AMD steers clear of low-cost tablet market

April 29th, 2014 | Edited by | hardware

Apr
29

Advanced Micro Devices doesn’t want its chips in low-priced tablets, and is eager to avoid a battle with Intel or ARM, whose chips have driven tablet prices down to under $100.
Growth in the tablet market is driven by low-end devices and Android, but AMD’s tablet strategy is driven by Windows and high-performance machines. So AMD’s avoidance of the low end of the market narrows options for people looking for name-brand chips in low-price machines.
AMD chips are in just a handful of tablet models. Those AMD chips that are available for tablets are essentially watered-down PC chips with strong graphics capabilities. But the company plans to introduce new chips, code-named Beema and Mullins, for tablets These new chips are based on a new core and designed to provide more performance and battery life.
“If we miss out on some units in the low end, so be it,” said Lisa Su, general manager of AMD’s global business units, during the first-quarter earnings call on Thursday.

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No subsidies for AMD

AMD executives said they didn’t want to buy their way into the tablet market like Intel, which has been subsidizing tablet makers to use its x86 chips through its “contra revenue” program. Instead, AMD wants to be selective in its product mix, and focus on high-margin and high-value products.
“This idea of contra revenue is foreign to us,” said Rory Read, CEO of AMD, during the call.
AMD could go after tablets priced at $300, but won’t go under that, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.
“They are not chasing bad business,” Brookwood said.
AMD doesn’t have the financial resources to provide subsidies to tablet makers to use its chips, Brookwood said.
Though the tablet market is important, AMD is more concerned about generating revenue from custom chips and other areas, Brookwood said.
AMD makes custom chips for game consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4, which helped drive up revenue by 28 percent in the first fiscal quarter of 2014. AMD’s revenue in the PC, server and tablet chip business declined.
Addressing the wide tablet market isn’t a good idea for AMD and its bottom line, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. AMD is directing more resources out of tablets and into consoles, where there is more financial reward, McCarron said.

AMD needs big customers

But it does need one or two big customers to help their tablet business, he said.
“They are being very judicious in what part of the product stack they are playing in,” McCarron said. “They are working on home-run customers.”
A $200 million chip deal is big for AMD, but peanuts for a company like Intel, McCarron said.
Intel also has its own factories and can afford to subsidize chips. AMD gets its chips made from contract chip manufacturers like GlobalFoundries.
Intel is looking to ship 40 million tablet chips this year, and this week reported it had shipped 5 million tablet chips in the first fiscal quarter. The tablet market is currently favorable to ARM, so Intel has to provide subsidies and incentives to device makers in an effort to establish x86 chips.
And just like in PCs, AMD could simply piggyback Intel’s success and make its way into the x86-friendly tablet market.
“It isn’t the first time that’s happened,” Brookwood said. “But I don’t think they want to do that.”

Source: www.pcworld.com

Look at this: The first 4K laptop, Toshiba’s Satellite P55t, coming soon

April 26th, 2014 | Edited by | hardware

Apr
26

Open your pocketbooks, 4K fans, Toshiba’s first Ultra HD laptop is headed your way next Tuesday. The Tokyo-based electronics maker just announced that the Toshiba Satellite P55t will hit U.S. store shelves on April 22, starting at $1,500 for the base model.
For all that cash you’ll get a 15.6-inch laptop with a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (no word on the specific model), up to 16GB RAM, an AMD Radeon R9 M265X discrete graphics card with 2GB RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. Other niceties include Windows 8.1, four USB 3.0 ports, backlit keyboard, SD card slot, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, HDMI out, and some brand name speakers from Harman Kardon.
But the big feature for the P55t is the laptop’s screen resolution, which is 3840-by-2160 with 282 pixels per inch. Astute 4K fans will note that Toshiba’s new clamshell is using the Ultra HD version of 4K and not the 4096-by-2160 resolution favored by the film industry and available on some external monitors.

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In addition to its Ultra HD resolution, Toshiba’s laptop earned Technicolor Color Certification, promising more natural-looking colors and “true-to-life imagery.” Toshiba is also bundling a free copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 to take advantage of all that ‘glorious Technicolor.’
One of the letdowns with the P55t may be Toshiba’s choice of storage. The company’s announcement didn’t once mention the possibility of upgrading that 1TB HDD for a screaming SSD option.
Perhaps if you’re doing media work, a 1TB hard drive is preferable for storing large, image-intensive files. For anyone ready to shell out high-end money for their home PC, however, the lack of an SSD option is a bit of a bummer. Then again it’s nothing that a screwdriver, patience, and a DIY mentality can’t fix.
Toshiba is the first company out of the gate with a laptop loaded with 4K, but it won’t be the last. During CES in January, Lenovo was showing off an Ultra HD option for the upcoming Y50 gaming laptop. Other companies are also sure to jump on the 4K laptop party train following a rash of 4K PC monitors announced over the past 12 months from companies including Asus, Dell, and Sharp.
But do you want 4K on your laptop? 4K may be a great idea for cinematic screens at the movie theater, and I can even get behind 4K on some of the larger televisions. But shoving more pixels into a small display that is already densely packed at 1080p? Color me skeptical.

Plastic computers taking shape, but won’t replace silicon

April 24th, 2014 | Edited by | hardware

Apr
24

Can plastic materials morph into computers? A research breakthrough published this week brings such a possibility closer to reality.

Researchers are looking at the possibility of making low-power, flexible and inexpensive computers out of plastic materials. Plastic is not normally a good conductive material. However, researchers said this week that they have solved a problem related to reading data.
The research, which involved converting electricity from magnetic film to optics so data could be read through plastic material, was conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa and New York University. A paper on the research was published in this week’s Nature Communications journal.
More research is needed before plastic computers become practical, acknowledged Michael Flatte, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa. Problems related to writing and processing data need to be solved before plastic computers can be commercially viable.
Plastic computers, however, could conceivably be used in smartphones, sensors, wearable products, small electronics or solar cells, Flatte said.

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What would they do?

The computers would have basic processing, data gathering and transmission capabilities but won’t replace silicon used in the fastest computers today. However, the plastic material could be cheaper to produce as it wouldn’t require silicon fab plants, and possibly could supplement faster silicon components in mobile devices or sensors.
“The initial types of inexpensive computers envisioned are things like RFID, but with much more computing power and information storage, or distributed sensors,” Flatte said. One such implementation might be a large agricultural field with independent temperature sensors made from these devices, distributed at hundreds of places around the field, he said.
The research breakthrough this week is an important step in giving plastic computers the sensor-like ability to store data, locally process the information and report data back to a central computer.
Mobile phones, which demand more computing power than sensors, will require more advances because communication requires microwave emissions usually produced by higher-speed transistors than have been made with plastic.
It’s difficult for plastic to compete in the electronics area because silicon is such an effective technology, Flatte acknowledged. But there are applications where the flexibility of plastic could be advantageous, he said, raising the possibility of plastic computers being information processors in refrigerators or other common home electronics.
“This won’t be faster or smaller, but it will be cheaper and lower power, we hope,” Flatte said.

PLastic OLEDs

In the new research, Flatte and his colleagues were able to convert data encoded in a magnetic film from an electric flow into optics for an organic light-emitting diode (OLED). The LED was made out of the plastic, and connected to the magnetic film through a substrate. Plastics can’t handle electricity; the data had to be converted into optics for communication.
“The plastic devices are very important in certain areas of light emission but have tended not to be important in communication,” Flatte said.
The researchers were more concerned about making the technology happen—environmental concerns related to plastic are a completely different discussion, Flatte said.
To be sure, there are plastic devices with silicon computers in them already on the market, like a baby garment from Rest Devices, which has electronics to measure a baby’s motion, temperature, breathing patterns and pulse. And before this week, basic transistors made out of plastic had been demonstrated. Now, this latest research establishes a method for plastic devices to read data from storage.
“The writing problem would have to be solved. But I think [reading] is an important step forward,” Flatte said.

Source: www.pcworld.com

Take our mobile survey and you might win an iPad mini

April 22nd, 2014 | Edited by | hardware

Apr
22

TechHive’s parent company, IDG, is once again conducting its annual Global Mobile Survey, which quizzes you on your mobile-device habits and media consumption so we can learn more about how people are using their smartphones and tablets today. Readers who participate will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win an iPad mini.
This year we’re interested in learning more about how you use your mobile device to view and share technology-related content and information. Your feedback will help us to more closely align our mobile services with your needs, so give us a hand by taking the survey!
ipadmini

Take the 2014 Mobile survey

The survey is around 10-15 minutes in length. And there’s a reward! Three lucky respondents who complete the survey will have a chance to win an Apple iPad mini.
Get started now.
You’ve got to be a U.S. resident age 18 years or older to be eligible to win the iPad mini; at the end of the survey all you have to do is give us your email address.
Complete rules here.
It’s a short survey and there are three iPad minis up for grabs, so give it a spin!

Apple patents solar-powered MacBook

February 22nd, 2014 | Edited by | hardware

Feb
22

Apple was awarded a patent for a MacBook that would be powered with solar cells (photovoltaics), meaning your laptop could be powered or at least recharged through light.
The patent, titled “Electronic device display module” describes a two-sided display for the lid of a portable computer, such as Apple’s MacBook. The front of the lid facing the user would still sport the typical display screen but the rear would serve as more than just a cover.
The patent describes a rear plate made of “electrochromic glass” also known as “ smart glass” or “switchable glass.”
”Electrochromic glass, which is sometimes referred to as electrically switchable glass, may receive control signals (e.g., voltage control signals) from control circuitry,” the patent submission states. “The control signals can be used to place electrochromic glass in either a transparent (light-passing) state or a translucent (light-blocking) state.”
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A sketch of the proposed laptop, which uses an electrochromic glass back panel that can be made opaque or translucent through a small electrical charge. The back panel would have solar cells embedded in it to collect power from light.
In the light-blocking state, the interior of the MacBook’s display would be hidden from the exterior view; the rear panel would appear opaque or translucent.
In the light-passing state, the rear panel would appear clear and allow images or other light output from status light-emitting diodes or other light sources, Apple stated.
The solar cells would be placed under the electrochromic glass layer on the rear plate.
”For example, photovoltaic cells may be interposed between a glass layer (rear plate) and liquid crystal display structures for display,” the patent states. Photo voltaic cells produce electricity when exposed to light.
When the laptop is near a light source, the light rays would pass through the electrochromic glass that forms the rear plate.
The solar cells would take in light as it passed through the glass, converting it into electrical power at a rate of 10 milliwatts or more.
Apple proposed that the solar cells would be capable of producing from 100 milliwatts to 1 watt “or even more” in order to charge the laptop’s battery or power the computer while it is in use.
The rear smart glass could also be used to display Apple’s logo by incorporating an additional light emitting diode layer as well as backlighting.
”To ensure that display is evenly illuminated, the back light unit that provides backlight for display… may be provided with light-emitting diodes that are arranged along more than one of the edges of the light guide layer in the back light unit,” Apple stated.

Source: www.pcworld.com

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