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The Move Away From x86 To ARM Processors On The Desktop To Start Soon - Survey

It looks like there's a subtle but relentless push to get ARM CPUs into desktop PCs. Morgan Stanley recently surveyed 30 PC makers (names not revealed) and discovered that 40% of them are interested in trying out ARM-based PCs within the next two years. As we reported previously that the Wintel alliance appears to be crumbling, this finding appears to add weight to that assertion. Of course, there's a huge mountain to climb before ARM processors can compete head to head with high performance x86, as explained in our article, not least because Microsoft won't begin supporting ARM until Windows 8 is released late next year and the fact that the vast majority of existing software won't run on ARM. A real catch-22 if ever there was one. Just as crucially, the many high performance enhancements and interface standards that currently go into making a modern x86 chip fly will also have to go into an ARM - and developing that isn't going to be cheap, although it may not take that long, since these are tried and trusted technologies that need to be applied. Still, the interest is there and Morgan Stanley expect that 10% (39 million) PCs, excluding tablets, will have an ARM processor at their heart. If true, it will make for interesting times.

Raspberry Pi: the Upcoming $25 1080p-Capable ARM-Based Hobby Computer

Yes, you heard that right, when completed, the Raspberry Pi foundation will be selling a credit card sized computer running Linux that can plug into your television and play H.264 1080p30 videos. Raspberry Pi is the somewhat cheekily-named UK registered charity which has been set up to design and build a very low cost computer that is targeted for use in computer science lessons in schools, to "put the fun back into learning computing." Why, was it ever not fun?! However, such a simple and cheap general purpose gadget has the potential for many other uses than the classroom, as the world is full of inventive tech-minded people that can tinker with something like this and build innovative projects with them, perhaps by using several of these together.

The product will come in two configurations, a $25 Model A with 128 MB SDRAM & $35 Model B with 256 MB SDRAM and both will come with the same 700 MHz Broadcom BCM2835 media processor featuring an ARM11 (ARM1176JZF-S) core, Broadcom GPU core, DSP core and support for Package-on-Package (PoP) RAM. We expect that in this day and age, most people will go for the 256 MB model, which is still a very small amount of RAM. For those that want to get the most out if this device, the website - www.raspberrypi.org - has a forum and a wiki with tons of technical details on the device, including benchmarks and links to many other news stories & blogs about the product. There's even a shop, although at the moment, it's only selling keyboard stickers of the foundation's logo.

FXI Puts A Powerful Cloud Client in Your Pocket with Cotton Candy

Norwegian company FXI aims to grab some attention with its latest creation, the Cotton Candy. Simply put, this is a thumb drive-sized device that either plugs into a PC/notebook using USB, or a TV/display using HDMI, and works as a cloud-client computer. In its tiny form of 8 x 2.5 cm (L x W), this cloud-client packs an ARM Cortex-A9 1.20 GHz dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, ARM Mali-400MP quad-core GPU, a micro-SDHC card reader, and connectivity that includes Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, WiFi b/g/n, and USB; stuff high-end smartphones are made of.

You can simply plug this to your HDTV, connect wireless keyboard and mouse that support Bluetooth or WiFi, and end up with a cloud-ready desktop powered by either Android or Ubuntu. You can even connect your Android smartphone to it and use its touchscreen as an input device. With your more powerful desktop or notebook, you can simply plug Cotton Candy to a USB port and boot from it (like you'd boot from a flash drive). The OS loads up, and you have your cloud desktop ready to go. Besides its compact form, Cotton Candy weighs as little as 21 grams. It is expected to be priced under US $200.

Khronos Releases OpenCL 1.2 Specification

The Khronos Group today announced the ratification and public release of the OpenCL 1.2 specification, the latest update to the open, royalty-free standard for cross-platform, parallel programming of modern processors. Released eighteen months after OpenCL 1.1, this new version provides enhanced performance and functionality for parallel programming in a backwards compatible specification that is the result of cooperation by over thirty industry-leading companies. Khronos has updated and expanded its comprehensive OpenCL conformance test suite to ensure that implementations of the new specification provide a complete and reliable platform for cross-platform application development. The OpenCL 1.2 specifications, online reference pages and reference cards are available here.

"The OpenCL working group is listening carefully to feedback from the developer and middleware community to provide significant and timely functionality for heterogeneous computing in this cross vendor open standard," said Neil Trevett, chair of the OpenCL working group, president of the Khronos Group and vice president of mobile content at NVIDIA. "The OpenCL working group is also broadening its membership and has growing representation from the mobile and embedded industries and is enabling innovative devices such as FPGAs to be driven through OpenCL."

Futuremark Announces 3DMark for Windows 8 Devices

Futuremark, the world leader in performance benchmarking software, today announced development of a new version of 3DMark, the company's flagship benchmark for gamers. 3DMark for Windows 8 (working title) is designed for gaming performance measurement and comparison across all Windows 8 devices from tablets and notebooks to high-end desktop gaming systems. The announcement was accompanied by an atmospheric concept image for the new benchmark showing an elemental rock warrior brandishing two blazing swords.

Jukka Mäkinen, CEO of Futuremark said, "With Windows 8 gamers will be able to enjoy their games on a wide range of devices from lightweight tablets to heavy-duty desktop rigs. Faced with so much choice it will be hard to work out which devices offer the best value for money. Fortunately 3DMark for Windows 8 will be our most wide-reaching 3DMark ever, able to accurately measure and compare gaming performance across all devices and graphical feature sets available with Windows 8."

OCZ Octane: Some Prices Confirmed

Over the weekend, OCZ's newest consumer SSD line, Octane, quietly crept up shelves. It was released in late October. Octane is a significant product for OCZ despite having successful SandForce-driven lines such as Vertex 3 and Agility 3, because it's the first fruition of its acquisition of Indilinx, a company behind SSD controllers. Octane is available in a wider range of capacities than the other SATA 6 Gb/s 2.5" SSDs in OCZ's stable: 128, 256, 512 GB and 1 TB. It does away with targeting the sub $150 market using 80 GB or 64 GB variants, and starts right with 128 GB, priced at $199.99 (an increasingly popular price-point for those building $1500-ish gaming PCs), the 256 GB model goes for $369.99 (a decent price compared to 240 GB SandForce and Marvell based SSDs), 512 GB for $879.99, and we're yet to get pricing on the 1 TB model, it will be released to the market a little later.

Indilinx' latest SSD controller, with the most up-to-date feature-set, the Indilinx Everest, is at the heart of these drives. This is what makes the OCZ Octane a litmus test for OCZ's move to acquire Indilinx at a time when there's no dearth for high-performance SSD controllers such as the SF-228x. Indilinx Everest features a dual-core ARM ASIC, with up to 512 MB of cache (notice there's no overprovisioning by default), advertised speeds of up to 560 MB/s (read), up to 400 MB/s (writes), lowest latencies in the industry, 8 NAND flash channels with 16-way interleaving, and proprietary NDurance Technology that increases NAND life up to 2X of the rated P/E cycles, apart from industry standards such as SMART, NCQ, and TRIM.

SteelSeries Shows off New Diablo III and WoW Themed Wares at Beep 2011

SteelSeries were showing off their brand new mouse, dubbed Sensei at this year's Beep event in Denmark. The mouse is capable of 11,000 CPI and has an on board ARM processor that handles all the interpretation and communication with the PC. According to SteelSeries the on-board processor will cut the delay between tracking to movement on screen by as much as 2 ms. The button mechanisms and design is very similar to that of the SteelSeries Xai. The Sensei will retail for $89.99 which seems reasonable considering the design.

The new WoW MMO mouse also made it to the show and proved that you can fit eleven buttons to a mouse without it looking cluttered. This mouse is very small and features a heavily arched palm rest. Diablo III is nearing release and so are the Diablo III-themed mouse and headset from SteelSeries. The mouse is based upon the Xai but features, but with better gold plated key mechanisms which have over twice the life span. The Diablo III mouse will sell for $69.99 which is around the same as the Xai. The Diablo III headset is based on the more familiar Siberia platform, but with a more customized body, band, and cushion.

HP Shapes the Future of Extreme Low-energy Server Technology

HP today announced a new industry program comprising a new server development platform, customer discovery lab and partner ecosystem to help customers significantly reduce complexity, energy use and costs.

HP's new program, dubbed Project Moonshot, combines with HP Converged Infrastructure technology to allow the sharing of resources - including storage, networking, management, power and cooling - across thousands of servers. It paves the way to the future of low-energy computing for emerging web, cloud and massive scale environments.

Windows 8 Secure Boot: Designed to Lock Out Linux?

Proposed changes to the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware specifications would mean PCs would only boot from a digitally signed image derived from a keychain rooted in keys built into the PC. Microsoft is pushing hard to make this mandatory, so that users cannot override it. This feature would have the handy benefit of excluding alternative operating systems such as Linux and FreeBSD. This is according to Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University and other industry insiders. Also, it's not at all clear that it actually secures against viruses and other malware and appears to be solely designed to appease corporate self interests for unbreakable Digital Restrictions Management (DRM).

UEFI supercedes the 30 year old veteran BIOS found in most PCs today, which is very inefficient and slow for modern PCs, carrying a lot of old, legacy compatibility baggage that's just not needed in today's PC. UEFI, a key component of Windows 8, is designed to work on several CPU architectures, such as ARM and is streamlined and efficient. It also includes a much improved graphical interface that replaces the keyboard-driven menu system of the BIOS.

SteelSeries Introduces Sensei, The Smartest, Most Customizeable Gaming Mouse

Leading the buzz at this year's GamesCom, SteelSeries, the leading manufacturer of premium-quality peripherals, today introduced the most customizable mouse to ever hit the competitive gaming industry - the SteelSeries Sensei. Its 32 bit ARM processor allows for the advanced SteelSeries ExactTech calculations to be done directly on the mouse and allows for easy configurations via its LCD screen. Perfected with the world's most successful, professional gaming teams, the Sensei has an ambidextrous design with a metal, non-slip grip coating and three areas of illumination with 16.8 million color options. Debuting alongside the mouse is the new SteelSeries Engine software suite which allows for multiple layers of customization and extended programmability.

"We truly believe in building peripherals that sets the expected standards for competitive gamers. The intent is to make them faster, more accurate and allow them to play longer - essentially, peripherals that gives users the freedom to play how and where they want, and that will help them win," said Bruce Hawver, SteelSeries CEO. "The Sensei is really the culmination of thousands of hours of research and testing with competitive players that combines a distinctive aesthetic design with the access to superior functionality for all levels of players. Users will have the luxury of choosing a quick configuration directly on the Sensei's LCD screen or dive into the multiple layers of advanced macros and settings through the new SteelSeries Engine software."

OCZ Technology Unveils Indilinx Everest Series Solid State Drive Controller

OCZ Technology Group, Inc., a leading provider of high-performance solid-state drives (SSDs) for computing devices and systems, today unveiled the Indilinx Everest SATA 3.0 SSD platform. The Everest platform features support of 6Gbps interface speeds, high transactional performance that is optimized for compressed files, and maximum capacities up to 1TB.

"The new Indilinx Everest platform is a complete customizable solution that delivers superior storage performance, features, and capabilities designed to exceed the needs of the most demanding SSD applications," said Bumsoo Kim, President of Indilinx. "Combining a 6Gbps SATA Revision 3.0 host interface, a dual-core CPU, and support for the latest, most advanced NAND Flash memory technology available, Everest offers SSD manufacturers unparallel flexibility in optimizing their designs for both performance and cost."

Sony Announces PlayStation Vita, Revolutionary Portable Entertainment Device

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCE) announced PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) (PCH-1000 series) as the official platform name for the next generation portable entertainment system at E3 2011. With an RRP of €249 for the Wireless model and €299 for the Wireless/3G version, PS Vita will launch in the global market starting at the end of 2011.

"Vita", which means "Life" in Latin, was chosen as the most appropriate name for the next generation portable entertainment system as it enables a revolutionary combination of rich gaming and social connectivity within a real world context as SCE aims to transform every aspect of a user's daily life into an entertainment experience and an opportunity to play.

Thought Leaders from ARM and Microsoft to be Among Keynote Speakers at AFDS

AMD today announced a distinguished line-up of keynote speakers as well as technical session topics for the inaugural AMD Fusion Developer Summit (AFDS), which will be held June 13-16, 2011 at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Washington.

Industry keynote presentations will be delivered by esteemed industry experts from AMD, ARM and Microsoft. In his keynote "Heterogeneous Parallelism at Microsoft" Herb Sutter, Microsoft principal architect of Native Languages, will showcase upcoming innovations to bring access to increasingly heterogeneous compute resources directly into the world's most popular native languages.

HARMAN Debuts AKG GHS-1 Headset Offering Realistic, Dynamic Sound for Ultimate Gaming

HARMAN International Industries, Incorporated (NYSE:HAR), today announced the launch of the new AKG GHS-1 portable gaming headset. Grenade explosions and rumbling jet engines will seem as if they are in your very own room when you have the brand-new portable gaming headset on your ears. Winner of the coveted Red Dot award for outstanding product design, the new GHS-1 headset brings PC gaming to a whole new level of realism, excitement, portability and comfort.

"When you're in an all-immersive entertainment experience such as gaming, we understand how important high-quality, realistic sound plays in the overall experience," said David Slump, president, HARMAN Consumer Division. "The new GHS-1 headset is designed specifically for the gamer and features our innovative audio engineering built into a distinctive, long-lasting and intuitive design for the ideal gaming experience."

Microsoft Expediting Windows 8 Tablet Launch to January 2012

Tablet PCs came and went, but "tablets" as a category began with the Apple iPad. Merely weeks after its launch, the rattled PC OEM industry announced plans for their tablets, some being ARM-based and driven by Google's touch-phone optimized Android OS, and some using x86 processors and Windows 7. Unfortunately, Windows 7 based tablets aren't cutting it in the market, and the problem is with the user-interface (UI) itself. While Windows 7 has a touchscreen/pen software framework, its UI is more PC-like. Menu items, buttons with applications, are not very optimized for a comfortable touch-only input device.

Hence, Microsoft seems to be expediting the release of Windows 8 for Tablets, and the software giant plans to do that as early as by CES 2012. Only the tablet version of Windows 8 will be released then, not the PC version.

QNAP Announces That All Turbo NAS Series Now Work with Hitachi and Seagate 3TB HDDs

QNAP Systems, Inc., a leading manufacturer of world class NAS servers, NVR Video Surveillance Systems, and Network-based Media Players today announced Hitachi (Deskstar7K3000 HDS723030ALA640) and Seagate (Barracuda XT ST33000651AS) 3TB hard drives are fully supported by the entire lineup of Intel-based and ARM-based Turbo NAS series.

QNAP users can now update the system firmware of Turbo NAS to V3.4.0 or later version and use these high capacity hard drives to enjoy a whopping of 24TB storage (8-bay desktop or rack-mounted models) for high-speed and efficient backup and storage of documents, multimedia files, and more.

NVIDIA Reports Financial Results for Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2011

NVIDIA today reported revenue of $886.4 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011 ended Jan. 30, 2011, up 5.0 percent from the prior quarter and down 9.8 percent from $982.5 million from the same period a year earlier.

On a GAAP basis, the company recorded net income of $171.7 million, or $0.29 per diluted share, compared with $84.9 million, or $0.15 per diluted share, in the previous quarter and GAAP net income of $131.1 million, or $0.23 per diluted share, in the same period a year earlier. GAAP gross margin was a record 48.1 percent compared with 46.5 percent in the previous quarter and 44.7 percent in the same period a year earlier.

TSMC Reiterates 28 nm Readiness by Q4 2011

TSMC reiterated that it will be ready with a 28 nanometer manufacturing process by Q4 2011. The semiconductor company handles manufacturing of graphics processors for both AMD and NVIDIA. After the current 40 nm process, 32 nm, the next milestone process, was canceled for GPU makers to leap to 28 nm, this caused the foundry transition to the next process to take longer than usual. The current 40 nm process already seems to be saturated by GPUs with over 3 billion transistors, which are barely able to maintain acceptable thermal specs without using some sort of power-load throttling mechanism.

TSMC Chairman and CEO, Morris Chang, confirmed that tape-outs will be starting as early as in Q3, and production of 28 nm chips will start in Q4. Chang expects that up to 3% of TSMC's revenues will be made from 28 nm chips by the end of the year. "We plan to have around 2% or 3% of our total revenue in the fourth quarter [to] be 28nm. The tape-outs of the 28-nanaometer will start to ramp in the second half, starting in the third quarter and then more in the fourth quarter. But the real momentum [for 28nm], we believe, will be next year," Chang said. Apart from GPUs, the 28 nm process will also benefit ARM processors, with multi-core ARM chips clocked at 3 GHz being on cards. The 28 nm bulk process will also dish out AMD's next generation accelerated processing units (APUs).

New Intel Solid-State Drive 310 Series Offers Full SSD Performance in 1/8th the Size

Intel Corporation announced today the Intel Solid-State Drive (Intel SSD) 310 Series, an ultra-small solid-state drive (SSD) that delivers Intel X25-class award-winning SSD performance, but in one-eighth the size. Measuring 51mm-by-30mm and only 5mm thick, the Intel SSD 310 is a fast, ultra-compact SSD that brings flexibility, ruggedness and scalability to innovative form factors and devices. It can enable highly responsive dual-drive notebooks, innovative single-drive tablets and low-power, rugged embedded industrial or military applications. When paired with a high-capacity hard disk drive (HDD) in a dual-drive system, the Intel SSD 310 can improve overall PC system performance by up to 60 percent.

A solid-state drive uses no moving parts, and thus is more durable and reliable than a mechanical HDD, while using less power and providing better system responsiveness. The Intel SSD 310 Series contains 34 nanometer (nm) Intel NAND flash memory and is available in an m-SATA form factor in 40 gigabyte (GB) and 80GB capacities.

Samsung Unveils New Wireless USB Chipset, Provides Higher Speeds, at Lower Power Draw

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., a worldwide leader in advanced semiconductor technology solutions, today introduced its latest wireless universal serial bus (USB) solution, developed using Ultra Wide Band (UWB) technology. Offered in a two-chip set, Samsung's newest S3C2680/ S5M8311 WUSB solution enables high definition content to be wirelessly transmitted from a mobile host device to a tethered device for viewing. Initial applications are high-resolution cameras, camcorders, TVs and PCs with prospects for adoption in other applications including tablet PCs, printers, beam projectors, portable HDDs, Blu-ray players, and mobile handsets.

"The ability to handle wireless high-speed data transmission while consuming less power is a key requirement for many consumer electronic devices," said Yiwan Wong, vice president, System LSI marketing, Samsung Electronics. "Due to power/performance issues, previous generations of WUSB products were unable to meet the consumers' expectations. Samsung's new WUSB chipset delivers up to 480Mbps (Megabit per second) data transmission rate, at an average power consumption of less than 300mW. This level of power efficiency greatly increases the attractiveness of WUSB connectivity in consumer electronic and mobile applications.

Intel to Acquire Infineon's Wireless Solutions Business

Infineon Technologies AG and Intel Corporation have entered into a definitive agreement to transfer Infineon's Wireless Solutions (WLS) business to Intel in a cash transaction valued at approximately $1.4 billion.

WLS, a leading provider of cellular platforms to top tier global phone makers, will operate as a standalone business serving its existing customers. WLS will also contribute to Intel's strategy to make connected computing ubiquitous from smartphones to laptops to embedded computing.

"The global demand for wireless solutions continues to grow at an extraordinary rate," said Paul Otellini, Intel president and CEO. "The acquisition of Infineon's WLS business strengthens the second pillar of our computing strategy -- Internet connectivity -- and enables us to offer a portfolio of products that covers the full range of wireless options from Wi-Fi and 3G to WiMAX and LTE. As more devices compute and connect to the Internet, we are committed to positioning Intel to take advantage of the growth potential in every computing segment, from laptops to handhelds and beyond."

ARM and TSMC Sign Long-Term Strategic Agreement

ARM and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Ltd. (TWSE: 2330, NYSE: TSM) today jointly announced a long-term agreement that provides TSMC with access to a broad range of ARM processors and enables the development of ARM physical IP across TSMC technology nodes. This agreement supports the companies' mutual customers to achieve optimized Systems-On-Chip (SoC) based on ARM processors and covers a wide range of process nodes extending down to 20nm.

The agreement provides TSMC access to optimize the implementation of ARM processors on TSMC process technologies, including ARM Cortex processor family and CoreLink interconnect fabric for AMBA protocols. It also establishes a long-term relationship with ARM for the development of physical IP, including memory products and standard cell libraries targeting the most advanced TSMC 28nm and 20nm processes.

LSI and Seagate Co-develop Technology for Next-Generation High-Capacity HDDs

LSI Corporation and Seagate announced the delivery of a complex integrated read channel technology for Seagate's latest hard disk drive (HDD) products. Together, the companies have enabled the industry's first hard disk drives with low-density parity check (LDPC) read channel in 65nm process system-on-chip (SoC) technology.

The co-development effort combines Seagate LDPC digital back-end read channel and hard drive controller IP with LSITM analog front-end read channel (RC) and physical layer (PHY) technology. The combined LDPC read channel has been incorporated into high-capacity SoC solutions that enable new levels of performance and storage capacity for leading-edge Seagate HDDs.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Launches Global Partner Ecosystem to Drive Industry Collaboration

At next week's Design Automation Conference (DAC), GLOBALFOUNDRIES will unveil a new platform to spur innovation in semiconductor manufacturing and help deliver unparalleled service to chip designers. Called GLOBALSOLUTIONS, the new ecosystem combines the company's internal resources with a broad spectrum of partners to efficiently enable the fastest time-to-volume for foundry customers.

"As chip design grows in complexity and manufacturing partnerships become increasingly critical, foundry customer enablement needs to extend beyond process design kits and reference flows to include the full spectrum of the semiconductor value chain," said Jim Kupec, senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. "To this end, GLOBALSOLUTIONS includes ecosystem partners in all aspects of design enablement, turnkey services, design for manufacturability, optical proximity correction and mask operations, and will further expand our capabilities in advanced assembly solutions. This will allow our customers to unlock their innovation potential and differentiate at all levels of the design process, from the silicon and SoC level all the way up to the full system."

GLOBALFOUNDRIES and ARM Define the Standard for Mobile Technology Platform Innovation

At the 2010 Mobile World Congress, GLOBALFOUNDRIES and ARM today unveiled new details on their leading-edge System-on-Chip (SoC) platform technology for powering the next generation of wireless products and applications. The new chip manufacturing platform is projected to enable a 40 percent increase in computing performance, a 30 percent decrease in power consumption, and a 100 percent increase in standby battery life. The new platform includes collaboration on two GLOBALFOUNDRIES process variants: 28nm super low power (SLP) for mobile and consumer applications and 28nm high performance (HP) for applications requiring maximum performance.

"The success of the next generation of mobile products will be increasingly dependent on their ability to deliver PC-class performance, a highly integrated rich media experience and longer battery life," said GLOBALFOUNDRIES chief operating officer Chia Song Hwee. "These demands are going to require a strong technology foundation and close collaboration between industry leaders to enable an increasing number of design companies to unlock this innovation. We are working closely with ARM to optimize the physical IP and implementation of the Cortex-A9 processor with our proven manufacturing experience in high-volume, advanced technology products, to deliver a fully integrated platform for leading-edge wireless products and applications."
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