Sunday, April 6, 2008

Microsoft Windows 7 Due Next Year, Says Microsoft Chairman

The chairman of Microsoft Corp., Bill Gates, said at a news-conference that the world’s largest maker of software is on-track to release its next-generation operating system (OS) sometime in 2009. Certain indirect claims of Microsoft confirm this timeframe, which was already once named as the deadline for what is known as Windows 7, but then the company announced different schedules for code-named Vienna OS.

“Sometime in the next year or so we will have a new version [of Windows operating system. I’m super-enthused about what it will do in lots of ways,” said Bill Gates at a conference of Inter-American Development Bank, reports Cnet

Also on Thursday Microsoft said that it would continue to offer its Windows XP Home operating system for low cost computers until mid-2010 or “one year after general availability of the next version of Windows”. The claim implies that Microsoft does plan to release its Windows 7 in mid-2009, a little more than a year from now.

Early in 2007 the company indicated that it would replace Windows Vista in two or two and a half years from them. However, already in mid-2007 the world’s largest software firm said that it would take it three years to create the new code-named Vienna operating system, which official name is projected to be Windows 7. In Janury, 2008, the world’s largest software developer implied that the new version of Windows was due in 2011.

Historically Microsoft released a new desktop operating system every two to three years, at least, this was true for Windows 95, 98, ME and XP and was not particularly true for workstation OSes – there was a four-year gap between the NT4 and 2000. However, the latest operating system – Windows Vista – shipped over five years after the XP because the company had to reassign software developers to patch the latter and release service pack 2. With a new consumer OS ready in mid-2009 the software giant will be back to its usual pace of operating systems introduction.

Intel Reveals Second-Generation Classmate PC

Intel Corp. has unveiled the second generation of its Classmate personal computers designed for worldwide education markets. The new systems are affordable, fully-functional and rugged, but most importantly, they are capable of running more or less contemporary software applications.

The second-generation Classmate PCs from Intel come with 9” screen (with 800x480 resolution) and features Intel Celeron M353 (900MHz) processor, Intel 915 chipset with built-in graphics core, 512MB of DDR2 memory, 30GB hard disk drive with 3600rpm spindle speed, built-in webcam, Ethernet and Wi-Fi controller, SD card slot and so on.

Obviously, with low-screen resolution and 900MHz processor it will be impossible to enjoy modern video games or multimedia on the system. Nevertheless, performance of Intel Classmate PC 2 should be enough for using Microsoft Windows operating system and basis software, which is exactly what the vast majority of the system’s owners will do.

Intel also said future Intel-powered classmate PCs will be built with the Intel Atom processor. It is an energy-efficient, low-cost computer chip designed to provide wireless capability to small mobile computing devices such as netbooks.

“Only 5% of the world’s children today have access to a PC or to the Internet. Education is one of the best examples of how technology improves our lives. We have seen how technology helps teachers create fun learning experiences more efficiently. We have also been touched by children’s excitement when they are inspired by technology. The Intel-powered classmate PC is one of the ways we support the IT industry in spreading the benefits of technology in education for children around the world,” said Andrew Chien, Intel vice president of corporate technology group and director of Intel Research.

Intel’s partners plan to sell the 9” Classmate PC for about $400 in the near future. Since the price-tag is too high for many markets, whereas screen with 800x480 is unsuitable for developed countries, many local PC vendors may offer customized Classmate PCs to appeal the needs of their customers.

Micron to Install 8GB DDR3 Memory Into Laptops

Micron Technology, a leading maker of memory chips and modules, this week said it plans to make 4GB DDR3 SO-DIMMs for mobile computers and small form-factor systems. Two of such devices will enable notebooks or small systems with 8GB of memory, the amount that is not even used on the desktop market nowadays.

“With our new 4 GB DDR3 modules, we are allowing users to easily take advantage of the performance benefits that increased memory provides,” said Brian Shirley, vice president of Micron’s memory group.

The new 4GB DDR3 SO-DIMMs from Micron are based on 2Gb memory chips; clock-speed and latency settings of the forthcoming memory modules are unknown, though, usually high-capacity memory chips cannot run at similar speeds with low-capacity chips designed for high-speed operation.

Micron positions its DDR3 SO-DIMM products for Intel Centrino 2-based notebooks due in mid-2008. It should be noted that it is unclear whether Intel GM45 and PM45 chipsets actually support memory configurations which capacity is higher than 4GB. Current-generation Intel PM965 core-logic does not support over 4GB of memory, however, all contemporary performance-mainstream and high-end chipsets on the desktop market, including Intel P35, X38 and X48, support 8GB of memory.

In order to take advantage of more than 4GB of random access memory, end-users will have to utilize a 64-bit operating system, e.g., Microsoft Windows XP x64, Microsoft Windows Vista x64 or appropriate Linux versions.

Micro DDR3 SO-DIMM 4GB modules expected to be in mass production in Q2 2008.

Creative Labs Quietly Preps SoundBlaster X-Fi 2 as Customers Frenzy over Lack of Fully-Functional Windows Vista Drivers

As many consumers are furious about the lack of fully-functional SoundBlaster X-Fi drivers for Windows Vista from Creative Technology, the company is quietly preparing to roll-out its new SoundBlaster X-Fi 2, a new-generation audio solution for personal computers. Perhaps, the novelty will satisfy their needs?

There are no details about Creative Labs SoundBlaster X-Fi 2 available at the moment. The mention of the second-generation X-Fi audio card was noticed by some sharp eyes in the Windows Vista Hardware Compatibility List that does not list any details about unreleased hardware. However, the fact that on the 11th of March, 2008, Creative Technology received “Designed for Windows Vista” and “Vista Premium” logos for its SB X-Fi 2 may be an early indicator that the new sound-card is coming to the market.

Feature-set of Creative Labs SoundBlaster X-Fi 2 is unclear, though, it is more than likely that it will be more advanced compared to the original X-Fi. Still, the novelty should not be considered as something revolutionary: the company is known for unveiling “second edition” versions of certain products with serious, but not radical changes, e.g., the main difference between the original Audigy and Audigy 2 was slightly improved audio processing as well as better codecs.

Creative Technology has been under fire for many months due to the lack of drivers for Windows Vista that expose complete feature-set of SoundBlaster X-Fi cards.

The news about soon-to-be-announced SoundBlaster X-Fi 2 audio card can potentially further infuriate Creative Labs' anger customer after the company issued an open letter to a person who provided unofficial driver packages for Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi audio cards that enabled all the hardware capabilities of the sound processor. The world’s leading supplier of discrete audio cards for personal computers asked to cease development of unofficial drives and implied that this person or persons may run into legal action for. Creative Technology also stated that the lack of certain X-Fi capabilities in Windows Vista amid their availability in Windows XP was a business decision.

“We do have a problem when technology and IP owned by Creative or other companies that Creative has licensed from, are made to run on other products for which they are not intended.

We own the rights to the materials that you are distributing. By enabling our technology and IP to run on sound cards for which it was not originally offered or intended, you are in effect, stealing our goods. […] If we choose to develop and provide host-based processing features with certain sound cards and not others, that is a business decision that only we have the right to make,” said Phil O’Shaughnessy, vice president of corporate communications at Creative Technology.

Creative Technology did not comment on the news-story.

Nvidia Unveils Yet Another GeForce 9 High-End Graphics Card

Nvidia Corp. on Tuesday unveiled yet another high-end graphics card that belongs to the GeForce 9-series. The new board does not bring any important new features, but offers performance a little higher compared to what was previously available on its $349 price-point.

Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card is based on the well-known code-named G92 graphics processor that is already used on many GeForce 8 and 9 graphics cards and has 128 unified shader processors and offers even higher shader performance than any other previously-released single-chip graphics card by Nvidia. Like all the chips based on the G92, the model 9800 GTX fully supports DirectX 10, hardware-accelerated decoding and post-processing of high-definition video and other up-to-date features.

The two new features that the model 9800 GTX does support rely on multi-GPU SLI technology. The novelty is compatible with 3-way SLI configurations and three GeForce 9800 GTX graphics boards may be installed into one system to render video games at higher speed.

In addition, the novelty will support power-saving capability called Hybrid SLI/HybridPower, when functionality of a discrete graphics core/cores may be seamlessly reassigned to integrated graphics core (provided that there is one Nvidia built-in graphics core on the mainboard) and standalone graphics cards switched off in order to save power.

The first breed of the GeForce 9800 GTX graphics cards will all be made under supervision of Nvidia and will have the same clock-speed: 675MHz for chip, 1688MHz for shader processors and 2200MHz for 512MB of GDDR3 memory.

In order to differentiate themselves from competitors, tens of Nvidia’s graphics cards partners plan to provide interesting product bundles, upgrade options and even lotteries. For example, Zogis, a division of JV Logic, offers free T-shirts to those who purchase their GeForce 9800GTX from and raffle off another GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card among them.

Meanwhile, companies like BFG Technologies and EVGA offer their customers 90-day trade-up program, when end-users can upgrade their graphics card by only paying the difference between the declared prices.

Nvidia did not release any statements regarding the launch of the new product.

Ex-Microsoft Executive Predicts Dusk of Video Game Consoles in 5 to 10 Years

A high-ranking ex-executive of Microsoft Corp. said in an interview that dedicated video game consoles will face their dusk in five to ten years time. But while the claim may sound strange, it should be observed that two out of three new-generation game systems come with robust multimedia capabilities and allow much more than just playing games. But maybe game systems will be even more dead in a decade from now?

“I think dedicated games devices i.e. consoles (and handhelds) will die [out] in the next 5 to 10 years. The business model is very risky and the costs associated with creating new hardware are incredibly high. There is a definite ‘convergence’ of other devices such as set top boxes. There’s hardly any technology difference between some hard disc video recorders and an Xbox 360 for example. In fact in 5 to 10 years I don’t think you’ll have any box at all under your TV, most of this stuff will be ‘virtualized’ as web services by your content provider,” said Sandy Duncan, chief executive of Yoyo games, who used to be regional vice president of Microsoft’s home and entertainment business unit in Europe five years ago, in an interview with Thatvideogameblog web-site.

In fact, many observers and analysts have been talking about online services as substitute for many currently used tools, in particular it was predicted that shortly it would be possible to edit office documents, watch movies, listen to music, play video games, share photos and perform many other things by only using the Web. While some predictions have turned out to be correct:
we can listen to music with more or less decent quality and share photos without quality loss online, others are still dreams: it is impossible to stream high-definition movie via the Internet, whereas gamers have always complained about increased latency during online game play.

The amount and quality of Web-enabled features have increased noticeably in the recent years, however, this actually increased the number of devices used nowadays. Many end-users now use a couple of game consoles, a set-top-box, video disc player, audio disc player and many other devices that provide the same functionality. Even though all the mobile phones can show time, many people still wear watches. Nevertheless, the convergence is happening: Apple iPhone is very likely to be the future of Apple iPod, believes Mr. Duncan.

“Nowhere is convergence more likely to continue to happen than with mobile devices, just look at the iPhone and iPod touch and ask yourself if these will still be different devices in 2 years, never mind 5 or 10. The next generation of “handheld” devices will integrate game play with other technologies like GPS, digital cameras, high speed mobile broadband services at affordable prices and phones. [The] gating factor for almost all of this is battery technology. [Nothing] significant has happened here in the last 20 years, which means this is overdue,” said the chief exec of Yoyo games.

Microsoft May Continue Selling Windows XP Licenses for Low-Cost Systems – Rumours

In order to achieve its strategic goals eventually, Microsoft Corp. may need to substantially alter its tactics. One of the first examples of such changes may be prolongation of Windows XP sales for low-cost personal computers or even introduce a special operating system for such machines.

Microsoft Corp. indisputably wants to popularize its Windows Vista operating system (OS) in order to compete head-to-head for casual and style-demanding end-users against Apple Computer’s Mac OS X. However, it is also an indisputable fact that Microsoft needs to take actions against Linux expansion in basic desktops, but Windows Vista operating system is too demanding for low-end personal computers of today.

Modern entry-level computers come with single-core low-speed microprocessor, 512MB or even less random access memory (RAM), up 2GB – 12GB of storage space, very basic graphics core and low-resolution display. Meanwhile, Microsoft Windows Vista needs higher-speed microprocessor, better dual-core chip, 1GB or more memory, 15GB – 30GB of storage for OS alone as well as higher resolution screen and DirectX 9-compatible graphics sub-system.

There are several ways for Microsoft to target entry-level systems:

Continue to sell Windows XP operating system.Develop a Windows XP derivative tailored for low-cost mobile devices.Develop a Windows Vista derivative with dramatically lower system requirements.Wait for personal computers to become more powerful and start pushing Windows Vista.According to InfoWorld web-site, Microsoft plans to continue selling Windows XP operating system for entry-level systems after the 30th of June, 2008, the date after which the software giant wanted to cease selling XP licenses.

The decision, if there is any, will allow Microsoft to address the rapidly growing market of low-cost machines that have been getting a lot of hype amid fears about economic recession in the USA as well as strong demand from developing countries.

Microsoft did not comment on the news-story.

Intel Atom Processors Set to Get Embedded Graphics Core, Memory Controller – Rumours

In spite of the fact that the market of ultra-small form-factor systems is not large now, Intel Corp. pins a lot of hopes on that market with its recently-introduced Intel Atom processors. In fact, not only microprocessors for mobile Internet devices (MIDs) may be in plans: according to certain unofficial sources, next-year Intel plans to release Atom-branded system-on-chip (SOC) with memory controller and graphics core.

The next-generation Intel Atom products will greatly differ from today’s implementations in many ways. The new chips code-named Pineview will be based on code-named Lincroft micro-architecture, therefore, their performance per-MHz is likely to be different compared to today’s Intel Atom chips featuring code-named Silverthorne micro-architecture. More importantly, the new Atom chips will also feature built-in single-channel DDR2 memory controller as well as built-in graphics core, reports PC Watch web-site.

Just like in case of fist-generation Intel Atom processors, Intel Pineview chips will feature simultaneous multi-threading technology and will be available in single-core and dual-core versions. It is not clear whether dual-core Atom-series processors will use single-die design or dual-dies design.

Exact thermal design power of the next-generation Intel “Pinview” Atom microprocessors is unclear, but it is rumoured that the processors will be made using 45nm process technology, the same that is used to manufacture today’s central processing units (CPUs) for small form-factor low-cost devices. Given that the presence of graphics core and memory controller are likely to increase power consumption of a solution, it is highly likely that the new Pinview chips will support very aggressive power saving features. But while energy preserving mechanisms help to prolong battery life of mobile devices, they cannot cut down chips’ temperatures under high load, which means that products on their base may get rather hot and hence uncomfortable to use.

Highly-integrated low-power and cost-efficient Intel Atom system-on-chip is likely to enable a breed a affordable computing devices with capabilities more or less in-line with today’s needs, provided that performance of the processing and graphics cores will be high enough.
Intel Corp. did not comment on the news-story.