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Embedded Graphics: Imagination Tech Supplies More GPU IP than all Others Combined

Jon Peddie Research (JPR), the industry's research and consulting firm for graphics and multimedia, announced estimated mobile devices graphics chip shipments for 2011. Mobile devices include smartphones, tablets, cameras, vehicles, and game consoles.

The market for smart mobile devices is soaring. Mobile devices are not necessarily replacing the PC, but they are outselling PCs. Increasingly mobile devices have a graphics processor and those processors are integrated in the device's system on a chip (SoC) application processor.

Windows 8 Launches in October, x86 and ARM Simultaneously

We know from a slightly older article, that the first variants of Windows will be released to market some time in Q4-2012. A new report by Bloomberg pin-points that to October, exactly 3 years after the market-launch of Windows 7. Further, Microsoft should launch Windows 8 for both x86 and ARM machine architectures around the same time, in what could be a breather for tablet and low-cost netbook designers. Despite that, there are fewer ARM devices running Windows 8, which will launch around that time, than x86 notebooks/PCs. With an October 2012 launch Microsoft should be able to target shoppers in the crucial winter shopping season, in mature markets, according to Bloomberg Analysts.

TSMC Expanding 28 nm Manufacturing Facility

With the advent of highly-complex 28 nm discrete PC graphics processors, and ARM designers lined up with their increasingly powerful SoCs, TSMC is bound to see a pile up of orders for chips built on its newest bulk manufacturing process. In view of this, the "messiah of the fabless" is planning an expansion of its 28 nm manufacturing facility. This expansion is set to occur a little later in 2012. TSMC reportedly is running at full capacity at its 12-inch fabs because of strong demand for 28 nm as well as 40 nm and 65 nm. Due to this, some designers are approaching TSMC's competitors UMC and Samsung for 28 nm bulk manufacturing, according to sources. The expansion will follow a revision of TSMC's capex target for 2012, up from US $6 billion.

Uruguay is First Country to Get New Model XO Laptop

On the opening day of the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank, One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide every child in the world access to new channels of learning, sharing and self-expression, announced that Uruguay will be the first country in the world to receive the newest model XO children's laptop.

Uruguay began working with OLPC in 2007 and by mid-2010 achieved complete laptop saturation, providing XO's to all 570,000 primary school children in the country. The project recently ordered 60,000 XO 1.75's in order to take advantage of the many breakthrough hardware and software features in the new model.

Nokia Windows 8 Tablet Concept Art Surfaces

Earlier this week, we learned about Nokia working on a Windows 8-driven tablet. Concept art of this tablet (probably designed by well-informed fans), suggests that the tablet, Nokia "Lumia Coffee Tab", is essentially a stretched-out Lumia 800, which is its flagship Windows-driven smartphone that's extensively marketed with the monies it received from Microsoft to go Windows. The tablet features a 10.1-inch screen, and is designed to be competitive with Apple's iPad.

Interestingly, Nokia will have to use Windows 8 ARM, since the tablet reportedly uses a Qualcomm-made processor, and it is reported that Windows 8 ARM could arrive much later than Windows 8 x86. Could this mean Microsoft handing out Nokia exclusive early-access to Windows 8 ARM? Microsoft is evidently desperate to give its mobile versions of Windows a single potent launch-pad manufacturer, and as one of the most competent mobile phone makers, Nokia is the chosen one. Microsoft looks aware that the post-PC future of computing is very real, and approaching fast.

ARM Announces the Cortex-M0+ as the World's Most Energy-Efficient Processor

ARM today announced the ARM Cortex-M0+ processor, the world's most energy-efficient microprocessor. The Cortex-M0+ processor has been optimized to deliver ultra low-power, low-cost MCUs for intelligent sensors and smart control systems in a broad range of applications including home appliances, white goods, medical monitoring, metering, lighting and power and motor control devices.

The 32-bit Cortex-M0+ processor, the latest addition to the ARM Cortex processor family, consumes just 9µA/MHz on a low-cost 90 nm LP process, around one third of the energy of any 8- or 16-bit processor available today, while delivering significantly higher performance.

Windows 8 PC Has Six Variants

Poking around the registry of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Windows8Beta discovered the operating system, at least the PC version, as having six variants. There are also mentions of ARM variants (for ARM tablets and notebooks), but let's look at the PC SKUs:
  • Windows 8 Starter Edition, for low-cost PCs, netbooks, nettops, etc., probably targeting emerging markets only
  • Windows 8 Home Basic, for value desktop PCs, netbooks, and notebooks
  • Windows 8 Home Premium, for mainstream desktops and notebooks
  • Windows 8 Professional, for home, office desktops and more functional notebooks
  • Windows 8 Professional Plus, for office desktops and notebooks in dense local networks, probably has extra management, data security features
  • Windows 8 Ultimate Edition, has the complete feature-set of the OS

Qualcomm and Microsoft to Provide Developers with Snapdragon-Based Windows Test PCs

Qualcomm Incorporated today announced that its Snapdragon processor will be joining Microsoft Corp.'s Windows on ARM developer seeding program. Qualcomm is working with Microsoft to provide test PCs to select developers in order to test and optimize apps for forthcoming Snapdragon-powered Windows on ARM PCs and tablets. This invitation-only program will combine a pre-release version of Windows on ARM with next-generation, high performance Snapdragon S4 test PCs. These test PCs are not representative of commercial form factors or the final Windows on ARM experience; they are designed to give developers early access to building and testing Windows Metro style apps on Qualcomm's latest technology.

The Windows on ARM developer seeding program will help ensure that Windows Metro style apps available in the Windows Store work great on all Windows 8-based PCs, including those with Qualcomm's ARM-compliant Snapdragon processors.

Raspberry Pi Now Selling

The season's hottest hobby-kit for electronics and embedded computing enthusiasts, Raspberry Pi, started selling. The device is a fully-functional, self-contained, ARM-powered computer, complete with modern interfaces such as SDHC, USB, HDMI, and Ethernet (USB and Ethernet with $35 Model B), for as low as $25. The device can be powered up using Fedora Remix for Raspberry Pi, a Fedora ARM variant that's heavily optimized for the device. The Raspberry Pi is now available (limited to one quantity per customer), through Premier Farnell or RS Components.

Windows 8 x86 in Q4-2012, Windows 8 ARM in Q2-2013?

Even as there's quite some buzz around Microsoft's next major version of Windows, there are reports such as one from Bright Side of News citing "multiple sources close to Microsoft, or inside [it]," revealing the tentative launch schedule of the two main branches of Windows: for x86 platforms (client and enterprise), and ARM (for tablets and compact computing devices). Windows 8 for clients and enterprise (x86 architecture), will get up to 5 months' head-start over the much hyped ARM version for tablets. It is expected to be launched some time in Q4 2012, while the ARM version, some time in Q2 2013.

Intel and AMD can rub their hands as they both have extremely compact x86 processors fit for the tablet form-factor planned, and can woo tablet designers to opt for their solutions and get Windows 8 tablets instead of waiting for the ARM version of the operating system. Tablet vendors with mature ARM-based designs can always opt for Google's Android operating system, which will see no major competition for the greater part of this year.

First 28 nm Cortex-A9 POP Available for GLOBALFOUNDRIES 28nm-SLP HKMG Process

ARM today announced the availability of the ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore Processor Optimization Pack (POP) for GLOBALFOUNDRIES' 28 nm-SLP High-K Metal Gate process technology. Optimized for mobile, networking and enterprise applications, the energy-efficient ARM POP 28 nm-SLP for Cortex-A9 processors delivers a performance range from 1 GHz to 1.6 GHz for worst case conditions, with up to 2 GHz in typical conditions. This provides a wide range of flexibility for System-on-Chip (SoC) designers to optimize performance and energy-efficiency using the ARM Artisan Physical IP Platform and Cortex-A9 POP.

Fedora Remix for Raspberry Pi Released

Developers at the Seneca College released a version of Fedora Remix ARM that's optimized for the Raspberry Pi. Fedora Remix is itself a lightweight version of the open-source Red Hat Linux derivative, which is now further optimized for this $25 self-contained hobby-kit computer. The new Fedora Remix variant fits in a 2 GB SD card that the Raspberry Pi boots from. By simply connecting a display to the HDMI port (1080p supported), a keyboard and a mouse to the two USB ports, Fedora Remix will lead you straight to user information screen, from where normal usage is a minute away, without needing any hardware configuration. The 2 GB SD card is left with some space for user data. Raspberry Pi with Fedora Remix works just like any desktop. In related news, the makers of Raspberry Pi announced that the first batch of these boards will be through QA testing by the 23rd, and out for shipping.

A video presentation of Fedora Remix for Raspberry Pi follows.

NVIDIA + Gearbox PDXLAN 19 Event A Damp Squib

Early last week, a news post on the website of PDXLAN set the enthusiast community, particular the press, in a tizzy, when it claimed NVIDIA and Gearbox Software would come together at PDXLAN 19 to give attendees "an exclusive treat from one of the year's hottest games that will blow their mind" (sic). The press, as well as enthusiasts all over anticipated this to be an unveiling, or some blind talk of NVIDIA's upcoming Kepler family of GPUs, because NVIDIA is known to unveiling new hardware to small crowds; or at least some exclusive about Gearbox's upcoming projects such as Aliens: Colonial Marines. It turned out to be absolutely neither.

What attendees reported to have seen, instead, was a setup of an NVIDIA Tegra 3 machine running Borderlands 2. There's nothing particularly bad about Tegra 3 running Borderlands, in itself it is an amazing feat for an ARM-architecture machine, but then the hype built around it, coupled with the circumstances, makes this event a damp squib indeed.

Price Hurting Intel and AMD in Competition Against ARM

While Intel and AMD are making efforts to come up with low-power x86 processor platforms to compete with the plethora of ARM processor vendors, manufacturers of the target devices of these low-power x86 processors - tablets, netbooks, and smartphones; note that the architecture simply isn't competitive due to its prices. ARM processors are manufactured by a variety of companies, in a variety of different SoC configurations, and as such the tough competition among these companies ensure ARM processor platforms are comparatively cheaper to low-power x86 ones.

Intel recently debuted its 32 nm "Medfield" Atom processors, with power consumption as low as 11W for the platform. In the second half of 2012, it will launch another line of processors with under 10W power consumption, for high-end smartphones. AMD, on the other hand, will unveil "Hondo", which combines its x86 architecture with Radeon graphics IP, and a power consumption target of less than 5W. In 2013, it plans to launch the "Temash" APU, with power consumption under 2W, and built on the 28 nm process.

Windows-on-Windows ARM Confirmed?

Back in the 1990's, when the software industry knew the 32-bit x86 address-space limitation was closing in, they geared up for transition to another machine architecture, then came AMD64 and EM64T, which allowed an x86 processor to perform in both 64-bit and 32-bit modes. Microsoft didn't want users of its 64-bit Windows to be deprived of using software coded for 32-bit Windows, which was infinitely more in number than 64-bit software. Hence it developed what is known as Windows-on-Windows 64 (WOW64), a translation layer that interfaces 32-bit software and drivers to the 64-bit OS and drivers. With its next major Windows version, Windows 8, Microsoft wants to give the ARM architecture a big push, with a Windows 8 version for ARM computing devices (such as tablets and netbooks). Guess what?

A latest bulletin at MSDN hints at the possibility of Microsoft working on a x86-to-ARM translation layer, which allows you to run desktop windows (Win32) software on Windows 8 ARM, effectively "Windows-on-Windows ARM". Without specifically pointing out the ability to run Win32 software on ARM, the bulletin mentions the ability to run non-metro applications (native Windows) on SoC (system-on-a-chip) architectures. It could also just be a reference to Intel's single-chip SoCs such as Medfield, which are x86-based. If Microsoft pulls off a "WOWARM", it could spell terrible news to Intel, because something such as the hypothetical WOWARM is all that stands between ARM and high-performance desktop PCs. In a market that only has two other competitors (AMD and VIA), dozens more could join in overnight, including NVIDIA's karmic entry after being shunned off an x86 license.

$25 Raspberry Pi Hobby Computer Doubles iPhone 4S GPU Performance And Beats Tegra 2

We have previously reported on the super cheap ARM-based Raspberry Pi hobby computer that's been under development from the Raspberry Pi foundation. However, it's now going into production and is generating a lot of interest, so gamesindustry.biz interviewed its founder, Eben Upton, about it (free registration required).

The computer's primary purpose is as a computer science teaching aid in schools and colleges and also for home brew use by enthusiasts who want to tinker with it and make specialized solutions out of it. However, it seems that enthusiasts will have a nice surprise in that the onboard GPU is surprisingly good. The actual ARM implementation is a Broadcom BCM2835 System on Chip (SoC) containing an ARM 11 CPU and a custom graphics core, which has been designed by the Raspberry Pi team, including Upton. In the interview, Upton claimed that it can double iPhone 4S performance and handily beats NVIDIA's Tegra solution, because of its tile mode architecture.

PowerVR Making a Comeback to PC as Discrete GPGPU, Real-Time Ray-Tracing in 2012

Remember PowerVR GPUs which last saw light when GeForce 3 and Radeon 8500 were around? The company behind it, Imagination Technologies, is working on a discrete PCI-Express GPGPU card for workstations targeting the media industry, which provides real-time ray-tracing acceleration. After its exile from PC graphics, Imagination Technologies worked on and achieved prevalence in embedded GPUs, GPUs embedded into ARM System-on-chips (SoCs), found in smartphones and tablets. This kept its GPU IP and R&D more than afloat.

In 2011, the company acquired Caustic Graphics, a smaller and much newer startup, which was working on dedicated ray-tracing accelerators, and had come up with a working FCPGA chip. Together the company is in the final stages of preparing a product that will bring Imagination Technologies back to the PC, only this time as a GPGPU (such as NVIDIA Tesla and AMD FireStream), and not a display-GPU. The product will be backed by OpenRL Brazil 3.0 SDK. This product will launch some time in 2012.

ViewSonic Previews Innovative Displays, New Tablets at CES 2012

ViewSonic Corp., a leading global provider of computing, consumer electronics and communications solutions, will showcase innovative new products during Pepcom Digital Experience, held during CES 2012. These new offerings include a 7" Android 4.0 tablet and innovative displays that leverage the company's 25-year heritage in the industry and focus on the future of workplace computing.

Marvell Showcases 'Classroom 3.0' Technology at CES 2012

Marvell, a worldwide leader in integrated silicon solutions, today announced new education solutions designed to enable "Classroom 3.0," a connected, secure learning environment that simplifies and speeds the deployment of technology to students around the world. Marvell's collaboration with Stanford University has resulted in the Marvell SMILE Plug, the first plug development kit designed to turn a traditional classroom into a highly interactive learning environment. Designed to engage students in critical reasoning and problem solving, the SMILE Plug creates a "micro cloud" within a classroom that is completely controlled by the teacher. Marvell also announced that it has extended its relationship with the One Laptop per Child Association (OPLC) on a number of new products, including the upcoming OLPC X0 3.0, a low cost, low power tablet designed for education.

Ultrabooks The Answer to ARM Tablets: Intel

The onslaught of ARM-powered smartphones and tablets has taken a bit toll on not just the netbook (cheap, slow notebook, Steve Jobs' views), but even the future of Intel's x86 architecture as everyday computing devices get smaller. Sure, Intel has an x86-based processor platform in the works for smartphones and tablets, codenamed "Medfield", but its intentions towards the two form-factors come across as hollow and short-sighted when you look at the latest partner release, where it pitches the ultrabook form-factor as "the answer" to ARM tablets.

It goes on to list out exactly why tablets are function-limited, and can never become people's everyday computing device; and how ultrabooks can offer more functionality at similar compactness of form-factor as tablets. This directly implies that Intel's intentions with Medfield are to merely cash-in on what it perceives to be a short-term demand for processors that drive ultra-compact tablets; at least till ultrabooks get cemented in the market, so it could push tablets out of the market and bring "order" back to the PC segment.

ASUS EeePC Flare Unveiled

Facing a two-front competition from other netbook manufacturers and the ARM tablet industry, ASUS, one of the pioneers of the netbook form-factor, is readying a new line of fashionable-looking netbooks under the EeePC Flare series. Press pictures of these netbooks got leaked to the web by Notebook Italia, which reveal EeePC Flare series to be a colorful bunch of machines that are so designed to look curvy and fashionable, breaking the "compact" design mold of today's netbooks. They will be shows at the upcoming CES event, next week.

EeePC Flare will be available in two sizes, 12-inch and 10-inch. Among these, the 12-inch 1225B will be driven by AMD Fusion platform (likely E450), while the 1225C will be driven by Intel's new "Cedar Trail" Atom platform (N2600 or N2800). The 10-incher 1025 will stick to Cedar Trail. ASUS will pack these netbooks with features such as 500 GB of storage, LED backlit 720p displays, chiclet keyboards, etc.

Intel Plans to Launch Medfield Platform in Q2, Clover Trail-W platform in Q4, 2012

According to the latest information received by industry observer DigiTimes, Intel plans to launch the first processor platform for ultra-thin Android tablets based on its x86 architecture, codenamed "Medfield", in Q2 2012. Tablets based on this will be able to run Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich". Then in Q4 2012, Intel plans to launch the more powerful Clover Trail-W platform. Currently, Intel's Oak Trail platform consisting of Atom Z670 processor and SM35 chipset drive Windows 7 or Android Honeycomb tablets.

The fundamental difference between Medfield and Clover Trail-W with its predecessor Oak Tail, is that Medfield will be designed for ultra-thin tablets with long batter life, currently only ARM processors provide the kind of performance-per-Watt to achieve this form-factor. Oak Trail and its succeeding Clover Trail-W, are designed for slightly more capable tablets. Oak Trail is opted today, to design tablets that run Windows 7 PC operating system. Microsoft will design performance and UI-optimized Windows 8 variants when its next-gen operating system sees the light of the day next year.

Leak: The Intel Medfield Files

VR-Zone have been having a little chat with Intel 'sources', who have leaked some juicy tidbits for us to enjoy in the form performance and power news. The upcoming next generation Medfield platform is Intel's first true System on a Chip (SoC) and is designed to compete with various low power ARM offerings in the tablet space. To help achieve this, they've gone through an internal restructure, merging four business units into just one: Ultra-Mobility, Mobile Wireless, Mobile Communications and Netbook & Tablet PC. The business unit is now simply known as Mobile and Communications. It's being run by Mike Bell and Hermann Eul and the first product to emerge from it will be is the 32 nm Medfield SoC solution.

VR-Zone explained that the competition will be "Apple's A-Series, NVIDIA Tegra, Qualcomm Snapdragon, Samsung Exynos, Texas Instruments OMAP and the likes. Out of all the chips mentioned above, only Samsung's Exynos is currently manufactured in 32nm process, just like Medfield."

Christmas Special: The PC Technology of 2011

Welcome to the TechPowerUp 2011 PC technology Christmas special. We hope that you will enjoy reading it while tucking into your turkey, Christmas presents and a little too much wine... In this article, we go through the technology of 2011 that has had the most significance, the most impact and was generally the most talked about. It's not necessarily the best tech of 2011 which is the most significant though, since lemons can be just as significant as the ground-breakers in how they fail to deliver - and the backlash that goes with it.

January: Intel Sandy Bridge i5 & i7

Released on January 9th, the new Intel Core i5 & i7 processors were based on Intel's second generation Core architecture built on a 32 nm production process (HEXUS review). They included an IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor) physically on the same piece of silicon along with HyperThreading. These new dual and quad core processors soundly beat all previous generations of Intel processors in terms of processing performance, heat, power use, features and left AMD in the dust. Therefore, Intel badly needed some competition from AMD and unless you have been living under a rock, you will know how that turned out in October with the launch of Bulldozer. Sandy Bridge was a sound win and is generally considered to be the only architecture worth considering at this point. The i5-2500K is currently at the sweet spot of price/performance. It comes at a stock speed of 3.3 GHz, but typically overclocks to an amazing 4.5 - 5 GHz with a decent air cooler and without too much difficulty in getting there. Models in the budget i3 range were released at various times later. See this Wikipedia article for details.

Foxconn and NVIDIA Setting Up Cloud Computing R&D Center in China

OEM major Foxconn, graphics and ARM processor major NVIDIA, in coordination with the local government, plan to set up a new research and development center in the city of Tianjin, northern China. The three signed for establishment of the joint venture today. Heads of Foxconn and NVIDIA, Terry Guo and Jen-Hsun Huang, were present at the ceremony.

The center is slated to be dedicated for research and development in the fields of mobile terminal devices and cloud computing-based applications, and we can already see the right ingredients going into setting it up: an investment-friendly local government that provides a fertile platform and human resources, the vast expertise of Foxconn in design and manufacture of consumer electronics, and the expertise of NVIDIA in ultra-high performance application processors for portable computing devices.
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