Friday, September 28, 2012

#WIRELESS: "iPhone-6 Revealed in Apple Patent Filings"

Apple has revealed details that will debut in iPhone-6 next year, including a flexible display which raises the outline of letters for tactile feel when keyboards are present on screen, voice activated authentication so iPhone-6 works only with you as user, and gesture-based recognition to assist with image processing algorithms. The patents, in and other themselves, only reveal Apple's ongoing development of next-generation technologies, but the images used to illustrate reveal that the iPhone--with its familiar "home" button--is the target for these technologies: R. Colin Johnson

Two separate flexible display drawings in Apple's patent filing when re-oriented side-by-side look like a clam-shell rather than two separate concept designs.

Raised letters for on-screen keyboards reveal that the surface of the diaplay will no longer be glass, but a deformable polymer.

Here is what Apples patent applications say: Electronic devices may be provided that contain flexible displays and internal components. An internal component may be positioned under the flexible display. The internal component may be an output device such as a speaker that transmits sound through the flexible display or an actuator that deforms the display in a way that is sensed by a user. The internal component may also be a microphone or pressure sensor that receives sound or pressure information through the flexible display. Structural components may be used to permanently or temporarily deform the flexible display to provide tactile feedback to a user of the device. Electronic devices may be provided with concave displays or convex displays formed from one or more flexible layers including a flexible display layer. Portions of the flexible display may be used as speaker membranes for display-based speaker structures.

Voice authentication insures that the user is really the owner.

Here is what Apples patent applications say: A device can be configured to receive speech input from a user. The speech input can include a command for accessing a restricted feature of the device. The speech input can be compared to a voiceprint (e.g., text-independent voiceprint) of the user's voice to authenticate the user to the device. Responsive to successful authentication of the user to the device, the user is allowed access to the restricted feature without the user having to perform additional authentication steps or speaking the command again. If the user is not successfully authenticated to the device, additional authentication steps can be request by the device (e.g., request a password).

Using hand gestures above the screen, users can filter and touch-up images.

Here is what Apples patent applications say: This disclosure pertains to apparatuses, methods, and computer readable medium for mapping particular user interactions, e.g., gestures, to the input parameters of various image filters, while simultaneously setting auto exposure, auto focus, auto white balance, and/or other image processing technique input parameters based on the appropriate underlying image sensor data in a way that provides a seamless, dynamic, and intuitive experience for both the user and the client application software developer. Such techniques may handle the processing of image filters applying location-based distortions as well as those image filters that do not apply location-based distortions to the captured image data. Additionally, techniques are provided for increasing the performance and efficiency of various image processing systems when employed in conjunction with image filters that do not require all of an image sensor's captured image data to produce their desired image filtering effects.

Further Reading

Thursday, September 27, 2012

#MEMS: "Ultrabook Convertables Tap Gyroscopes"

Micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) sensors automatically switch screen orientation from portrait to landscape, as well as to track orientation for augmented reality and indoor navigation applications, but mostly for smartphones and tablets today. The convertible Ultrabook, however, also requires MEMS accelerometers,gyroscopes, altimeters and compasses, since convertible Ultrabooks combine a laptop with a detachable screen that acts like a touch tablet. As a result the MEMS chip market is expected to jump sharply: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what IHS says about MEMS in Ultrabooks: Intel Corp.’s initiative to promote new features like indoor navigation and augmented reality in ultrabooks will spur dramatic growth in the sales of motion sensors for the next-generation notebook PCs, with revenue rising by a factor of 14 during the next four years.
Global sales of motion sensors—including accelerometers, gyroscopes and compasses—used in ultrabooks will expand to $117.3 million by 2016, up from just $8.3 million in 2012, as shown in the figure attached. This equates to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 93.9 percent for 2012 through 2016, according to the IHS iSuppli MEMS & Sensors Service at information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS).
“At its Intel Developer Forum (IDF) this month, Intel confirmed that new ultrabooks will support similar features now found in smartphones and media tablets, such as gaming, indoor navigation and augmented reality—all requiring the use of motion sensors,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS. “This will open up an entirely new market for motion sensors, specifically for accelerometers, gyroscopes and compasses.”

The drop test
Until now, the only type of motion sensors used in notebooks were accelerometers, which are employed for the free-fall function that protects the hard disk drive (HDD) by parking the read/write head if the computer is dropped. This market is bound to shrink due to the adoption of solid state drives (SSDs), which eliminate the need for HDDs in notebooks.
However, the advent of ultrabooks makes use of accelerometers relevant again in notebook PCs, used for functions such as auto screen rotation. Ultrabooks also will open up a new market for compasses and gyroscopes, which detect direction and motion. These devices are commonly used for gaming and for navigation in media tablets and smartphones, whose features and functionality ultrabooks are seeking to emulate.

Convertible Ultrabooks coming
Intel began strongly promoting the use of motion sensors and even pressure sensors in ultrabooks last year. However, the company had not clearly stated that these sensors would be used in convertible and detachable ultrabooks. Prior to IDF, IHS stated that it would not make sense to add a gyroscope or compass to a conventional ultrabook because the format would not be appropriate.
At the time, IHS believed that it would only make sense to use motion sensors for convertible ultrabooks—those that could be converted into a monolithic tablet and detached from the base. At IDF, Intel confirmed this is where MEMS sensors will be used: in convertible—or detached—ultrabooks.

Further Reading

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

#MARKETS: "Google Nav Preludes Boeing, NextNav, and Glopos"

Google is quickly cobbling together a location-based service infrastructure that combines WiFi, GPS and dead reckoning with cellular triangulation a last resort, but such patchwork solutions are yeilding to ubiquitous radio-frequency solutions from Boeing, NextNav and Glopos which pinpoint locations with a single proprietary technique, thus catapulting location-based services into the next-generation: R. Colin Johnson

NextNav owns, operates and manages every element of its dedicated positioning network built on licensed spectrum.

Here is what ABI Research says about the next-generation of location-based services: ​Google has been named the leading alternative location vendor in the latest Competitive Assessment released by ABI Research. The report looks to the future, considering companies best placed to provide a high-accuracy, ubiquitous location solution on which a range of applications and services can be supported. Google’s value chain support, relative market share, and combination of wide-area (GPS, Wi-Fi, cellular) and future precision indoor technologies, illustrates how it’s bringing together all the necessary elements to remain a success in this space. Qualcomm is ranked 2nd with the Nokia/Microsoft alliance ranked 3rd.

ABI Research’s “vendor matrix” is a key component of the overall assessment. Alternative location vendors were compared across 15 criteria, falling under the broader categories of “innovation” and “implementation.”

On implementation, Qualcomm tops the list scoring highly for its hybrid approach, value-chain support, privacy, and partnerships. Its iZat platform offers a range of location technologies across a number of device markets. Google is ranked second with Skyhook Wireless ranked third. Skyhook Wireless has established itself as a viable Google-alternative for Wi-Fi location and location analytics, and a strong score for markets supported as it expands into femtocells, eBooks, and gaming. However, its lower innovation score reflects the need to move into indoor technologies and results in a lower overall ranking.

On innovation, Google is ranked 1st thanks to its work on precision indoor technologies, developer support, and low implementation costs. Qualcomm and Nokia/Microsoft are joint second, with Apple third due to its lack of current indoor location technologies. Nokia/Microsoft’s surprising overall ranking is largely based on its long-term innovation and potential rather than its current offerings. The partnership has many of the elements necessary for a strong alternative location ecosystem in place. Nokia’s In-Location Alliance should bring about a new wave of indoor location technologies, in particular its low cost, high accuracy Bluetooth solution.

“With Wi-Fi and cellular alternative location now standard technologies in the cellular space, the hunt is on to meet future mandate and indoor requirements. Boeing, NextNav, and Glopos represent some of the most interesting ubiquitous, indoor and outdoor solution providers covered in this report,” says senior analyst Patrick Connolly.

This Competitive Assessment provides a rating of the leading GPS IC vendors. A total of 15 companies were analyzed scrutinized against several criteria in addition to a market share analysis. These findings are part of ABI Research’s Location Technologies Research Service.
Further Reading

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

#MARKETS: "Internet Tide Raises All Boats--Even Cable"

The demise of cable and satellite TV may have been myth--at least on a global basis--as recent trends indicate that the rising tide of Internet TV watching in the U.S. is being accompanied by more pay TV watching worldwide: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what ABI Research says about IP-TV's affect on Pay-TV: Despite Growing Shift to Internet TV Services, the global pay-TV market continues to grow. Despite a decline in the North America pay-TV market in 2012, ABI Research forecasts that global pay TV subscribers will reach 858.1 million at the end of 2012, a 5% year-on-year increment from 2011. The key growth will be driven by the Asian-Pacific market which is expected to add more than 27 million subscribers in 2012.

Cable TV operators in United States have been facing a continuous decline in pay-TV subscribers. In the first two quarters of 2012, Cable TV operators lost nearly 0.8 million subscribers, although their broadband subscriber base has continued to grow. IPTV, which has less penetration than cable or satellite in the US market, gained around 0.6 million subscribers during the same period.

ABI Research’s new market data product, “Pay-TV Subscribers” is updated quarterly and profiles global pay-TV subscription information. Detailed market trends and market forecast information for key regions and countries around the world are provided where available. These findings are part of ABI Research’s Pay TV Research Service, which includes Market Data, Insights, and Competitive Assessments.
Further Reading

Monday, September 24, 2012

#CHIPS: "How Xeon Phi Stacks Up to GPUs"

The big question in parallel processing today is whether the Xeon Phi's 50+ x86 cores can stack up to the hundreds of thread processors on Tesla GPUs. The jury is still out, since the Xeon Phi will not be shipping until this fall, but early energy efficiency tests cited by Intel at the recent Hot Chips conference, indicate that Top500 results favor Xeon Phi (see figure below): R. Colin Johnson

Here is what Go-Parallel says about Xeon Phi versus GPU: Xeon Phi lead architect George Chrysos presented comparisons between using Xeon Phi co-processors instead of graphics-processor units (GPUs) at the recent Hot Chips conference. According to the Top500 Super Computer Sites ranking, Intel’s many-integrated core (MIC) architecture not only outperformed the two top GPU-based supercomputers on the most recent Top500 list, but was also “greener” by virtue of providing more performance-per-Watt.
Further Reading

Friday, September 21, 2012

#ROBOTICS: "Visual Servo Simplifies Robot Control"

A novel new technique that simplifies remote control of robots was recently demonstrated by the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Called an uncalibrated visual servo, the new method implements a vision-guided control system that responds to human commands more directly and intuitively than today: R. Colin Johnson

Matt Marshall, a Ph.D. student in the Georgia Tech School of Mechanical Engineering, uses a joystick controller based on visual servoing to command the motions of a robotic arm (with a 3-D camera attached) to grasp a cup. Shown left to right are Michael Matthews, a research engineer; Gary McMurray, a GTRI division chief; Ai-Ping Hu, a GTRI research engineer, and Marshall. (Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek)

Here is what Georgia Tech says about visual servos: Using a novel method of integrating video technology and familiar control devices, a research team from the Georgia Institute of Technology is developing a technique to simplify remote control of robotic devices.

The researchers’ aim is to enhance a human operator’s ability to perform precise tasks using a multi-jointed robotic device such as an articulated mechanical arm. The new approach has been shown to be easier and faster than older methods, especially when the robot is controlled by an operator who is watching it in a video monitor.

Known as Uncalibrated Visual Servoing for Intuitive Human Guidance of Robots, the new method uses a special implementation of an existing vision-guided control method called visual servoing (VS). By applying visual-servoing technology in innovative ways, the researchers have constructed a robotic system that responds to human commands more directly and intuitively than older techniques.

Watch a YouTube video of uncalibrated visual servoing.
“Our approach exploits 3-D video technology to let an operator guide a robotic device in ways that are more natural and time-saving, yet are still very precise,” said Ai-Ping Hu, a senior research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). “This capability could have numerous applications – especially in situations where directly observing the robot’s operation is hazardous or not possible – including bomb disposal, handling of hazardous materials and search-and-rescue missions.”

A paper on this technology was presented at the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation held in St. Paul, Minn.

For decades articulated robots have been used by industry to perform precision tasks such as welding vehicle seams or assembling electronics, Hu explained. The user develops a software program that enables the device to cycle through the required series of motions, using feedback from sensors built into the robot.

But such programming can be complex and time-consuming. The robot must typically be maneuvered joint by joint through the numerous actions required to complete a task. Moreover, such technology works only in a structured and unchanging environment, such as a factory assembly line, where spatial relationships are constant.

In recent years, new techniques have enabled human operators to freely guide remote robots through unstructured and unfamiliar environments, to perform such challenging tasks as bomb disposal, Hu said. Operators have controlled the device in one of two ways: by “line of sight” – direct user observation – or by means of conventional, two-dimensional camera that is mounted on the robot to send back an image of both the robot and its target.

But humans guiding robots via either method face some of the same complexities that challenge those who program industrial robots, he added. Manipulating a remote robot into place is generally slow and laborious.

That’s especially true when the operator must depend on the imprecise images provided by 2-D video feedback. Manipulating separate controls for each of the robot’s multiple joint axes, users have only limited visual information to help them and must maneuver to the target by trial and error.

“Essentially, the user is trying to visualize and reconstruct a 3-D scenario from flat 2-D camera images,” Hu said. “The process can become particularly confusing when operators are facing in a different direction from the robot and must mentally reorient themselves to try to distinguish right from left. It’s somewhat similar to backing up a vehicle with an attached trailer – you have to turn the steering wheel to the left to get the trailer to move right, which is decidedly non-intuitive.”

To simplify user control, the Georgia Tech team turned to visual servoing (a term synonymous with visual activation). Visual servoing has been studied for years as a way to use video cameras to help robots re-orient themselves within a structured environment such as an assembly line.

Traditional visual servoing is calibrated, meaning that position information generated by a video camera can be transformed into data meaningful to the robot. Using these data, the robot can adjust itself to stay in a correct spatial relationship with target objects.

“Say a conveyor line is accidently moved a few millimeters,” Hu said. “A robot with a calibrated visual servoing capability can automatically detect the movement using the video image and a fixed reference point, and then readjust to compensate.”

But visual servoing offers additional possibilities. The research team – which includes Hu, associate professor Harvey Lipkin of the School of Mechanical Engineering, graduate student Matthew Marshall, GTRI research engineer Michael Matthews and GTRI principal research engineer Gary McMurray — has adapted visual-servoing technology in ways that facilitate human control of remote robots.

The new technique takes advantage of both calibrated and uncalibrated techniques. A calibrated 3-D “time of flight” camera is mounted on the robot – typically at the end of a robotic arm, in a gripping device called an end-effector. This approach is sometimes called an eye-in-hand system, because of the camera’s location in the robot’s “hand.”

The camera utilizes an active sensor that detects depth data, allowing it to send back 3-D coordinates that pinpoint the end-effector’s spatial location. At the same time, the eye-in-hand camera also supplies a standard, uncalibrated 2-D grayscale video image to the operator’s monitor.

The result is that the operator, without seeing the robot, now has a robot’s-eye view of the target. Watching this image in a monitor, an operator can visually guide the robot using a gamepad, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of a first-person 3-D video game.

In addition, visual-servoing technology now automatically actuates all the joints needed to complete whatever action the user indicates on the gamepad – rather than the user having to manipulate those joints one by one. In the background, the Georgia Tech system performs the complex computation needed to coordinate the monitor image, the 3-D camera information, the robot’s spatial position and the user’s gamepad commands.

“The guidance process is now very intuitive – pressing ‘left’ on the gamepad will actuate all the requisite robot joints to effect a leftward displacement,” Hu said. “What’s more, the robot could be upside down and the controls will still respond in the same intuitive way – left is still left and right is still right.”

To judge system usability, the Georgia Tech research team recently conducted trials to test whether the visual-servoing approach enabled faster task-completion times. Using a gamepad that controls an articulated-arm robot with six degrees of freedom, subjects performed four tests: they used visual-servoing guidance as well as conventional joint-based guidance, in both line-of-sight and camera-view modes.

In the line-of-sight test, volunteer participants using visual-servoing guidance averaged task-completion times that were 15 percent faster than when they used joint-based guidance. However, in camera-view mode, participants using visual-servoing guidance averaged 227 percent faster results than with the joint-based technique.

Hu noted that the visual-servoing system used in this test scenario was only one of numerous possible applications of the technology. The research team’s plans include testing a mobile platform with a VS-guided robotic arm mounted on it. Also underway is a proof-of-concept effort that incorporates visual-servoing control into a low-cost, consumer-level robot.

“Our ultimate goal is to develop a generic, uncalibrated control framework that is able to use image data to guide many different kinds of robots,” he said.
Further Reading

Thursday, September 20, 2012

#COGNIZERS: "Brain Regions Compete for Control of You"

If you are like me, your will-power is constantly being tested by fatty goods--as if a little angel on one shoulder is saying "yes" while a devil on the other is saying "no"--and now neuroscientists have found that its true. Different brain regions compete for control of our will-power, especially during trying times, such as when going on a diet: R. Colin Johnson

Brain-in-a-Jar at the Science Museum, London, by Gaetan Lee. Tilt corrected by Kaldari. Source: Wikipedia

Here is what the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) says about the brain and will-power: Almost everyone knows the feeling: you see a delicious piece of chocolate cake on the table, but as you grab your fork, you think twice. The cake is too fattening and unhealthy, you tell yourself. Maybe you should skip dessert.

In order to make the healthy choice, we often have to engage in this kind of internal struggle. Now, scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have identified the neural processes at work during such self-regulation—and what determines whether you eat the cake.

"We seem to have independent systems capable of guiding our decisions, and in situations like this one, these systems may compete for control of what we do," says Cendri Hutcherson, a Caltech postdoctoral scholar who is the lead author on a new paper about these competing brain systems, which will be published in the September 26 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

"In many cases, these systems guide behavior in the same direction, so there's no conflict between them," she adds. "But in other cases, like the all-too-common inner fight to resist the temptation of eating the chocolate cake, they can guide behavior toward different outcomes. Furthermore, the outcome of the decision seems to depend on which of the two systems takes control of behavior."

A large body of evidence shows that people make decisions by assigning different values to the various options, says Antonio Rangel, a professor of economics and neuroscience and the senior author of the paper. To make their decisions, people select the choice with the highest value. "An important and controversial open question—which this study was designed to address—is whether there is a single value signal in the brain, or if there are instead multiple value signals with different properties that compete for the control of behavior."

According to the single-value hypothesis, Rangel explains, the ability to say no to the chocolate cake depends on just one system that compares values like healthiness and taste. But the multiple-value hypothesis suggests that there are different systems that process different values. The ability to turn down the cake therefore depends on whether the brain can activate the appropriate system—the one that evaluates healthiness. If you do not want the cake, it means you place a higher value on health than on taste and your brain acts accordingly.

In the study, the researchers asked 26 volunteers to refrain from eating for four hours prior to being tested. During the experiment, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine was used to measure the brain activity of the hungry participants while they decided how much they were willing to pay for different snacks, which were shown on a computer screen. The items, including foods like chips and vegetables, varied in taste and healthiness. The subjects were explicitly asked to make their choices in one of three conditions: while attempting to suppress their desire to eat the food, while attempting to increase their desire to eat the food, or while acting normally. The volunteers could do whatever they wanted to control themselves—for example, focusing on the taste (say, to increase their desire to eat something delicious but unhealthy) or the healthiness of the item (to reduce that urge).

After a four-second period, the participants placed real bids for the right to buy the items that reflected the value they placed on the food.

The researchers found that activity in two different brain areas correlated with how much the participants said they wanted an item, as indicated by their bids. The two regions were the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), which sits behind the temples, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), which is in the middle of the forehead just above the eyes.

Significantly, the two areas played very different roles in the self-regulation process. When volunteers told themselves not to want the food, the dlPFC seemed to take control; there was a stronger correlation between the signals in this area and behavior, while the signals in the vmPFC appeared to have no influence on behavior. When the volunteers encouraged themselves to want the food, however, the role of each brain region flipped. The vmPFC took control while the signals in the dlPFC appeared to have no effect.

The researchers also found that the brain's ability to switch control between these two areas was not instantaneous. It took a couple of seconds before the brain was able to fully ignore the conflicting region. For example, when a volunteer tried to suppress a craving, the vmPFC initially appeared to drive behavior. Only after a couple of seconds—while the participant tried to rein in his or her appetite—did the correlation between bids and vmPFC activity disappear and the dlPFC seem to take over.

"This research suggests a reason why it feels so difficult to control your behavior," Hutcherson says. "You've got these really fast signals that say, go for the tempting food. But only after you start to go for it are you able to catch yourself and say, no, I don't want this."

Previous work in Rangel's lab showed that when dieters made similar food choices, their decisions were controlled only by the vmPFC. The researchers speculate that because dieters are more accustomed to self-control, their brains do not show the neural struggle seen in the new study. If that is the case, then it may be possible that people can improve their self-control with more practice.

In addition to Hutcherson and Rangel, the other authors on the Journal of Neuroscience paper are Hilke Plassmann from the École Normale Supérieure in France and James Gross of Stanford. The title of the paper is "Cognitive regulation during decision making shifts behavioral control between ventromedial and dorsolateral prefrontal value systems." This research was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Further Reading

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

#3D: "Stereoscopic Displays Aim for Billions"

A quarter of a billion 3D displays will be shipped yearly by 2019, according to DisplaySearch which claims that 3D-TVs are driving user acceptance of stereo imagery: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what DisplaySearch says about 3D: The 3D display market is set to grow from 50.8 million units and $13.2 billion in revenue in 2011 to 226 million units and $67 billion in revenue in 2019 worldwide, according to the NPD DisplaySearch 3D Display Technology and Market Forecast Report. 3D TVs contribute heavily to this projection and create the largest revenue stream with anticipated growth from 25 million units in 2011 to approximately 180 million units in 2019.

The 3D display market will grow to over a quarter of a billion units by 2019. Source: NPD DisplaySearch 2012 3D Display Technology and Market Forecast Report

As 3D TV shipments increase, so will household penetration of the devices. NPD DisplaySearch forecasts 3D-ready TV penetration to increase from 10% to more than 50% by 2019 worldwide, but actual usage of 3D may not move as quickly.

“Our research shows that even though consumers own these 3D-ready TV devices, they haven’t viewed a significant amount of content on them,” noted Colegrove. “Before broader adoption can be expected, there is still a need for more 3D content and a smoother set-up process for 3D TV.”

Evolving Auto-Stereoscopic (Glasses-Free) Technologies

The success of portable game devices with 3D displays, such as the Nintendo 3DS, has shown that auto-stereoscopic 3D (in which the 3D effect is created by the display and does not require glasses to see) is ready for use in commercial products. Moving forward, NPD DisplaySearch forecasts an increased penetration of auto-stereoscopic 3D in mobile phones and DSC/camcorders over the next few years.

Glasses will be necessary for many 3D applications such as TVs and monitors for many years to come due to the limitations and high price of auto-stereoscopic technologies for large displays. However, NPD DisplaySearch expects to see auto-stereoscopic 3D tablet PCs in the market in 2013 (LG Electronics previously produced an anaglyph 3D tablet that required red/blue glasses). In addition, auto-stereoscopic 3D has begun to be used in public displays as a method of gaining attention.

The NPD DisplaySearch 3D Display Technology and Market Forecast Report includes a comprehensive analysis of stereoscopic 3D display technologies and market forecasts through 2019. The report profiles more than 180 3D display-related companies, with a breakdown by technology for the 3D display and the supply chain. 3D image creation and processing, human factors, content delivery and standardization are also discussed in the report.
Further Reading

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

#ALGORITHMS: "Intel Empowers Parallel Web Apps"

Client-side parallel processing on the multi-core processor in your desktop, laptop, tablet computer and even Intel-powered smartphone will become possible for the first time in 2013. Today your multi-core processor does not accelerate the web, but Intel-sponsored parallel processing toolkits for Javascript and HTML5 will for the first time allow web programmers to multi-process on iOS, Android and Windows web apps: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what Go-Parallel says about parallel web apps: Parallel applications will extend their reach to the world wide web in 2013...The key element will be HTML5–the latest version of the hypertext markup language–plus parallel extensions to the Javascript language...With integrated parallel toolkits for the web, Intel’s multi-core processors will be able to deliver the same robust user experience on multiple platforms...To fulfill the dream, Intel announced parallel tools for its Intel Developer Zone where software developers will also have access to programming communities and other resources. James also described a companion HTML5 Developer Zone which will focus exclusively on cross-platform applications for Apple iOS, Google Android, Microsoft Windows and the open-source Tizen operating system..
Further Reading

Monday, September 17, 2012

#ENERGY: "Toyota EV On Back Burner"

Toyota has put the electric vehicle (EV) on the back burner, and is even downsizing the size of the battery in its best-selling Prius, opting instead for more conventional gas-saving measures to extend mileage: R. Colin Johnson

Toyota iQ EV will only be produced in pilot quantities in 2013 and may be cancelled altogether in favor of hybrids with even less electric capabilities. Wikipedia.

Here is what Lux Research says about Toyota and EVs: Toyota has triggered electric vehicle alarmism by announcing it will lower sales targets of its iQ EV hatchback to just 100 units of this all-electric vehicle (EV). The news came accompanied by some damning quotes, with Toyota head of vehicle development Takeshi Uchiyamada opining that the "capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs." Many have been quick to misinterpret this as a new development – an unexpected vote of no confidence in EVs.

However, the reality is that Toyota has never pursued all-electric vehicles in earnest. While competitors were developing cars like the Nissan Leaf EV and Chevrolet Volt heavy plug-in hybrid (PHEV), Toyota instead opted to focus on more incremental hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and development of a light PHEV with a much smaller battery. It worked – the company hit a 2-million-unit home run with its Prius line of hybrids that now includes a light PHEV.

Lux Research predicted this EV disappointment three years ago in the report "Unplugging the Hype Around Electric Vehicles" and has held steady in that view. The reality is that HEVs and light PHEVs are simply far more economical now, given high battery costs, and will remain so for years to come. As a result, in 2020 sales of HEVs and light PHEVs will be 16 times greater than those of heavy PHEVs and EVs.

The announcement also reinforces that the world's largest carmaker’s strategy is a rebuke to the investment by the U.S. and other governments in EVs and subsidies. The political fallout could be severe, especially following flops like Solyndra in other areas. Companies can find strong opportunities in battery advances for light PHEVs and hybrids, as well as micro- and mild hybrids, but should remain cautious about the electric vehicle opportunity.
Further Reading

Friday, September 14, 2012

#MATERIALS: "2.5-D Chip to Precede Full 3-D"

Integration of full 3-D semiconductors into the global market will take a back seat to silicon interposers, often called 2.5-D, which will grow to become a $1.6 billion market by 2017, according to Yole Development: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what Yole says about 3D silicon: After meeting with swift commercial success on a few initial applications, including MEMS, sensors and power amplifiers, 3D integration has been on everyone’s mind for the past five years. However, once the initial euphoria faded, and despite technical developments which assured most observers that mass adoption of 3D was not out of reach, some unanticipated technical and supply chain hurdles were revealed that were higher than anticipated. It was then that 2.5D integration by means of 3D glass or silicon interposers was revealed by experts as a necessary stepping-stone to full 3D integration. Our first report on 3D interposers and 2.5D integration was in 2010; at that time, Yole Développement listed the various applications of this technology trend and its drivers, and showed that glass and silicon interposers were expected to become high-volume necessities, rather than just high-performance solutions for a few niche applications.

In this 2012 edition of that report, Yole Développement team provides more evidence of its findings from two years ago: after refining the applications and drivers of 3D interposers and 2.5D integration with the use of detailed forecasts, Yole Développement estimates that far from being a stepping-stone technology to full 3D integration, 3D interposers and 2.5D integration is emerging as a mass volume, long-lasting trend in the semiconductor industry.

The business generated by the 2.5D interposer substrate will grow rapidly, to an expected total value of $1.6B in 2017

Glass & silicon 2.5D interposers are already a commercial reality in MEMS, Analog, RF & LED applications on 150mm / 200mm, supported by the relatively ‘exotic’ infrastructures of MEMS players such as IMT-MEMS, Silex Microsystems, DNP, and DALSA / Teledyne, and structured glass substrate suppliers like HOYA, PlanOptik, NEC / Schott, and tecnisco. On 300mm, the infrastructure and market for 2.5D/3D interposers has hardly emerged as of 2012, but nevertheless Yole Développement analysts expect that in 2017, over 2 million 300mm wafers will be produced in that year alone. They also expect that the silicon or glass type of 2.5D interposer substrate will impact more than 16% of the traditionally ‘organic-made’ IC package substrate business by 2017, with almost $1.6B revenues generated by then.

Strong digital drivers will shift technology and supply chain paradigms
As technology developments progress, the industry will discover clear advantages to using 2.5D interposers for new applications and supply chain possibilities. Throughout this 2012 report, Yole
Yole Développement – Le Quartz – 75 cours Emile Zola – 69100 Lyon-Villeurbanne - France
Développement details these new lead applications, as well as the relevant needs and challenges.
“Also, we show evidence that this emerging infrastructure, which was initially focused on MEMS and sensors, is shifting paradigms to logic modules driven by stringent electrical and thermal performance requirements. As a result, the demand for interposers is shifting to fine-pitch 300mm diameter silicon wafers and high-accuracy flip chip micro-bumping and assembly,” explains Jérôme Baron, Business Unit Manager, Advanced Packaging at Yole Développement.

Graphical Processor Units for gaming and computing and high-performance ASICs and FPGAs are paving the way, with high volumes first expected in 2013. As these drivers increasingly appear as must-haves to serve the ever-increasing need for larger electrical bandwidths imposed by graphical sophistication, cloud computing and many more end uses, leading companies are busy creating the appropriate infrastructure.

The semiconductor supply chain is adapting to these significant in substrate technologies.
Wafer foundries appear to be the most able entities to offer manufacturing solutions on the open market, both technically and in terms of capex investment capabilities. But their ambition extends far beyond the manufacturing of wafers, and into assembly and test services as well.
Concurrently, some of the major IDMs are preparing to exploit their wide capabilities and to enter the open foundry and assembly services side for 2.5D and 3D integration based on such new type of IC package substrate technologies.

Is cost really an issue in the long term?
Significant investments began in 2012, with more than $150M capex expected and driven by both wafer foundries (TSMC, Global Foundries) and OSATs (Amkor, ASE). No one, especially in Taiwan, wants to be left behind in this high-growth story, as it clearly appears to be a central piece of the increasing middle-end business and infrastructure, halfway between the front-end silicon foundries and the back-end assembly & test facilities.

The question now is: “can anyone build a profitable business case to support the growth of 2.5D/3D interposers”? In other words, how long will it take for investing companies to be paid back, while offering affordable prices to their customers? Yole Développement expects the expansion model of this new technology trend to follow a traditional path: first, high-value modules are expected to use the technology to offer unprecedented high performance, followed by higher volume applications.
“The nice thing about 2.5D interposers is that they do not only allow for unprecedented performance: they can do so for a much lower cost than any competing technology. Through a few cost cases in this report, we demonstrate that cost can be a strong adoption driver too. No, silicon and glass interposers are not “additional dead pieces of hardware in the package” - on the contrary, they are among the top five key elements of the semiconductor roadmap for the decade 2010- 2020,” adds Jean-Marc Yannou, Senior Analyst, Advanced Packaging at Yole Développement.
Further Reading

Thursday, September 13, 2012

#MATERIALS: "IBM images molecular bonds"

IBM's research lab in Zurich which won the Nobel Prize for imaging individual atoms has gone a step further by imaging individual bonds between atoms. The breakthrough, made possible by collaboration with the Universidade de Santiago (Compostela, Spain) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS, Toulouse) will enable scientists not only to fine-tune new materials, but will also enable easier characterization of natural compounds: R. Colin Johnson

Individual molecular bonds between fullerene atoms (buckyballs, left) precisely follow the graphical representation of polygons (right) with atoms at vertices connected by bonds shown as lines.
(Source: IBM)

IBM Fellows Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, who shared the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics with German physicist Ernst Ruska, worked in the same lab that demonstrated this new technique for the first time at IBM Research (Zurich, Switzerland). IBM said the research will aid in the development of new organic materials for solar cells, light-emiting diodes (OLEDs) and graphene semiconductors. IBM is also using the technique to help unravel the structure of unknown carbon compounds...
Further Reading

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

#WIRELESS: "VoIP to Popularize 4G LTE Networks"

Mobile operators installing 4G networks are turning to their own voice-over-Internet (VoIP) options to combat competition from Skype, FaceTime and other services that enable WiFi users to bypass traditional telephone networks, according to ABI Research: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what ABI Research says about voice-over-LTE: Mobile operators are increasingly coming under pressure to improve mobile telecom service profit margins as well as bring in new services to counter the competition from Over the Top (OTT) services such as Skype, Viber, Whatsapp, and FaceTime. Mobile operators have had limited options with 3G but 4G LTE should give the mobile operators some new tools.

In 2Q 2012, minutes of use showed the greatest declines compared to 2011 in Asia-Pacific (-7.36%), Africa (-6.3%), Western Europe (-2.32%), and North America (-2.12%). “The only regions with any significant positive growth were the Middle East (8.5%) and Latin America (5.87%),” said Marina Lu, research associate at ABI Research. LTE does not just transform the delivery of broadband data, it also can enrich voice services. SK Telecom, Korea’s largest operator, launched out the world’s first VoLTE services on 8 August, 2012. More recently, LG U+ in South Korea and MetroPCS Communications in the US have also introduced Voice over LTE.

The “Mobile Data Traffic & Usage” market data tracks mobile data, voice, and messaging usage on a quarterly basis as well as provides country and regional level forecasts. These findings are part of ABI Research’s Mobile Traffic Research Service which includes Research Reports, Market Data, Insights, and Competitive Assessments.
Further Reading

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

#WIRELESS: "Smartphones to Top Billion Units by 2016"

Smartphones are fast becoming standard equipment not just for executives and early adopters, but fo the general population, according to DisplaySearch which predicts shipments will pass a half billion units this year: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what DisplaySearch says about smartphones: Smartphone shipments are forecast to reach 567 million in 2012, and nearly double by 2016 as new phones, like this week’s anticipated iPhone 5, continue to enter the market.

According to Hiroshi Hayase, vice president, small/medium displays for NPD DisplaySearch, “Apple’s iPhone 5 will be a key product for the smartphone market in the second half of 2012. Apple shipped more than 140 million phones in 2010 and 2011, so we can expect smartphone shipments to continue flourishing as users upgrade to the new iPhone.”

Despite the excitement surrounding the new iPhone, the volume of new smartphone shipments is lower than expected. NPD DisplaySearch downgraded its 2012 forecast of new purchases from 220-230 million to 177 million. The volume of replacement phones, however, is expected to increase as new smartphones enter the market.

“The timing of mobile phone contracts can also impact the smartphone market,” said Hayase. “More service providers are likely to shorten mobile phone replacement cycles in an effort to boost sales.”

iPhone 5 to Deploy Innovative Technology
In addition to creating excitement in the smartphone market, Apple’s iPhone 5 is expected to implement new component and system technologies. NPD DisplaySearch expects that Apple will use a slightly larger display (4”, up from 3.5”). It will have the same Retina display with 326 ppi, which will result in a wider screen format of 1136 × 640 pixels. One of its most anticipated new technologies is in-cell touch, using a touch sensor integrated into the display panel. This approach can improve the performance of the display, and most importantly, reduce the thickness of the display-sensor combination by as much as a half-millimeter. NPD DisplaySearch expects Apple to utilize the space for a larger battery for less frequent charging.

The new NPD DisplaySearch Smartphones: Displays, Designs and Functionality analyzes smartphone displays and the market. With detailed display coverage, this report provides display makers with insights on how smartphones are driving demand for mobile displays. It also provides mobile phone and phone component makers with valuable insights into how displays are changing smartphones. In addition to high-end smartphones, the market for low-cost smartphones is growing quickly. The report analyzes the volumes and strategies for this market.
Further Reading

Monday, September 10, 2012

#WIRELESS: "Designer Smartphones Ups LG's Image"

LG is upping the ante in smartphones by creating designer models with unique features that it hopes will lure high-end buyers: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what LG says about its upscaling efforts: Our Crystal Reflection process gives the Optimus G’s back cover the ability to display different patterns depending on the viewing angle and lighting. The intricate polarized 3D pattern, which sparkles just under the surface, looks almost jewel-like. Laser cutting adds to the clean finish, as do the metallic highlights.

The Crystal Reflection process, used for the first time on the back of LG’s new Optimus G smartphone, was developed and patented over a period of 15 months.

"Our top priority was to carry over LG’s unique design DNA and heritage to Optimus G," says the phone’s Chief Designer Sera Park. "Optimus G has many of the elements that we incorporated in the past in phones such as Chocolate, Prada and L-Series. For example, the front face of Optimus G is completely black with lines that are nearly invisible when the phone is off, an effect similar to the original LG Prada."

Further Reading

Friday, September 07, 2012

#ALGORITHMS: "Intel’s Parallel Programming Tools for 2013"

Parallel programming is not easy, but these new tools from Intel actually analyze your algorithms and suggest techniques that you may not have thought of, plus they predict the speed-up you’ll gain before you code them. There is still no tool to automatically parallelize code, but Parallel Studio XE and Cluster Studio XE claim to make the job a whole lot easier: R. Colin Johnson

Intel Advisor XE’s suitability analysis gives performance estimates so you only implement approaches that have the highest return on investment (ROI). Here a poorly performing program gets no boost from reducing site-, task-, lock- or contention-overhead, but does get a 6x boost from using 8-cores (bulls-eye at left) including a 5.8x gain from enabling task chunking (center).

Intel has just released its latest parallel programming tools–Parallel Studio XE for shared memory applications and Cluster Studio XE for message passing interface (MPI) and hybrid architectures. The bundles include support for all 3rd Generation Intel Core processors, the 50+ core Xeon Phi coprocessor due out this fall, and Haswell processors due out in 2013...
Further Reading

Thursday, September 06, 2012

#MEMS: "High Performance Gyroscopes Top $1.6 Billion"

The micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) gyroscope market is dominated by the cheap consumer-grade devices used in smartphones, tablets and gaming controllers, but the high-performance market for defense, aerospace and industrial applications is growing to $1.6 billion according to Yole Development: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what Yole says about the high performance gyroscope market: Yole Développement announces the third update of their best- selling IMU markets report titled “Gyroscopes and IMUs for Defense, Aerospace & Industrial”(First release in 2008). This report combines Yole Développement’s knowledge in the high-performance inertial sensor industry along with a deep understanding of the targeted markets.

Yole Développement’s data has been validated by industry experts and augmented by the expertise of Mike Perlmutter, a recognized expert in navigation. By using a new format for the report, Yole Développement’s analysis synthetizes the status of the 2012 inertial sensor industry in a understandable and comprehensive way.

Under the report, “Gyroscopes and IMUs for Defense, Aerospace & Industrial”, Yole Développement proposes to discover :
 A broader scope
Stand-alone gyroscopes and assemblies of 2 or 3-axis gyroscopes are accounted for in the
market numbers.
 Detailed market data
The market is quantified for each gyroscope technology, and each company’s yearly shipments are estimated.
And market metrics are provided for each grade of gyroscopes: each application is positioned according to performance level and corresponding market size
 Deeper understanding of the market and its structure
Applications are described in a more synthetic way in order to provide rapid access to key information (functions, specification, technical solution, geography, trends, and market evolution) and graphical representation of the industrial chain

New entrants use game-changing MEMS IMUs to target emerging markets
Inertial Measurements Units (IMUs) is a large industry traditionally dominated by defense and aerospace applications. 2011 was a stable year for IMUs with a market size of $1.75B. Yole Développement expects more dynamic growth in this market in the near term because of two factors:
 New programs are being launched in Asia, Brazil, and the Middle East for the defense and aerospace sectors.
 Many new applications are fueling the growth of the IMU market, benefiting from significant technology evolutions, such as the continuous improvement of MEMS IMUs.

The IMU market is very concentrated; only a few big companies are dominant. Honeywell, Northrop Grumman and Sagem are the clear leaders, but many newcomers are emerging and are looking to enter the market with low-cost MEMS-based products with different approaches to how things are done.

Growth opportunities abound in the gyroscope market
High-performance inertial sensors and systems is a dynamic market segment, as an ever-increasing number of platforms require stabilization, guidance or navigation functions. The 2011 market for high-performance gyroscopes was estimated at $1.29B, growing at a 4.3% annual rate, and is expected to reach $1.66B in 2017, according to Yole Développement.

“However, this growth will not be global. Indeed, the most attractive opportunities will be concentrated in a select few applications, geographies or technologies”, details Laurent Robin, Activity Leader, Inertial MEMS Devices & Technologies at Yole Développement:
 Defense applications still account for half of the market and most players expect this to remain about the same, as budget cuts made in the U.S. and Europe will be partially compensated by strong demand in Asia.
 Commercial aerospace represents close to 25% of the market. After a period of stability, an increasing number of business jet, helicopter and civil aircraft orders will drive renewed inertial systems growth, starting in 2013.

 The remainder of the market (composed primarily of industrial, naval and offshore applications) will be the most dynamic area. While it will take time to adopt new technologies in the more conservative areas, new industrial applications are appearing with each passing day, benefiting from the increasing availability of low-cost inertial solutions.

Under this analysis, Yole Développement’s analysts describe in detail each application in terms of market size, competitive analysis, technical requirements, technology trends and business drivers.

MEMS and FOG drive the change in the technology mix
Currently, optical gyroscope technologies still dominate the market by a wide margin. In particular, 2

Ring Laser Gyroscopes (RLGs) are largely used in navigation systems and tactical guidance; one example is the Honeywell HG1700 IMU.
“Although RLGs will be robust for high-performance, Yole Développement expects two other technologies to make a large contribution to 2011-2017 growth: Fiber Optic Gyroscopes (FOGs), which are currently very popular for stabilization applications, and should rapidly progress to eventually replace other navigation technologies; and MEMS technology, which will have the largest impact on the industry”, explains Laurent Robin.

New applications are enabled by low-cost MEMS sensors, and when it comes to tactical grade applications, a lot of progress has been achieved in just the past few years in terms of reliability. MEMS are now accepted in high-reliability environments, and are even starting to replace FOGs and other technologies in tactical applications. Of course, other technologies must be considered as well: Hemispheric Resonant Gyroscopes (HRGs) are making progress and are now designed for navigation; Coriolis vibrating piezo gyroscopes are finding increasing success in a large variety of end-markets while new disruptive gyro technologies are still in lab-phase. Finally, DTG and other mechanical gyro technologies are still used in some retrofit systems for 2-axis stabilization systems or for gyrocompass, but this trend points to a decline.

Many factors are shaping tomorrow’s competitive landscape: technology capabilities, products’ maturity level, geography, value chain, and others. As such, competition trends are carefully analyzed in this report. Honeywell is still the global leader by far, with great success in RLG-based systems and successful deployments of MEMS technology. Northrop Grumman, Sagem and other market leaders are next on the list with a variety of technologies and new product lines that should have a big market impact. Newcomers will play a role as well, from startup companies developing disruptive sensors, to MEMS manufacturers, IMU integrators and large end-users willing to pursue internal inertial technologies.

Yole Développement’s report highlights market share analysis by application field and technology, as well as global company shipments and technology breakdown.

Further Reading

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

#CHIPS: "KLA-Tencor aims below 20-nm"

As chip dimensions dip below 28-nanometer semiconductor manufacturers need to update their tools to accommodate multi-patterning, overlay and other errors that were easier to detect at larger dimensions. To keep pace, KLA-Tencor recently release upgraded tools that will take chips down to sub-20 nanometer sizes: R. Colin Johnson

KLA-Tencor's Archer 500 has new illumination options that expand overlay measurement capability to new lithography layers and materials.

Chip equipment vendor KLA-Tencor Corp. rolled out new tools for overlay control and photomask inspection Wednesday (Sept. 5) at the Semicon Taiwan tradeshow in Taipei.

Multi-patterning is growing in use and prominence as semiconductor manufacturing moves below the 28-nm node. But multi-patterning—a lithography technique that enhances feature density on the wafer—also introduces new sources of overlay errors and mask defects.

KLA-Tencor's new Archer 500 Overlay Metrology System is designed for high-volume manufacturing using multi-patterning at sub-28 nanometer nodes. By measuring and characterizing overlay errors, the Archer 500 improves accuracy and measurement speed as well as enabling the use of thin resist stacks and new materials such as opaque hard masks, according to the company.
Further Reading

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

#MEM: "CyberInsects Go Where Microbots Can't"

Cyber-insects have been researched by the Defense Department since the 1940s, but still have not made it out of the lab. North Carolina State University, on the other hand, has recently built a cyber-insect without Defense Department funding that appears to fulfill the dream, albeit the little critters still have not escaped the lab: R. Colin Johnson

Assembled system-on-chip based backpack with Flexible Flat Cable (FFC) connectors added for battery and probe connections. The system is implanted on a cockroach.

Here is what North Carolina State University says about its cyber-insectsw: The present day technology falls short in offering centimeter scale mobile robots that can function effectively under unknown and dynamic environmental conditions. Insects, on the other hand, exhibit an unmatched ability to navigate through a wide variety of environments and overcome perturbations by successfully maintaining control and stability. In this study, we use neural stimulation systems to wirelessly navigate cockroaches to follow lines to enable terrestrial insect biobots. We also propose a system-on-chip based ZigBee enabled wireless neurostimulation backpack system with on- board tissue-electrode bioelectrical coupling verification. Such a capability ensures an electrochemically safe stimulation and avoids irreversible damage to the interface which is often misinterpreted as habituation of the insect to the applied stimulation...
Further Reading

Monday, September 03, 2012

#MARKETS: "Wintel Wanes as Microsoft/Intel Alliance Frays"

Wintel once was the epitome of personal computing, but as smartphones and tablets begin to dominate the scene, the Intel/Microsoft alliance is fraying, according to IHS: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what IHS says about Wintel: After a generation of setting the pace and calling the shots in the computer market, the Microsoft Corp./Intel Corp. cartel known as Wintel now finds itself playing catch-up in the new era of smartphones and media tablets, spurring a widening rift in the historic alliance.

Despite a flurry of activities to adjust to the changed realities of the technology industry, Wintel is expected to suffer a declining share of the “new” computer market, a category consisting not just of PCs but also of the much faster-growing smartphone and media tablet segments. Microsoft’s share of the operating system market for the three products combined is expected to slip to 33 percent in 2016, down from 44 percent in 2011, according to an IHS iSuppli DRAM Dynamics Report from information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS).

Meanwhile, Intel’s share of microprocessors will fall to 29 percent, down from 41 percent. At the same time, the total size of the market will double from 2011 to 2016, almost entirely due to the strong growth of the smartphone and media tablet segments, as presented in the table attached.

“Microsoft and Intel once marched shoulder to shoulder, dominating the PC market with their closely tied operating system and microprocessor technologies,” said Craig Stice, senior principal analyst compute platforms at IHS. “In the PC segment, Wintel extracted the majority of the profits, controlled every move and compelled all other players to either comply or risk being forced out of the game. While still an overwhelming influence in their respective markets, the tables have turned for Microsoft and Intel. With smartphones and tablets performing tasks previously exclusive to PCs, the computer market has expanded to include other platforms. As a result, Wintel finds itself in the unfamiliar position of dancing to someone else’s tune, following standards that were set by other companies for form factors, user interfaces and even pricing. This means Microsoft and Intel must think outside the box—even if it means adopting strategies that work against each other’s interests.”

Wintel outsmarted in smartphones
IHS predicts 655 million smartphones will ship worldwide in 2012, nearly triple the total for mobile PCs.
From a processor perspective, the ARM architecture long has been the leader in the smartphone market. Intel, although dominant in the PC world, has yet to make much headway in this segment.
IHS estimates Intel has been able to capture only 6 percent to 8 percent of market share in the mobile handset processor revenue business—with its small success in this area mostly due to the company’s acquisition of the wireless business of Germany’s Infineon Technologies.

In the smartphone operating system segment, Android and iOS lead the pack. Microsoft’s Windows Mobile has fared even worse than Intel, with less than 2 percent share in 2011, although the company is expected to make advances in the market in the coming years.

Headache tablets for Wintel
Media tablets sit in the sweet spot between the smartphone and the notebook PC. Similar to that of the smartphone, the tablet growth rate is very strong throughout the forecast period. By 2016, IHS projects that media tablet shipments will surge to 311 million units, about equal to the total mobile PC market at 322 million. Tablets have given consumers a new choice for their computing needs and now are leaking into the corporate space due to their ultra-portability.

Compared to the Intel options, ARM-based processors have generally ruled the media tablet market because of their low power and price. New players like NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments are also dominating the processor market, leaving out Intel.

Equally, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have controlled the operating systems for tablets, excluding Microsoft from the party.

Win vs. tel
These developments represent a huge challenge for the two technology giants accustomed to industry hegemony. However, neither is sitting still, as the computer industry has witnessed more innovation in the last nine months than it has in two decades. Significantly, many of these innovations enlarge the schism that is forming between the two companies.

If you can’t beat ‘em…
Intel’s response has been to go back to its bread and butter, the notebook, by making a complete overhaul of the system to make it ultrathin, ultraportable, and ultramobile. The ultrabook represents Intel’s bid to reignite the PC market and draw consumer dollars away from the other computing gadgets.
However, Intel is also making moves to compete directly in the media tablet market. The company’s solution is to promote its Atom microprocessor directly to makers of Android operating system-based media tablets.
For Intel, this represents a fundamental departure from the Microsoft-centric approach to the PC market and toward an operating-system-agnostic philosophy.

Opening Windows
Microsoft’s response is the Windows 8 operating system. The company has conducted a complete restructuring of its operating system, adding in the new “Metro App” tile style, quick reboot, and touch-screen interface, just to name a few changes. All of these are features similar to what would be included in a smartphone or tablet.

Just as with Intel, Microsoft’s response involves a step away from its traditional partner.
One version of Windows 8, Windows RT, runs on ARM processor-based platforms. This is Microsoft’s attempt to disconnect from Intel x86 microprocessor-based systems to become platform agnostic.

The new computer market
“Wintel now is playing in a new computer market that is a composite of the PC, smartphone and media tablet segments,” Stice said. “While this may be a non-traditional way of looking at the PC market, tradition has gone out the window. The smartphone influenced the tablet, the tablet influenced the PC, the PC wants to become more like a tablet and the tablet more like a PC. It’s a vicious circle in which both Intel and Microsoft must take part, but they are losing control of the game and how it’s played. The Wintel camp is not accustomed to following, but with both companies being excluded of the two fastest-growing markets, they are in catch-up mode.”

While this may be hard news for Wintel, the beneficiary is the consumer.
“Competition is now pushing Wintel to compete and innovate to a much greater degree than in the past,” Stice said.
Further Reading