Thursday, May 06, 2010

Intel hots up the mobile computing platform

It looks like hand helds are the way forward. with intel making a big push, its time people sat up and took notice. With the intels atom processor, first made for netbooks, then moved to the ULCC and now finally to the handheld. Intel is taking ARM and TI head on.


Intel has begun a greater push into the mobile device market with new versions of its Atom processor that cut energy consumption sufficiently to fit inside a smartphone or web tablet, while offering greater performance than ARM-based chips, according to the firm.

Announced today, the Intel Atom Z6xx series forms part of Intel's Moorestown platform, and offers a claimed 50-fold reduction in power consumption compared with the previous generation of Atom chips.

Intel said that this is low enough for them to power a mobile handset and offer a battery life comparable to current smartphones.

However, the chipmaker also claimed that its new platform offers a greater level of performance than ARM-based designs for running applications, browsing the web, and video and graphics. Intel also touted compatibility with its other x86 chips as a major advantage for software developers.

Rod O'Shea, director of Intel's embedded group for EMEA, commented that smartphones are just "computers that happen to make phone calls", and that the technology shown today "hits the sweet spot for this environment".

Devices based on the platform are set to ship in the second half of 2010, according to Intel, but the firm declined to name any vendor aiming to market an Atom-based smartphone within this timeframe. However, Intel did demonstrate to the press a reference handset design running Moblin, alongside a larger 7in tablet system from OpenPeak.

The phone, bearing an Aavamobile badge, was shown running the Quake 3 game in one demonstration, and multi-tasking with a movie playing alongside a running 3D benchmark, and a live video feed open in adjacent windows in another. Previously codenamed Lincroft, the Atom Z6xx series divides into separate chips aimed at smartphones and tablets. The smartphone chips have clock speeds up to 1.5GHz and use low-power LPDDR memory, while those targeting tablet dev ices run at up to 1.9GHz and support standard DDR2.

Both have built-in PowerVR 3D graphics acceleration, plus hardware acceleration for video encoding and decoding. In fact, Intel claimed that Moorestown is the only smartphone platform capable of handling high-definition 1080p video.

Design features helping to save power include new ultra-low power idle states, Operating System Power Management (OSPM), and a technology called Intel Burst Performance, which is similar to the Turbo mode on Intel's Core chips.

OSPM uses an operating system-level utility to monitor which functional blocks of the processor are not being used, and powers these off completely.

Meanwhile, power consumption while idle is reduced to about 100 microwatts in the new SOi3 power state. More importantly, the Atom can come out of this in just a few milliseconds, according to Intel, so that it can 'wake up' to deal with an incoming call, for example.

Intel Burst Performance bumps up the performance of the chip so that it spends as little time as possible in maximum power mode, according to Tikky Thakkar, Intel Fellow at the firm's Ultra Mobility Group.

"It allows us to complete work very quickly and then go back to idle mode," he said, adding that it is like "having your cake and eating it. You can have high performance and reduce overall energy."

A companion chip, the MP20 Platform Controller Hub, lumps together numerous miscellaneous functions, dubbed 'jellybeans' by Intel, such as the system controller, camera support, audio engine and hardware cryptography acceleration. Taken together, these features mean that an Atom-based handset can have a battery life of over 10 days while idle, or four to five hours while showing video or browsing the web, according to Intel.

At the same time, the Atom processor outperforms existing phone chips, and Intel quoted SpecInt 2000 benchmarks that rate it between 1.5 to three times faster than ARM-based chips such as the Cortex A9 and A8 and Qualcomm's Scorpion processor.

Intel is thus looking to take some of ARM's share in the smartphone market, and experts believe that it does have an opportunity to muscle in at the high end. There's certainly an opportunity for Intel if it can offer better performance," said Ovum principal analyst Adam Leach.

However, Leach suggested that Intel "faces an uphill battle" because ARM has been in this market for so long, and its chips are optimised to maximise performance and power efficiency.

"Intel claims huge strides here, but we will have to see products in the market before we can judge," he said.

Meanwhile, Tim Coulling of research firm Canalys said that Intel's platform could benefit from the advantage of familiarity for developers. "What Intel always says is that it brings developers to the game, and enables developers familiar with the x86 architecture to bring their expertise to new platforms," he said.

Another issue is that many of the most common mobile platforms are coded for the ARM platform, while Intel can count only on Google's Android and its own Linux-based Moblin/Meego platform so far. But Coulling said that most users "don't really know or care what is on their phone", and speculated that Intel might try to take advantage of its 'Intel Inside' marketing that has proved a success with PCs and laptops.

"It will be interesting to see if they try and transfer that to other devices," he said.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

of cracks and surround!

Now a days, I have managed to make my life fairly regular when it comes to going to the Gym. I wake up, drop my wife off, and try and clock atleast an hour each day. Yes, health has taken a priority, and it is in my best interest to make sure I am able to allocate time to do this. So, the days that i do visit the gym, something or the other should happen, else woulnt it make life boring? it will then become a scene from Joe vs the volcano, where you live your life as a mindless drone, walking, talking and doing the exact same thing on the exact same moment, Every day.

The last serious entertainment at the gym happened with mr. testosterone and the russian water ballet movement in front of the mirror. Which is interesting to note, that I have not seen him for a while now. Yes, I am rather regular to make the statement with a sense of authority, yup, have not seen him for a while. I think he ran out of white socks that came upto his shorts.

Well, like with every gym, the one i frequent has mirrors on all walls, now I thought this was simply because of the fact that everyone who visits the gym, would like to admire themselves to no effect. But, the truth is far from that. Apparently, when you see yourself doing exercise, its like watching someone else do it, so you end up keeping yourself company, what a sad world we have come to, when the only person in a room full of people to keep you company is yourself. Wow!

What is the flypside of having mirrors all over? Whatever happens, gets reflected all around you - thus the surround concept. Its like a page out of the Enter the Dragon movie, in the house of mirrors, but a lot more disturbing. Esp when people bend over and their pants dont cover.. its terrible and disturbing. Might be classified as one of those `scaring for life` moments! :)

I wonder if someone will ever create a rule for the gym, along with shoes and clean socks, one should ensure your pants cover that crack! Else, some people will be worried that evertime someone in fron bends down, you get a halfmoon! :)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

ESMA for IT?

Today's paper carried an article -

About the AP government bringing the IT sector under the purview of ESMA or Essential Services Maintenance Act - now this is rather scary.

As one manager from a company has been quoted as saying:

”[W]hat this means for employees is that they cannot resort to strikes. Also, they cannot cite bandhs or a curfew as an excuse not to report to work. Moreover, companies which depend heavily on outside transport providers had to bear the brunt as the transport services were hit during a bandh or a curfew.”

ESMA needs to be invoked in the event that larger establishments like truckers unions, ATC etc which, if they go on strike will bring hardship to the common man, however, with the IT sector coming into this, it is both pointless and another step towards draconian measures that are being taken to ensure that the golden goose is squeezed till the last egg drops. When has it been in the past where the IT sector has called a `strike` ? there are strict rules in anyones offer letters about forming or even joining unions, and this is to prevent the exact same thing from happening. There are a lot of injustices being meted out to employees, yes, there are cushy jobs, high salaries but the work timings are crazy and equality is non existent.

I dont think its correct to bring the IT Sector under the purview of ESMA. Period! how is it that if a bandh is called, the government can invoke ESMA for the IT Sector? that means the government must then ensure that no bandh is called, else it will make it impossible for them to work. I think its crazy involving the IT sector under ESMA.

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