Saturday, February 28, 2009

Microsoft Windows 7 Set to Ship in “Late September – Early October”

Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 7 operating system (OS) is on track to be released this year and it is likely that it will ship in September – October timeframe, according to the head of a large contract makers of personal computers. The release of the new OS will help Microsoft to boost sales and will also spur interest towards the newest personal computers.

“According to current planning, it should be late September or early October,” said Ray Chen, president of Taipei-based Compal Electronics, a contract maker of personal computers, reports Bloomberg news-agency.

Microsoft admits that currently shipping Windows Vista has a number of drawbacks: many large customers decided not to deploy the OS after testing it; popular netbook computers cannot run Vista because of its high system requirements; and many consumers have been criticizing Vista, which ultimately damaged its image industry-wide.

“We have a pretty good product [Windows 7]. We have some pent-up latent interest, as people have been testing, but not deploying Vista, but we’ll have to see [whether they deploy Windows 7],” said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer for Microsoft, during a meeting with analysts.

Considering huge popularity of netbooks, there is no surprise that the lack of appropriate OS for them now hurts sales of Microsoft and Windows 7 should correct this since there will be a special cut-down version developed just for ultra low-cost personal computers (ULCPCs).

It is widely known that Microsoft has been working hard to improve user interface as well as performance in Windows 7 and make the new OS much more user friendly overall. Many reviewers and early adopters agree that Microsoft has succeeded in improving its desktop OS dramatically.

All-in-all, Microsoft Windows 7 seems to be fine. Now the question is whether consumers will actually buy new computers with premium operating system during the time of the global economic crisis...

Sales of Blu-Ray Discs Expected to Reach 100 Million in 2009

Thanks to the end of high-definition formats war and the declines of Blu-ray disc (BD) players pricing, the format is getting more and more popular, according to industry experts. Based on their estimates, around 100 million BD movies will be sold this year, a substantial increase compared to 2008. The question is whether 100 million is actually a large number considering the amount of BD players and PS3 consoles already sold-through.

“Last year in the United States alone, BD video retail sales increased by a whopping 320% to 24 million units, and we are going to see momentum continuing in 2009, with [more than] 80 million disc sales forecast,” said Mai Hong, a senior market analyst at Futuresource Consulting.

According to the company, consumers in Western Europe acquired 9 million Blu-ray disc movies, meanwhile, Japanese consumers bought 3 million Blu-ray movies. In total, there were 36 million BD movies sold worldwide back in 2008, the market research firm revealed.

“The U.K. is the largest market for BD in Western Europe. With sales of more than 3.5 million units in 2008, it represented over 40% of the West European total,” added Ms. Hong.

According to Sony, it had sold through 21.3 million Sony PlayStation 3 video game consoles that supports BD playback by the end of 2008, besides, all the manufacturers of Blu-ray players shipped 4.5 million devices globally in 2008. As a result, there should be substantially more than 25 million of Blu-ray playback capable standalone players, video game consoles and personal computers installed worldwide. Considering that number, it means that every owner of a BD-supporting device would buy just about four Blu-ray movies throughout the whole year, not quite a lot.

Obviously, far not all PlayStation 3 owners use their consoles for movie playback, which is why it is tremendously important for Blu-ray backers to ensure supplies of inexpensive BD players to various regions.

At present there are around 1100 Blu-ray titles available on the market. More than 200 thousand Blu-ray discs with movies were made last year, said Michael Boreham, senior consultant for Futuresources Consulting.

“There were concerns over how well the manufacturers would cope with the demands placed on them last year, but as a result of good planning and excellent cooperation, there were no problems in the busy fourth quarter. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens this year, as we’re not seeing the same level of investment in manufacturing equipment that we saw in the early days of DVD,” Mr. Boreham explained.

Futuresource consulting believes that in 2012 about 50% of media-based movie sales will be Blu-ray in the U.S. and 35% in Western Europe.

Apple and BestBuy Start to Sell iPhones for $99

The rumours regarding more affordable Apple iPhone devices began to emerge a while ago due to the fact that the demand towards products from Apple is increasing and the company will not loose a chance to capitalize on it, but the iPhone is a not exactly an affordable products. Well, Apple has teamed up with AT&T and BestBuy for a campaign during which iPhones can be obtained for $99.

In order to get Apple iPhone 8GB for $99, customers have to be BestBuy’s Premier Silver Members and will have to sign a contract with AT&T cellphone network operator for two years. Finally, the campaign only lasts till Saturday, the 28th of February, and while supplies last, hence, there will hardly be millions of Apple iPhones sold.

It is widely believed that Apple is preparing a special version of its iPhone gadgets with reduced price and cut-down functionality, but the company has always denies such a plan. However, considering the fact that now Apple is trying to sell iPhone via BestBuy at a discount, the company may end up with a new more powerful iPhone aimed at premium consumers and continue selling previous-generation iPhones to those, who would like to save.

There are lot of rumours and no actual information regarding the next-generation iPhone. Back in September ’08 Wei-han Lien, the senior manager of Apple’s chip team, said in an entry at LinkedIn web-site that he managed “ARM CPU architecture team for iPhone”. However, sources familiar with Apple’s plans implied earlier in 2008 that the company did have plans to put Intel Atom inside the iPhone, but that would cause Apple to re-create its software for the device.

It is logical that amid global economic slump consumers will cut their spending and the demand will shift to more affordable products. Apple does have lineups of iPod digital media players and personal computers that include both inexpensive and premium products, but the iPhone exists only in one version that is relatively expensive. As a result, a cheaper version of the product is definitely needed on the market.

AMD Demos Six-Core Server Microprocessors

Advanced Micro Devices has demonstrated its first processors with six cores that will replace existing quad-core chips on the market of high-end servers later this year. The demonstration should emphasize AMD’s ability to create and build such processors as well as convince AMD’s customers that the chips are drop-in compatible with existing infrastructure.

“Thus far we see impressive performance and performance-per-watt results in our initial ‘Istanbul’ testing. We expect global OEMs and solution providers to begin shipping systems based on ’Istanbul’ in the second half of this year,” said John Fruehe, director of business development, or server and workstation division at AMD.

AMD’s six-core Opteron processors code-named Istanbul feature 6MB of L2 cache, dual-channel DDR2 memory controller and are compatible with socket F infrastructure. The only tangible improvement over the quad-core Shanghai processors that the Istanbul chips have (besides increased amount of cores) is HyperTransport Assist feature, which works the same way as Intel’s snoop filter inside high-end chipsets for Intel Xeon processors (keep cache coherency traffic between the two sockets from appearing on the external bus)

Instead of octa-core AMD Opteron processor code-named Montreal and third-generation server platform in the second half of 2009, the chipmaker decided to introduce six-core code-named Istanbul processor with 6MB L3 cache and continue to use second-generation socket F (1207) platform. This allows makers of current-generation servers to install higher-performance chips into existing machine and increase their performance-per-watt without any substantial investments into development. It should be noted that since Istanbul chips are still made using 45nm fabrication process, they will not be able to reach the same clock-speeds as quad-core chips.

In the first half of 2010 Advanced Micro Devices will bring six-core Sao Paulo with 6MB L3 cache and twelve-core Magny-Cours with 12MB L3 cache processors that will have DDR3 memory controller and will utilize third-generation AMD Opteron platform with socket G34 code-named Maranello that will feature AMD’s own-developed 890-series chipsets. The new processors will be made using 45nm process technology.

Nvidia Still Interested in Via Technologies’ Processors

Despite of claims regarding great interest in Intel Atom-based platforms, Nvidia Corp. is still interested to power netbooks based on central processing units designed by Via Technologies. Apparently, the company intends to unveil Via Nano-supporting core-logic and Ion platform in 2009.

Jen-Hsun Huang, president and chief executive officer of Nvidia, said in an interview with DigiTimes web-site that Nvidia would launch Ion platform that supports Via Technologies’ Nano microprocessors.

It is interesting to note that Nvidia and Via have already demonstrated a platform very similar to current GeForce 9400M (Ion Platform) in terms of capabilities – DirectX 10, DDR2/DDR3 memory controller and a rich set of other features. What Nvidia plans to introduce in 2009 is a mystery at the moment.

Nvidia and Via have been discussing partnership in the netbook market since early 2009, but back in November, 2008, Nvidia and Via decided to cancel the pact due to unknown reasons.

Via Technologies, which has failed to make its Nano processors in a little less than a year popular, is definitely interested in support of industry-known Nvidia. Meanwhile, it almost clear that Nvidia has not succeeded in becoming a vendor of high-end chipsets for Intel Atom processors.

AMD’s High-Performance Graphics Update Not Expected to Radically Boost Performance

Despite of rumours floating around the Internet, ATI’s (graphics products group of Advanced Micro Devices) approaching update for the high-performance graphics segment will not bring in considerable performance improvements as the new product will just feature improved clock-speeds over existing graphics boards.

According to industrial sources with knowledge of the matter, the code-named ATI RV790 graphics processing unit is nothing else but the already shipping ATI RV770 chip with higher clock-speeds. The new processor can operate at higher frequencies since its design is slightly refined, certain erratums (which do not affect performance or stability of the RV770) are corrected and process technology adjustments are made.

ATI RV770/790 graphics processing units feature 800 stream processors, 40 texture units, 16 render back ends as well as 256-bit memory bus compatible with GDDR3, GDDR4 and GDDR5 memory types. The RV790 will feature higher clock-speeds, but not increased number of execution units.

Performance increases of the graphics card that is projected to be called ATI Radeon HD 4890 over the existing Radeon HD 4870 1GB should not be high as the difference between two products will be increases of clock-speeds. In case the graphics card designer decides to release ATI Radeon HD 4890 X2, performance gain should be modest as well.

"This is exactly the same situation as in the case of transition from ATI Radeon 9800 Pro to ATI Radeon 9800 XT back in 2003, performance gain will not be massive," a person wished to remain anonymous said.

ATI is known for working on different speed-bins of various processors, for instance, its ATI R300 (Radeon 9700), R350 (Radeon 9800 Pro) and R360 (Radeon 9800 XT) were essentially the same chip, but could function at completely different clock-speeds. ATI/AMD has now chosen the same option since it does not immediately need a new GPU in the current competitive and market environments.

The recent history of graphics processing units does not know examples when a company introduced a brand-new GPU with new internal design that would only be 20% - 30% faster compared to predecessor in the same price-range. Therefore, the information about increased number of stream processors inside RV790 is not correct, according to sources with known of the situation.

Ultra Quiet Xbox 360 Video Game Consoles Now Available

Microsoft Xbox 360 video game consoles are criticized by many gamers for being too hot and loud. The software giant has addressed the issues by introducing new versions of the consoles that consume less power and produce less noise, but many gamers are still not satisfied. But there is a way to get an utterly quiet Xbox 360: a maker of silent personal computers has just started selling them.

Ultra-Quiet Xbox 360 game consoles, which are available at, do not come in the original case, but are rebuilt inside Lian Li XB-01B cases that are available on the market. In order to further reduce noise levels of the video game system, the manufacturer utilizes anti-vibration fan mounts, coats optical disc drive with anti-acoustic material and also utilizes very high-quality fans from Scythe.

The rebuilt Microsoft Xbox 360 video game consoles should be much more quieter and, considering that Lian Li case for personal computers is still larger compared to the usual Xbox 360 case, much better cooled, compared to the original version.

Obviously, the re-built Xbox 360 is no longer covered by Microsoft Corp.’s warrantee, however, still provides full 360 days (one year) warranty on components itself.

“So if you have any problem within that time frame just let us know and we will take care of things,” the company claims on its web-site.

At present Ultra-Quiet Xbox 360 game consoles are not available from the company’s U.S.-based web-site, but they can be purchased from the UK, Germany or other European branches of Needless to say, silence does cost quite a lot, especially taking into account usage of rather expensive Lian Li case, Scythe fans and so on. In order to get utterly quiet Xbox 360, end-users have to pay €220 – €230/£220 ($283 - $315, depending on the country) price-premium over typical versions:

* UQ Xbox 360 Elite – €528/£452 (official price: €299.99/£229.99)
* UQ Xbox 360 Premium – €458/£392 (official price: €239.99/£169.99)
* UQ Xbox 360 Arcade – €411/£351 (official price: €179.99/£129.99)

In addition, offers gamers kits to reconstruct their Xbox 360 consoles themselves or factory rebuilding service for existing Xbox 360 consoles.