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Monthly Archives: August 2010


SoC advances for client, server and mobile basestation level

Hot Chips 22 (for now, later at Archives) has shown for the first time that System-on-Chip (SoC) technologies are moving beyond their usual realm of relatively small performance and/or dedicated applications, right into the leading edge mainstream.

Update #2:
Acer adopts AMD CPU for tablet PCs [Nov 25]

Among Acer’s announced initial batch of tablet PCs, a 10.1-inch Windows 7-based model is believed to use AMD’s Ontario APU codenamed C-50, according to sources from notebook players.

… The dual-core C-50 APU, which consumes only 9W of power, is currently priced at about US$55-60 and includes an integrated Radeon HD 6250 graphics chip [and also UVD dedicated hardware acceleration for HD video including 1080p resolutions, see later].

Live and interact in total mobility — Tablets according to Acer [Nov 23]:

… support of its goal to simplify content consumption – a strategy which began with the development of Acer’s multimedia sharing system, Clear.fi. Acer’s strategy is based on the concept of sharing multimedia content and enjoying it across any device, and Tablets are ideal devices for this purpose.

A 10.1” Android tablet for a superb mobile and home entertainment experience … Designed for HD entertainment, this tablet comes with a high resolution, high color contrast display, allowing you to play or share HD video with your friends wherever you are. … Available April 2011

7” Android Tablet: the epitome of mobility … On the 7” (1280×800) 16:10 aspect ratio full touch screen, you can enjoy games, photos, videos while keeping up with your emails or your favourite social networks. Video chat or record a video with the front-facing HD camera. With HDMI support, hooking it up for a big screen video experience is easyier than ever! … Available April 2011

10.1” Windows Tablet: Versatility in a tablet form factor … an extremely innovative solution that combines touch screen user-friendliness with the comfortable experience of a physical keyboard. In fact, the tablet comes with a docking device that includes a full-size keyboard and more connectivity options to enhance the user experience. … Thin and light (only 15 mm and less than 1kg), and with a 10.1”, high resolution display, it’s easy to carry around and really unobtrusive. This tablet ensures outstanding entertainment and a superior touch experience. … Available February 2011

Acer debuts 10.1-inch Windows 7 tablet: AMD-powered, inbuilt 3G, coming February 2011 [Nov 23]

Update #1: AMD’s upcoming SoCs first described on Hot Chips 22 are hybrid CPUs/GPUs called by AMD Accelerated Processing Units (APUs)
AMD Benchmarks Zacate APU [Sept 13]:

… the parts that will begin shipping in Q4 2010: Zacate for mainstream notebooks (18W TDP) and Ontario for netbooks (9W TDP).

Both APUs will have a pair of low-power Bobcat cores and an AMD DX11 GPU. AMD isn’t publicly confirming how many cores the GPU side will have but both will share the same die manufactured on TSMC’s 40nm process.

AMD’s 9W Ontario part clearly goes after Atom in the netbook space (and Bobcat’s out-of-order architecture should ensure performance success), Zacate is going to go after the ~$500 mainstream notebook market. To prove its point AMD setup a Core i5 notebook and a Zacate test platform running City of Heroes at the same settings …

AMD’s Zacate APU Performance Update [Sept 15]:

… AMD gave us full access to the Zacate platform to do whatever we wanted. AMD wanted us to be completely comfortable with the Zacate comparison. We downloaded the Batman Arkham Asylum demo off of Steam and loaded it on both the Zacate and Core i5 systems.

… The actual gameplay was noticeably quicker on Zacate and the numbers show a 45% performance advantage. This is huge. To sanity check that data we fired up City of Heroes on both machines and played around with them. … On average we saw a 55% improvement over the Core i5 system. … AMD wanted to highlight the DirectCompute performance of Zacate and let us publish the first results from the platform running the N-Body Simulation benchmark: 23 GFLOPS on Zacate and 8.8 GFLOPS on Intel Core i5-520M.

… At the end of the day my take on Zacate (and Ontario) hasn’t changed: these two APUs have the potential to make the low end netbook/notebook market interesting again.

The most glaring examples of the learnings on the Hot Chips 22 were:

Lifting the veil on the hybrid processor-graphics chip in the new Xbox 360 [Aug 23]. This SoC technology has enabled the new Xbox 360 S device’s power consumption and noise significantly reduced, not to speak of the price, which is now $200 for a 4GB version. Because of this Microsoft’s new Xbox 360 S [is a] smash hit, although some are questioning the durability of this trend, attributing it rather to previous Xbox replacements and expecting the bigger trend of the video game industry being down to come into play later. See: Xbox 360 Sales Surge, but Is It an Anomaly? [Aug 16].

AMD Discloses Bobcat & Bulldozer Architectures at Hot Chips 2010 [Aug 24]. These are brand new architecture cores which soon will be integrated into different SoCs, with sub 1 W Bobcat coming into the Ontario SoC (with a yet undisclosed GPU core) aimed at netbooks, ultra-low voltage tablet (slate etc.) and notebook devices the earliest. This might happen by the end of the year, or in Q1 2011.
More information:
AMD update from IFA 2010 [Sept 6]:

AMD plans to ramp production here in 2010, with systems available in early 2011. So here at IFA 2010, we’re both demonstrating the capabilities of low-power AMD Fusion APUs, and providing a little more information on the individual products. “Brazos” is the codename for the notebook, netbook and desktop platforms that will be built from the APU. But the APU itself comes in two flavors based on performance and (low) power draw:

  • An 18-watt TDP APU codenamed “Zacate” for ultrathin, mainstream, and value notebooks as well as desktops and all-in-ones.
  • And a 9-watt APU codenamed “Ontario” for netbooks and small form factor desktops and devices.

Both low-power APU versions feature two “Bobcat” x86 cores and fully support DirectX11, DirectCompute (Microsoft programming interface for GPU computing) and OpenCL (cross-platform programming interface standard for multi-core x86 and accelerated GPU computing). Both also include UVD dedicated hardware acceleration for HD video including 1080p resolutions.

AMD’s Bobcat mobile architecture will play it straight [Aug 27]: “Bobcat will smoke Atom clock-for-clock in raw performance, but the performance per watt picture is a bit less clear. This is because it is quite apparent that AMD will have a harder time keeping its power consumption down than Intel does with Atom. … Bobcat is more of a threat to Atom in the netbook and laptop segments than it is in the kinds of appliance-type niches that Intel is now aiming its Atom-based SoCs at. And nobody is going to try to squeeze Bobcat into a smartphone form factor anytime soon”.
AMD Bobcat & Bulldozer Hot Chips Presentations Online [Aug 25],
AMD Sets New Mark in x86 Innovation with First Detailed Disclosures of Two New Core Designs [AMD press release, Aug 24],
AMD Bulldozer and Bobcat Hot Chips Press Kit [Aug 24]
”Bulldozer” 20 Questions, Round One [AMD, Aug 23]
Keeping AMD’s 2011 Code-Names Straight [Aug 24]
AMD’s Bulldozer Architecture Preview: New from the Ground Up [Aug 24]
AMD Heats VISION – Hot Chips 22 [Aug 24]

Mindspeed to Present Next Generation of 4G Base Station Technology at HOT CHIPS 22 Conference [Mindspeed press release, Aug 23]. Here the essence is:

“3G and 4G network operators are looking to migrate to a more flexible cellular landscape, which can accommodate compact base stations, such as microcells, picocells and metro femtocells. Mindspeed has designed the Transcede family of baseband processors to enable tomorrow’s network architects to deploy powerful 4G macrocells and ‘small cells,’ which are built on a common framework.”

Launched earlier this year at the 2010 Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, the Transcede family of SoCs integrates an unprecedented 26 programmable processors into a single device, including two ARM(R) Cortex A9(R) multi-core symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) reduced instruction set computer (RISC) processors, ten CEVA(R) digital signal processors (DSPs) and ten DSP accelerators that support the complete wideband code-division multiple access (W-CDMA), LTE or WiMAX (Layers 1, 2 and above) processing needs of single- and multi-sector base stations.

More information:
Transcede 4000 Series Product Brief [Jan 24]


Undermining E-Ink and single-purpose E-readers

See also: Hydis

Associated Press, a “not-for-profit corporation with a regular membership of 1,500 US daily newspapers and an associate membership of broadcasters and non-daily newspapers”, which is “in the United States alone … serves approximately 1,700 newspapers and 5,000 radio and television stations” (see p. 5 of the Associated Press Consolidated Financial Statements for years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008) on August 20 made available the following article for redistribution by its members and subscribers:

E-reading: Revolution in the making or fading fad? (as this dissappeared from the hosted Associated press site, see a republication on the Business Week site likely to remain for longer time)

This has been republished with the same title at least 266 times by different on-line media places around the world.

Follow-up: Hanvon – E-Ink strategic e-reader alliance for price/volume leadership supplementing Hanvon’s premium strategy mostly based on an alliance with Microsoft and Intel [Dec 21]

Updates (showing complete recovery from the FUD indicated above):

E Ink Holdings has reported record consolidated revenues of NT$3.68 billion (US$120 million) for December, NT$9.725 billion for the fourth quarter, and NT$25.179 billion [US$821 million] for 2010.

The record revenues resulted mainly from booming shipments of e-paper and FFS (fringe field switching) LCD panels produced by its Korea-based subsidiary Hydis, E Ink said.

To meet growing demand for e-paper, E Ink said it will soon start sourcing e-paper backplanes from Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT). Chimei Innolux (CMI) is a major backplane supplier for E Ink.

E Ink: Consolidated revenues, December 2010 (NT$b)











Source: Company, compiled by Digitimes, January 2011

The e-book reader market is looking rosy with China-based vendor Hanvon Technology expecting to ship over one million e-book readers in 2011 and speculation about Sony returning to the e-book reader market in Japan.

Although the education market for e-book readers is just taking off, demand in the gift and consumer markets remains strong. With stimulation from price-cut promotions, overall sales of e-book readers are expected to exceed 10 million units in 2010.

  • Global sales of 20-25 million e-book readers projected for 2011, says E Ink chairman [Oct 28]
  • E Ink Announces Color ePaper [Nov 10]: “In addition to 16 levels of grayscale, Triton is capable of displaying thousands of colors”
  • Color Comes to E Ink Screens [Nov 7]: “… the new color E Ink display, while an important technological breakthrough, is not as sharp and colorful as LCD. Unlike an LCD screen, the colors are muted, as if one were looking at a faded color photograph. … Hanvon’s first product using a 9.68-inch color touch screen will be available this March in China, starting at about $440.”
  • There has been a significant decline in July and August unconsolidated E Ink Holdings (EIH) revenues, i.e. only EPD related (i.e. Hydis not included) as reported in E Ink reports revenue growth in September [Oct 11]. This is explained as “significant decreases in prices of EPDs shipped to its major clients in the third quarter, the overall revenue figures were unable to reflect the growth of EIH’s shipments in the quarter.” This actually means that with significant growth in September EIH was able to compensate the earlier revenue loss with much higher unit growth and returned to normal business growth conditions. The monthly and quarterly revenues for the last 12 months were actually (in NT$m):

























































  • For a more general overview of the subject area see: E-reading SaaS wars next to e-reader wars [June 30]
  • Update: Despite the negative publicity created by this Blitz: New Generation Kindles Are the Fastest-Selling Kindles Ever and Already the Best-Selling Products on Amazon — New Kindles start shipping to customers today–two days ahead of previously announced release date [Amazon press release, Aug 25].
    “… in the four weeks since the introduction of the new Kindle [$139] and Kindle 3G [$189, with Free 3G Wireless in 100 countries], customers ordered more Kindles on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk combined than any other product, continuing Kindle’s over two-year run as the bestselling product across all the products sold on Amazon.com.”
  • Update: The Story On E-Readers: Falling Prices Sparking Rising Sales [Sept 9]. Finally an unbiased analyst view: “Amazon.com (AMZN) kicked off the price cuts when it debuted its third-generation Kindle e-reader, starting at $139, on July 28. Analysts say Amazon is selling the device at a loss, looking to make up the difference on e-book sales. In response to Amazon’s price cut, Borders Group (BGP) reduced the price of its Kobo e-reader by $20 to $129. Also, Borders’ online store has been selling Aluratek’s Libre e-reader for $99. … As a dedicated device, e-readers have several advantages over tablets. Most e-readers use low-power and black-and-white E Ink displays that have great contrast for legibility, approximating the look of text on paper. They also can be read in bright sunlight. Plus, e-readers boast long battery life. For the next couple of years, e-readers and media tablets will be able to coexist in the market, analysts say.”
  • Update: Taiwan market: E-book reader players targeting cram school market [Nov 2] is stating that “Facing competition from tablet PCs, e-book reader players in Taiwan have recently turned their focus from consumers to the cram school industry, according to sources from related players.”
  • Update: Taiwan’s e-book future takes shape [Sept 17]. From this article it is easy to see that Taiwan has an even bigger influence on e-paper based industry than its more than 90% share in notebooks, which is more manufacturing only oriented. Moreover: “The government has forecast Taiwan’s e-reader production will grow by NT$30 billion (US$943.46 million) in 2010 and the digital content industry will increase its business to NT$100 billion by 2013. To help achieve this goal, the IDB said, the government is planning to allocate NT$2.13 billion to boost the local industry.Taiwanese companies have also moved to tap into the mainland Chinese market. … The supply chain and reading content remain the major factors in the future of e-readers. … For Taiwan-made e-readers to dominate the global market … digital publishers should quickly beef up the volume of content and e-reader makers should offer customers a more reliable operational support system”.
  • Update: Foxconn e-book reader shipments expected to surpass 20 million units in 2011, says paper [Nov 1]: “Global e-book reader shipments are expected to reach 12 million units in 2010 with 80-90% of the shipments, equivalent to more than 10 million units, from Foxconn Electronics (Hon Hai Precision Industry). … As for other smaller e-book reader makers, Netronix shipped about 200,000 units in the first half and is aiming to ship 400,000 units for 2010, but the market watchers believe Netronix should be able to ship 500,000-600,000 if upstream component supply is smooth; … Qisda is still aiming to ship 400,000 e-book readers in 2010, added the paper.
  • Update: Global sales of 20-25 million e-book readers projected for 2011, says E Ink chairman [Oct 28] is stating that “Market observers are expected to adjust upward the estimated shipments of e-book readers in 2011 of 18 million, and the e-book reader market in 2011 will increase 2-2.5 fold on year, equivalent to about 20-25 million units.
  • Technology holder PVI‘s share price, however, has suffered, but with Amazon announcement seems to start climbing back (you can check the actual share price by clicking on the image: [Sept 11: You could see that it has returned fast to the previous $52+ value and and remained stable so far. So the damage has been repaired by the market realities as outlined in the updates above.])

What a contrast when looking into the titles of republications in Taiwan and mainland China:

Are e-readers the way of the future or simply a fad? (Taipei Times)

Taiwan panel maker partners with US tech firm on e-reading (China Post)

US-Taiwanese creation sparks e-reading rise (Shanghai Daily)

With only one Taiwanese site keeping the original main title but also adding a subtitle: Single-purpose e-readers have hard time to keep up with multifunctional devices that have the same capability (Taiwan News)

All republishers in Canada and a few in US changed the title to a more positive one:

Electronic books catching on but still face challenges as iPad sales swell, skepticism lingers (Canadian Business Online, also available with this title on other Canadian sites: CanadaEast Interactive, Lethbridge Herald of Alberta, News1130 all news radio service of Vancouver, 680News radio station of Toronto, The Record of Ontario, Brandon Sun of West Canada, The Chronicle Journal of Ontario; Star Tribune from Minnesota, US; Cox Communications, the third-largest cable entertainment and broadband services provider in the US; Washington Examiner of US; Breitbart of US)

In addition there are variations in US like:

Challenges for E Ink: Can e-readers replace paper, battle iPad?

Are E-Readers A Passing Fad?

E-Readers Battle Tablets for Digital Book Supremacy

E-Reading: Revolution Or Fading Fad? Questions Remain Over Taiwanese-American Venture (from KTVU and other: KPHO, WSMV, KERO in California, WFSB)

Will paper go the way of stone tablets? Digital display product doesn’t try to be iPad; it’s for reading (Hamilton Spectator, Ontario, Canada)

E-reading: Revolution in the making or fading fad? Questions remain about whether marketplace ready to dispense with paper-based reading (Canada’s #1 Globe and Mail)

Digital reading: Fad or sea change? E-reader firm takes on paper, other e-devices (The Commercial Appeal from the US Mid-South)


US companies are generally envying at the success of E-Ink technology and especially at the whole business ecosystem built around it by the Taiwanese Prime View International (PVI), now E Ink Holdings Inc. In fact E-Ink based e-book readers have been dominating the market since 2006. They have more than 90% share! So with 10 million e-readers shipment forecasted by E Ink Holdings for this year and 20 million for the next one (see: E-paper maker announces income spike [Aug 11]), as well as entry prices going down to US$100 by Christmas time(*) they are afraid that the tablets and slates that will begin to follow the US$500+ Apple iPad lead will have far from sufficient space to build their starting businesses upon.

(*)Note: Amazon.com Introduces $139 Kindle Amid Apple Tussle [July 29] is a clear indication of that.

In the E-readers, Tablets to Become Mass-Market Devices [May 17] article it has already been reported that:

Over one-half (57%) of surveyed US consumers say they plan to purchase an e-reader or tablet within the next three years—29% plan to purchase one within the next year—according to a study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). …

… There is a strong preference for multipurpose tablets: 53% of consumers say they would like to own a multipurpose e-reader, such as an iPad, compared with 39% who prefer single-purpose e-readers, such as Amazon’s Kindle, the Nook from Barnes and Noble, or the Sony Reader. …

… Widespread adoption will depend in part on a drop in prices: The sweet spot for multipurpose devices is from $130 to $200—far below the $499 entry price of the iPad—while the desired price for a single-purpose device is from $100 to $150. …

While the E-Ink based e-readers will be able to match that sweet spot in prices by Christmas and next year, the multipurpose devices built on other technologies could only after 2-3 years on the market. So US companies should put Fear-Uncertainty-and-Doubt (FUD) into the minds of US customers about the future of single-purpose e-readers as much as only possible. This whole communication storm is nothing less than that.

Will be interesting to watch how effective that well orchestrated effort will be. Keep in mind that the current blitz is just the beginning of a war. More will come from the US parties, and the Taiwanese multinational, E-Ink Holdings and its whole global ecosystem of partners (including the US-based ones, especially Amazon) should respond as well.

New Generation Kindles Are the Fastest-Selling Kindles Ever and Already the Best-Selling Products on Amazon
New Kindles start shipping to customers today–two days ahead of previously announced release date