturing factory in Chandler, Arizona. The first 45nm chips, which were produced on Intel’s D1D fab in Hilsboro, Oregon, will be unveiled next month and will serve high-performance desktops and mainstream servers.

“The opening of Fab 32 in Arizona today is a testament to Intel’s continued investment in our most strategic asset – the most advanced, environmentally friendly manufacturing network in the world. The magic of 45nm and our new transistor design allow us to deliver high-performance, energy-efficient processors to our customers across the entire spectrum of market segments, from the most powerful servers to a variety of mobile devices and everything in between,” said Paul Otellini, Intel president and chief executive.

Fab 32 is Intel's sixth 300mm wafer factory and its second factory, after D1D in Oregon, to produce 45nm chips. Two additional 45nm, 300mm manufacturing factories are scheduled to open next year in Kiryat Gat, Israel (Fab 28) and Rio Rancho, New Mexico (Fab 11x). Using 300mm wafers lowers the production cost per chip while diminishing overall use of resources.

Intel’s Fab 32 structure measures 1 million square feet and has 184 thousand square feet of clean room space. More than 1000 employees will operate the factory in such positions as process, automation and yield engineers and senior manufacturing technicians.

Intel is the first chipmaker to implement an innovative combination of new materials that reduces transistor leakage and increases performance in its 45nm process technology. The company will use a new material with a property called high-k, for the transistor gate dielectric, and a new combination of metal materials for the transistor gate electrode.

The first processors to utilize the new process technology are code-named Penryn, Wolfdale and Yorkfield. The first one is aimed at mobile computers and will be officially unveiled early next year, whereas Wolfdale and Yorkfield are dual-core and quad-core processors aimed at desktops and servers. Just like today, Yorkfield chips will use two dual-core Wolfdale/Penryn dice. Typically, the whole family of 45nm microprocessors from Intel is called Penryn.

Intel announced in March that the new lineup of chips produced using 45nm process technology will 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 will 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.

Each of Intel’s dual-core Penryn chips will 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.

Toshiba and Wal Mart to Sell HD DVD Players for $198

Toshiba Corp. and Wal-Mart retail stores have started to sell Toshiba HD-A2 entry-level HD DVD players at a price-point that may attract attention of mainstream buyers and considerably broaden the installed base of HD DVD hardware. With players costing just $198 a unit it is logical to expect other HD DVD devices, namely, computer optical drives, to drop in cost too.

“We reduced our HD DVD Toshiba [HD-A2] player, the generation-two, to $198 earlier in the week. It’s happening now, and that’s really all I can tell you. We don’t give any information on what we’re planning to do for the holidays. We know HD DVD and Blu-ray are going to be popular items this holiday season for some of our customers. […] They will be more popular this year than they were in previous years,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien, reports Fortune Magazine.

Toshiba HD-A2 is an entry-level HD DVD player capable of HD DVD, DVD and CD playback as well as hardware decoding of H.264 (MPEG4 AVC), VC-1 and MPEG2 (standard DVD) streams.

Additionally, the player features Sharc DSP to process audio in Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD (2 channel), DTS and DTS-HD formats. The player can output video in 720p (1280x720) and 1080i (1920x1080) resolutions using HDMI or component interconnection and multi-channel audio using HDMI or S/PDIF connectors.

Earlier Toshiba HD-A2 players cost $299 and numerous stores bundled five HD DVD movies with them. Therefore, $198 price-point is not something particularly new, as customers will also need to get several movies in high-definition format to take advantage of their new players.

Given that HD DVDs still cost more than typical DVDs, the former will still attract more advanced buyers, who know what high-definition actually is.

By selling its HD-A2 at $198, Toshiba makes HD DVD available at half the price of an entry-level Blu-ray disc (BD) player, a significant achievement and a way to push the HD DVD format into the mainstream market. Even though all BD players can output in 1080p (1920x1080, progressive scan) resolution, their price starts at over $400, whereas advanced HD DVD players with 1080p capability start at about $350.

Western Digital Touts 3TB Hard Drives in 2010

Western Digital, a leading maker of hard disk drives, has announced that it had achieve record areal density using its perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR)/tunneling magneto-resistive (TuMR) head technology. The achievement will allow the company to product 3TB hard disk drives in about three years time.

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Following WD’s growing investments in technology the past five years, the company achieved 520Gb/inch² using its own perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR)/tunneling magneto-resistive (TuMR) head technology. This level of density produces a 3.5” hard drive storing 640GB-per-platter and single hard drive capacities as large as 3TB. Based on the industry’s current density growth rate of more than 40% per year, those capacities are expected to be available in the 2010 timeframe.

Earlier this month Hitachi-GST also indicated that it expected to achieve areal density of 500Gb/inch² – 1Tb/inch² using perpendicular magnetic recording and current perpendicular-to-the-plane giant magnetoresistive (CPP-GMR) heads and touted 4TB hard disk drives (HDDs) in 2011.

WD demonstrated 520Gb/inch² density in its Magnetic Head Operation labs in Fremont, California, earlier this month.

“The milestone was realized using our current-technology MgO reader, illustrating the extendibility of PMR-TuMR head technology generations into the future,” said Hossein Moghadam, chief technology officer for WD.

Leading Memory Maker Acquires Enthusiast PC Manufacturer

In a bid to leverage its memory market footprint, OCZ Technology Group acquired Hypersonic, a leading maker of personal computers for gamers. The move will bring OCZ into a new battle, now against companies like Dell’s Alienware and HP’s Voodoo PC. The decision will make OCZ the first memory maker to get a PC manufacturer and is likely to be the first with own branded – OCZ – systems eventually.

“OCZ’s goal is to deliver the highest performing products to consumers whether that is with premium components or total solutions. We are delighted to welcome Hypersonic PC, a company and brand well-known for their commitment to enthusiasts into the OCZ fold,” said Ryan Petersen, chief executive of the OCZ Technology Group.

The acquisition of Hypersonic by OCZ emphasizes the move the memory company to broaden its market share with new sources to sell its memory modules and power supply units. Moreover, it is an indisputable proof that OCZ works not only on new revenue sources, but also on the ways to get them with Hypersonic PCs.

Known primarily as the worldwide leader in innovative, high-performance computer memory and power supply units, OCZ acquired Hypersonic PC to employ its rich expertise in high-end system building and take the organization and mobile gaming to the next level. Hypersonic was established in 1996.

Combined with their highly personalized solutions and aggressive deployment of the newest advances in PC technology, Hypersonic has earned numerous industry awards and recognition and filled the enthusiast niche unlike any system builder. With OCZ taking the lead, the goal is to carry on the Hypersonic tradition of catering to the demands of the high-end market while increasing resources to maximize innovation and technological leadership and at the same time maintaining their high level of service, quality-control, and customization, OCZ Technology said.

“Hypersonic, a brand synonymous with performance. Our strategy has always been to employ bleeding-edge technology and innovative design backed by the highest level of customer support. The fusion of OCZ’s groundbreaking memory and power technologies will catapult Hypersonic to a position of leadership in the performance computing arena,” said Fred Cohen, president and founder of Hypersonic.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

AMD’s New I/O Controller to Aim Consumers, Enterprises

Perhaps, ATI Technologies, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices and former designer of chipsets that are now sold under AMD brand-name, was not keen on development of high-end core-logic sets with innovative functionality. However, with the new SB700, which development began long ago, AMD will be in position to target systems with rich functionality.

AMD’s new SB700 will support a number of innovations previously not available from AMD and other developers of chipsets. The main highlights of the SB700 I/O controller is support for consumer infrared port, TPM (trust platform module) support as well as HyperFlash technology. Infrared support will help the new platforms from AMD, such as code-named RS780, to become more popular among consumers and multimedia enthusiasts, whereas support of TPM and HyperFlash (a technology similar to Intel NAND) are likely to be welcome by business and enterprise customers.

AMD SB700 will support 6 Serial ATA-300 ports with RAID capabilities, external-Serial ATA, Parallel ATA/flash controller, high-definition audio controller, 12 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 1.1 ports, PCI interface and so on.

AMD SB700 production is scheduled to begin in late-2007 or early-2008, in time with AMD’s latest code-named RS780 chipset with built-in DirectX 10-class graphics.
Officials for AMD did not comment on the news-story.

Microsoft, Toshiba Reject Xbox 360 with HD DVD Development Claims

Microsoft Corp. and Toshiba Corp. this week denied working on a version of Microsoft Xbox 360 game console with built-in HD DVD drive. Nonetheless, the fact that such rumours have been surfacing regularly for about two years now, it may eventually turn out that there is no smoke without fire.

“An Xbox with a built in HD DVD drive is critical. They and we are working on it. It also has to be more than a gaming machine. Microsoft recognizes this. A version of the device may also be sold under the Toshiba brand name,” an anonymous representative for Toshiba is reported to have said by Smarthouse web-site.

For the first time a rumour in regards HD DVD-equipped Microsoft Xbox 360 game console emerged in mid-December, 2005; the second time that the device emerged on horizon was in July, 2006, when Mark Whittard of Toshiba said that it was possible for Microsoft to develop a flavour of Xbox 360 with HD DVD drive inside; the third time when rumours about the product surfaced on a Taiwan-based web-site in September, 2006, with claims that Microsoft started development work on the device. Finally, Microsoft tipped a “new” HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360 in September, 2007, but then retracted the claim.

The rumours today include possibilities to release a version of Xbox 360 game console that would rival an anticipated media center flavour of Sony PlayStation 3 and would feature a TV-tuner and new multimedia software besides HD DVD drive incorporated inside.

“Toshiba has no comment to make on this matter. The Xbox 360 is not a Toshiba product,” a spokesman for Toshiba UK is reported to have said by web-site. Microsoft reportedly also denied the possibility.

While Microsoft can enable future customers with capability to view HD DVD, the game machine itself is unlikely to benefit from that, as games for the console are expected to be oriented on typical Xbox 360 devices that only support typical DVDs. On the other hand, if Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.’s PlayStation 3 with built-in Blu-ray drive starts to outsell the Xbox 360 in the USA and Europe, Microsoft will have to seriously consider adding HD DVD drive or cutting the cost of its Xbox 360.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

AMD Projects Positive Adoption of New ATI Radeon Graphics Chip

Advanced Micro Devices hopes to reverse negative trend for its graphics division with a new graphics processor code-named RV670. At least, the company says it is on-track to release the novelty in November. Unfortunately, the company still says that it does not expect the new ATI RV670 to impact the company’s financial results significantly.

After finding itself half a year late with the introduction of its latest flagship ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics card, losing 40% of former ATI graphics revenues and failure to introduce the highest-performing graphics solution ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, says it is back on track with the launch of its performance-mainstream code-named RV670 graphics processing unit (GPU). At least, the company managed to increase graphics revenues by almost one third, which is still well-below results of “old” ATI, but is a record for “new” AMD.

“We will launch the RV670, the world’s first 55nm GPU in the fourth quarter. […] Based on the upcoming release of the RV670, we’re pretty bullish about being able to participate in a bigger and more profitable piece of the business. […] Customers are going to love it,” said Dirk Meyer, chief operating officer and president of AMD, during the conference call with financial analysts.
Based on what is known about the code-named ATI RV670 product, the new GPU features DirectX 10.1, PCI Express 2.0, DisplayPort and double-precision floating point calculations.

While the list of improvements compared to the code-named R600 seems significant on paper, end-users getting the new graphics cards will hardly the aforementioned capabilities really useful right now. ATI RV670 is projected to deliver “R600 performance, better thermal & power”.

AMD said that the success of the new ATI Radeon HD 2000 series of graphics processors led to increased unit shipments and revenue, which drove graphics segment revenue to $252 million, meaning that it grew 29% from the second quarter of 2007. Still, $252 million is considerably less than $325 million recorded by ATI in one of its last quarters. Moreover, already now AMD expects its graphics revenues to remains on the same level compared to the third quarter.

“Seasonally, the fourth quarter is not strong in the GPU marketplace. It is actually typically flat to slightly down. We’ll have to work real hard to grow sales quarter on quarter, which we’ll do, but it is hard to make a lot of progress if you don’t have it from the top line,” said Bob Rivet, chief financial officer at AMD.

“When we launch the [RV670] product, we anticipate doing so with cards available in channels and therefore, we will drive revenue in the quarter. Obviously, with a mid-quarter launch and on a quarter-billion revenue basis, that’s not going to contribute materially to the quarter, but it will provide some upside,” Mr. Meyer clarified.

AMD last week reported third quarter 2007 revenue of $1.632 billion, an 18% increase compared to the second quarter of 2007 and a 23% improvement compared to the third quarter of 2006. In the third quarter, AMD reported an operating loss of $226 million, and a net loss of $396 million, or $0.71 per share. Third quarter 2007 gross margin was 41%, compared to 33% in the second quarter of 2007 and 51% in the third quarter of 2006.

Microsoft Officially Unveils Family Version of Xbox 360 Game Console

Microsoft Corp. on Monday officially unveiled its long-awaited Xbox 360 game console tailored to novice gamers and families. The novelty does not feature any considerable hardware changes compared to the original Xbox 360 core version, but sports a rather unique bundle and comes at a price-point very similar to Nintendo Wii.

Xbox 360 Arcade console is the first Xbox 360 console to include five family-friendly games, a wireless controller, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) connection to enable high-definition output if desired and 256MB of memory useful for storing games and entertainment content. The novelty does not feature a hard disk drive, but, just as the Xbox 360 core, it can be upgraded with a special HDD afterwards.

Microsoft Xbox 360 Arcade will cost $279 and will include five best-selling games: Pacman Championship Edition, Uno, Luxor 2, Boom Boom Rocket and Feeding Frenzy.

“As families gather together this holiday, it’s the perfect time to launch a new low-priced, high-value Xbox 360 that plays games, TV shows and music for everyone to enjoy. In addition to offering an incredible all-in-one package for families to get right into the fun, the Xbox 360 Arcade system features the industry-leading family settings, which allow parents to control what their kids are watching and playing – and we know how important that control is to families around the world,” said Jeff Bell, corporate vice president of global marketing, interactive entertainment business at Microsoft.

Executives at Microsoft recently acknowledged that the company needs to attract casual gamers to the Xbox 360 platform to compete against Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 arcade seems to be one of the first tangible actions to fulfill the intention. Probably, at $279 the new console from Microsoft may seem as attractive as Nintendo Wii at $249, meaning that the software giant finally managed to match Wii in terms of pricing. However, another advantage that Wii has is unique motion-sensitive wireless game controller, something that Xbox 360 does not have. As a result, Microsoft will need to promote the obvious advantages of its latest gaming platform: technical excellence, realistic graphics and ability to control the content are the things that are not really important for arcade games and casual gamers.

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. The game console also features an HD DVD drive and other peripherals that should be acquired separately.

Elpida and United Microelectronics to Co-Develop Advanced and Phase-Change Memory

Elpida Memory, a leading manufacturer of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips, and United Microelectronics Company, a contract semiconductor foundry, on Monday announced a joint development program for advanced DRAM with copper low-k backend, as well as for phase-change random access memory (PRAM).

“This agreement with UMC is a significant step forward for future memory development, as copper low-k technology will help drive the production and continued process migration of high performance DRAMs. UMC’s leading-edge technology together with Elpida’s advanced DRAM technology will enable us to provide our customers with DRAMs featuring high speeds, low-power consumption and high density, while accelerating the commercialization of PRAMs, an important next generation memory technology,” said Takao Adachi, chief technology officer at Elpida.

Elpida and UMC’s cooperation targets the development of advanced DRAM by joining Elpida’s technology excellence with UMC’s advanced copper low-k processes and technology development expertise. With the success of this collaboration, UMC will license Elpida under UMC’s copper low-k technology for Elpida’s production and Elpida will license UMC to offer DRAM as part of UMC’s advanced system-on-chip (SoC) solutions.

In addition, under the terms of their arrangement, Elpida and UMC will cooperate to develop P-RAM technology, coupling Elpida’s expertise in GST materials with UMC’s expertise in high performance CMOS logic technologies.

Advanced Micro Devices to Start New Process Technology Ramp in Q1 2008

Advanced Micro Devices said in its most recent call with financial analysts that despite of relatively slow ramp of its quad-core microprocessors the chipmaker does not expect any issues to occur with the ramp up of its 45nm production technology.

“We’re looking forward to ramping 45nm product production in the first half of next year,” said Dirk Meyer, president and chief operating officer of AMD.

Earlier it was reported that AMD’s microprocessors produced using 45nm process technology code-named Deneb, Propus and Sargas are due to be out in the second half of 2008. However, the most recent roadmap of AMD indicate that the company does not have any plans to produce single-core Sargas processors using 45nm technology process at all and while quad-core Deneb and Propus are still due in the second half of 2008, lower-cost chips with three and two processing engines, code-named Hexa and Regor respectively, are now planned for introduction in the first half of 2009. Such changes in the timing for affordable processors might by an indicator that AMD’s first 45nm chips will come very late in 2008 and will be available mostly in 2009. However, AMD executives seem t be optimistic about 45nm process tech.

“First, we are on track relative to having basic yields in place in our factories on material that we’re running today. We’re building 45nm microprocessors as we speak and those two facts give us increasing confidence in the public statements we’ve been making for some time around our intent to be starting our production ramp of 45nm processors in the first half of next year,” Mr. Meyer said.

The new desktop processors will symbolize three important transitions for the world’s second largest maker of x86 chips: transition to 45nm fabrication process, transition to AM3 infrastructure and transition to DDR3 memory. Server processors will continue to support registered DDR2 memory for compatibility reasons.

Even though typically thinner process technologies offer lower power consumption than previous-gen chips, AMD fist plans to transit its desktop and sever chips to 45nm process technology. Perhaps, to rapidly increase their clock-speeds and cache sizes in order to better compete against Intel Corp.’s offergins.

“Roughly speaking, server and desktop will be the first to benefit,” AMD’s president announced.

Hitachi Unveils Energy-Efficient Hard Drive with Variable Spindle Speed

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (Hitachi GST) on Monday announced its family of hard disk drives (HDDs) that boast with considerably reduced power consumption thanks to variable spindle speed.

“The development of ‘green’ computing products that comply with energy-rating programs, such as Energy Star 4.0, is becoming an extremely important initiative for our customers. With the Deskstar P7K500 hard drive, we have merged our various power management innovations into one drive, achieving leading power specifications that make a positive contribution to system power consumption,” said Shinjiro Iwata, executive vice president, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies.

Hitachi Deskstar P7K500 hard disk drives are currently available in 250GB, 320GB, 400GB and 500GB capacities, feature 7200rpm motor, sport 8MB/16MB dynamic random access memory (DRAM) cache and come in 3.5” form-factor. Hitachi declares media transfer rate of 1138Mb/s and 4.17ms average latency.

Hitachi GST has implemented a set of power-saving technologies to reduce the P7K500’s active and idle power consumption by up to 40% over the previous generation. As a result, the P7K500 achieves best-of-breed power consumption on its one-disk model and significant power savings on its two-disk model. Through a 40% power reduction, Hitachi GST has delivered unmatched idle power utilization of 3.6W on the 250GB capacity model and 4.8W on models with capacities of 320GB or greater. Similarly, the P7K500 has reduced its active power requirements to 6.4W and 8.2W for its one- and two-disk models, respectively.

Hitachi GST achieved the Deskstar P7K500’s 40% power reduction through three substantial design changes. Using the company’s HiVERT technology, which was first pioneered with the Hitachi Travelstar mobile products, the Deskstar P7K500 hard drive increases the use of switching regulators in place of linear regulators for more efficient voltage conversion in the electronics. The drive has also adopted the Travelstar system-on-chip design with a more power-efficient profile, which further reduces power consumption.

The Deskstar P7K500 will be available in high volume later in Q4 2007.