Sunday, October 5, 2008

ARM Targets Mobile Internet Devices with New Platforms

Despite of lackluster welcome by the market, mobile Internet devices (MIDs) are projected to become relatively popular going forward, which is why companies like Intel Corp. are actively developing Atom microprocessors and platforms for such products. But this does not mean that traditional players on the market of mobile electronics are standing still: ARM Holdings also expects its micro-architecture to power MIDs next year.

“We have also launched our high performance, low power consumption Cortex-A8 and A9 platforms for MID (Mobile Internet Device) products. We have strong confidence in the MID market and look forward to seeing ARM-based MID products hit the market in 2009,” said Warren East, chief executive officer of ARM, in an interview with DigiTimes web-site.

In fact, Texas Instruments OMAP (Open Multimedia Application Platform) microprocessors with ARM architecture and PowerVR graphics cores already power Nokia’s N770, N800 and N810 Internet tablets, which can easily be considered as mobile Internet devices. In addition, ARM chips are used inside Apple iPhone as well as plethora of smartphones. Meanwhile, there are no commercially available MIDs based on Intel Atom at the moment.

Nevertheless, it is projected that going forward Intel Corp., Advanced Micro Devices and Via Technologies will be able to push x86 micro-architecture not only into MIDs, but also inside handsets, which is a reason to worry for ARM.

But there are reasons to worry for x86 CPU makers too. Currently ARM powers about 98% of mobile phones sold worldwide, however, with the trend towards low-power computers and consumer electronics, ARM microprocessors can compete against Intel’s x86 chips on their territory, said chief exec of ARM Holdings, an IP company, earlier this year.

According to market research firm ABI Research, the number of ultra-mobile PCs, netbooks and mobile Internet devices, are expected to exceed 200 million units in 2013, while revenues are projected to achieve $27 billion. The unit share of MIDs among shipments of those ultra-mobile Internet devices is projected to be 68%.

ATI Plans Expects DirectX 11 Chips Next Year

ATI, graphics products group of Advanced Micro Devices, said at Ceatec trade-show in Japan that its expects DirectX 11-compatible graphics processing units (GPUs) in 2009, which may be considered as intention to release a new breed of chips that support new application programming interface. In addition, the company predicts prosperity of general purpose computing on GPU (GPGPU).

AMD’s ATI unit outlined several expectations for the consumer 3D graphics industry in 2009. Among the highlights are GPU manufacturing transition to 40nm process technology and widespread usage of GDDR5 memory standard, which will drive performance of graphics chips considerably up, something, which will allow game developers to create video games with more sophisticated effects

ATI also predicts the rise of GPGPU with help of computing shaders of DirectX 11 and OpenCL. In fact, the company expects consumer applications that take advantage of GPGPU, which will emphasize importance of graphics processors among end-users. In addition, the arrival of DirectX 11 and Windows 7 will also play a role in boosting significance of GPUs.

Finally, ATI expects certain improvements in input an output technologies. According to the company’s presentation, televisions with higher than 1920x1080 resolution are set to arrive next year along with so-called digital walls. Multi-touch and other input technologies will also evolve next year, primarily thanks to availability of Microsoft Surface-based devices. 3D stereoscopic displays will also get higher popularity in 2009.

In fact, 3D stereographic technology as well as holograms are considered to be a big thing going forward.

“Holographic technology is evolving; it can convert virtually everything into visuals. I may not come to Ceatec 2018, but 3D hologram of me will be here. We at AMD would like to keep pursuing the ultimate visual experience,” said Rick Bergman, general manager of AMD graphics product group, at Ceatec, reports PC Watch web-site.

AMD Claims Forthcoming “Shanghai” Chip to Be 35% Faster than Existing

A vice president of Advanced Micro Devices said in an interview that the forthcoming quad-core AMD Opteron processor code-named Shanghai will have roughly 35% performance advantage over predecessor at the same clock-speed. If the information is correct, then AMD’s chips will have all chances to challenges products by arch-rival Intel in the higher-end segment.

Pat Patla, general manager of AMD’s server and workstation chip business, said in an interview with IDG News Service that AMD Opteron “Shanghai” would “give a 35% performance boost over Barcelona on average” and would also trim power consumption by 35%, which automatically transforms into colossal performance per watt improvements over existing quad-core AMD Opteron processors.

The advances are direct results of larger 6MB level-three cache, thinner 45nm process technology as well as micro-architectural improvements that boost instructions per clock (IPC) throughput.

Mr. Patla indicated that the first 45nm quad-core AMD Opteron chips that are scheduled to arrive in Q4 2008 will fit into mainstream 75W thermal envelope, whereas other models – which are due in Q1 2009 – will offer 55W thermal design power to fit into blade servers as well as 105W thermal envelop for high-performance machines.

It is very vital for AMD to initiate shipments of the new “Shanghai” processors on time and also to ensure that its performance and power consumption are viable when compared to Intel Xeon central processing units.

But that may not be easy for AMD: Intel Corp. recently initiated shipments of 6-core Intel Xeon processors for multi-processor servers that have all chances to become popular in high-performance mission-critical market segment. In addition, there are code-named Nehalem processors approaching the market of dual-processor servers. While it will take some time for Nehalem server chips to gain popularity on the market, AMD has to start to worry about Intel’s new microprocessors already.

Microsoft Reportedly Initiated Shipments of Xbox 360 with New Chips

Just weeks after Microsoft Corp. reduced pricing of its Xbox 360 video game systems in the European Union and the USA, a new version of the console reportedly started to arrive. It is believed that the novelty is cheaper to make, sports lower power consumption and is generally more reliable.

According a web-site that monitors DVD drives and mainboards of Xbox 360 game console – 360drives.com – there are many instances when end-users found code-named Jasper mainboards inside their video game systems. The new systems were acquired by actual customers in the UK and the USA.

The code-named Jasper design of the Xbox 360 game console uses ATI Xenos graphics and memory controller hub (GMCH) made using 65nm process at TSMC as well as IBM Xenon central processing unit (CPU) produced at IBM’s 65nm nodes. The new system design is projected to consume less electricity, use less complex cooling systems, produce less noise and be cheaper to manufacture.

The web-site contains pictures of code-named Xenon, the first incarnation of Xbox 360 motherboards with 90nm microprocessor and 90nm graphics chip; Zephyr, which is Xenon mainboard with HDMI output as well as improved cooling system; Falcon which sports 65nm CPU and 90nm GMCH; Opus, a mainboard that sports 65nm CPU and 90nm GMCH, but comes without HDMI. Even though the web-site has not published a photo of Jasper motherboard, end-users could determine that they have one since it did not resemble any of the published.

It is about time for a new Xbox 360 design to show up. Earlier this year it was reported that production of the new version of the console was slated to begin in August.

Microsoft did not comment on the news-story.

ATI, Nvidia to Pay $1.925 Million to Settle Price Fixing Legal Dispute

ATI, graphics products group of Advanced Micro Devices, and Nvidia Corp. recently announced that they agree to pay nearly $2 million in order to settle antitrust legal dispute that concerns price-fixing of graphics cards.

The agreement calls for the ATI and Nvidia to pay $1.7 million ($850 thousand per company) into a fund to be made available for payments to the certified class in exchange for a dismissal of all claims related to the legal action. Under the terms of settlement, plaintiffs who acquired graphics cards graphics cards directly from the websites of ATI or Nvidia in the United States during the period from December 4, 2002 to November 7, 2007, will receive compensations.

The agreement is subject to court approval and, if approved, would dispose of all claims raised by the certified class in the action against ATI and Nvidia.

ATI and Nvidia have also reached a settlement agreement with the remaining individual indirect purchaser plaintiffs in the action. On July 18, 2008, the District Court denied a motion seeking to certify a class of all indirect purchasers in the United States who purchased a product containing a graphics processing unit initially sold by ATI or Nvidia. On September 9, 2008, the companies reached a settlement agreement with the remaining individual indirect purchaser plaintiffs that provides for ATI and Nvidia to pay $225 thousand ($112.5 thousand per company) in exchange for a dismissal of all claims and appeals related to the action raised by the individual indirect purchaser plaintiffs.

ATI and Nvidia were accused of antitrust laws violation and price fixing on graphics processing units in late 2006.

Toshiba to Help Distribution of Content on Secure Digital Flash Cards

MOD Systems, a provider of digital media delivery systems for retailers, has announced that Toshiba Corp., NCR Corp. and others, have agreed to invest $35 million into MOD, giving the companies minority stakes in MOD Systems. The company said that investments will help it to distribute content on secure digital (SD) flash cards.

Under the initiative, consumers will download digital content to Secure Digital (SD) cards and portable devices such as mobile phones through kiosks and other self-service devices deployed, integrated and maintained by NCR at retail stores, airports, quick-service restaurants and other outlets. Toshiba will develop dedicated set-top boxes for the service, and develop and market high capacity SD cards for the system, improving the speed of downloads in the future.

The kiosks and other self-service devices will use the MOD retail enterprise system for “multichannel” digital media delivery, which enables digital content to be managed and distributed securely using portable devices and portable storage media, including SD memory cards.

MOD Systems provides retailers with a complete digital media system for consumers to load entertainment to portable devices and storage media, or burn content to an optical format (CD/DVD). The MOD retail enterprise system supports all content types and distribution scenarios including manufacturing-on-demand, delivery in optical or digital format, and hybrid online and in-store systems.

Video entertainment content will be provided by major and independent studios, which will provide approximately 4000 titles at the launch of the service. Initial content downloads will be in standard definition, and the service may also be applied to downloads of high definition content in the future.

The investment is part of a rather initiative to leverage portable digital storage technology that offers the potential to revolutionize how consumers download movies, TV shows, music and other digital content at a wide variety of locations, and then replay it on multiple devices. The initiative will combine technologies developed by the companies, and is aimed at meeting the explosive demand for easier access to high-quality digital entertainment and other content.

ATI Readies New Mainstream Graphics Card

ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, plans to introduce yet another ATI Radeon HD 4800-series graphics card that will be aimed at the mainstream market. The new product will allow AMD to more successfully compete against arch-rival Nvidia Corp., which is going to have problems with offering a competitor for the novelty from ATI.

The forthcoming ATI Radeon HD 4830 graphics card will feature 640 unified stream processors as well as 256-bit memory bus, according to slides that resemble an AMD presentation which were published by VR-Zone web-site. Other capabilities of the Radeon HD 4830 graphics card include support of DirectX 10.1, advanced hardware decoding of high-definition video formats and so on.

The launch for Radeon HD 4830 is set at October 21st and it is targeted primarily at Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT with a less than $150 price tag, reports the web-site.

Nvidia’s GeForce 9800 GT is a re-branded version of the year-old GeForce 8800 GT that sports 112 stream processors. It is likely that the Radeon HD 4830 graphics board will offer considerably higher performance compared to its rival, which will give AMD a chance to boost its market share.

AMD did not comment on the news-story.

Sony PlayStation 4 Likely to Feature Improved Version of Cell Processor

Sony PlayStation 3 features a significant amount of rather exotic technology, but while this enables the video game system to offer exclusive capabilities, this also means that the system is rather expensive to manufacture. According to a Japanese web-site, for the next-generation PlayStation 4 Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. plans to use more affordable components.

In order to maintain backwards compatibility and not to substantially shift the way of programming for the PlayStation 4, Sony intends to utilize substantially improved version of the Cell central processing unit (CPU), reports PC Watch web-site. The chip can potentially have as many as 24 or even 32 synergetic processing units, though, at this point actual specifications are hardly set by SCEI itself.

While Sony PlayStation 4 is years away, its developer already has a goal of making it more affordable than the predecessor in order to compete against the successor of Nintendo Wii, the most popular current-generation video game system, the web-site claims.

Considering the fact that PlayStation 3 already features technologies like Blu-ray optical drive, Cell processor, XDR memory and some other, it is very likely to expect the PS4 to sport them as well, but this time at a considerably lower price. This will also allow the next-generation video game console to take advantage of the PlayStation 3 infrastructure and heritage.

It is unknown when the PlayStation 4 hits the market, but introducing it ahead of its rival from Microsoft Corp. will give Sony an advantage. In fact, utilization of already known components, such as improved version of Cell, will help Sony to bring the next-generation game console faster to market.

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. did not comment on the news-story.

Microsoft to Release Pre-Beta Windows 7 Version in Late October

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest developer of software, plans to unveil more details regarding its Windows 7 operating system and even provide select software developers pre-beta versions of the forthcoming OS in late October at its Professional Developers Conference.

Microsoft recently announced that at this year’s PDC, keynote attendees will be among the first to receive the pre-beta build of Windows 7. Additionally, attendees will have the opportunity to attend 21 different sessions that drill down into the details of developing for Windows 7.

Microsoft claims that advances in Windows 7 have been made across the full range of the operating system, including the kernel, networking, hardware and devices, and user-interface.

Attendees of the conference will be able to learn more about opportunities to build on the platform’s commitment to OS fundamentals. Besides, the company indicated that the new operating system will enable software developers to enhance existing applications and create new applications that use the new technologies and APIs in Windows 7. The company plans to present Windows 7-related keynote on the 28th of October, 2008, at PDC.

According to previously reported information, the software giant plans to unveil its Windows 7 OS on the 3rd of June, 2009, which is inline with claims of Bill Gates made earlier this year, but is about half a year earlier than Microsoft publicly stated. The new operating system is expected to correct all the issues with Windows Vista, which has been heavily criticized.