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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Nokia N9 UX [?Swipe?] on MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan

Update as of August 10, 2012: After acquiring the Qt commercial licensing business in March 2011 from Nokia, the Helsinki based, ~1000 people strong Digia, with 2011 sales of 121.9 million Euro,yesterday acquired all the rest of the Qt business from Nokia. More details in the Digia extends Its commitment to Qt with plans to acquire full Qt software technology and business From Nokia [Digia’s Qt Commercial Blog, Aug 9, 2012] and Digia Committed to Thriving Qt Ecosystem [KDE.NEWS, Aug 9, 2012] posts from Digia’s R&D director Tuuka Turunen. With this all pre-Windows Phone software platform commitments except the Java based S40 (evolved in the new Asha range) have strategicallybeen revoked by Nokia.

Nokia N9 Journey [Oct 24, 2011]:
A story about the making of the most beautifully simple smartphone.

Follow-up:
Designing smarter phones–Marko Ahtisaari (Nokia) and Albert Shum (Microsoft) [Nov 23, 2011]

Updates:
3 Minutes with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop [YouTube, Oct 27, 2011]

[About N9 and Qt:] Elements of N9. The things that really define that product you will see continue on. The reason we continue with N9 is because we believe we could learn a lot about certain things that actually make the N9 unique in the way that it is. … What remains unanswered, and will remain unanswered for today, is when I say ‘elements of the user experience’ or ‘the Qt environment’. What does that mean? That’s still something you’ll see ahead from Nokia.

Goodbye MeeGo, Hello Tizen [Sept 28, 2011]

By now, you may have read that The Linux Foundation, with the support of several other companies, announced a new project, Tizen [tizen.org], to build a new operating system for devices. This new project is first and foremost open source, and based on Linux. So it begs the question: why not just evolve MeeGo? We believe the future belongs to HTML5-based applications, outside of a relatively small percentage of apps, and we are firmly convinced that our investment needs to shift toward HTML5. Shifting to HTML5 doesn’t just mean slapping a web runtime on an existing Linux, even one aimed at mobile, as MeeGo has been. Emphasizing HTML5 means that APIs not visible to HTML5 programmers need not be as rigid, and can evolve with platform technology and can vary by market segment.

More info [meego.com]

there is not mentions of Qt in the article 😦

Limo Foundation And Linux Foundation Announce New Open Source Software Platform [Limo Foundation press release, Sept 28, 2011]

 LiMo Foundation™ and the Linux Foundation today announced a new open source project, Tizen™, to develop a Linux-based device software platform. Hosted at the Linux Foundation, Tizen is a standards-based, cross-architecture software platform which supports multiple device categories including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, netbooks and in-vehicle infotainment systems. The initial release of Tizen is targeted for Q1 2012, enabling first devices to come to market in mid-2012.

Tizen combines the best open source technologies from LiMo and the Linux Foundation and adds a robust and flexible standards-based HTML5 and WAC web development environment within which device-independent applications can be produced efficiently for unconstrained cross-platform deployment. This approach leverages the robustness and flexibility of HTML5 which is rapidly emerging as a preferred application environment for mobile applications and the broad carrier support of the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC). Tizen additionally carries a state-of-the-art reference user interface enabling the creation of highly attractive and innovative user experience that can be further customized by operators and manufacturers.

About LiMo Foundation
LiMo Foundation™ is a dedicated consortium of mobile industry leaders working together within an open and transparent governance model—with shared leadership and shared decision making—to deliver an open and globally consistent handset software platform based upon mobile Linux for use by the whole mobile industry. The Board of LiMo Foundation comprises ACCESS, Panasonic Mobile Communications, NEC CASIO Mobile Communications, NTT DOCOMO, Samsung, SK Telecom, Telefónica and Vodafone. A full description of LiMo Foundation can be found at www.limofoundation.org.

LiMo & Tizen FAQs

How does Tizen relate to MeeGo and LiMo?
Tizen builds upon best practices and technologies from MeeGo and LiMo to deliver a complete cross-device open source software platform and will result in broader, stronger ecosystem support from leading service providers and OEMs. Intel will be working with partners to help them transistion from MeeGo to Tizen. In order to enable successful transition, sustainng engineering support will continue for MeeGo v1.1 and v1.2 releases into 2012. Intel will fold its ongoing MeeGo development efforts into the new Tizen project.

What are the key differences between MeeGo, LiMo and Tizen?
The key differences are Tizen’s comprehensive, standards-based HTML5 application solution, broader industry support and a hardened mobile device stack.

Nordic System Integrators Welcome Open Source Initiative Tizen [Sept 28, 2011]

According to Pasi Nieminen, CEO of Nomovok, the leading MeeGo integrator, “For the past two years Nomovok has been working on Steelrat, a commercially optimised version of MeeGo, and today we are pleased to join with this industry-lead project to help make Tizen a commercial reality.”

Notes taken on Qt Dev Days 2011 in Munich [Oct 24-26, 2011]

Nomovok has a stand there. I discussed with the guy and he confirmed that they are providing the integration of Qt into Tizen. They see Tizen as MeeGo + the HTML5 additional overlay, and clearly not as MeeGo minus Qt. To them,
there is no reason why things we were able to do with MeeGo should not be feasable with Tizen. They meet every second week with Intel to work about the integration of Qt into Tizen. Looks damn promising!

Talk by Marco Argenti (SVP Developer Experience, Nokia) about “Qt and the broader strategy”.
– 100 millions Qt-enabled smartphones on the market.
– Strong emphasis on N9 being the best ever device for developers.

– Big opportunities for developing apps for the “next billion”
– ex[ample]: India: 800 millions mobile suscribers => those users will mainly experience the web through apps => Qt is core to achieve this!

“Qt Roadmap, Open Governance and Qt5”, by Lars Knoll, Qt Chief Architect:
– Nokia definitely is backing up Qt! That has been said and hammered extensively during this talk.
– Nokia has a growing interest in Qt, increasing its investment into it. Plus, there are job openings.
– Transition from Qt4 to Qt5: will not be as painfull as the transition from Qt3 to Qt4, as most of the stuff is implemented all right. Basically a matter of running a script for adapting header files and minor tweaks to the build system.
– Qt5 to be split into “Essentials” and “Add-on odules” (including widgets, Qt Webkit, part of Qt Mobility,…
– Qt Quick 2 built and optimized for OpenGL, with dramatic performance improvements
– Qt5 timeline:
>> Feature freeze by early 2012
>> Beta by March/April 2012
>>  Done by 1st half of 2012
– Qt Widgets supported in Qt5 (but to some extent, development on widgets is shifting towards community efforts, through Qt-Project)
– After Qt5: plan is to release twice a year, at fixed time periods (more predictable)
– In response to a question about Symbian and MeeGo:
>> Symbian STAYS on Qt 4.8 = Symbian NOT supported on Qt5!
>> MeeGo: tests done, works well so far, so shouldn’t be a problem. (He would not tell more than this)
– Development opportunities:
>> Desktop: yes, clearly in the focus
>> Mobile: You will see something coming… This is all Nokia is ready to say now! (Seems clearly to indicate some big announcement by tomorrow at the Nokia World event!!)

[Later the same person:] Apparently nothing as of yet. The Nokia World has been sharply focused of the Lumia (WP7) and Asha (S40) launches.

Session about developing with MeeGo on N9, by Yoann Lopes. Quote: “N9 is awesome, but it misses one thing: you, your apps”. 75 minutes is a too short time to go very deep, but the guy basically showed the whole process, step by step, and some of the possibilities (demoed: applications “MeeSpot”, “Trafikanten”). A few security-related questions were raised (about preventing an app sending over-priced SMS’s), which didn’t lead anywhere, by lack of enough informations about the topic. Again, question asked about the incentive for developing for a “dead platform”: “Can’t say anything about this, but if you develop for MeeGo now, you definitely will be able to reuse your skills.” (not quoting exactly, just what I remember from it). He mentioned also again “next billion”…

Tizen Summit Asia 2011 coming! [Oct 27, 2011]

Nomovok organizes Tizen Summit Asia 2011 at Beijing Marriott Hotel City Wall 8-9 December. The event gathers together Open Source Vendors, OEMs, operators and other Tizen project contributors, together with local Open Source contributors in China. Check the event website and register here!

Dear Intel & Samsung, Can Tizen have some Qt ? [Oct 24, 2011]

So Qt Developer Days is kicking off in Munich today and I feel sad. As if something is not right. Something is missing. Tizen has recently began its Qt-less journey and this does not seem like a sensible move to me. Many would argue that Qt is supported in the Netbook version and yes it is for now, but there are no guarantees that it will survive for the future.

Is alienating a whole group of Developers that bought into the MeeGo dream the best way forward? These are Developers that have invested time, money and effort into the integration of MeeGo and Qt and now are floating away to develop for Android / Symbian and possibly iPhone. Surely having YOUR developers developing for the already established competition a bad thing ?

Is banking everything on HTML5/JS/CSS3 the best way forward ? I think Not. Could we not have HTML5 + Qt Support in Tizen ? Already Nomovok have announced that they will provide Tizen with integrated Qt, but for this to work we need it to be adopted by the project as a whole. If we lose Qt then we Lose a lot of Developers that believe in it and NOT in HTML5 and have not bought into being able to make the move to HTML5. For the wholesale of applications HTML5 seems like the one, but for more specialist applications Qt is a Development Framework that a lot of development companies prefer and that is a fact that you can’t get away from.

Tizen launched with it trying to appeal to the same target audience as MeeGo, Everyone, So shouldn’t we also try to appeal to as many developers as we can ?

With Tizen we also now get Samsung which has been the silent giant in all of this and that makes us all nervous. Very nervous. No press releases, Nothing actually stating what Samsungs vision / Intentions are for Tizen. Samsungs existing Linux Platform uses EFL (http://www.enlightenment.org) and Tizen will also use this. Is there an issue with trying to support both EFL and Qt / QML on Tizen? Surely it can be overcome.

When Nokia Dropped MeeGo on Feb 11 it caused major rifts between them and several companies including intel but now with the recent move of Qt being an Open Source Project with Open Governance can we not overcome issues of the past ?

There are many that are fighting the Qt cause in Tizen. I wish them good luck and hope Tizen has a Qt future.

….

sleeve says: October 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm

@uncle steve: now intel says no to qt?

no, samsung says no to qt as it is open source LGPL and any improvement or deployment would help Nokia tiny 1% – Samsung afraids. Samsung is happy with its vaporware BSD-licensed englightement without even one stable release in 11 years because the license allows to close any single bit if needed. If enlightenment fails samsung will use the backup tech aka HTML5 as already plans and no qt at all. Again, because in their flawed perception that would give nokia a point. All in samsung’s SLP/Limo – 4 bloody years without even single flawed release. The korean giant is strong in pushing hardware that’s all about it. Otherwise bada would be such a success for them.

Yeah Intel apparently HAPPILY supports qt on its part of tizen on its hardware and in AppUp stores. Intel wants apps SO qt will give what enlightenement wont.

Marko Ahtisaari’s speech about ‘Patterns of Human Interaction’ at Copenhagen Design Week [Sept 8, 2011] EXCELLENT!

– Very detailed summary of the above presentation: Video Marko Ahtisaari On N9 – I know We Have Out Simplified The iPhone [Sept 9, 2011] EXCELLENT!
– N9 is becoming available on Sept 30 for ~ US$700 list price
as per Предварительный заказ на Nokia N9 [excerpted on Aug 17, 2011]
See also the PDF copy (in case when the page is not available anymore):
N9 with Swipe in Kazakhstan — 17-Aug-2011
(99.999 Kazakhstani Tenge is US$683 as of today’s exchange rate. Samsung Galaxy R is advertised for the same price, note that Galaxy R is currently available in Sweden for US$634)

Nokia Styles Comeback Plan [Aug 30, 2011]

With the release of its first Windows-based smartphone coming soon, Nokia Corp. is making a big bet: that the innovative design of its new phone will help it stand out and draw attention away from software problems the company has faced as it struggles to compete in the lucrative market.

Anyone interested in the look and feel of Nokia’s future handset design should examine the N9 launched in June—the first smartphone to replace the traditional home button with a swipe of the hand. It is made from a colorful polycarbonate material and although it appears rectangular, it has a curved glass screen.

The N9 features the MeeGo operating system, in which Nokia has already lost interest. But Marko Ahtisaari, Nokia’s head designer, says the design is an indication of where the company is headed. “We will drive this trend toward reduction and more natural forms. Compare that to the black, grey and metallic rounded-corner rectangles you are seeing in the market,” Mr. Ahtisaari says during an interview.

Mr. Ahtisaari says today’s touch-screen phones are inappropriately immersive, and that he would like to design in a way that allows users to keep their heads up again.

“When you look around at a restaurant in Helsinki, you’ll see couples having their heads down instead of having eye contact and being aware of the environment they’re in,” he says.

Designing for true mobility…makes it easier for people to have more eye contact and be aware of their environment, and is an example of what people would not explicitly ask for but love when they get it,” Mr. Ahtisaari says.

For Mr. Ahtisaari and his design team, which numbers several hundred people in Finland, China, the U.K. and the U.S., innovation is about designing better and more natural ways to use a phone through careful observation of users and their environments. Mr. Ahtisaari adds that frequent prototypes, from paper sketches to 3-D wax models to real phones, are crucial to achieve the simplicity and precision needed.

Nokia’s hardware success stems from distinguishing features that often depend on the types of materials used in handsets. Polycarbonate with inherent color is key to the company’s current designs. “The inherent color in the polycarbonate allows us to do color in an interesting way, and that will continue to be important as a simple symbol of choice,” Mr. Ahtisaari says.

Customers can expect more touch-screen phones with physical keyboards, such as the E6 and C3 handsets. “It’s a very rich area for Nokia to innovate in years to come, as many people still want keyboards,” Mr. Ahtisaari says.

He also plans to add value by “linking the phone experience to maps and information about where you are, mapping the world in a way that we have not even imagined possible.”

End of Updates

The Nokia N9: a unique all-screen smartphone [June 21, 2011]

Nokia today announced the Nokia N9, built for people who appreciate a stunning blend of design and the latest smartphone technology.

The Nokia N9 introduces an innovative new design where the home key is replaced by a simple gesture: a swipe. Whenever you’re in an application, swiping from the edge of the display takes you home.

The three home views of the user interface are designed to give fast access to the most important things people do with a phone: using apps, staying up to date with notifications and social networks, and switching between activities.

So, going to Windows Phone 7 or not it has happened as communicated back in last December:
Nokia to enter design pattern competition for 2011 smartphones with MeeGo [Dec 9, 2010]


Note: Version 1.2 of MeeGo OS is scheduled for April 2011 but the smartphone product won’t happen, either on Intel or ARM until around June 2011. See my post on Intel Oak Trail to beat ARM with MeeGo specific prices [Nov 25]

This is all according to its SVP Design and User Experience, Marko Ahtisaari [the indicated timing is for the video record of his plenary speech at LeWeb 2010 on Dec 8, also linked later on]:

1. [2:25] Elegant, simple, extremely blown out – the iOS design pattern. Essentially a screen or screens full of apps and a physical homekey like the mouse key. You click it, you take your hand off the screen to do something on the screen, then may leave to go home. Beautifully elegant, extremely simple to learn with a few steps. And think of a forefront of a house where if you want to go from the kitchen to the dining room you know how you go to the front door. And if after dinner you want to go to the living room you again know how to do that, you go to the front door. Of course the physical button is this mouse click has been loaded with more and more functionality, but essentially a beatifully elegant system that is fantastically constrained. [3:18]. 2. Multiple personizable homescreens where the bet is that the process of personalizing (filling out these home screens) is so simple and organic that it just happens over time and you end up using the device by these home screens – the pattern shared by both Symbian and Android, also the fastest growing pattern. There is not only one physical button but there are many, in fact there are many different configurations that are quite fragmented, as many people commented. And there is some way to flip to where you launch apps, but essentially it is about these personalizable home screens for both shortcuts and live information, or using tabs or so on those widgets. [4:08]
3. [4:20] Windows Phone 7 has introduced an interestingnew pattern, too early to tell [how successful it will be]. But it just shows that there is demand for other patterns. [4:26]One important remark by Sofpedia’s Nokia Poised to Change Mobile UI Approach with MeeGo Devices [Dec 8] report: “Marko Ahtisaari suggests that the future would bring different UI patterns to devices, and that one of them would be based on notifications.Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 OS was built based on notifications.” 4. [4:28] This is basically what is the design team in the Nokia Design Studios is spending most of its time on doing: is introducing a new pattern. This will be launched with MeeGo in 2011. … [To give the idea:] … If you look at touchscreen immersive experiences, so most touchscreen devices, and what you start thinking is this way: you will see this at every single moment – so you walk in Paris, you see in cafe, [where] you see a couple [who] have been together for 10-15 years – they will be there head down, pitching and zooming. Touchscreen interfaces are immersive, they require our full attention. [5.15]I think we are missing a trick and also we are not doing good enough design unless we give people their head up again. What do I mean by that? Better one-handed use, better ways to use the devices, without them demanding our full attention. This means more eye contact, more ability to be present both with the people you are around, with right now the physical environment, as well as when you are navigating the physical environment and using maps. I think this giving people their head-up again is extremely important. [5:45]

This is how Stephen Elop, CEO of Nokia talked about Nokia’s smart phone strategy on the Nokia Connections 2011 event in Singapore (from a 3d party video record [June 21, 2011]):

[0:05] I’am going to jump right in and talk about our progress and talk about the progress and advances in smart devices. As we’ve shared our primary smartphone platform strategy is the focus on Windows Phone. I have increased confidence that we will launch our first device based on Windows Phone platform later this year. And we will show our products in volume in 2012.

Now I’ll tell you we have these devices in hand now, we have them working and those who have viewed our early work are very optimistic about the devices Nokia will bring to market. In fact — to quote — the CEO of a leading retailer, and I quote, this device is an absolute beauty with a very fast user interface. The combination of a best of Nokia with a great user interface will have a tremendous impact on the market. [1:00, then in the record comes Marko Ahtisaari with N9 intro, but in reality Marco Argenti was preceding him with Qt [cute] related announcements which are well expressed on the following post on the Nokia Developer]

The future of Qt: Bringing apps to the next billion [June 21, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Exciting news for the developer community today, and in particular for those who are focused on Qt: At the Nokia Connection 2011 event in Singapore, Nokia Senior Vice President, Developer Experience Marco Argenti confirmed that Nokia will “make Qt core to bringing applications to the next billion,” and he reassured developers that investments made in Qt today will live on in the future with Nokia.

During his presentation, “Qt and the Next Billion”, Argenti noted the following:

  • “Qt-powered Apps have serious momentum on Ovi Store. Our consumers are downloading more Qt-written apps on over 100 million devices worldwide. And today I’m happy to announce that we will make Qt core to bringing great applications to the next billion.”
  • “Why did we pick Qt? Qt is a great cross-platform framework. Qt is modern and efficient. Qt Quick bridges the design phase with the production phase – making it incredibly easy to design, prototype and develop new applications. With QML, the interface markup language, web developers can feel right at home creating great UI’s.”
  • “Qt is widely supported by an active community of over 1/2 million developers. And Nokia will continue to invest in Qt, as we’ve recently released Qt SDK 1.1, and we’re actively involved in contributing to Qt 5.”

This means developers will have both a large existing audience to target with Qt-based mobile apps (100 million Symbian-based phones, plus our first-ever pure touch smartphone, the Nokia N9).

Argenti also noted that: “We will disclose further details in due time; today we want our developers to see the opportunity that the future of Qt brings as part of our mobile phones strategy.”

Learn more about developing for the Nokia N9 and developing with Qt.

And before Ahtisaari was invited by Elop to introduce N9 he actually said according to the official webcast (emphasis is mine):

[42:23] When we’ve determined that that we will shift our strategy we’ve assessed we could bring our innovation and technology to the market three times faster than we’ve had in the past. … [now he says that Symbian Ana, Windows Phone, dual SIM products are showing that] … But we are also breaking through with new forms of innovation. As we’ve said on February 11 we intend to launch an exciting experience around user interface, the industrial design and the developer platform. As part of that work we’re exploring technology to create a better phone. [43:10, after which Ahtisaari is invited on the scene and delivers what could see from the already mentioned 3d party video record from 1:00]

Then, at another event [for the employees] after N9 introduction by Marko Ahtisaari and before the first Nokia Windows Phone 7 has been shown (from a 3d party video record, the 2nd embedded into Engadget’s Nokia’s first Windows Phone: images and video, codenamed ‘Sea Ray’ [June 23, 2011]):

So, I have to say a special thank you as Marko did to everyone working in and around the MeeGo effort. It’s been a challenging time for that team as well. And yet look at the quality of work that’s been done.

Now one of the big questions we get is, yes you’re launching this device but we know you are transitioning to Windows Phone, what’s the point? What is the point?

The point is this. There’s a whole collection of innovation available in the N9 that is going to live one. So — for example — Marko talked about the work in and around Qt [cute] and the development of Qt applications [see between 13:20 and 13:55 in the N9 announcement video record embedded below], and as we’ve already said  yesterday, Qt lives on and actually strengthenes because of its engagement in the next billion. So that’s really good. Innovation in that device lives on.

Another example is the user interface and user experience. We’re not saying precisely what device, and when and how. The user experience you see here is something that will live on as well.

A third example of innovation that will live on is the beautiful industrial design. So now I’m going to just ask everybody to put away your cameras, turn off all of the recording devices. I’am serious because I’m going to share with you something … because this is something that is super confidential and we do not want to see out in the blogosphere, wherever it is. We think it is important for all of you to understand how this innovation lives on, and how well we as a company are today executing.

Let me show you another new device from Nokia. … So what is it? It’s sort of looking at it and then say that is what Marko has shown us. Beautiful design, Gorilla glass … Carl Zeiss” 8mpixel camera … you notice there is as one extra button on the top. So you notice that is not the same device. … What this is, is a product that is code-named Sea Ray, and it is Nokia’s first Windows Phone device. [2:34, then comes a quite detailed WP7 part, until 21:45]

So from all these it is quite obvious that with February 11 decision the only thing which Nokia immediately had thrown out of the boat was the MeeGo operating system itself. And indeed in an interview to Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday Elop delivered a a quite clear message: Nokia CEO Stephen Elop rules out possible comeback of MeeGo [June 3, 2011]

Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop promised that the company will soon introduce a range of new inventions and innovations, with which it will improve the competitiveness of its mobile phones.

As an example of new inventions, Elop mentioned the brand-new N9 handset launched in Singapore on Tuesday, which will come on sale in the autumn, a year behind the original schedule.
“The N9 features many new breakthroughs related to its usability, design, and materials, which we will be utilising and developing further in our upcoming models. I cannot speak of them more specifically just yet, but they will soon become apparent”, Elop said.
According to Elop, the N9 is a handset that relies more on the Qt application framework than its MeeGo operating system. Thanks for the Qt environment, the used applications can be programmed to work with three of the platforms used by Nokia, though not with the Windows Phone system.
In Elop’s words, there is no returning to MeeGo, even if the N9 turns out to be a hit.

The switch to the software giant Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system has frustrated many of the Nokia staffers.
Some are afraid that the company will turn into a mere equipment manufacturer and a Microsoft subcontractor.
Elop roundly rejects this interpretation.
“Nokia will continue its research and development on the software side, as well as in services and equipment design. We will build inventions for our Windows phones that will make us stand apart from our competitors and bring significant additional advantage to our application developers”, he declared firmly.
According to Elop, in recent months Nokia has launched several different software development projects.
“Those working within the software R&D sector are more and more motivated thanks to our achievements. I am continuously in touch with them. I constantly receive emails that tell me how the pace of problem-solving has quickened.”

Nokia N9 details

Nokia N9 Design Story [June 20, 2011]

In this video, Marko Ahtisaari, Nokia’s SVP of Design, talks about the design of the Nokia N9 http://nokia.ly/iGrtvJ. It only takes a swipe to get to what you want with the Nokia N9, and it all floats beautifully on the large, curved display. Stay in touch with people, news and events. And browse the web. Quickly. Get around with free maps and navigation. And take great pictures with the 8MP camera. The Nokia N9 makes it all smooth, effortless and gorgeously stylish. Learn more about the new Nokia N9, visit: http://nokia.ly/jUnOCP.

Nokia N9: the designer’s story [June 22, 2011] (in paragraph emphasis is mine)

I love sitting down with Nokia’s designers. There’s not one square millimetre of each phone that doesn’t get refined and revised a hundred times. They always have a mind-blowing story to tell about each aspect of the design. It’s never, “We chose blue cause that would be cool”; it’s always like, “We chose cyan, not blue, because the design is pure, so colours need to be pure, and…” at which point, my head explodes. I sat down with the Nokia N9′s lead designer, Anton Fahlgren, for a chat about his epic two-year project

How did the Nokia N9 begin?

I headed up a team in Copenhagen during the summer of 2009, and that’s where it began. The brief was to evolve the story from the previous Nokia Nseries/Eseries devices, and define it moving forward. We chose to work with an Nseries product as it was interesting times at Nokia – things were bumpy in the high-end market. Extreme numbers on a spec sheet was not the way to win. We knew we needed innovation at every level.

I’ve had the option to do this before, but those occasions didn’t feel so very exciting: here we had a blank canvas. I wanted to define what high-end means today and take a more software-driven approach, and show people it’s not just the hardware that makes a great phone: it’s the UI and platform and how it all works together.

Did you know you’d be creating for something other than Symbian?

The MeeGo stuff had started bubbling, but we hadn’t seen it. We tried to simplify and distil the existing story, because there was a lot of good in the work that was done. That was the starting point – no compromises. We tried different styles; we did a range of devices like slide-and-tilt; we did a couple different sizes, but they were all based on the same design family. But the one that made it to the market was the Nokia N9.

What makes the Nokia N9 unique?

Above all, it’s the continuity that you feel from the shape of the glass continuing to the side profile. It just feels right. The basic concept is that seamless continuity of the form, and I think it was something we refined with the UI. It’s just something nice about interacting with a device that has a gentle curvature. Once you have something that’s more continuous in your hand, it’s just more pleasant to interact with it, all the way to the edges. Try to swipe stuff on other phones, and you’ll soon see that the edges will bother you.

When you see it in three dimensions, there’s not a single straight surface on the product. It’s actually really difficult to model in CAD. It’s almost like a pillow. In concept, a pillow is a simple form. It’s not hard to understand. But if you have to build those surfaces on a computer, you’ll realize how complicated they are. So the concept is simple, but as a piece of geometry, it’s quite elaborate.

No buttons! Just swipe!

Once you’ve got a flavour of life without buttons, it’s hard to go back. I find myself with other devices trying to swipe, but I can’t. Phones with keys feel old now, in some respects.

Last question, how would you like consumers to feel when they first pick up a Nokia N9?

That’s a good question. What’s important for us is that if this becomes a hardware story, we’ve failed. It needs to be in context with the UI. I hope the first point of delight will be about the interface, the button-less navigation. I hope it’s not only about the hardware design. The idea was to create a canvas for the UI and the user to shine. When you watch TV, you don’t want a frame, you just want the content.

The Nokia N9 Announcement by Marko Ahtisaari at Nokia Connection 2011 [June 21, 2011]

In this video, Marko Ahtisaari, Nokia’s SVP of Design, announces Nokia N9 http://nokia.ly/iGrtvJ.

The related press release: The Nokia N9: a unique all-screen smartphone [June 21, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Singapore – Nokia today announced the Nokia N9, built for people who appreciate a stunning blend of design and the latest smartphone technology.  To learn more about the design of the Nokia N9 visit: http://swipe.nokia.com

One swipe and you’re home
The Nokia N9 introduces an innovative new design where the home key is replaced by a simple gesture: a swipe. Whenever you’re in an application, swiping from the edge of the display takes you home.

The three home views of the user interface are designed to give fast access to the most important things people do with a phone: using apps, staying up to date with notifications and social networks, and switching between activities.

The industrial design of the Nokia N9 is an example of extreme product making and craft. The body is precision-machined from a single piece of polycarbonate and flows seamlessly into beautiful curved glass. The laminated deep black display means that the user interface just floats on the surface of the product.

The Nokia N9 also packs the latest in camera, navigation and audio technology for a great all-round experience.

“With the Nokia N9, we wanted to design a better way to use a phone. To do this we innovated in the design of the hardware and software together. We reinvented the home key with a simple gesture: a swipe from the edge of the screen. The experience sets a new bar for how natural technology can feel,” said Marko Ahtisaari, Nokia’s head of Design. “And this is just the beginning. The details that make the Nokia N9 unique – the industrial design, the all-screen user experience, and the expressive Qt framework for developers – will evolve in future Nokia products.”

Innovative all-screen design
With no need for a home key, the all-screen Nokia N9 makes more room for apps to shine. The 3.9-inch AMOLED screen is made from scratch-resistant curved glass. The polycarbonate body enables superior antenna performance. This means better reception, better voice quality and fewer dropped calls.

Camera, maps and multimedia
The 8-megapixel Carl Zeiss autofocus sensor, wide-angle lens, HD-quality video capture and large lens aperture enable great camera performance even in lowlighting conditions. This makes the Nokia N9 one of the best camera-phones ever produced.

The Nokia N9 features free turn-by-turn drive and walk navigation with voice guidance in Maps. With the new dedicated Drive app, you can get in your car and start navigating to your destination right away.

You can watch videos in true 16:9 widescreen format. And because the Nokia N9 is also the world’s first smartphone with Dolby® Digital Plus decoding and Dolby Headphone post-processing technology, you get a surround sound experience with any set of headphones.

Touch just got better
Fitted with the latest in wireless technology, Near Field Communication (NFC), the Nokia N9 allows you to easily share images and videos between devices by touching them together.  Pair it with Bluetooth accessories like the new NFC-enabled Nokia Play 360° wireless music speaker only once, and you get a great surround sound music experience with just a tap.

Colors and Memory
The Nokia N9 will be available in three colors – black, cyan, and magenta with storage options to accommodate plenty of content: 16GB and 64GB. The Nokia N9 is scheduled to be in stores later this year, with availability and local pricing to be announced closer to the sales start.

More information about the Nokia N9 can be found at: http://swipe.nokia.com.

Video: Diving into the Nokia N9 UI and specs [June 21, 2011]

The Nokia N9 is fresh out of the oven and we think it’s pretty hot. We’ve received quite a few questions from our readers about this newcomer’s technical profile and user interface. To give you a better idea of how the product works, we grabbed Marketing Manager Jussi Mäkinen and asked him to give us a guided tour of the Nokia N9 UI on video.

Nokia Marketing Manager Jussi Mäkinen walks us thru Nokia N9. Nokia N9 is designed around the things people typically use the most.

Here is some geeky data on the technical specifications:
– Networks: Pentaband WCDMA 850, 900, 1900, 1700, 2100, Quad band GSM/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900
– Speed: HSDPA Cat10: 14.4Mbps, HSUPA: Cat6 5.76Mbps
– Display: 3.9” WVGA (854×480) AMOLED display with curved Gorilla glass, no air gap, anti-glare polarizer
– OS: MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan
– Memory: 1024MB RAM, 16GB/64GB storage
– Camera: 8Mpix auto-focus Carl Zeiss, wide-angle lens, 2x LED flash, Video capturing MPEG-4 SP 720p @ 30fps, 2nd camera for video calls
– Size / Weight: 116.45 mm x 61.2 mm x 7.6–12.1 mm (L x W x T) / 76 cm3/ 135 g
– Connectivity: BT 2.1, GPS, A-GPS, WLAN 802.11abgn, NFC, 3.5mm AV connector,  micro USB connector, USB charging
– Processor: ARM Cortex-A8 OMAP3630 1 Ghz, PowerVR SGX530
– Audio: MP3 player, Audio jack: 3.5mm, Supported codecs: mp3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, FLAC.
– Battery: 1450 mAh

Operating Times
– Talk time: (GSM/WCDMA) up to 11 h / up to 7 hours
– Standby time: Up to 450 hours (WCDMA), up to 380 hours (GSM)
Video playback (720P): up to 4.5 hours
– Music playback: up to 50 hours

Other information from the official Nokia blog:
Introducing the Nokia N9: all it takes is a swipe! [June 21, 2011]
Nokia N9 – photo taking and sharing [June 22, 2011]
Nokia N9: what would you like to see? [June 22, 2011]
Getting up close, with NFC on the Nokia N9 [June 23, 2011]
Nokia N9: Drive & Maps [June 23, 2011]
Blogbite: let’s talk Nokia N9 [June 24, 2011]

Nokia’s N9: Cool, Cruel and Unusual [by Randy Arnolds, June 23, 2011]

source: http://swipe.nokia.com

Unlike many friends and former Nokia colleagues, I have not had the pleasure of fondling a sexy new N9 so this won’t be a product review as much as a process and philosophy review.  That means something a little less structured than usual and loaded with unabashed opinion, pontificating and ranting.

So buckle up, this should be a ride that would do Tomi Ahonen proud.

We have ignition…

Maemo and MeeGo community advocates didn’t begin with high expectations for the Nokia Connection 2011 event in Singapore on June 21.  Lacking the presentation pizzazz of Apple or even Microsoft, Nokia has a mixed history with this sort of thing and has too often bombed when it needed to blow something up.  So when we were bored with a Symbian Anna demo followed by an even more tiresome spiel on S40, the peanut gallery in a freenode.net IRC webchat augmented Nokia’s endless warm-up with the usual locker room antics.  CEO Steven Elop had promised a disruption; we were just distracted.

Then Marko Ahtisaaricalmly and quietly claimed the stage.

Speculation had run rampant over who would more likely stun us with the allegedly disruptive device, but the consensus had correctly pinned Marko as the man.  He sealed the deal by very quickly getting down to business.

A presenter’s presenter, the well-spoken Ahtisaari peeled away layers of the slick N9 with the deftness of a professional magician.  I can’t speak for anyone else but our little web gathering was enthralled.  The catcalls and comic relief abruptly ceded to what amounted to geek sexting.  That’s the magic of what Nokia has pulled off here, with impeccable industrial design and a clever UI just begging to be swiped.

That’s also the problem.

The MeeGo Mambo

When Elop announced Nokia’s head-scratching new strategy (and I use that last term extremely loosely) back in February of this year, there was the promise of an undescribed MeeGo device to be produced at some point, to be followed by an anticlimactic year-long ramp-down of the project once hailed as Nokia’s high-end salvation.   Never mind that the N9 isn’t running pure MeeGo (but rather a mish-mash of Maemo 6 and MeeGo parts now curiously labeled as MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan).  To any end user, it’s MeeGo enough.

But the question becomes: why?

Why release something designed to run what is, for Nokia, a dead-end OS?  Elop says this otherwise-seductive N9 is intended as a test-bed for future Windows Phone 7 devices.  But how many consumers tolerate being tested? Those few who fell in with Nokia’s steps 1 through 4 with Maemo can be forgiven for feeling too defeated to step up for number 5.  That would make the N9 a profit sink at a time when Nokia’s stock (NOK) is severely depressed.

Is this just a stopgap until Windows Phone 7 graces similar Nokia hardware?  If so, will enough purchasers succumb in the meantime to this obviously alluring work of art to at least cover its costs?

Conspiracy theorists are having a field day with this, pointing to admittedly mind-boggling statements and steps that, like the pieces from different puzzle sets, do not fit together.  One of the more prevailing and extreme speculations is that the N9′s strange release is actually a deliberate move by Microsoft-via-Nokia to torpedo the prospects of MeeGo– not just within Nokia’s domain, but in toto.  The old Fear/Uncertainty/Doubt (FUD) machine grinding up another competitor.  I’m resisting this line of thought, but… but…

The Maemo Legacy

Nokia struggled with its last Maemo device, the N900 mobile computer, both in terms of consumer adoption and reliability issues.  Can the company afford to repeat that with the N9?  And will the life of the typical N9 exceed Nokia’s willingness to support it?  The track record isn’t good there.

It’s all… bewildering.

Back to the device unveiling.  Again, Elop referred to this little beauty as disruptive.  He even went so far as to invoke his favorite word, ecosystem, although the N9 doesn’t appear to come with one.

So what could the N9 disrupt?  Well, so far it’s done a number on the MeeGo and Maemo communities, particularly the latter.  maemo.org members are largely polarized on included or excluded features like hardware keyboards, Adobe Flash support and HDMI.  Nothing new there.  But this is likely the last time the Maemo community could survive a foundation-fracturing device.  It’s already on shaky ground as legacy Maemo devices and long-standing community leaders run out of steam or just plain run out.

Long Limbs, Thin Ice

Many Maemo/MeeGo fans are looking at the glossy N9 with a glint of hope.  Maybe, just maybe goes the logic,  success for the N9 could change Elop’s mind on MeeGo.  Maybe the Linux-based operating system really is a Plan B– one that advances to Plan A under the right circumstances.  If Windows Phone 7 falters, and that’s a reasonable conjecture based on current sales, what else is Nokia going to do?  Stay with Symbian, which it tossed over to Accenture?  Elevate S40?  I don’t think even bringing Qt to S40could happen fast enough.  If the N9 sells out completely, or close enough, will that trigger a slow-down in Nokia’s ramp-down?  If so, does Nokia have the ready staff for it, or have too many abandoned the wayward ship?

Detractors are saying this is all pointless, that there’s no room for MeeGo in a two-horse Android-plus-iOS world. How selective amnesia can be; there wasn’t room for them, either, a few years ago when Symbian owned the playing field.

MeeGo could actually succeed with a similar approach to Apple’s: highly target a select demographic comprised of, say, fifteen to twenty percent of a given population and please them to no end.  But instead of the same demographic, cater to those at the complete opposite end of the open-closed spectrum.  In other words, the Maemo/MeeGo crowd in addition to those largely invested in Android because it isn’t iOS.  Then let Android, WP7, and the rest battle for the middle.  Select markets generate higher margins than mass markets, as Nokia has learned the hard way.

Summing Up

I found the Singapore event a crude juxtaposition of a lethargic Singapore (and similar) market address awkwardly combined with a brief, exciting N9 reveal.  This was the wrong venue to introduce this device.  The better one would have been the MeeGo Conference 2011, which sorely needed it.

Those who read here regularly will expect me to be completely candid, so I won’t disappoint.  There are aspects of the N9 I don’t like.  Sealed-in battery, lack of memory card slot, last year’s CPU, and a few others.  But I’m not the type to lose the forest for the trees.  From a big picture perspective, I love the Nokia N9.  Yes I drooled over its renderings.  Yes I find that uniquely-curved screen to be cool enough to touch.  Yes I want one NOW.  I will forgive the known shortcomings.  Heck, even Engadget likes it.

And as for MeeGo: it still enjoys strong support from Intel and partners.  It just needs a high-profile, lust-inducing handset to improve its consumer recognition prospects.  The N9 shows it can be done in spades, despite Elop’s disputable claims to the contrary.

My disagreement with Elop on MeeGo [by Felipe Contreras, working in Nokia (Maemo), June 21, 2011]

Some time ago I received a private email directly from Elop (just me, nobody else in CC, I am not going to go into details as to why), in which he explained that the biggest problem was the small amount of MeeGo devices in the years immediately ahead.

This is simply not true.

Before explaining why, I’ll quickly say that I actually work on hardware adaptation, so if somebody knows the amount of effort needed to adapt MeeGo to different hardware platforms, it’s us. Plus, I closely follow Linux related mailing lists (linux-arm, linux-omap, linux-media, etc.), and know a lot of people in different companies that work precisely in this area. I have quite a few years of experience doing this, so I know what I’m talking about.

Update: To avoid confusion, I am a mere software engineer. And when I say “us” I’m talking about the bigger team I am part of.

Nobody I know believes what Elop said, and let’s keep in mind that Elop is not an expert in this area, we are. So my guess is that he got his information from some upper management guy who didn’t know what he was talking about either.

As I explained Elop, if we wanted to ship 10 devices with OMAP 3 (the same platform of the Nokia N9) today, there is absolutely no problem from the software point of view: all the UI software remains the same, and the hardware adaptation would probably require few modifications, if any.

The problem is when porting to an entirely new hardware platform, say Snapdragon. Suppose only 3 devices are planned on the “years immediately ahead”, well, then it makes sense to have 3 different hardware platforms, and each one of those requires work from the hardware adaptation team, not from the upper layers, though. However, that’s not a technical limitation, it could very well be 30 devices instead of 3, it’s basically the same amount of work for us. IOW; what matters is the hardware platform, not the number of different devices.

Note: all these are merely examples, not actual plans

Funnily enough, Windows Phone only supports one hardware platform: Snapdragon (and in fact only certain chips). So MeeGo alreadyhas an advantage over Windows Phone; you could ship more devices on more hardware platforms. All we need is the word.

Not to mention the fact that most of the hardware adaptation is already done by hardware vendors. They do it because it’s the easiest way to demo their hardware (it’s Linux). I tried to explain that on an earlier post where I show many examples of people porting MeeGo to a plethora of devices(it’s easy and fun).

Another advantage of course is that MeeGo is already here (Nokia N9).

Not to mention the fact that MeeGo is open source, and Linux is a synergetic endeavor; there’s man more than one company (Microsoft) working on it, in fact, almost everybody else is.

Elop’s answer? “I am simply going to choose to respectfully disagree on multiple fronts”. He didn’t even bothered to mention exactly what was the disagreement.

So there you have it, if there’s a reason for ditching MeeGo, it’s certainly not a technical one, and most likely not a good one either. I hope the people out there like what we did with the Nokia N9 and ask the though question “Why exactly did you leave MeeGo, again?”, specially when there are no signs of any Windows Phone device.

Note: as usual, this is my own personal opinion, and it’s based on publicly available information

Texrat the Crypticum Keepersays:

June 21, 2011 at 20:03

As a former engineer (for Nokia Maemo devices) and product designer (elsewhere) I can vouch for everything Felipe says. Elop’s comments about MeeGo device development are disingenuous and simply designed to reinforce his decision to go with Microsoft. Maemo was run on a shoestring budget yet managed to make incredible progress– put serious resources behind MeeGo and Nokia or any other company would outperform competitors in device innovation. The retreat from MeeGo points to the success of FUD more than anything. Sad that we have allowed that and risk aversion to stifle innovation.

another adaptation guysays:

June 22, 2011 at 10:01

I’m not a big fun of Elop or WP7 either, but …

It’s not only about the number of platforms or number of devices made on particular HW platform. There is important factor – time to market. You have to be on time to the market to sell your stuff.
MeeGo Harmattan OMAP3 adaptation work is brilliant. It is also late. And who needs OMAP3 devices anymore? Market is looking forward… Tegra, OMAP4/5, Snapdragon.

If Nokia would start working on adaptation of a new HW platform that’d mean another 1-2 years from now (and there isn’t any decent adaptation layer from chip makers available on the market yet). By the time they are done existing UI would go out of fashion, so they would have to change it too to stay competitive. Once again Nokia would end up in situation as in all OSSO/Maemo/MeeGo – changing the HW platform AND the whole SW stack. And being late to the market by years.

WP7 was chosen simply because they believe MS adaptation layer closer to the completeness on their HW platform of the choice than Nokia would be with MeeGo in 1 year. Is that right ? Intel’s chip is far from ready… MeeGo on ARM SoCs is a joke^Wdemo.
Nokia needs LOTS of new devices on the market ASAP. Or it will be too late.

Ready application frameworks, SDK, ecosystem and services – all this comes as a bonus. Of course this might be pretty far from reality, but check how cool it all looks on paper. Too good offer to pass.
IMO the real mistake they made by going with WP7 is the choice of business model and ecosystem structure. Closed, royalties based SW. Last century.

“Not to mention the fact that most of the hardware adaptation is already done by hardware vendors. ”
Name a single decent one ? Sure they try, but they are not quite there yet.
Ability to boot linux on your SoC doesn’t count as “adaptation”. Besides that’s only for SoC, without peripherals. Just adding a new USB transceiver to your device can generate some man/months of SW work in adaptation. Let’s not even start talking about power management.

“Another advantage of course is that MeeGo is already here (Nokia N9).”
MeeGo ? Yeah, right. Common ppl, for the 100th time N9 != MeeGo.

“…MeeGo is open source, and Linux is a synergetic endeavor”
From Nokia experience – synergy was seen only in a handful of open source components in OSSO/Maemo/MeeGo Harmattan. Adaptation contributions went mostly one way – upstream.

FelipeCsays:

June 22, 2011 at 14:04

@another adaptation guy The hardware adaptation in Nokia has been ready since a looong time. The problem has always been the UI. Maybe not perfectly, but in a competitive level compared to current Android devices.

And no, WP7 is not closer to completeness. What makes you think so? See the list of chips supported by WP7, it’s basically only QSD8250, which is 2008 technology. That should make you think how easy it is to support different chips, forget about platforms, or architectures.

Sure, hw vendors don’t have perfect adaptation for Linux, but they have something which is better than what WP7 has; nothing. There’s no OMAP4, Intel, Tegra, Sh-Mobile, or anything else, not even booting. Not to mention the fact that Android kernels are already shipping, and most of that work can be re-used, as it’s still Linux.

I’m sure it would have been easier and faster for Nokia/Qualcomm to finish up the adaptation of a Snapdragon chip that it is for Microsoft to provide OMAP4 support, or even worst: Intel support.

FelipeCsays:

June 22, 2011 at 16:59

I never bought that story, and I am kind of shocked that elop (and the other management) actually believes that this is a legitimate argument. Maybe this is just what they say to you? There are of course other, more relevant reasons for the adaption of wp7.

@oli Yes, that’s also my thinking; whenever the official reasons don’t make sense from any point of view, there’s probably some secret reasons. However for now that’s speculation.

What I am interested to see is how much people like the Nokia N9, and how much pressure does Nokia gets to continue working on MeeGo. I don’t know if anything will change, but we in the Maemo/MeeGo team did all we could to make the Nokia N9 a success, now it’s the turn of the consumers :)

Although i love maemo/meego and the n9. its the ecosystem that elop is worried about, and one of the key factors why its so limited at this stage.

@Anthony Well, that’s another reason that can also be debunked. For starters, “ecosystem” seems to me more like an invented term from Elop rather than something consumers are actually looking for, so it’s hard to tell exactly how important such a thing is, or even what exactly does that mean. Also, you have to remember that a few years ago Android didn’t have any “ecosystem”, which is exactly how all platforms start.

I believe MeeGo’s “ecosystem” would have been bigger than Windows Phone’s, in fact, if the “ecosystem” is supposed to be that important, why does WP7 has so small marketshare?

It just doesn’t make sense from any point of view.

FelipeCsays:

June 23, 2011 at 15:28

Does WP7 support multicore?

@Guest It doesn’t. I heard there’s a new WP release that does support it, but that hasn’t shipped on any phone yet (AFAIK).

It is amazing that 95% or comments do not understand basic market(ing) facts. Today, we are not buying phones because they are great. At least smartphones. We are buying them, because other smart people can write amazing apps for them and there is big existing market of these great applications. It is called ecosystem.

@Dantius Palpatine I call bullshit on that. For the ecosystem to matter, first you need good phones. If your assertion was true, WP7 would be gaining market, not loosing it as it is.

sorry but another adaptation guy is right. First and foremost, Harmattan has nothing to do with MeeGo, and I’m still wondering how this marketing trick went through.

@crowbar MeeGo, Maemo, Harmattan, who cares? The software is good. What I want is to see the consumers buying the device like crazy. Sure, it would have sold much more if it wasn’t the last of its kind, and there was a believable developer story, but it’s still a great device (specially if you compare to others in the market).

FelipeCsays:

June 24, 2011 at 3:03

When Elop said that Nokia wouldn’t be able to produce many Meego devices before 2014 I’m sure he was correct.

@jii Great, a statement without any argumentation. What makes you think so? How difficult do you really think it would be to take the software of the Nokia N9 and put it into another device? I’ll tell you how; not at all, it can be done in a few months.

FelipeCsays:

June 24, 2011 at 3:53

@Son of a Finn

Seems like so many posters here are children. Does anyone really believe that Elop does not want to see Nokia succeed?

Of course he wants Nokia to succeed, but he wants it to succeed based on his own decisions. Do you really think he would say “you know what, I was wrong, this WP stuff is not going to work”? That’s not going to advance his career.

Most of what people call “conspiracy theory” can be explained in systemic terms. Maybe Elop truly never thought on crashing Nokia so it can be sold cheaply to Microsoft, but humans are social creatures, we rarely make big decisions without talking to other people — I’m sure he talked with some friends in Redmond, and they tried everything they could to sell the idea of WP7. They might have thought about the possibility of Nokia crashing, and they didn’t care, they pushed Elop to make the move that benefits Microsoft the most, even though it’s the most risky for Nokia.

At the end of the day Elop’s intentions don’t really matter, what matters is what he does, which is most likely influenced by a lot of hidden agendas of other people.

The real question you have to answer is: what happens if Windows Phone fails?

Really, what would happen to Nokia? The stock price is already in ruins, and that’s just because of lack of good news, imagine what would happen when really bad news arrive. What would happen to Finland?

It is rarely a good idea to go “all-in” like Nokia is doing with Windows Phone. It only makes some sense when you are completely sure, but look around, everyone is asking the same question — Why WP7 when you have MeeGo? — that alone should raise some questions regarding the “all-in” position, and then the next question arises — Why not try both?

Let’s suppose Elop is right and I’m wrong; it would only be possible to develop a few MeeGo devices in the next coming years. Well, even if that’s the case there’s nothing wrong with that, it would be a good backup plan if WP fails. Somebody might say, but it takes too many resources, but that’s not true, the Maemo team never took that many resources (it’s kind of efficient), and with a reduced scope, resources could be decreased.

Nokia's Investment

Microsoft is all about partnerships. They do not make hardware or very many end products. Microsoft’s success has come from partnering with many many companies and enabling them to be successful. Every PC manufacturer and 93% of VARs are Microsoft partners. Every PC peripheral or PCI card vendor needs to be a Microsoft partner to succeed.

You call that “partnership”? Then I guess mafia bosses “partner” with their debtors, and when somebody becomes somebody else’s bitch on jail, that’s also a “partnership”.

Strictly speaking they are partnerships, but that’s not what everybody would consider a good partnership.

FelipeCsays:

June 24, 2011 at 12:59

What’s your opinion about needing more than the 3 devices in 3 years that Elop claimed was the problem? Apple has been doing well with an average of 1 new iPhone model a year. I look at the N9 and can’t figure out what hardware would be outdated before 2014. Maybe a next model with a sliding keyboard, but what beyond that?

@Pat That’s a good point, I think Nokia could have done the same as Apple, and concentrate on a few excellent phones. Regarding hardware I would add a sliding keyboard, but also a camera button, and micro HDMI, probably with a dual-core Snapdragon. Something more interesting would be to have a docking station like the Motrola Atrix, but helped with the fact that MeeGo already runs on laptops and so on.

FTR I didn’t claim Elop said 3 devices in 3 years, that was just an example.

Do you know if the number of N9 devices will be limited or it will depend on sales?I hope Nokia promotes this phone with operators because the biggest amount of sales comes from operators, with that in mind, if N9 is promoted the same as N900 it’s impossible it will be a big hit.

It’s hard to make a great phone, but it’s easy to destruct its sales.

@Fran Excellent question! That is something everyone should ask Elop.

FelipeCsays:

June 24, 2011 at 19:41

@Son of a Finn

Read my postings carefully, you will see that I agree with you that Nokia should continue to invest in Meego (as Elops R&D chart shows). I would love Meego to succeed, though I have doubts based on the mobile operators not wanting another platform to support (regardless of the OS being great or not).

Operators want a counterweight against Android. I don’t think they care if it’s WP7, or MeeGo, but something.

Where I differ from most posters here is that I believe if Nokia is not successful with WP7 then they will not survive. Yes, it is an “all in” bet. Success with WP7 will generate the cash to support investment in Meego, failure leaves no hope for Meego at Nokia.

Let’s concentrate on the idea that WP7 fails. If that happens either Nokia starts from scratch, or somebody buys it (for cheap BTW), and given that Nokia already transitioned to WP7, it would be an interesting option for Microsoft. BTW, I do believe that a merge between Nokia and Microsoft would produce decent WP7 phones, because all the traditional barriers for collaboration typical of Microsoft would disappear.

Also, my definition of partnership is when the parties work together and mutually depend on each others success for their own. The examples I gave fit that. PC vendors can and do make PC’s with Linux variations, they can choose to work without Microsoft if they wish. Microsoft would die if no PC vendors used Windows. The truth is that they need each other and are partners.

Nokia and Microsoft’s Windows Phone division (the new name for the Mobile Communications Business division) also need each other and are partners. Nokia has a strong position in this relationship and I expect them to use that to their advantage.

Do you seriously believe that if WP7 fails, Microsoft would be in serious trouble? Nokia is betting the house, but Microsoft is not risking anything; WP7′s humble marketshare is already decreasing. Not that their mobile division is that important, they can survive comfortably without it.

A too early assesment of the emerging ‘Windows 8’ dev & UX functionality

Update on the recent craze in mass media to call the new era “post-PC” by Frank X. Shaw Microsoft Corporation [19 Aug 2011 3:37 PM]:

Where the PC is headed: Plus is the New “Post”

In the past year, and again in the past few weeks, I’ve seen a resurgence of the term “post” applied to the PC in a number of stories including The Wall Street Journal, PC World and the Washington Post. Heck, I even mentioned it in my 30th anniversary of the PC post, noting that “PC plus” was a better term.

… eReaders, Tablets, Smartphones, Set top boxes, aren’t PC killers, but instead are complementary devices. They are each highly optimized to do a great job on a subset of things any PC can also do. …

I’ll be the first to admit that these new “non-PC” objects do a great job at enabling people to communicate and consume in innovative and interesting ways. That’s not surprising, because they were expressly designed for that purpose. But even their most ardent admirers will not assert that they are as good as PCs at the first two verbs, create and collaborate.  And that’s why one should take any reports of the death of the PC with a rather large grain of salt. Because creating and collaborating are two of the most basic human drives, and are central to the idea of the PC.  They move our culture, economy and world forward. You see their fingerprints in every laboratory, startup, classroom, and community.

At Microsoft, we envision a future where increasingly powerful devices of all kinds will connect with cloud services to make it all the more easier for us social beings to create, communicate, collaborate and consume information. I encourage you to tune into our BUILD conference in mid-September where our vision for this world of devices will become clearer.

Update on development timeframe by Steven Sinofsky  Microsoft Corporation [17 Aug 2011 11:48 PM]:

@TrooperKal — we finished Windows 7 in July of 2009 and had started our long lead work on Windows 8 a little before that.  That’s similar to how we worked on Windows 7 relative to the previous release.

[Re: TroperKal’s question: “It is pretty obvious from your team structure and the already discussed features of v.8 that work has been underway for some time. Just for curiosity’s sake, when did work properly begin on this new version?” ]

June 20-24:
Windows 8 for software developers: the Longhorn dream reborn? [by Peter Bright, June 23, 2011]

Windows 8 will ship with a pair of runtimes; a new .NET runtime (currently version stamped 4.5), and a native code C++ runtime (technically, COM, or a derivative thereof), named WinRT. There will be a new native user interface library, DirectUI, that builds on top of the native Direct2D and DirectWrite APIs that were introduced with Windows 7. A new version of Silverlight, apparently codenamed Jupiter, will run on top of DirectUI. WinRT and DirectUI will both be directly accessible from .NET through built-in wrappers.

WinRT provides a clean and modern API for many of the things that Win32 does presently. It will be, in many ways, a new, modern Win32. The API is designed to be easy to use from “modern” C++ (in contrast to the 25 year old, heavily C-biased design of Win32); it will also map cleanly onto .NET concepts. In Windows 8, it’s unlikely that WinRT will cover everythingWin32 can do—Win32 is just so expansive that modernizing it is an enormous undertaking—but I’m told that this is the ultimate, long-term objective. And WinRT is becoming more and more extensive with each new build that leaks from Redmond.

WinRT isn’t just providing a slightly nicer version of the existing Win32 API, either. Microsoft is taking the opportunity to improve the API’s functionality, too. The clipboard API, for example, has been made easier to use and more flexible. There will also be pervasive support for asynchronous operations, providing a clean and consistent way to do long-running tasks in the background.

DirectUI is built around a core subset of current WPF/Silverlight technology. It includes support for XAML, the XML language for laying out user interfaces, and offers the rich support for layouts that Win32 has never had. This core will give C++ programs their modern user interface toolkit and, at its heart, it will be the same toolkit that .NET developers use too. (DirectUI is a name Microsoft has used before, internally, for a graphics library used by Windows Live Messenger. The new DirectUI appears to be unrelated.)

Jupiter is essentially Silverlight 6; a fully-featured, flexible toolkit for building applications. The exact relationship between DirectUI and Jupiter isn’t entirely clear at the moment. It’s possible that they’re one and the same—and that DirectUI will grow in functionality until it’s able to do everything that Silverlight can do. It’s also possible that DirectUI will retain only core functionality, with a more complete framework built on top of its features. Another option is that Jupiter refers specifically to immersive, full-screen, touch-first applications.

XAML and the WPF-like, Silverlight-like way of developing GUIs are going to be absolutely central to Windows development in the future. Testament to their new importance is a reorganization that occurred at the start of this week. Instead of operating under DevDiv’s roof, the XAML team has been broken into three parts. The group working on XAML and related technology for use in Windows has moved to WinDiv, and the group working on it for Windows Phone, Xbox, and the browser plugin has moved to Windows Phone. Only the group that works on the developer tools—including Visual Studio and Expression Blend—is staying behind in DevDiv. The internal Microsoft e-mail announcing the change notes that the XAML team has been working with the Windows team for the duration of Windows 8’s development; this move simply makes them a formal part of the UI team.

What of HTML5 and JavaScript? They’ll be an option too. Microsoft has ventured down the HTML application path before, with its HTAtechnology. HTAs—HTML Applications—are packages of HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and other resources that run in a special trusted mode. The normal constraints that regular HTML webpages are governed by—for instance, an inability to access local resources—don’t apply to HTAs: HTAs can write to the file system, access arbitrary network resources, and more. In other words, they’re webpages stripped of some of the limitations that make webpages unsuitable replacements for desktop applications.

New-style HTML5 immersive applications won’t be distributed as HTAs, but many of the same principles are likely to apply. Like HTAs before them, they’ll gain greater access to operating system functionality than regular webpages—so they’ll be able to call Windows APIs and have a user interface that feels less like a webpage, more like a native application. Feature-wise, they should be at the same level as .NET and native programs. It’s just that they’ll use an HTML5 programming model and JavaScript. The net result should be something that’s familiar to Web developers, but without the functional deficits that Web applications normally suffer.

Far from being a developer disaster, Windows 8 should be a huge leap forward: a release that threatens to make development a pleasure for native, managed, and Web developers alike. The unification of the .NET and native worlds; the full hardware acceleration; the clean, modern APIs; Avalon as the primary solution for creating Windows UIs—this is what Longhorn’s WinFX promised all those years ago, and this time around it looks like it might actually happen.

Microsoft splits up its XAML team: What’s the fallout? [June 23, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

… Microsoft on June 20 split up its XAML team, sending part of it to Windows, part to Windows Phone and leaving part in the Developer Division, according to an e-mail from Developer Division chief Soma Somasegar dated June 20. …

From: S. Somasegar
Sent: Monday, June 20, 2011
To: Client and Mobile Team
Cc: Developer Division FTE; Steven Sinofsky; Julie
Larson-Green; Terry Myerson; David Treadwell
Subject: Bringing together client platform efforts

MICROSOFT CONFIDENTIAL

Over the last couple of years, our Client and Mobile team has done a fantastic job of building a number of XAML related technologies that have been a huge value add to the Microsoft client platforms and an instrumental part of delighting our developer customers. The agility and customer focus that the team has demonstrated over the years has been a pleasure to watch.

Today, we are making some organization changes to bring our platform technologies under a single management structure. These changes are centered around three focus areas:

• The team working on XAML technologies for Windows will move to Windows.

• The team working on XAML technologies for Windows Phone, Xbox and browser plugin will move to Windows Phone. [Microsoft Mobile Communications Business is now the Windows Phone Division [by Mary Jo Foly in ZDNET, June 16, 2011]]

• The Client and Mobile tools teams, including Windows Phone tools and XAML tools, will stay in DevDiv.

These changes are all effective immediately. From a performance review perspective, we will do this year’s performance review underthe DevDiv organization model.

Microsoft -- Kevin Gallo general manager on Silverlight I want to thank Kevin Gallo [publicly so far: General Manager on Silverlight, he was originally writing the graphics engine of WPF but by 2007 was already product unit manager for Silverlight, now he has been moved to the Windows Phone where the Silverlight heritage will continue to live] and the team for all the great work that they have done over the years. Moving forward, I’m  very excited to bring the client platform efforts closer to the platform teams. There is a lot of very exciting and critical work underway as part of our next wave of platform releases and I am very eagerly looking forward to seeing the team’s work in the hands of our developers and customers.

The follow-up emails will provide more details on thechanges to those impacted.  Please join me in wishing Kevin and the  team all the very best as we move forward.  If you have any questions about this change, please let your manager or me know.

-somasegar

Please welcome the XAML platform team to Windows! [by Scott Barnes, June 24, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

From: Julie Larson-Green Sent: Monday, June 20, 2011 9:35 AM To: Grant George; Jon DeVaan; Julie Larson-Green; John Cable; Yves Neyrand; Craig Fleischman; Bambo C. Sofola; Scott Herrboldt; Greg Chapman; Julie Bennett; Jeff Johnson; Ales Holecek; Mohammed El-Gammal; Chuck Chan; Michael Fortin; Eric Traut; Jensen Harris; Linda Averett; Alex Simons (WINDOWS); Gabriel Aul; Dennis Flanagan; Iain McDonald; Samuel Moreau; Dean Hachamovitch; Michael Angiulo; Antoine Leblond; Tami Reller; Chris Jones (WINDOWS LIVE); Jonathan Wiedemann; Ulrike Irmler; Adrianna Burrows Cc: XAML Team; Kevin Gallo; S. Somasegar; Terry Myerson; Sharman Mailloux Sosa; Brad Fringer; Steven Sinofsky

Subject: Please welcome the XAML platform team to Windows!

We’re pleased to announce the transition of the XAML platform team from the Developer Division to the Windows team. While the team has been working side-by-side with the Windows team for the entire project, this step brings them into our team formally.

The team will continue their work on Windows 8 as planned and will join our Developer Experience (DEVX) team. This transition allows us to bring together our platform development team in a single-management structure.

The dev, test, and pm leaders who will be leading the team reporting to AlesH, YvesN, and LindaAv are:

  • Sujal Parikh, Development Manager
  • Eduardo Leal-Tostado, Test Manager
  • Joe Stegman, Group Program Manager

The leads and individuals joining our team are receiving this mail and have received communication on next steps.

These changes in leadership and organization are effective today. For the purposes of finishing out the fiscal year and the performance review process the team will operate under the existing management structure.

There will be an informal Q&A session today to welcome everyone and answer any questions that folks might have.
– XAML team welcome – 2:00-3:00 in building 37/1701Please join me in welcoming these folks to our organization! Julie

Somewhat may be related: Non-iPad tablet vendors likely to launch new Wintel-based models to compete with Apple in 2012 [June 24, 2011]

Intel and Microsoft are jointly touting a new Wintel-based platform for tablet PCs, raising hopes among non-iPad tablet PC vendors that they may be able to compete more effectively with Apple in the segment in 2012 with models other than ARM/Android-based products, according to industry sources.

Most non-iPad table PC vendors have been frustrated recently due to lower-than-expected performance of their tablet PCs built with ARM/Android. While attributing the slow sales to the instability of Android and the strong brand image that Apple enjoys, some vendors have also begun mulling new strategies to strengthen their competitiveness.

Knowing the demand from tablet PC vendors, Intel and Microsoft have recently revealed a roadmap for their Wintel platform to production partners, said the sources, noting that the new platform will come with a less than 5W low-power CPU from Intel paired with Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS.

While Intel is also expected to lower prices for its new CPUs, tablet PC vendors also hope that the new Wintel platform will help them tackle the compatibility issues found between Android 3.0 and 3.1.

June 14-21:
Premature cries of Silverlight / WPF skill loss. Windows 8 supports all programming models [by David Burela, June 14, 2011]

A few people have been digging into the Windows 8 Milestone 3 leak and peeking into the UI framework and .dlls that exist. The most vocal of these have been @JoseFajardo and people in this forum thread http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak

What people have found so far is that while yes it is possible to create applications using HTML + Javascript, there is a whole new framework laying underneath that can be programmed against by almost any language / framework.

The first piece of the puzzle comes from the new application model for creating applications. There are a number of codenames here that need to be sorted out

  • DirectUI: The underlying framework that creates, draws the visual elements on the screen.
  • Jupiter: The new packaging format of applications on Windows 8. Allows apps to be written in language of choice.
  • Immersive applications: Current theory is that these are apps that execute within the ‘new shell’ in windows 8. And are aware of being split paned and resized. Like was shown with the RSS feed reader.

Direct UI

Direct UI has been around since Windows Vista days. Previous is seemed to be focused around UI basics for the OS such as theming app windows in the ‘new vista style’ vs. classic theming in WinXP. http://blog.vistastylebuilder.com/?tag=directui

Now it seems that Direct UI is being overhauled to have additional functionality to load XAML applications, new animations, etc.

Jupiter

interesting rumor fact : WP8 rumored to be codenamed Apollo, and Apollo is the son of Jupiter :) Jupiter being the new UI framework of Win8
http://twitter.com/#!/josefajardo/status/78826337250451457

…Jupiter is shaping up to be a very very lean SL/WPF implementation
http://twitter.com/#!/josefajardo/status/79423110755008512

…your SL/WPF skills will be invaluable for DirectUI apps, and you get a new framework that is seriously lean!!!
http://twitter.com/#!/josefajardo/status/79425349938712577

DirectUI.dll is basically Silverlight (agcore.dll) ported to Windows/WinRT
http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak?p=441627#post441627

Jose Fajardo has been a great source of information on Windows 8 leaks. From information he has dug up, as well as information on the forums, it seems that the new Jupiter programming API is a mashup between WPF & Silverlight.

While the new Jupiter programming model may not be a direct continuation of WPF or Silverlight it does seem to have a lot of code from both technologies. Jupiter instead seems to be a ‘Next generation’ XAML based framework. A framework that can be targeted against by all main current languages used by the typical .Net developer (C#, HTML, etc)

*speculation* This could be because of the calls from the development community to make WPF & Silverlight more aligned. Perhaps we’ll see an updated ‘Silverlight’ framework when Windows Phone 8 is released that is compatible with Jupiter.

Creating applications with Jupiter

As further evidence that Jupiter applications can be created with your language of choice, and that it has roots in Silverlight, here are some examples of how to create applications.

C# & XAML

Here is an example of using C# to invoke a new Jupiter based application. The really interesting thing to notice here is that the loading screen has the iconic Silverlight loading animation!

C++

Example of an application being created in C++ with a single call to CreateImmersiveWindowFunc

HTML + Javascript

There are some initial attempts at getting HTML working with the new frameworks. The apps and manifests have been created, but a few more hooks may be required to get a fully working version
http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak?p=446552&viewfull=1#post446552

There are mentions that you can hooks into Direct UI through the COM hooks from Javascript. And also that you may be able to use Direct UI XAML + Javascript. Similar to how Silverlight was done in the original Silverlight version 1.

Immersive applications

There is some confusion over the distinction between a “Jupiter app” and an “Immersive app”. Immersive apps require a call to CreateImmersiveWindow and can make calls to the new immersive namespace

Immersive applications are ones that were shown to live inside of the new Windows 8 shell. Examples of functions that an immersive app can do can be seen with the RSS reader app. When it was docked and resized, it knew to display its data in a different format.

  • Classic / Jupiter applicationswill run in the ‘classic windows’ desktop view that was seen when they fired up excel
  • Immersive applications will be embedded within the new shell

Will this work for existing applications?

There is evidence that existing applications can be wrapped up in the new packaging format.

WindowsStore is basically written in C++ and leverages Windows Runtime. HTML5/JavaScript is just a (very very) thin layer for the interface
http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak?p=442463&viewfull=1#post442463

So while existing applications may not run with the new Direct UI framework, it seems they will still be able to be packaged and distributed through the Windows 8 App store. This was discovered by Long Zheng a few months ago.

The AppX format is universal enough so it appears to work for everything from native Win32 applications to framework-based applications (WPF, Silverlight) and even *gasp* web applications. Games are also supported.
http://www.istartedsomething.com/20110405/first-look-at-the-future-of-application-deployment-on-windows-8-appx/

Conclusion

While Microsoft only showed off the HTML hooks into Jupiter, I am a LOT more excited about the upcoming XAML based framework.

If you are an existing WPF, Silverlight or Windows Phone 7 developer, it seems that your XAML based skills will carry across fine to the new development framework on Windows 8.

My thoughts are that Microsoft announced that applications can be created in HTML in the same way that they announced it in WindowsXP with active desktop, and then again in Vista with “HTML based sidebar gadgets”. It was a way of saying “hey you can use your existing web skills to create applications on Windows 8.
And that Microsoft plans on unveiling the new Jupiter SL/WPF hybrid framework for all of the “Real developers” at BUILD in 3 months.

riagenic [Scott Barnes, the harsh critic being a previous insider, see much below] Says:
June 14, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Hmmm… my memory is flooding mah brain with “remember…” moments… Before I left the team etc I remember hearing the windev teams wanted to put a 3rd Animation framework on the market. At first we laughed and ignored it with “oh great, what well need…a third option to confuse the already converted..”

Now thinking on it more, me thinks its this mystery framework coming to haunt us all. Now, i’m thinking this concept has existed but was already ported across to the XAML way of life around Windows 7 timelines (memory is sketchy on this one). If that’s correct then i think this is an official code-reset on WPF/Silverlight but with reduced capabilities (ie less the bloat).

Question is how mature is it compared to the two? it’s all well and good to throw a FILE->NEW->UX Platform onto the table, but if it lacks parity with the existing? what have we gained?….performance?…i’ll wait until i see how the fundametals found in most photoshop effects filters gets applied here and performs under what i call “developer-art load”….lots of glows, dropshadows and crazy ass animations..

Win8 M3 (7955) findings relevant to Managed .net & WPF/SL developers [[Jose Fajardo] June 14-17, 2011]

[Forum discussion on comparing WPF UIElement, Silverlight UIElement, WP7 Silverlight UIElement and WinMD(DirectUI)]

@vbandi András Velvárt
Don’t worry abt Silverlight! Jupiter has dep props, similar API & layout logic, RenderTransform, UIElement, etc http://bit.ly/mdL06i [Win8 M3 (7955) findings relevant to Managed .net & WPF/SL developers]
16 Jun via MetroTwit

@vbandi András Velvárt
After analysing http://bit.ly/mdL06i , Jupiter SEEMS to me like a customized Silverlight for Win8. Much like SL 4 WP7, but more custom.
16 Jun via MetroTwit

jmorrill Jeremiah Morrill
@josefajardo @markmacumber The other hard part is these guys are reverse engineering, so they might be looking at some private impls.
16 Jun

josefajardo Jose Fajardo
@jmorrill @markmacumber exactly, they could be doing things with the beta bits that it was never intended to do. Wrong assumptions 😉

16 Jun
@vbandi András Velvárt
@josefajardo @jmorrill @markmacumber Still better than burying an entire technology based on half a sentence. 🙂
16 Jun via MetroTwit

Continuation of that: Win8 M3 (7989) findings relevant to Managed .net & WPF/SL developers [[Jose Fajardo] June 19-24, 2011]

SilverlightWPF [Jose Fajardo] 21 Jun 2011 11:27 AM

Quote Originally Posted by NaiveUser View Post

  • God, this article got so many things wrong, or I should say I beg to differ so here is my take
    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/…-trenches/9738 [Under the Windows 8 hood: Questions and answers from the trenches [by Mary Jo Foly in ZDNET, June 20, 2011]]
  • I guess there are two possible meanings for ‘Jupiter’, it could be the DirectUI.dll, or, it could be the whole api framework that exposed by WinRT/WinMD, includes DirectUI.dll and Windows.*.dll and some more. so basically Jupiter == DirectUI eitherway.
  • essentially Windows Runtime is just ‘Modern COM’, which is just an interface for exposing code. its not an actual ‘runtime library’ like CLR. I think you can expose code written with any ‘runtime library’ as WinRT components, just like you can write COM components in C/VC++/VB6/Delphi/.NET/etc.
  • DirectUI applications live in a HWND with a class called ‘JupiterWindowClass’ and a caption ‘Jupiter Window’, personally I think this IS strong ‘correlation’ betwwen Jupiter and DirectUI. and, as far as I can see there is ‘no direct correlation’ between DirectUI.dll and the old ‘DirectUI’ in dui70.dll which uses the ‘duixml’ markup.
  • and I have never seen any connections between SLR/WCL and ‘everything else’. wcl*.dll exposed as WinRT ? where ? Windows Runtime is the marketing name for the SLR ? where does that come from ?

[Jose Fajardo:]

Jupiter could be an entire ecosystem too, could be the tooling + api that goes into creating jupiter apps.

Jupiter could be the next marketing buzz world, like “Silverlight” was!

Who the hell knows! I know I’m not confident enough to say that Jupiter==DirectUI!

Nor am I confident in saying WindowsRuntime is COM version next..

Regardless it’s all interpretation until MS come out and explain themselves.

Power to you if you can conclude all this, personally I only talk about things i know are factually correct that I’ve chased down to registry settings, code in exe’s/dll’s, or reproduced in code myself.

June 1 – June 3 and 6:
TINY FACTUAL INFORMATION FROM MICROSOFT
(say just HTML5 for now, not a bit more)

ilyen világos megfogalmazásokban én ezt mondanám:

– amit láttunk és hallottunk a demókban az olyan UX funkcionalitás, ami HTML5 és JavaScript ALAPÚ fejlesztési környezetből érhető el

– azt is láttuk, hogy amikor “az Interneten végzendő teendőkhöz nincsen ehhez az új UX környezethez szabott (“tailored”), új stílusú (“new style”) alkalmazásunk”, akkor az IE9-hez képest “touch first”-re áttervezett IE10-et használjuk

– ebben ugyanúgy vannak “odatűzött” webhelyek (“pinned sites”, vagyis URL-ekkel azonosított webalkalmazások vagy webhelyek), de vagy a Start Screen csemperendszerében vagy egy teljesen új kialakítású, amennyire meg tudom ítélni dinamikusan megjelenő (pl. “Frequent” illetve “Pinned” listák a képernyős billentyű felett) task bar-on helyezkednek el

– az új UX környezethez szabott (új stílusú) alkalmazások a Windows eszközökhöz (facilities) — tehát a natív platform eszközökhöz — is hozzáférhetnek, tehát nincsen két shell, csak egyetlen shell

– ugyanakkor arra a kérdésre, hogy miért nem írja át az Office részleg alkalmazásait erre az új UX környezetre, a konkrét válasz: “Valamit lehetséges, hogy tesznek a jövőben, most azonban az volt a célunk, hogy megmutassuk, nem kell az embereknek a meglévő alkalmazásaikat, melyeket jól ismernek, feladniuk ahhoz, hogy egy mobilabb form factorhoz jussanak. Vagyis az embereknek egy billentyűzetet kell csatlakoztatniuk és használhatják [régi alkalmazásaikat] ugyanúgy, mint eddig.”

The factual details:

Metro styled new entertainment experience on Xbox 360 [June 6, 2011]

Next-generation cloud client experiences based on the Metro design language [Jan 24, 2011]

Metro Design Language of Windows Phone 7 [on-line tutorial from Microsoft, Dec 5, 2010]

Building “Windows 8” – Video #1 [June 1, 2011]

– related press release: Previewing ‘Windows 8’ [June 1, 2011

… a few aspects of the new interface we showed today:

  • Fast launching of apps from a tile-based Start screen, which replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of apps.
  • Live tiles with notifications, showing always up-to-date information from your apps.
  • Fluid, natural switching between running apps.
  • Convenient ability to snap and resize an app to the side of the screen, so you can really multitask using the capabilities of Windows.
  • Web-connected and Web-powered apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript that have access to the full power of the PC.
  • Fully touch-optimized browsing, with all the power of hardware-accelerated Internet Explorer 10.

… also talked a bit about how developers will build apps for the new system. Windows 8 apps use the power of HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML to deliver new kinds of experiences. These new Windows 8 apps are full-screen and touch-optimized, and they easily integrate with the capabilities of the new Windows user interface. There’s much more to the platform, capabilities and tools than we showed today.

… we have much more to reveal at our developer event, BUILD (Sept. 13 – 16 in Anaheim, Calif.)

Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky, live from D9 [June 1, 2011]

… Oh yeah, we built these in house, but we’re giving devs APIs and an SDK based on HTML5 and Javascript that allows them to create apps like this. We have lots of new tools, but still you can connect to our file tools, etc. … Apps can connect to each other. It’s not just apps alone, it’s applications connecting to each other. … You design for touch, and then we translate the touch commands to mouse and keyboard. …

Microsoft’s Windows 8 Demo From D9 (Video) [June 1, 2011]

Microsoft Unveils ‘Windows 8’ to World on 2011 Computex in Taiwan [June 2, 2011]

– the same with Silverlight Smooth Streaming video: Microsoft Unveils “Windows 8” to World
– the related Microsoft press release on 2011 Computex in Taiwan: Microsoft Previews ‘Windows 8’

Windows 8 NUI GUI Preview Video Shoots Past 2 Million Views the First Day [June 3, 2011]

… everything that users see in the demo videos will actually make it in the RTM Build of Windows 8, otherwise, Steven Sinofsky, President, Windows and Windows Live Division would not have allowed it to be made public, per the translucency communication strategy he implemented even before Windows 7.

In the end, I think it’s a safe bet to expect Sinofsky to underpromise and overachieve with Windows 8, just as he did with Windows 7.

Office and other apps:

Why not the Office team will rewrite the Office into that kind of aproach?
[Walt Mossberg, [6:45-6:51]]

They may do something in the future but we don’t think people should give up everything they know online just to get to a more mobile form factor. So people can plug-in a keyboard and use just like they would use otherwise.
[Julie Larson-Green [6:51-7:06]]

Windows 8: It’s the Applications, Stupid! [June 3, 2011]

It’s a huge question. While Larson-Green said that the current version of Office would behave in touch-friendly fashion in Windows 8, it’s obvious that it’s not going to feel like it was written for the new interface. (You could tell that when she fumbled with Excel as she tried to drag it off-screen with her fingertip.)

I imagine that the real answer to Walt and Kara’s queries is that yes, of course, Microsoft is going to reimagine Office for Windows 8.  But even then, it’s not obvious whether the company is going to give Office a truly touch-centric interface as the default. (Sounds hugely risky and probably impossible to do well–all the Office apps are rife with features that will never work well without a mouse and keyboard.) Or mirror what it’s doing with Windows 8 and give Office two different interfaces. (That also sounds extremely tricky.) Or do something akin to what Apple did with its iWork suite, and build a separate version of Office with fewer features and a wholly new interface. (That sounds like it could make sense.)

Every other significant software developer is going to have to deal with similar questions. It’s not yet clear what the right answers are–it’s possible that Windows’ new look will be a bust and it’ll be silly to invest energy in supporting it. And the right answers will be different for different companies. But ignoring Windows 8 won’t be an option.

Could You Turn A Windows 8 Smartphone Into A Windows 8 Computer? [June 2, 2011]

I caught Sinofsky after his D9 talk and asked — would Windows 8, the full-blown operating system, be running on future phones?

Sinofsky smiled, and smiled big, but he only said that’s not something Microsoft has announced yet. So, we wait to see.

What if it happens? Getting to that unification “first” doesn’t necessarily mean that Microsoft somehow “wins” in doing so. For one, would it really run that well on phone-sized devices? That remains to be seen.

For another, it also means that Windows 7 Phone users would be upgrade-orphaned. The apps they have for that platform probably wouldn’t run on Windows 8 devices.

BUILD:

Does this [BUILD] event replace PDC this year and in the future?
Dr. Know said on June 2, 2010

BUILD isn’t a replacement of the PDC but a new event that takes a broader view of a developer community that now extends far beyond the realm of just “pro developers”. From hardware, to the web, to software and the PC … BUILD is the key developer event you should attend in 2011 (there won’t be a PDC this year).
Jennifer Ritzinger [Microsoft] said on June 3, 2010

BUILDing a bright future [June 1, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

… At BUILD, Microsoft will show off the new app model that enables the creation of web-connected and services-powered apps that have access to the full power of the PC.

The conference name, BUILD, reflects a call to action for the more than one hundred million developers driving the pace of technology: build experiences with the next version of Windows that will transform the computing experience for billions of people across the globe.  …

Today, everyone can be a developer; the most tech-savvy generation we’ve ever seen is fueling demand for new tools and technologies.  Many of the developers building web sites and apps that make an impact have no formal education in computer science or engineering.  BUILD will be a gateway to new opportunity for all developers.

The professional developer community continues to be a vital part of the Microsoft ecosystem.  We value the longstanding and deep relationship with this group and will continue to engage with this important audience in a way that best meets its needs. For these developers, BUILD connects Microsoft’s past to Microsoft’s future.

June 1 – June 6:
UPHEAVAL OF ENORMOUS PROPORTIONS (or more questions than answers)

  • Food for harsh criticism because of absolutely no communication for the previous dev stories [ENORMOUS LENGTH]
  • From a quite opinionated but quite unsatisfied previous insider: http://twitter.com/#!/MossyBlog[ENORMOUS LENGTH]

    Food for harsh criticism because of absolutely no communication for the previous dev stories:

    Windows 8: A missed opportunity. [June 3, 2011]

    So the rumors were true. Microsoft was planning to radically reimagine Windows as we knew it. It would feature a modern, fluid touch interface, it was to be heavily inspired by Metro on Windows Phone, and it was to have an app store.

    Good. Right? Not exactly. Its a bitter sweet outcome, because another rumor ended up being true. This one started by Scott Barnes, the sometimes controversial, seemingly always right former Silverlight PM. This rumor said that there was an internal struggle inside Microsoft, and the factions at war were the .NET/Wpf/Silverlight heads versus the Windows division heads.

    The war is over. We lost. In an ironic, but telling turn of events, hot of the heels of the Mono guys forming a start up based around .NET, the inventors of the technologies themselves have seemingly given up on the platform.

    Sounds dramatic, even outlandish right? Well so did the rumors about Silverlight, WPF, et all’s death. Yet here we are, and its sad because it represents a monumental missed opportunity.

    Consider the following:

    Microsoft had rare opportunity to throw backwards compatibility to the wind and make a clean cut. A fresh start. A new Windows.

    Microsoft had the chance then to simplify and unify their developer story. Slim down .NET, remove the legacy cruft (Winform, older depreciated APIs) and simply call it “Silverlight”. Make it the de facto development platform on Windows, like it is on Windows Phone.

    Say to developers: Here’s our Windows App store. The ONLY way to get published on the app store is to write a cross platform Silverlight application. This application will work on x86, x64, and ARM based environments. Its resolution independent, completely hardware accelerated, and secure.

    You do many things at once: You simplify, unify, and move forward your developer story. You ensure a verifiable, secure execution environment on Windows 8. You solve the cross platform problem. You KEEP YOUR DEVELOPERS HAPPY. People who have invested years into your technologies do not appreciate being essentially shown the door.

    Its fine to embrace HTML5/JS, if web developers want to cause themselves pain, then hey, thats them. Do NOT subject your loyal, devoted, armies of developers to the horrors of the web platform.

    Microsoft: WTF?

    We dont just need to #fixwpf, we need to #fixwindows8.

    Microsoft refuses to comment as .NET developers fret about Windows 8 [Tim Anderson, June 3, 2011]

    There is a long discussion over on the official Silverlight forum about Microsoft’s Windows 8 demo at D9 and what was said, and not said; and another over on Channel 9, Microsoft’s video-centric community site for developers.

    At D9 Microsoft showed that Windows 8 has a dual personality. In one mode it has a touch-centric user interface which is an evolved version of what is on Windows Phone 7. In another mode, just a swipe away, it is the old Windows 7, plus whatever incremental improvements Microsoft may add. Let’s call it the Tiled mode and the Classic mode.

    Pretty much everything that runs on Windows today will likely still run on Windows 8, in its Classic mode. However, the Tiled mode has a new development platform based on HTML and JavaScript, exploiting the rich features of HTML 5, and the fast JavaScript engine and hardware acceleration in the latest Internet Explorer.

    Although D9 is not a developer event, Microsoft did talk specifically about this aspect. Here is the press release:

        • Today, we also talked a bit about how developers will build apps for the new system. Windows 8 apps use the power of HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML to deliver new kinds of experiences. These new Windows 8 apps are full-screen and touch-optimized, and they easily integrate with the capabilities of the new Windows user interface. There’s much more to the platform, capabilities and tools than we showed today.

    Program Manager Jensen Harris says in the preview video:

        • We introduced a new platform based on standard web technologies

    Microsoft made no mention of either Silverlight or .NET, even though Silverlight is used as the development platform in Windows Phone 7, from which Windows 8 Tiled mode draws its inspiration.

    The fear of .NET developers is that Microsoft’s Windows team now regards not only Silverlight but also .NET on the client as a legacy technology. Everything will still run, but to take full advantage of Tiled mode you will need to use the new HTML and JavaScript model. Here are a couple of sample comments. This:

        • My biggest fears coming into Windows 8 was that, as a mostly WPF+.NET developer, was that they would shift everything to Silverlight and leave the FULL platform (can you write a Visual Studio in Silverlight? of course not, not designed for that) in the dust. To my utter shock, they did something much, much, much worse.

    and this:

        • We are not Windows developers because we love Windows. We put up with Windows so we can use C#, F# and VS2010. I’ve considered changing the platform many times. What stops me each time is the goodness that keeps coming from devdiv. LINQ, Rx, TPL, async – these are the reasons I’m still on Windows.

    Underlying the discussion is that developers have clients, and clients want applications that run on a platform with a future. Currently, Microsoft is promoting HTML and JavaScript as the future for Windows applications, putting every client-side .NET developer at a disadvantage in those pitches.

    What is curious is that the developer tools division at Microsoft, part of Server and Tools, has continued to support and promote .NET; and in fact Microsoft is soon to deliver Visual Studio LightSwitch, a new edition of Visual Studio that generates only Silverlight applications. Microsoft is also using Silverlight for a number of its own web user interfaces, such as for Azure, System Center and Windows InTune, as noted here.

    Now, I still expect that both Silverlight and native code, possibly with some new XAML-based tool, will be supported for Windows 8 Tiled mode. But Microsoft has not said so; and may remain silent until the Build conference in September according to .NET community manager Pete Brown [response #1 to the Silverlight Forum discussion [06-02-2011 6:44 PM]]:

        • You all saw a very small technology demo of Windows 8, and a brief press release. We’re all being quiet right now because we can’t comment on this. It’s not because we don’t care, aren’t listening, have given up, or are agreeing or disagreeing with you on something. All I can say for now is to please wait until September. If we say more before then, that will be great, but there are no promises (and I’m not aware of any plans) to say more right now. I’m very sorry that there’s nothing else to share at the moment. I know that answer is terrible, but it’s all that we can say right now. Seriously.

    While this is clearly not Brown’s fault, this is poor developer communication and PR from Microsoft. The fact that .NET and Silverlight champion Scott Guthrie is moving to Windows Azure is no comfort.

    The developer division, and in fact the whole of Server and Tools, has long been a bright spot at Microsoft and among its most consistent performers. The .NET story overall includes some bumps, but as a platform for business applications it has been a remarkable success. The C# language has evolved rapidly and effectively under the guidance of Technical Fellow Anders Hejlsberg. It would be bewildering if Microsoft were to turn its back on .NET, even if only on the client.

    In fact, it is bewildering that Microsoft is being so careless with this critical part of its platform, even if this turns out to be more to do with communication than technical factors.

    From the outside, it still looks as if Microsoft’s server and tools division is pulling one way, and the Windows team the other. If that is the case, it is destructive, and something CEO Steve Ballmer should address; though I imagine that Steven Sinofsky, the man who steered Windows 7 to launch so successfully, is a hard person to oppose even for the CEO.

    Update: Journalist Mary Jo Foley has posted [June 6] on what she “hears from my contacts” about Jupiter:

        • Jupiter is a user interface library for Windows and will allow developers to build immersive applications using a XAML-based approach with coming tools from Microsoft. Jupiter will allow users a choice of programming languages, namely, C#, Visual Basic and C++.

    Jupiter, presuming her sources are accurate, is the managed code platform for the new Windows shell – “Tiled mode” or “Tailored Apps” or “Modern Shell – MoSH”; though if that is the case, I am not sure whether C++ in this context will compile to managed or unmanaged code. Since Silverlight is already a way to code using XAML, it is also not clear to me whether Jupiter is in effect a new Windows-only version of Silverlight, or yet another approach.

    Microsoft needs to tell Windows 8 developers now about ‘Jupiter’ and Silverlight [Mary Jo Foley, June 6, 2011]

    I’ve blogged before about the XAML layer that Microsoft is building for Windows 8 as part of its “Jupiter” initiative. Yes, it still exists, I hear from my contacts. And yes, this will enable support of native Silverlight applications. (Does this mean Windows Phone apps written using Silverlight will be able to run on Windows 8 with no/few tweaks? I don’t know.)

    Microsoft is still going to support Silverlight with Windows 8, and not only as a browser plug-in, my sources say.

    At the 50,000-foot level, Microsoft wants to find a way to reinvigorate the Windows-development ecosystem. (I believe that’s one reason the Internet Explorer team has been talking all that “native HTML” nonsense. They really mean they’re trying to get developers to write HTML/JavaScript apps that use IE’s hardware acceleration for the “best” HTML experience.)

    At the more granular and immediate level, Jupiter is the way that Microsoft is planning to get developers to write new “immersive” applications for Windows 8 that will use the IE 10 rendering engine while using the .Net and Silverlight technologies they already know. Jupiter is aiming to provide these developers with a managed code XAML library, so that developers can access the sensors, networking and other Windows 8 elements in a way to which they’re accustomed.

    Applications built using Jupiter won’t be targeting the “classic” mode/shell that Microsoft showed off last week during its Windows 8 preview, I hear. They’ll be the same class of immersive apps targeting the new Modern Shell (MoSH) that Microsoft will be writing itself and/or trying to convince others to write using HTML5 and JavaScript.

    It definitely seems Microsoft’s ultimate goal is to wean developers off Silverlight and to convince them to use HTML5 and JavaScript to write new apps for Windows, going forward. But until there’s better tooling for HTML5 (beyond what Microsoft provides via the F12 HTML tools in Internet Explorer), it seems the Softies are going to support .Net and Silverlight via new versions of Visual Studio, the .Net Framework and Expression.

    I believe Jupiter is key to enabling Microsoft to continue to insist that Silverlight’s not dead (as far as a development platform) — at least for now. But anything that’s not a new Windows 8 “immersive,” modern application, going forward, is now going to be considered “legacy,” from what I can tell.

    All of what I’ve said here is from sources who have asked not to be identified, not from Microsoft officials associated with Microsoft’s Windows or Developer Division. Like many devs I’ve heard from, I don’t believe Microsoft can’t afford to wait three more months to let its developer base know what its intentions are. So far, however, ill-advised silence seems to be the Softies’ plan….

    [Pete Brown had a numerous other responses on that thread [Windows 8 apps going html5, wtf [from 06-01-2011 8:06 PM to 06-03-2011 3:23 PM when locked by Pete Brown] as until 3 days later having enormous visibility of 10,030,100 views] but being just kind of moderation responses, including – not a usual thing – editing responses by other for “non-civil” words, and finally closing the first thread and responding to another one with same topic [Windows 8 apps going html5, wtf – part 2 [from 06-03-2011 3:46 PM still on] as until 3 days later having large visibility of 1,118,657 views].

    Besides Pete Brown’s responses the enormous bad publicity caused by that huge developers visibility will cost Microsoft quite a lot as Steve Barns nicknamed MossyBlog [See also his other responses after Pete Brown’s responses] remarked quite well on twitter:

    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes: 900k views of just “Microsoft you suck” forum warfare.. thats over 500k eyeballs that Microsoft has to repair in min 2 years.. #fail   8 hours ago via web

    replies ↓
    josephcooney Joseph Cooney by rickasaurus @ @MossyBlog The stats on this page say it’s 9M going on to 10M http://forums.silverlight.net/forums/17.aspx?PageIndex=3 8 hours ago

    rickasaurus Richard Minerich @ @MossyBlog We had an internal meeting today to discuss if we should discontinue all Silverlight development. It’s that bad.

    rickasaurus Richard Minerich @ @MossyBlog Oh yeah, plus all of the Kinect hate they’re getting from E3  8 hours ago

    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes @rickasaurus oh? i’ve missed reading the E3..on my afternoon todo list… whats the gist of it? 8 hours ago via web

    replies ↓

    rickasaurus Richard Minerich @ @MossyBlog Mostly just that hardcore gamers don’t give a toot about Kinect 🙂 8 hours ago

    MossyBlog Scott Barnes @ @rickasaurus i’d prefer to see more info around Kinect beyond gaming and into windows market(s)..well whats left of it post win8 lol 8 hours ago

    MossyBlog Scott Barnes  @  @rickasaurus well Kinect as a game platform is really a wii style approach to it.. hardcore gamers arent really a good mkt for it  8 hours ago

    @rickasaurus Richard Minerich @MossyBlog Sure, but E3 is a hardcore gamer conference, and MS was all Kinect! Kinect! Kinect! Kineeecccttttttt! 8 hours ago via TweetDeck

    replies ↓

    MossyBlog Scott Barnes @  @rickasaurus heheh well in Microsoft you ride the new shiny object until it loses its appeal..so they are in the peak of the kinect orgy  8 hours ago

    rickasaurus Richard Minerich @ @MossyBlog That’s the MS navel gazing culture for you. They’re so myopic and it drives me insane to watch. 8 hours ago

    in reply to ↑

    @KristoferA KristoferA  @MossyBlog @rickasaurus I presume there will be a JavaScript library for Kinect integration shipping with Win8… HTML + Kinect = Win 🙂 9 hours ago via web

    replies ↓

    MossyBlog Scott Barnes   @  @KristoferA @rickasaurus i can’t wait to combine jQuery and Kinect..it will be awesome… yay.. #celebratemediocrity   8 hours ago

    rickasaurus Richard Minerich   @   @KristoferA Why not :). That could make for some cool surfing.   8 hours ago


    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes Sinofsky’s team need to be fired. thats my thoughts. 8 hours ago via web

    replies ↓

    VicKlien Vic Klien @ @MossyBlog – Any counterweights to team-Sinofsky internally? Assuming ScottGu and Soma would have other ideas, I guess they’re outranked. 7 hours ago

    MossyBlog Scott Barnes @ @VicKlien well i always thought @scottgu and team-sinfosky were two dueling titans internally anyway..but bobmu left, scotts in azure..so.. 7 hours ago

    VicKlien Vic Klien @  @MossyBlog – The current when-to-reveal issue aside, do we really know Soma and ScottGu don’t also support promoting HTML5/JS above .NET?  7 hours ago

    MossyBlog Scott Barnes @ @VicKlien Of course they support it… just like i support <insert your belief system> when you have a gun to my head 🙂 7 hours ago


    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes   9 million is more than that site gets in a year almost… HOLY FUCK… 9 million people all seeing “Silverlight is kinda dead” undercurrent 8 hours ago via web

    replies ↓

    traskjd John-Daniel Trask  @ @MossyBlog Bet all the advertisers paying per impression on the SL forum are getting great ROI… 8 hours ago

    josephcooney Joseph Cooney @  @MossyBlog plus the follow-up post (which is presumably what you saw) is nearly at 1M. That’s a lot of discontent. 8 hours ago

    Pete_Brown Pete Brown  @  @MossyBlog @josephcooney And there’s an open letter thread with 100k views. Smaller threads too, mostly OT, but I’m letting them stay  8 hours ago

    in reply to ↑

    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes   I feel for guys like @Pete_Brown who later have to clean this shit up. Pete needs to clone himself fast… /cc @josephcooney

    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes

    I am so glad I’m not a Microsoft Evangelist still.. i mean..fark me.. talk about walking into the lions den. 8 hours ago via web

    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes     10 million pageviews so lets assume 50% of that is uniques5 million ppl around the world seeing “HTML5 vs JS is the future” undercurrents   8 hours ago via web

    replies ↓

    malcolmsheridan Malcolm Sheridan @ @MossyBlog I think you should stop computing and take up gardening! 8 hours ago


    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes      There goes 3 years+ of hard work around Silverlight branding… nice one Sinofsky you jackass   8 hours ago via web

    replies ↓

    jcdickinson Jonathan C Dickinson  @  @MossyBlog the whole Win8 + HTML5 thing is easily fixed: <object data=”data:application/x-silverlight-2,”… 🙂  7 hours ago


    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes       windows internal politically objectives was to make Silverlight / .NET fail.. Mission accomplished.. you just undid 3 years of work in ~1wk 8 hours ago via web

    replies ↓

    jtango18 Justin Taylor  @  @MossyBlog I think you overestimate the liklihood of MS devs walking away from the platform.  8 hours ago

    mstrobel Mike Strobel  @  @MossyBlog the Windows team really doesn’t have the clout to effect change of this magnitude; devs aren’t going to abandon .NET for HTML. 8 hours ago

    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes   @mstrobel well that and lets just say we just sized the market of who they have to convince..5 million devs need to believe HTML5  8 hours ago via web

    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes 5million+ is now your baseline for html5 convince metrics msft in 2yrs need to say They have more than this in adoption  8 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone


    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes      What if the Blend team were working on a HTML5 design tool… what would you all say… 😀    8 hours ago via web

    replies ↓

    shrage Shrage Smilowitz    @  @MossyBlog Html 5 design tool? yea and they’re going to call it Microsoft FrontPage?   7 hours ago

    SilverlightMan Noah Addy  @  @MossyBlog I would love that idea!!! Spitting out Javascript code for HTML5 development is no fun!   7 hours ago

    lazycoder Scott Koon    @   @MossyBlog “Please stop” 8 hours ago

    KristoferA KristoferA   @  @MossyBlog If the new Win8 UI instead was C# + HTML5/MSHTML instead of HTML5+JS then I would be less sceptical about it8 hours ago

    kitron kitron   @   @MossyBlog They better be working on something like that.   8 hours ago

    mstrobel Mike Strobel  @   @MossyBlog Same thing I said to Blend: no thanks.    8 hours ago

    KristoferA KristoferA    @  @MossyBlog .net is strong on the language and framework side. UI design tools is only a tiny part of the dev story…  8 hours ago

    KristoferA KristoferA   @   . @MossyBlog HTML5 and the HTML DOM is *not* the weak part. JavaScript is. A C# compiler that emits JS would be a different story.   8 hours ago

    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes   @KristoferA its possible 😉 …but to what gain? XAML out..HTML5 in? ..what gain?  8 hours ago via web

    replies ↓

    KristoferA KristoferA  @  @MossyBlog You know that SL and WPF sucks performance wise. If IE can supply a rendering engine that can be used from .net then it is a Win   8 hours ago

    KristoferA KristoferA   @   @MossyBlog A good app framework (.net fx), a solid language (C#), and a good rendering engine is all I ask for. JS is not a C# replacement.   8 hours ago

    KristoferA KristoferA  @   @MossyBlog XAML to HTML5 would be status quo. Maybe better performance. But what I am saying is: the UI rendering is a tiny part of apps.  8 hours ago

    —————-

    mstrobel Mike Strobel  @  @MossyBlog Same thing I said to Blend: no thanks.  8 hours ago

    mabster Matt Hamilton   @   @mstrobel I was shocked at the number of hands (including mine) that went up at #mvp11 when asked who hand-codes XAML. /cc @MossyBlog     8 hours ago

    in reply to ↑

    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes   @mabster @mstrobel i stopped being shocked and it grew into frustration.. “if only there was a tool that did that for you?” hmmm.. 8 hours ago via web

    replies ↓

    mstrobel Mike Strobel   @ @MossyBlog @mabster I mean, would you use a tool that wrote C# code for you? I loathe Blend. Hand-coding w/ R# is so much better IMO.   8 hours ago

    mabster Matt Hamilton   @  @MossyBlog I’ll try Blend at some point I guess. Hand coding works really well for me. /cc @mstrobel   8 hours ago


    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes   Heh sinofsky gets on stage and suddenly 10m voices all vanish at once – starwars / sl forum joke Tehehehe  5 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

    replies ↓

    redboltsnz Guy Robinson  by MossyBlog  @MossyBlog bottom line is D9 was about the end UX. Should never have talked about the technology unless they wanted to engage with devs3 hours ago

    in reply to ↑

    @MossyBlog Scott Barnes   @redboltsnz that’s actually a great insight… i agree! ..they should of just said “this is purty win8”..  3 hours ago via web

    Back to Pete Brown’s real responses: I will consider his first non-moderating response on that as his real response #2 (almost a whole day passed between those, he probably got permission from the above to really respond):]

    Pete Brown’s #2 response [06-03-2011 4:30 PM] (Microsoft Community Program Manager – WPF, Silverlight, XNA, Windows Phone, more) (emphasis is mine)

    That first link is a gizmodo article [Windows 8 and Its Incredibly Cool New Touch Interface [June 1, 2011]]. Nowhere in there is a microsoft person saying that HTML/Javascript are the exclusive way to write applications. It’s a new way, it’s an exciting way, and, let’s face it, a way that is likely to be hugely popular with web developers.

    News outlets make assumptions. I can’t respond to that, neither does MS PR for reasons I don’t entirely fathom.

    The press release shows only what we showed that day and is carefully worded to state as much. It doesn’t speak to Windows 8 as a whole.

    I’m not a PR person. I don’t know why we word things the way we do, or why we show certain things. I’m just asking folks not to make assumptions here (one way or the other) based on information we haven’t actually shared.

    We can’t say anything else until September. Trust me that the previous thread was visible at some of the highest levels inside Microsoft (one reason I edited to remove the trolls and insulting that was a problem and obscuring the message the thread was sending)

    To be very clear: I’m not saying anything here other than “wait for //build/” and our press release is the official word until you hear otherwise from PR or top Microsoft leadership. There are no promises being made here. I’m not stating support or lack of support for any specific technology or group of technologies.

    Pete Brown’s #3 response [06-03-2011 5:33 PM] (emphasis is mine)

    Guys, don’t make it personal. It’s heading down the same road as next time.

    Keep it to issues on topic. Keep it civil. Don’t be mean. Be respectful. Remember, we’re all peers here, not enemies.

    Pete Brown’s #4 response [06-03-2011 6:32 PM] (emphasis is mine)

    g.t.:

    We spent 2 years developing a WPF project, and after all what I have seen, I am defiantly going html5 + JavaScript.

    This makes zero sense to me and seems reactionary rather than a well-thought-out architectural decision.

    You saw that you can write WPF apps for Windows 8. “Existing apps will run”. TBD if they can use the new shell, but they do run in classic mode at a minimum.

    While I’ll be happy to be proven wrong, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the majority of internal business applications are not going to make use of the new tile interface in a big way. Why? From my own informal surveys and 15 years in consulting (I’ve been at Microsoft just over 1.5 years), most business users, developers, and managers, are still stuck in “500 fields and a 100 column datagrid” mode when designing apps. It’s rare to find a team with a real UX pro involved up-front and who have the capability, skill, desire (and time/funding) to move beyond that. In addition, many businesses still run XP, or they run Windows 7 and will continue to do so for a long time. Windows 8 won’t be released for some time, and 7 is a very good OS with long legs. I’ve even seen businesses that require their users to stick with the classic Win2k style shell no matter what OS.

    That all said, we’re squarely targeting WPF at ISV type applications, and Silverlight at business developers. I’ve been saying that one for a while now. That has no bearing on what we’re doing for Windows 8. Whether or not you can target the tile interface using anything beyond HTML/JS/CSS is a question for the //build/ conference to answer.

    Silverlight 5 is still in progress. WPF v.next is still in progress. Both are scheduled for release. Both are real products with real features that real developers find really useful 🙂

    Finally, we don’t have the full story. Making future architectural decisions based on assumptions from demos is irresponsible. Saying we should tell you more does not change the fact that you are making a decision based on a very minimal amount of evidence.

    Pete

    Pete Brown’s #5 response [06-05-2011 1:52 AM] (emphasis is mine)

    GOD_G:

    In september I expect to see in Pete’s blog articles like “The Present of  Silverlight and WPF!” and “A lap around HTML5!”

    I’m not a good Javascript developer. I dabble from time to time just with my site, but I have other people on my team who are currently doing an awesome job covering that side (Jon and Joe). Plus, if you knew me or my history in the WPF and Silverlight community (I doubt you do given your newness here), I’m not really one for party-line messaging.

    History will be the only thing that shows what I do in September. Anything else is just additional speculation.

    Until then, fire away. Going after me is easy at the moment (as a community guy, I expect this), but unfortunately that’s doing nothing to further your purposes. I’m not offended, but I feel like if you’d apply that energy to a different approach, you might accomplish something.

    FWIW, With the exception of the few posts that came in after the thread lock in the old thread (*I* think there was a race condition there, but the site dev team doesn’t quite agree<g>), I haven’t deleted posts criticizing me or Microsoft, just those attacking other members, and none in this new thread so far.

    Pete Brown’s #6 response [06-05-2011 2:02 AM] (emphasis is mine)

    HephaistosX:

    “The interface is so new that applications will have to be re-written for it from the ground up, just like DOS applications had to be re-written for Windows. These new applications will have interesting qualities. For example, they’ll be written in either HTML5 or JavaScript”

    Unless it came directly from the mouth of Microsoft – specifically through our press releases, it’s not “fact”. It’s “speculation”.

    Unfortunately, that’s what news outlets do – it helps to pull in readers when they appear to be offering additional detail. They don’t have access to any more detail than the rest of the public.

    Pete Brown’s #7 response [06-05-2011 2:48 PM] (emphasis is mine)

    Light Crystal:

    I invested 3 years of my life to study C#, XAML and Silverlight framework, MVVM pattern to build games. 2 Years ago, it was a party, was all super happy times, just before the damn iphone take foot along the market. And now “ipèd” too. Apple and Google have no dev tools, so they leverage the standard one just to not be pitiful, and they have had success, unfortunately.
    Now, i’m ready to start a new company with a huge project, and i’m BLOCKED until September.

    Why are you blocked? Why does an operating system your customers won’t have for years block you from using tools that are out *now*? Silverlight 5 will be released before end of year, as promised. Nothing has changed there.

    While I know direction is very important for long-term planning, as developers we need to stop chasing the shiny ball and instead use what best serves us and our customers today. Keep an eye to what is in the future, but don’t block your current projects because of that.

    It’s like buying PC components. I’ve built every PC I’ve owned since my last and only boxed purchase: an IBM PS/1 286 (which itself followed the Commodore 128 I got for Christmas). Each time I do that, I have to make a decision as to what CPU/memory/motherboard etc. to purchase as there is *always* something better coming down the pike. Those better chips often mean different memory architectures and lots of other things. However, if I waited each time instead of using the best of what I had right then, I’d still be running that 286 I had before I built my first computer, a 486dx33.

    This is by no means a comment on how the message is being handled, nor am I downplaying the impact here. I totally understand what’s going on; I haven’t had enough Kool-aid to lose that 🙂

    As a former consultant for 13 years (where I did VB4,5,6, SQL Server, .NET, WPF, Silverlight and more) and internal IT guy for 4 years before that (doing lots of projects in a mix of VB3, Powerbuilder, Delphi, dBase, FoxPro, QBasic, and Borland C++ – when was the last time our portfolios were that diverse?), I’m just hoping to offer a little perspective. We should work with what we have today, and with what we know for sure is coming short-term, especially when all we have to go on otherwise is speculation.

    At its core, last week’s questions, votes, threads and more come down to:

    • What can we use to write Modern / Immersive applications in Windows 8
    • What’s going to run on tablets

    I’m not sure that either of those impact that vast majority of business developers in a real day-to-day way other than peace of mind (which is important, but not business critical). For sure there will be lots of app developers targeting the new stuff, but for most, it won’t come for quite a while. There’s the Windows release schedule, then the adoption schedule, then the internal IT adoption schedule (which is always way behind), then the ramp up on taking advantage of the new features of the OS.

    For a bit now, we’ve been saying “Silverlight for high-end media and business applications, HTML for broad reach and consumer-oriented stuff, Silverlight/XNA on phone, and WPF for ISV (big shrinkwrapped apps)”. I haven’t heard/seen anything that would make me change that recommendation.

    For the people who are quick to jump on “Silverlight is dead” at companies, I can’t help you there. Those folks were looking for any excuse. Every nugget of news that comes out gets reinterpreted as that, despite Microsoft having come out and explicitely stated several times that these technologies aren’t dead. We had a Silverlight firestarter 7 months ago, and despite the HTML-heavy messaging at MIX, we also had a bunch of Silverlight 5 sessions *and* the release of Silverlight 5 beta.

    And when things do change sometime in the future (eventually, everything has to change – nothing is forever, this is not a comment about anything short-term) you and your management should take a measured approach to transition to the new technology. This is no different than many other migrations. Heck, I’ve been trying for a while to get people to move from Windows Forms (a technology which is being maintained, but not enhanced) but folks want to stay there. When I give Silverlight talks at events like Tech Ed, the vast majority of the room is still doing Windows Forms projects, many on Windows XP or Vista. That’s the reality of what’s actually out there in businesses. You will have plenty of time to adapt as necessary (or not, as appropriate) and make reasonable and educated decisions about where you want to take your skills personally, and your company as to where it what it wants to leverage.

    I have to question any time I hear rumors about projects being canceled or put on hold based on a rumor of where we may take a technology several years down the road. While some of those are certainly sound, the rest seem like either knee-jerk reactions, or the management wasn’t sold on the technology to begin with.

    I don’t think anyone here has been wasting time learning these skills.

    And while I don’t agree with the extremes on either side of this debate (the “nothing is wrong, why are you complaining” and the “I’ve wasted my career” sides) I do think that, as developers, diversifying your technology portfolio is always a good idea. Specialization can be good, but just like with stocks, if you invest too much in just one thing, your results are going to have lots of peaks and valleys instead of being more even. Of course, the person saying that has spent the last 4+ years deeply specialized, so take that as you will 🙂

    Pete Brown’s #8 response [06-05-2011 2:53 PM] (emphasis is mine)

    .netdan:

    Why doesn’t the Silverlight.net home page get updated as often as it used to?

    The blogs keep coming, but what about the News, Community Samples?  There used to be loads of samples now theres about 5 a month if were lucky.

    The showcase hasn’t been updated for ages, there used to be 10+ new showcases every 2 weeks or so, what’s happened to that?

    Silverlight has a future I’m sure, I just wonder what exactly it is.

    I curate a fair bit of this stuff. Here’s an explanation

    Community Samples: They need to be written by the community. They’re just not coming as quickly as they used to. This is both because what’s there already covers almost all the easy scenarios, and because many Silverlight devs are doing WP7

    Showcase: I took it upon myself to start weeding out old stuff, and to raise the bar for new submissions. Showcase needs to be showcase-level material, not a dumping ground. While I’m not yet where I want to be there, we have certainly rejected a lot more things than we had before. If the submission doesn’t meet the bar and they’re willing to include source code, I ask them to submit to the community samples.

    Even blogging has slowed down. That’s partially because it’s the summer, partially because folks are waiting for the next release, and partially because many Silverlight devs are doing WP7 work.

    FWIW, we’re also working on the next version of this site. Check it out at http://beta.silverlight.net

    Just some insight 🙂

    Pete Brown’s #9 response [06-05-2011 3:29 PM] (emphasis is mine)

    SilentObserver:

    ray reymond:

    Lure disheartened SL/WPF/.Net folks to Android world, “Look Java and C# are almost the same so there’s not much transition pain, and we are serious about supporting Android. We will not back-stab you guys like Microsoft just did.

    And it’s working for them. My team needs to kick off building a relatively simple app for tablets during this and next month. Since Microsoft is giving us the silent treatment until September, I’ve started watching the android dev videos here: http://developer.android.com/videos/index.html#v=Oq05KqjXTvs . We will be evaluating the platform while waiting for clarifications from Microsoft. It’s a familiar concept for every SL developer. Their tools aren’t as good and C# has surpassed Java, so it would be a step down for us. But not as big of a step down as moving to javascript. The back-stabbing argument is probably the most important of all. We need to be able to trust our OS vendor and Microsoft has lost a tremendous amount of developer loyalty.

    I’m with you all in that we could have/should have handled this better. However, I don’t think we’ve back-stabbed anyone. No one at Microsoft said HTML is the only way to go here, it’s just an approach we’re highlighting at the moment.

    Unfortunately, we have a long-standing policy of not responding to press rumors and whatnot, so we can’t say anything about the interpretations the press has put out based on this small demo. I’m not even supposed to be posting about this here, but as the community guy for SL/WPF etc., I can’t help myself.

    Yeah, “Wait until September” sucks for people who want to know *now*, but it’s not backstabbing. Remember, most other companies simply tell you nothing until the product is launched. We tried to give some info about something that we know will excite a segment of the community. I’m very concerned that the backlash is going to lead to silence being SOP in the future. 😦 I’m not blaming anyone, just pointing out a possible outcome.

    Pete Brown’s #10 response [06-05-2011 3:43 PM]

    Just a quick reminder for folks to keep it civil. I’ve seen a few posts that are starting to lean a little too far over the edge. Let’s keep language wars out (you won’t resolve anything), and no personal attacks.

    Thanks.

    Pete Brown’s #11 response [06-05-2011 3:57 PM] (emphasis is mine)

    SilentObserver:

    If the above is true, there is nothing to be gained by keeping it secret. So we must conclude that it isn’t true, at least as of now.

    We know we can get the “legacy desktop” experience. However, our customers are doctors who own the lastest Apple gadgets.  They expect us to deliver the same experience on their medical devices. If we are confined to the legacy desktop, we won’t be able to do that.

    If you’re planning to develop for Windows 8 tablets, you have plenty of time. The wait until September is pretty short in comparison.

    You’re also making an assumption based on the absence of information. “I didn’t hear from Joe, so he must be dead.” seems far less logical than just keeping it unknown – well, until some reasonable period passes anyway. There’s something about a box and a cat that applies here, but I’m not going there 🙂

    I know it’s going to be a long summer now, and I know this is very frustrating and has everyone on edge, but I encourage you to reserve judgment until //build/. Then, once we’ve come forth with a good and full picture of Windows 8 plans, rather than just a quick consumer-focused preview, make your informed decisions.

    Pete Brown’s #12 response [06-05-2011 4:59 PM] (emphasis is mine)

    SilentObserver:

    I appreciate you trying to calm everybody down . You’ve been given an impossible task by your PR people.

    Thanks. Not anything that was given me. In fact, we’re supposed to just be quiet. That’s not in my genes, though.

    I’m not so much interested in calming folks down as I am interested in getting to the core issues here and getting folks to keep any criticism on target (not attacking HTML devs or Silverlight devs, for example). And, of course, to remind folks that we’ll be talking much more about Windows 8 at //build/

    Pete Brown’s #13 response [06-05-2011 5:00 PM]

    SilentObserver:

    A more accurate analogy would be : “I know Joe and Jim were fighting in the parking lot, and Jim just showed up very happy, so Joe must be badly bruised.” 🙂

    lol. You win that one 🙂

    Pete Brown’s #14 response [06-05-2011 5:06 PM] (emphasis is mine)

    brosner88:

    A pretty, elegant or easy to use shell UI is can be a nice selling feature to end users. It does nothing for developers.

    And here we get to the crux. That demonstration video was not for developers. //build/ is for developers. HTML was mentioned as pretty much everyone gets it, even non-developers. And, quite frankly, that’s pretty cool that we’re doing that; a company that has gotten (in some cases, deserved) flak for not adopting standards is now incorporating one into the heart of their flagship product.

    Yes, we mentioned HTML, but no one showed code. If it was meant for developers, you *know* we’d have had someone up there with an IDE open.

    So: that demo, the walk-through video, and the related press release were all for non-devs, //build/ is for devs.

    Pete Brown’s #15 response [06-05-2011 5:16 PM] (emphasis is mine)

    jackbond:

    Psychlist1972:

    know it’s going to be a long summer now, and I know this is very frustrating and has everyone on edge, but I encourage you to reserve judgment until //build/.

    What if we say no, and that that’s simply unacceptable? I for one am willing to withdraw my app from the marketplace. Anybody else?

    That’s entirely your right. I just don’t think it’s a particularly savvy move given that it is based on speculation and rumor which themselves are based on a consumer-focused demo of an unreleased operating system and the related consumer-focused press release.

    Pete Brown’s #15 response [06-06-2011 1:11 AM] (emphasis is mine)

    kimsk112:

    Anyone knows if the Prism group (patterns & practices) is now working mainly on this Silk project (HTML5/JQuery) instead of Silverlight/WPF Prism?

    If they stop committing to Silverlight/WPF Prism, I think we know what Microsoft is thinking now.

    P&P is a peer team to mine (although much larger), in the same side of devdiv, called EPX. I believe they’re still working on Silverlight/WPF prism; I haven’t heard anything to the contrary. They’ve been beat up a bit in the past, however, for not having enough web guidance. Silk is part of the effort to make up the difference there.

    That said, I’m not sure what else there is to add to prism. I haven’t looked at the backlogs, but it has to be getting pretty mature by this point.

    The prism book was one of the hottest things at the Developer Guidance/P&P booth at Tech Ed 🙂

    Pete Brown’s #16 response [06-06-2011 3:44 PM] (emphasis is mine)

    FWIW, we don’t use third-party media outlets to announce things or do damage control unless it’s a quoted interview or video of MS folks. Even then, it’s rare not to have the real annoncement on our PR site.

    Pete Brown’s #17 response [06-06-2011 9:29 PM] (emphasis is mine)

    In case you haven’t seen this, Hanselman’s “Don’t give bile a permalink” is a good read.

    [Why? For things like that: “If you’re a nudist and you give your technical talks on C# naked, I likely won’t be there to watch your talk. You may feel REALLY strongly about nudism, and I wish you well. You may believe in the legalization of drugs and prefer to give your technical presentations high, and I say, kudos, but I and others may not show. There are some social norms, and you should know what they are and know how strongly you feel about them when you take your message to a larger audience. ”]

    From a quite opinionated but quite unsatisfied previous insider: http://twitter.com/#!/MossyBlog

    Scott Barnes

    @MossyBlog Brisbane
    Former Product Manager (Silverlight/WPF) Microsoft Corp, UX Specialist, The guy leading the mob on FIXWPF.org and blogging dude behind RIAGENIC.com
    http://www.riagenic.com

his response to the on going debate on Silverlight Forum

MossyBlog response #1 [06-06-2011 10:03 PM] (emphasis is mine)

A few points if I may:

  • Not saying anything is one thing admitting it… dear god why. This isn’t directed at Pete to all staff members, if you can’t get involved in the discussion then avoid the discussion completely. Jumping into the fray and asking all to calm down while at the same time not offering answers is not wise. It only fuels further conspiracy theories for one and secondly it creates a focused point of frustration for all to increment geek-rage at.  Either join the discussion or don’t but not half-way.
  • Perception vs Reality. The amount of times when we use to deal with constant battles around Silverlight mainly from a perception base vs the reality was a daily occurenceso Microsoft Staff, while I admire your bravery here by jumping into the fray with “probably” correct is a diasterous way of handling the corporate communication(s). You’re actually doing more harm that way and if i was still in the Silverlight team i’d be making moves to put a gag order on you for it – its not your motivates aren’t righteous but you are actually now validating some of the speculation by keeping it half-yes half-no.
  • New Joins vs Trolling. On one hand its great to see new members whilst on the other hand its sad under these circumstances. The point of order here is this, Corporate Comms 101 is a tire fire right now, people are frustrated and having an outlet like this to voice such concerns is a beast that well – staff – you created. If people are joining to either remain anonymous and voice their rage or so on, so be it all you can all do is reallly just sit and listen …that..or join the conversaton and start squashing some of the rumous / speculation mentioned earlier. Time to get involved.
  • Moderation. If you have a situation whereby the villagers are going to storm your gates, its better to marshall them into an area you can control more to the point you can isolate. Having such a firm strict hand on a forum such as this isn’t smart as what you’re really saying to the hordes of both positive & negative emotion is “take your fight elsewhere”.  You don’t want that, you want this isolated and pocketed to one area of the web as much as possible as when you do finally do your reveal in September you can then provide a much more sturdier platform to voice your smackdowns. Right now this is just plain stupid.

Pete. Personally I am fan of your work and will often support you even when I think you’re wrong because at the end of the day you work very hard to make a difference to communities like this. My personal advice to you is step aside, don’t take this bullet as the Windows team have some damage to fixand as some managers in the Silverlight team used to say “If you going to break up a fight, be prepared to be punched in the face”.

Let the horde vent their rage, its fast creating a marshalling point for you to provide some much needed corporate communication(s) to down the track.

To the masses here on this thread: You can argue amongst yourselves all you want, to what end? all you’re really doing is seeing who can bark the loudest.. the reality is this won’t have impact as the decisions around this entire messaging framework if you want to call it that goes much higher than those who moderate / read these forums. At best all staff like Pete can do etc is provide a thread or snippet of quotes to execs in a “quoted” format with “Please help me help you” call to action. It’s more than likely that email will be ignored.

My advice – wait this HTML5 bubble gum pop idea out as it’s one thing to say “all devs will create HTML5 apps” and its entirely another to have it happen. This is about the 4th time Windows team have tried to kickstart the HTML pipedream and what they fail to realise is that folks who do adopt Microsoft tech enjoy .NET [while] folks who don’t, just don’t like Microsoft as a brand and it mainly has nothing to do with technology discussion. Can’t imagine why they loose faith in the brand though? can you 😉

Scott Barnes
Former Product Manager (well 1yr ago lol) for Silverlight/WPF 🙂

Scott Barnes
Anti-Evangelist

To which came the following:
npolyak1 reminder [06-06-2011 11:29 PM]

And here is an article by Scott Barnes written last September warning everyone about what is coming (would we all listen to him)

http://www.riagenic.com/archives/363

npolyak1 addendum #1 [06-06-2011 11:40 PM] (emphasis is mine)

Excerpt from Scott’s article:

I’m simply about highlighting the disconnect here and if the Windows 8 / IE teams of today think that Silverlight / WPF is something they can deprecate because they dislike people in DevDiv or its current model then think again, as this is one of those rare moments in time where you have a hung jury in terms of which of the two is really the best bet.

npolyak1 addendum #2 [06-06-2011 11:41 PM]

Apparently Windows 8 / IE teams decided that they indeed can deprecate WPF and SL. Moreover, MS seems to allow them to get away with it.

npolyak1 addendum #3 [06-06-2011 11:48 PM]

Windows team seem to have gotten what they wanted – they destroyed the developer tools division, but they are also destroying a large part of Microsoft – in my estimate this crazy idea will cost at least $50 billion in market capitalization.

Drzog response to npolyak1 [06-06-2011 11:51 PM] (emphasis is mine)

Interesting article – it explains much, and is very disconcerting. Call it conspiracy theory, but I’ve noticed a number of HIGHLY VISIBLE Silverlight marketing links are not functional on the following prominent Microsoft websites:

(1) http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/   This is the entry point URL for anyone inquiring about Silverlight, and ranks first or second when searching on “Silverlight”.  Guess what? Click the first thing you see — the “Play” button — and then “Launch Demos” and sadly, none of the first three video streaming examples work. SHAMEFUL.

(2) http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/future/  This is Microsoft’s “The Future of Microsoft Silverlight” page. Click the first call to action button “Watch the Silverlight Five Announcement” — guess what? NO VIDEO. Then try the “High Quality WMV” link. Guess what — staggered and strobed pixelation. SHAMEFUL.

These are Microsoft’s leading URLs for Silverlight information. Go figure.

Scott Barnes response to the erietta [user experience designer. news hound. art lover. in Sydney] 10 hours ago [vs 06-07-2011 11:00 CET]

UI experts upbeat on Windows 8 preview itnews.com.au/News/259674,ui… via @itnews_au what say you @MossyBlog ?

So copied here: UI experts upbeat on Windows 8 preview [June 6, 2011] (emphasis in bold is mine)

But are icons more effective?

User interface experts have expressed surprise at the re-design of the Windows OS interface, giving Microsoft the thumbs up for touch-based gestures and use of web app development standards.

The new interface, previewed late last week, replaces menu bars and icons with tiles akin to Windows Mobile 7.

A panel of Australian user interface gurus told iTnews the preview was significant.

Whereas web applications were once developed to mimic richer desktop applications, users now prefer the simplicity and ease of navigation of web applications.

Today, the desktop OS attempts to mimic the web.

“Hallelujah, at last, someone got it!” said Anthony Colfelt, Creative Director at web user experience firm, Different.

Microsoft’s tiles “take the best from informational web-design and applies it to the main computer UI,” he said.

He was particularly impressed that Microsoft has chosen to run applications developed with HTML 5 and Javascript, to prepare for an “inevitable shift toward light-weight terminal computers that rely on web-served applications.”

Colfelt said Microsoft was “finally attempting to lead in the area of UI and experience, rather than following Apple.”

“It has always been to Microsoft’s advantage to open up their system (for a reasonable fee) to the masses of developers and hardware manufacturers,” he said.

”Lots of programmers and machines equals lots of cheap programs and computers, and that means lots of accessibility for the consumer.”

Richard Edwards, Principal Analyst at Ovum said the preview proved Microsoft is still a “viable market-maker.”

Made for tablets

Shane Morris, director at UI specialists Automatic Studio said the interface “shows that Microsoft is serious about embracing touch and slate-based modes of use within Windows itself – as it should be.

Clearly Microsoft has thought hard about how to integrate the casual consumption model of tablet devices with ‘real’ operating system features like multi-tasking, file system access and rich applications that require extensive user input, like Office.” he said.

“Why abandon the power and familiarity of Windows if they can possibly help it?

The use of scrolling panels of tiles is a natural extension of the use of tiles and panning ‘panoramas’ in Windows Phone 7, which are proving popular with users,” he said.

Swiping left and right to scroll through choices is a very natural action, and leverages both spatial memory and muscle memory to help users find and re-find what they need.”

But Morris pointed out that the preview did not reveal any on-screen cues to users to show them how swiping in from the edge of the screen could activate operating system features like task switching. This could prove a sticking point until users grew used to the concept, he said.

Colfelt also noted that many of these same interactions would “feel clumsy using a mouse.

“That could cause RSI if the user gets too excited about using them,” he noted.

The only point on which the experts disagreed was the use of tiles on the home page. Whilst Colfelt felt it was a solution to what he calls “information spelunking” (areas of a site easy to fall into and hard to find your way back out of), Morris felt Microsoft was abandoning icons that have historically proven far more effective.

Tiles, Morris said, are difficult to differentiate and can crowd the screen.

“The use of larger, consistently sized tiles containing dynamic content has the potential to create a vista that ‘yells’ at the user – and the demonstrated use of bright, saturated colours might actually make it difficult for users to discriminate between tiles and to focus on individual tile content,” he said.

“We know that people use various cues to search the visual field. Outline shape is one of the primary prompts to help people discriminate and identify objects visually. The dominant and consistent rectangular shape of the tiles themselves means Windows 8 users cannot use this outline shape as the primary cue. They must instead rely on colour and the actual tile contents. Compare that to the carefully designed icons in Microsoft Office products. Those icons present unique outlines – for good reason.”

Morris raised concerns as to whether Microsoft would continue to support stylus and other pen-based input as well as touch.

MossyBlog Scott Barnes @erietta @itnews_au UI Experts? hah.. thats like saying “Lifecoaches enjoy windows 8” 🙂 9 hours ago

in reply to ↑ @MossyBlog Scott Barnes @erietta @itnews_au the only expert in that conversation was @shanemo and he nailed his remarks well.. wouldn’t say it was upbeat tho 9 hours ago

erietta erietta @ @MossyBlog is your microsoft bias shining through? Anthony is a well qualified UX designer (& my boss you ratbag!) @colfelt @itnews_au. 7 hours ago

MossyBlog Scott Barnes @ @erietta @colfelt @itnews_au he is? so am i? so is everyone.. UX Expert is an oxymoron imho 🙂 7 hours ago

erietta erietta @ @MossyBlog @colfelt @itnews_au and I was after YOUR thoughts as you are on the record of sledging microsoft UX design. What say you? 7 hours ago

in reply to ↑ @MossyBlog Scott Barnes @erietta @colfelt @itnews_au i personally think the Tiles Windows8 concept is still unproven firstly & secondly it’s lazy design that furthermore, I don’t think as much thought as one is lead to believe has been put into the science behind it..  the design behind current MS Metro is a state of confused schizo ver of Intrinsic & Extraneous cognitive load. 7 hours ago

in reply to ↑ @erietta erietta  @MossyBlog @itnews_au @colfelt This is the Scott I was looking for! Will be interesting to see if the process behind design is revealed. 7 hours ago

replies ↓ MossyBlog Scott Barnes @ @erietta @itnews_au @colfelt yeah i mean i feel like a crack record though on my metro insighs..basically i like its attitude not execution 7 hours ago

——————————–

colfelt Anthony Colfelt  @MossyBlog @erietta @itnews_au having worked alongside a few MS UX team members, I know PLENTY of thought went into the design.  9 hours ago

in reply to ↑

@MossyBlog Scott Barnes   @colfelt @erietta @itnews_au pink had potential and there were far better ideas on the table early on

@MossyBlog Scott Barnes   @colfelt @erietta @itnews_au it’s principles are great it’s execution is lazy   9 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

colfelt Anthony Colfelt  @MossyBlog @erietta Isn’t it a tad insulting to them to suggest otherwise? 9 hours ago

in reply to ↑

@MossyBlog Scott Barnes  @colfelt @erietta so? Want to play in the big leagues be prepared to backup the science behind it all 9 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

@MossyBlog Scott Barnes  @colfelt @erietta this execution panders to making engineers I to designers without context or personality  9 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

@MossyBlog Scott Barnes   @colfelt @erietta current metro designs are what I call shoplifting for designers

@MossyBlog Scott Barnes  @colfelt @erietta it’s in my view the same as buying ui art from a $1 or less store

colfelt Anthony Colfelt  @MossyBlog @erietta I doubt most those reading @itnews_au cares abt the science. But next time, maybe they’ll ask a REAL expert to comment9 hours ago

in reply to ↑ @MossyBlog Scott Barnes @colfelt @erietta @itnews_au let me know if u meet one. I watched $1m usd research try and find one and it failed :$

MossyBlog Scott Barnes @ @colfelt @erietta @itnews_au btw i’m not looking to attack you per say, just the concept of “UX Experts say..”.. its kind of “wtf?” is my pt 8 hours ago

brettatitnews Brett W @  @colfelt @erietta @itnews_au I’m guessing if I’d included @MossyBlog there would be no argument on using the word “expert”.  7 hours ago

MossyBlog Scott Barnes  @ @brettatitnews @colfelt @erietta @itnews_au wanna take that bet ? 🙂 .. The word expert is an alt word for Life Coach in my vocab 🙂 7 hours ago

brettatitnews Brett W  @  @MossyBlog @colfelt @erietta @itnews_au how would you rather be addressed Scott?  7 hours ago

in reply to ↑

@MossyBlog Scott Barnes @brettatitnews @colfelt @erietta @itnews_au Me? why would you address me.. i’m just a developer who designs.  7 hours ago via web

replies ↓

erietta erietta  @  @MossyBlog @brettatitnews @colfelt @itnews_au What have I started here?! </flamewars> 7 hours ago

MossyBlog Scott Barnes  @ @erietta @brettatitnews @colfelt @itnews_au haha 🙂 no.. its just that article came up light..i want more meat on the bone..  7 hours ago

brettatitnews Brett W  @ @MossyBlog @erietta @colfelt @itnews_au I’ll be sure to include you next time Scott. 6 hours ago

MossyBlog Scott Barnes  @ @brettatitnews @erietta @colfelt @itnews_au hah.. that’d be funny. 6 hours ago

MORE FROM SCOTT BARNES

@MossyBlog Scott Barnes Blog Post:: Understanding “Why would Microsoft do that?” http://bit.ly/m8lRiL  8 hours ago via RIAGENIC Blog

First-ever Israeli National Pavilion Set up at 2011 Computex Taipei

First-ever Israeli National Pavilion Set up at 2011 Computex Taipei [June 20]

12 Israeli companies jointly showcased their latest technologies, products in the first-ever “Israeli Pavilion” at the 2011 Taipei International Information Technology Show (Computex Taipei) held May 31-June 4 …

Simona Halperin, the representative of ISECO [Israel Economic and Cultural Office], urged closer cooperation between Taiwan and Israel, saying at the opening ceremony of the national pavilion that Taiwan`s ICT industry has evolved from being mostly OEM/ODM (original equipment/design manufacturing) for major international brands 10 years and earlier, to OBMs [Original brand manufacturers] where ever more firms are investing in R&D to innovate products.

Sahar Amit, VP business development of Grippity, demonstrates the innovative transparent input device.

Grippity Inc. showcases its transparent handheld keyboards aiming to achieve ergonomic QWERTY typing anywhere, also introducing the Grippity1, a media center keyboard and the first BackTyped product, or the smallest 10-finger QWERTY keyboard.

Utilizing its MSP (Memory Signal Processing) technology, Anobit provides Solid State storage solutions with significantly improved reliability, performance and cost.

Anobit`s products, ranging from flash controllers to complete enterprise-class solid state drives (SSDs), are used by world leading flash manufacturers, consumer electronics vendors and storage system providers.

Side-Kick`s innovative motion games captivate many visitors.

Side-Kick Ltd. is a leading game developer and publisher specializing in motion games that use human gestures to control games. Side-Kick was created by veteran gaming industry entrepreneurs and the team behind the first games developed for the PrimeSense technology, the main supporting force to the Xbox Kinect motion-control games.

EPOS Development Ltd. is displaying its digital pen input device featuring advantages including low cost, minimal battery power, multi-lingual capacity, multi-OS capacity, fully customizable, and fast time to market.

Yaron Aizenbud, XTR`s V.P. of products, stresses the unique 3D human skeleton technology is at the forefront of gesture control software.

Extreme Reality (XTR3D) Ltd. XTR provides real-time software based 3D Motion Capture technology using a single standard webcam. XTR`s technology facilitates real time recognition of human motions and gestures, and uses this recognition to control consumer electronic devices without accessories.

Snapkeys offers an innovative, effective text and data entry technology for mobile and fixed devices.

innovative, effective text and data entry technology for mobile and fixed devices

The problem with traditional touchscreen keyboards is excessive displacement of screen surface to obscure content, which is being addressed by Snapkeys Ltd., an innovative company who has devised an “imaginary interface” called 2i that enables users to type blindly on smartphones and tablets.

Wisair is a leading provider of a portfolio of Wireless USB and Ultra-wideband (UWB) based ecosystem of solutions for applications such as “Wireless PC to TV“, “Wireless laptop docking“, “Wireless laptop audio streaming” and more. Products based on Wisair`s complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) single chip are already shipped in high volume in the U.S., Europe, Korea and Japan, available from a variety of OEMs.

SOEs and state coexistence in China

– History (pre 2008)
– Recent information from the government (2007-2011)
– Current situation: mostly related to the China Mobile

Major update‘Princelings’ take up key posts in China’s telcos [Feb 24, 2012]

Sons of PM Wen and party propaganda chief promoted to senior positions

By FREDERICK YEUNG

(HONG KONG) China’s ‘princelings’, the offspring of top Communist Party leaders, are taking up important positions at the nation’s state-owned telecommunications firms, reflecting their growing political clout as the party prepares for key leadership changes later this year.

Li Huidi, the son of Li Changchun – who is the propaganda chief of the Communist Party and the fifth ranked member of the Politburo Standing Committee – and Winston Wen Yunsong, the son of Premier Wen Jiabao, are among those that have taken up senior positions in telecoms companies recently.

The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, which oversees all state-owned enterprises, announced on Tuesday the appointment of Li Huidi as a deputy general manager of China Mobile Communications Corp. Prior to the latest appointment, Mr Li was serving as the company’s vice-president overseeing its TD-SCDMA business.

Mr Li, 44, joined China Mobile in July 2008 as general manager’s assistant to help the company develop the homegrown TD-SCDMA 3G network business, as well as handset sales.

Before joining China Mobile, Mr Li worked at Lenovo Group Ltd and UTStarcom Inc.

Mr Li’s promotion has been much faster compared to other senior officials at China Mobile, an industry veteran told EJ Insight on Wednesday.

He noted that normally a deputy general manager needs to have management experience at both the company’s headquarters and at its regional subsidiaries to secure a chance for promotion.

‘Li’s quick promotion for sure is due to the influence of his father,’ the source said. ‘He did not have any actual experience in telecom operators prior to joining China Mobile.’

Following Mr Li’s latest promotion, there is speculation that he could be a candidate to assume the chairmanship of the world’s largest mobile operator in about three years from now.

China Mobile’s current chairman Wang Jianzhou, 62, is expected to retire shortly due to his age.

Xi Gouhua, 59, currently the vice-chairman, is expected to take the chairman’s post for three years. When he retires, Mr Li could get the opportunity to run for the top post.

However, he would need to compete with other senior China Mobile managers, such as general manager Li Yue, who is 52.

Meanwhile, Premier Wen’s son Winston Wen has been appointed as the chairman of China Satellite Communications Corp on Feb 17. Mr Wen replaced Lei Fanpei, an aeronautical engineer, following a company board meeting.

China Satellite Communications Corp is one of the six state-owned telecommunications infrastructure operators in China, focusing on satellite communications and satellite manufacturing. China Satellite Communications is the parent of Hong Kong-listed APT Satellite Holdings Ltd.

Mr Wen is well known in the market as he was founder of Unihub Global Network, a systems-integration company that served large corporations in China before being merged with PCCW Ltd. He later became a partner at private equity firm New Horizon Capital\. \– EJ Insight

Update: Top China Technology Picks By The World’s Largest Fund Managers [Seeking Alpha, Jan 31, 2012]

Major update: China’s ‘black collar class’ unmasked: The ten most powerful business chiefs who are poised to take over the world [Daily Mail, Jan 29, 2012]

They’re known as the ‘black collar class’.

They dress in dark suits, drive black limousines and have rumoured links to ‘black societies’ from the underworld.

Until now these shadowy mandarins leading the charge of China’s thundering economy have remained hidden.

But after a groundbreaking report, the ten most powerful bosses behind China’s terrifying brand of state capitalism have been unmasked.

A Chinese soldier stands guard outside Tiananmen Gate in Beijing as the red flag flies
cars head into the heaving city that his led the transformation of the country's economy
 A country of two sides: A Chinese soldier stands guard outside Tiananmen Gate in Beijing as the red flag flies. Right, cars head into the heaving city that his led the transformation of the country’s economy

They include business dynasties that have ruled firms for decades, according to reports from the Brookings Institution, specialist Chinese publications and the Sunday Times.

These ‘red dragons’ are now set to become as powerful as the Chinese military, provincial leaders and government ministers.

Between them they control the majority of the Chinese economy, where corruption and vested interests are hidden behind a cloak of secrecy.

And with the rest of the world teetering on bankruptcy, these unstoppable bosses are poised to take take over a string of Western companies.

It’s a thundering assault on the rest of the world from a country that controls virtually every aspect of its citizens lives.

These are the ten most powerful members of the ‘black collar’ elite driving China’s alarming expansion.

Zhang Qingwei

Control of the skies: Zhang Qingwei Control of the skies: Zhang Qingwei

Qingwei was the former boss of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac).

Under his leadership the company has fought to wrestle back control of the Chinese skies from Boeing and Airbus.

The communist state has little time for dependance on foreign companies, and has battled to create a fleet of planes that will compete for passengers.

In a sign of his influence and power, Qingwei has been singled out as the state entrepreneur most likely to win political office. He has begun that march up the communist party, with an appointment as a provincial governor.

Wang Jianzhou

Phone boss: Wang Jianzhou Phone boss: Wang Jianzhou

Anybody who has used a mobile phone in China will have used Jianzhou’s company – China Mobile. The mobile phone network is the largest and most powerful in the world, with an estimated 650million subscribers.

In its aggressive spread across the globe, China mobile has even provided reception for one of the hardest places on earth to reach – Mount Everest. The firm has 230,000 employees and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Despite the staggering wealth and power of China Mobile, it has received repeated criticism over its charges. Critics have claimed that half of its profits came from cynical fees for services that are free in many countries, where market competition and democratic government would have banned them.

Li Xiaolin

Electric lady: Li Xiaolin Electric lady: Li Xiaolin

With her delicate features, short hair and red lipstick, Li Xiaolin could be any other Chinese housewife.

But Xiaolin is in fact one of the most powerful women in China.

Xiaolin comes from the Li Family, a dynasty that ‘controls all electric power interests’, according to U.S. diplomatic cables.

Her hardline father Li Peng has stepped down as boss of China Power International Development, but the company is run by Xiaolin and her brother Xiaopeng, a vice governor of Shanxi province.

The pair ‘exercise tremendous power and influence in China’s electric power industry’. Both are tipper to rise prominently within the regime.

Zhou Yongkang

Security chief: Zhou Yongkang Security chief: Zhou Yongkang

As security minister for the Politburo, Yongkang is tasked with the protection of the state – a broad job that few westerners actually know what it involves.

Yongkang may be coming to the end of his term in office, but his power and influence still stretches far and wide.

Yongkang was boss of the China National Petroleum Corporation, and is understood to have made 14 visits to Sudan in trips that are likely to have been centred around oil production.

According to a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, ‘Yongkang and his associates controlled the oil interests’ of China.

The turbo-charged expansion of China’s economy has rested on a cheap supply of oil, and that’s largely down to Yongkan’s oil deals.

Su Shulin

Chemical: Su Shulin Chemical: Su Shulin

One of China’s youngest mandarins, Shulin began his rise to power as boss of Sinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation Limited ), the top-ranking company in the Fortune Global 500.

The chemicals firm is a subsidiary of the state-owned Sinopec Group.

Within China its path to power has been smoothed by the communist party.

But in the rest of the world Sinopec has been heavily criticised for an appalling record of environmental damage. Primatology professor Christophe Boesch criticised Sinopec’s use of dynamite in Gabon in 2004, noting that it might drive native Gorillas deeper into the jungle, where they would be outside legal restrictions on hunting.

Shulin has since left Sinopec and is regarded affectionately by state media.

He has recently been given a role as a provincial governor and is thought of as being among the ‘sixth generation’ of national leaders.

Chen Yuan

Son of suppression: Chen Yuan Son of suppression: Chen Yuan

A banker who is still regarded as a young newcomer, largely due to the powerful shadow cast by his father.

Yuan is the son of Chen Yuan, one of the powerful figures who urged the brutal suppression of protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The treatment of students at the protests sparked a global outcry, as still leaves a stain a on China’s appalling human rights record.

Residents were protesting at economic reforms being implemented to transform China into a ‘socialist market economy’, the catalyst for the country’s rise to economic power.

In a sign of just how removed from Western values China is, Yuan Senior was lauded within the country for his role in the brutal treatment of citizens.

Worryingly, his son is set to regain influence when vice-president Xi Jinping succeeds Hu Jintao as the nation’s leader.

Xiao Gang

Banking boss: Xiao Gang Banking boss: Xiao Gang

Gang is one of the young generation of officials making their rise to power through China’s institutions.

He is currently chairman of the board of directors of Bank of China Limited and Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited. Gang is even more powerful than the bank’s president – a sign of his ambition and power.

Gang also has control over a limited number of foreign investments in the bank. Coming from the People’s Bank of China, his business philosophy is centered on the strength of the state and he is unlikely to lead open the country up to foreign competition and scrutiny as some critics would like.

Gang’s rise to prominence at such a young age suggests that he is destined for one of the coveted positions within the system.

Guo Shuqing

Oxford educated: Guo Shuqing Oxford educated: Guo Shuqing

One of the few Chinese mandarins to have received an education in England.

Shuqing went from a hardline Marxism-Lenninism faculty to Oxford University.

Upon returning to China, he began his career at the central bank, became a governor of a province and was then given a prominent position at the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

In a career that mirrors those of many other Chinese star mandarins, Shuqing was eventually given a position in a commercial lender, where he was sure to keep state influence over foreign investors.

Shuqing is currently China’s top security regulator, though few people outside of the small elite know what the intimidating role involves.

Zhu Yanfeng

Driving force: Zhu Yanfeng  Driving force: Zhu Yanfeng

Yanfeng ensured his popularity among ordinary Chinese people by saying that every family should own a car.

But that’s not a surprising statement to come from someone who led one of China’s older carmakers, First Automobile Works, as Yanfeng did.

The grandson of renowned meteorologist Chu Coching, Yanfeng began his career in engineering.

He is the current president of China FAW Group Corporation, and in a sign that he is being primed for a top job within the regime, has been made a provincial vice-governor.

The Chinese economic expansion has been fueled by better transport, and a large part of that is down to Yanfen’s drive for profits.

Zhang Guoqing

Arms trade: Zhang Guoqing Arms trade: Zhang Guoqing

Guoqing is one of China’s ‘masters of war’.

He has spent his career at the country’s largest arms maker, China North Industries Corporation (Norinco), and attended Harvard Business School.

He is now one of the most powerful figures within China’s military-industrial complex, supplying arms around the world.

Norinco has ran into controversy with the west. Its ammunition was blocked during the Clinton Administration in 1993 after concerns about their use by criminals in inner cities. Employees were put under investigation in 1994 by the CIA.

In August 2003, the Bush Administration imposed sanctions on Norinco for allegedly selling missile-related goods to Iran.

There have also been controversies around a transport system to Pakistan and links with arms sales to Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.

Major update: An Evening With the Chinese Intelligence Service [John Thomas, ‘The Mad Hedge Fund Trader’, Sept 28, 2010]

[“John Thomas, The Mad Hedge Fund Trader is one of today’s most successful Hedge Fund Managers and a 40 year veteran of the financial markets.”]

An Evening With the Chinese Intelligence Service. I normally avoid the diplomatic circuit, as the few non committal comments and soggy appetizers I get aren’t worth the investment of time. But I jumped at the chance to celebrate the 61st anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China with San Francisco consul general Gao Zhansheng.

Happy Birthday China!

When I casually mention that I survived the Cultural Revolution and interviewed major political figures like premier Deng Xiaoping, who launched the Middle Kingdom into the modern era, and his predecessor, Zhou Enlai, modern day Chinese are enthralled. It’s like going to a Fourth of July party and letting drop that I palled around with Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

Five minutes into the great hall, and I ran into my old friend Wen, who started out her career with the Chinese Intelligence Service, and had made the jump to the Foreign Ministry, as all their best people did. She was passing through town with a visiting trade mission.

When I was touring China in the seventies as the guest of the Bank of China, Wen was assigned as my guide and translator, and we kept in touch over the years. I was assigned a bodyguard who doubled as the driver of a tank like Russian sedan. The Cultural Revolution was on, and while the major cities were safe, we ran the risk of running into a renegade band of xenophobic Red Guards, with potentially fatal consequences.

I asked Wen when China was going to float the Yuan? She explained that this is something China knew it had to do, but it wasn’t going to be rushed into by some opportunistic foreign politicians. If it moves too soon, millions will lose jobs, creating political instability, something the central government wants to avoid at all costs. Many of the largest scale employers were only marginally profitable, and a hike in the renminbi of only a few percent would force them out of business. I pointed out that that was exactly what was happening in the US.

Worth More Than Meets the Eye

I warned that if the Middle Kingdom waited too long, Washington would force them into an appreciation through punitive import duties and anti dumping actions, as we did with Japan 40 years ago. It was Nixon’s surprise ban on textile imports in 1971 that finally persuaded Japan to float the yen, then at ¥360. If that didn’t convince the Chinese, then imported inflation would. The longer China delays, the bigger the pop when their currency is finally set free.

Wen then went on the offensive, claiming that Chinese workers were being exploited by American companies keeping wages low. The product that China made for $1, and sold for $2, was then sold by Wal-Mart (WMT) for $20, which kept all the profits. She pointed out that the Walton family had a combined net worth of $100 billion, more than the total worth of the lower 40% of the US population. This could never happen in China. I told her that by selling the product at $20, Wal-Mart wiped out another US company that used to make that product domestically and sold it for $40, throwing those people out of work.

Modern Times in China

I then asked Wen what were her country’s plans for its massive foreign exchange reserves, now at $2.5 trillion? She agreed that this was a problem because the reserves were pouring in so fast, at an embarrassingly high rate of $10 billion a month, and that it was the most rapid accumulation of wealth in history (click here for the data). While it had more than enough Treasury bonds, any attempt to sell might cause their value to collapse and freeze relations with the US. I suggested China should start hedging its gigantic holdings without selling them, or some managers would be facing a firing squad in the future.

China has therefore begun directing new reserve inflows into other instruments, like gold, Japanese government bonds, and PIIGS bonds in Europe. While the Europeans were more than happy to take the money, the Japanese were complaining that China’s modest purchases were driving up the yen, further depressing their own economy. We all know what has happened to gold.

China tried to recycle its surpluses by buying foreign companies that produce the natural resources it desperately needs. But takeover attempts were fought tooth and nail as a foreign invasion, or on national security grounds, such as the attempt to buy California’s Unocal in 2005 and Australia’s Oz Minerals last year. It was now using a strategy of buying low profile minority stakes in foreign resource companies. China took a big stake in the recent Petrobras (PBR) secondary equity offering, and Wen would not be surprised if they took a run at Potash (POT), now that it is on the table”.

Check Out This tasty Little Morsel

I asked her about the real estate bubble in China that was causing so many foreign investors to lose sleep. She said it was true that sales were slow at some luxury buildings in Beijing and Shanghai, but the great majority of developments were aimed at working people, and were filling up as soon as they came on the market. The 40% down payment demanded by the People’s Bank of China headed off the rampant speculation that brought the American financial system down.

Rooms With Views

Wen then complained about the aggressive military stance the US was taking towards China, ringing it in with the Seventh Fleet. Holding a knife so close to the country’s foreign supply line jugular vein made them nervous. China was basically indefensible. All it would take was the sinking of a few grain ships, and 100 million would starve within a year. President Bush was rattling his saber as soon as he moved into office, until 9/11 diverted his attention to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Wen told me there is a school of thought in Beijing that as the country’s economic power grows- it is passing Japan to become second in GDP this year– that the US will increasingly perceive it as a military threat. That would lead America to mete out the same hostile treatment to China as it did Russia during the cold war.

Walking Softly, But Carrying a Big Stick

I assured her that the Seventh Fleet was there to watch and listen, but to do nothing. It was really in position to provide a security blanket for allies, like Japan and South Korea, but nothing more. China wasn’t engaging in the belligerent behavior that Russia was at the height of the cold war, like blockading Berlin, basing missiles in Cuba, stationing fast attack nuclear submarines off our coasts, and invading Afghanistan.

I argued that if China truly has no expansionary intentions, the more we know about you, the better. It is always prudent for a potential adversary to conclude you are not a threat, and that no action is needed. The more you help the US do that, the better. China is decades behind the US in military technology, and you really have nothing we want. Little more than 200 nuclear weapons without an ICMB or submarine delivery systems were hardly viewed as a major threat.

Wen seemed perturbed that I was aware of her country’s nuclear stockpiles, and asked how I knew this. I said CIA director Leon Panetta told me She said “Oh.” I asked what was that test downing of a satellite in space about, anyway? She didn’t answer.

In any case, with our military fully committed fighting two wars in the Middle East, we lacked the resources for an Asian offensive if we were so inclined, even against a piddling, mismanaged, rogue state like North Korea. But looking at the world for the next 30 years, who is the Pentagon going to model and war game against, but China, with its 2.5 million man army?

Wen countered that the People’s Liberation Army was purely a defensive force. With a 12,000 mile land border, an 11,000 mile coastline, and dubious neighbors like Russia, Iran, and India, they have no other choice. Its ability to project force over great distances, as the US can, is virtually nonexistent. Its 1979 invasion of Vietnam was about reclaiming ten miles of lost territory. China got involved in Korea only after general Douglas MacArthur threatened to rain atomic bombs on the mainland, losing 2 million men, including Chairman Mao’s son. China could have done a lot more in the Vietnam War, but didn’t, limiting its participation to a supply, logistical, and advisory role.

That’s a Lot of Border to Defend

I then warned that if you really are worried about the Pentagon, you should stop hacking into our computers. She replied that the US started this by emptying out Chinese mainframes many times, and they were only responding in kind. I said yes, but that China was targeting private companies, like Google (GOOG), Hewlett Packard (HPQ), and Oracle (ORCL), that without military grade software, were unable to defend themselves. The Chinese agencies involved then used the data to their own commercial advantage.

What Did You Say the Password Was Again?

By the time Wen married, China had already adopted its one child policy. As much as she wanted more children, she understood the government’s need to adopt such a drastic policy. Without it, the population today would be 1.6 billion, not 1.2 billion, and all of the money that went into buying capital goods would have been spent on food imports instead. The country would have stagnated at its 1980 per capita income of $100/year. There would have been no Chinese economic miracle. She was very proud of her one son, who was a software engineer at Microsoft (MSFT) in Beijing.

Her husband, a mid level official at the Ministry of Commerce, fared less well, dying of lung cancer at a relatively early age. The US and Europe had exported their worst polluting industries to China to take advantage of lax environmental controls, turning the air in Beijing into a choking haze. Sometimes her son would come home from school coughing and wheezing so badly that he couldn’t play outside. The two packs of cigarettes a day her husband smoked didn’t help either.

Imported From the USA

I asked if she recalled our first trip together and a dark cloud came over her face. We were touring a section of Fuzhou when three policemen marched up. They started shouting at Wen that we were in a restricted section of the city where foreigners were not allowed. They started mercilessly beating her with clubs.

I was about to intercede when my wife, Kyoko, let go with a blood curdling tirade in Japanese that froze them in their tracks. I saw from the fear in their faces that she had ignited their wartime fear of Japanese authority, and they beat a hasty retreat. To this day, I’m not exactly sure what Kyoko said. We took Wen back to our hotel room and bandaged her up, putting ice on the giant goose egg on her head. When I left, I gave her my copy of HG Well’s A Short History of the World, which she treasured, as the book was then banned in China.

Wen mentioned that she was approaching the mandatory retirement age of 60, and soon would be leaving the Foreign Service. I suggested she move to San Francisco, which offered a thriving Chinese community and home prices that had recently dropped by half. She laughed. No matter how much prices had fallen, she could never afford anything here on a Chinese civil servant’s salary.

Wen told me that China was grateful for the billions of dollars that foreigners had poured into her country as a result of my writings. I replied that I was simply trying to show my readers where to make some money, nothing more. One of my recommendations, for Chinese search engine Baidu (BIDU), was up nearly tenfold in less than two years. Did she happen to know about any more future Baidu’s? Wen said that she wasn’t that close to the stock market, but that she would get back to me.

I asked Wen if she still had the book I gave her nearly four decades ago. She said it had become a family heirloom, and was being passed down through the generations. As she smiled, I notice the faint scar on her eyebrow from that unpleasantness so long ago.

In view of Wen’s comments, I think you have got to buy the Chinese ETF here (FXI), which is the principle lagging emerging stock market this year. You also better revisit my stock picks in the area, including Baidu, China Mobile (CHL), Build Your Dreams (BYDDF), and China Telecom (CHA).

By. Mad Hedge Fund Trader

Update: Ex-China Mobile official gets suspended death sentence [July 23, 2011]

A court in North China’s Hebei province on Friday sentenced Zhang Chunjiang, former deputy general manager of China Mobile, to death with a two-year reprieve, after he was found of taking bribes.

The Intermediate People’s Court of Cangzhou also ordered the confiscation of Zhang’s personal assets and stripped him of his political rights.

The court found that Zhang, 53, took 7.46 million yuan ($1.15 million) in bribes between 1994 and 2009 when he was deputy director of the Liaoning provincial postal administration, general manager of China Netcom Group Corporation Ltd, and Party chief as well as deputy general manager of China Mobile.

Zhang, a native of East China’s Shandong province, was given a suspended death sentence, meaning the sentence could be commuted to life imprisonment after two years of good behavior, because he confessed his crimes and all the bribe money had been recovered, according to the court.

He had previously been removed from his post and expelled from the Communist Party of China (CPC) for “severe violations of the discipline and the law.”

Zhang was confirmed to be under investigation for a “serious breach of discipline” on Dec 26, 2009, by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Party’s internal anti-graft body.

He became secretary of the Party committee and deputy head of China Mobile in May 2008.

China Mobile is the country’s biggest wireless service provider and the world’s largest mobile carrier by number of subscribers.

Zhang was among a dozen ministerial-level officials, including former Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng, punished as China intensified its fight against corruption.

The Supreme People’s Court has vowed to continue to battle corruption by meting out harsh punishments to those who are convicted.

Sun Jungong, spokesman of the Supreme People’s Court, warned on Tuesday that for crimes involving an abuse of public office – especially cases of corruption and bribery – that are severe enough to merit the death penalty, the court will not go lightly but will instead approve executions.

Xu Maiyong, former vice-mayor of Hangzhou, and Jiang Renjie, former vice-mayor of Suzhou, were executed on Tuesday for taking large amounts in bribes and abusing their power.

Statistics compiled by the Supreme People’s Court show that 28,708 officials were convicted of abuse of power in 2010. Of them, 5,906 were sentenced to more than 5 years in jail.

I. History (pre 2008)

China’s state-owned enterprise reforms: an industrial and CEO approach (2007, By Juan Antonio Fernández, Leila Fernández-Stembridge)
Introduction (emphasis is mine)


As known by all, China is a vastly populated country that is currently undergoing one of the most particular and crucial transformations in the world’s economic history of these last 25 years. On a general level, China has been transforming itself from a command to a (bound-to-be) market economy, from an economy based on agriculture to one based on manufacturing and services, from one with high fertility and low longevity to one with low fertility and high longevity, and from a closed economy to a fairly open economy, ever more since World Trade Organization (WTO) accession in December 2001.

The literature on the significance and meaning of China’s economic reforms is quite abundant, for which we will not repeat what has been already been extensively explained. We prefer rather to focus on the SOEs reforms. It is important to stress within this context, however, a glimpse of the burden of the scale China implies. Here are just a few of the most important indicators:

  1. By the late 1990s, among China’s SOEs, there were 500 that employed more than 100,000 people – forty times the number of companies of similar size in the United States;
  2. Every year, China’s economy must create 10 million to 15 million new jobs so as to avoid an excessive unemployment rate;
  3. China has more cities of 1 million-plus population than the rest of the world combined;
  4. The floating population of peasants moving to the cities to find a job oscillates at approximately 100 million, which is 10 million short of Russia’s entire population;
  5. There is an emerging urban middle-class in China that accounts for an annual growth of more than 8% and represents a source of rampant consumption;
  6. The urban population will reach about 50% of total population by 2020, while in 2000 it was little less than 40%;
  7. China has more than 40 million retirees: by 2025 there will be as many people aged 60 or more than the rest of the world combined; etc.

The reforms launched in the late 1970s combined a general economic transformation between finance, taxation, pricing, foreign trade, foreign direct investment and, of course, SOEs reforms. After all, as an intrinsic part of the gradual draining of the economy, China’s SOEs have undergone crucial restructuring, particularly since 1993 in Shanghai and since 1997 at the national level, with a crucial turning point since the creation in March 2003 of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) of the State Council.

Indeed, after the Party’s 15th Congress in September 1997, a modern enterprise system broadened and accelerated – endorsed already during the 8th National People’s Congress in March 1993 – and pushed further for the incremental and experimental process of SOEs reforms through a new corporate governance system functioning through the motto of “grasping the big (SOEs), letting go the small (SOEs)” (zhuada, fangxiao), whereby over 10,000 large and medium SOEs would be kept under the Central Governments’s control while converted into shareholding companies; and more than 100,000 small SOEs would be privatized or merged with non-state enterprises, forming joint ventures with foreign firms, or otherwise leasing assets to their workers.

Despite the progress made at the administrative level (e.g. increasing managerial autonomy), the separation between government and enterprise remained incomplete: SOEs continued to be under the pressure of guaranteeing social services (housing, education, medical coverage) to some of their workers – including laid-off workers (xiagang zhigong) and redundant workers (fuyu renyuan) – and their productive functions were persistently weakened in detriment of higher output and productivity levels. Meanwhile, unemployment rates were threatening to increase beyond expectations – although always below 5%, according to official statistics but at approximately 15%, according to independent statistics. Then, SASAC got on stage in March 2003 after the First Session of the 10th National People’s Congress. SASAC can be briefly defined as a shareholder on behalf of the State made responsible for the supervision and management of state-owned assets, the appointment and removal of top CEOs in SOEs, with assets worth 6.9 trillion RMB (US$834 billion). [February, 2011: 121 centrally administered state-owned enterprises with their total assets worth nearly 24 trillion yuan (3.65 trillion U.S. dollars)] In theory, SASAC’s aim is to separate government administration and ownership from day-to-day enterprise management, while the guiding principle is that the state sector should withdraw from all competitive economic sectors and leave room for the development of the private sector.

During the initial stage of SOEs reforms (1978-1983), SOEs managers were given more autonomy and were allowed for the first time to retain a share of their profits. In addition, the baby-boom children of the 1950s and 1960s were entering the labor market and urban dwellers that had been sent to the countryside were returning from there, which altogether increased the pressures on job creation. In order to avoid higher levels of unemployment, or further overstaffing, local governments promoted employment out of the state-owned sector, encouraging the development of small businesses (getihu). Unfortunately, price distrotions persisted, for which levels of efficiency and resource allocation remained insufficient.

While the economy was being pushed to further marketization, a second wave of SOEs reforms was launched between 1984 and 1988, allowing SOEs to respond to market forces with an increasing autonomy in establishing wages according to their levels of productivity. In addition, SOEs were were given more freedom to hire and fire workers, following their production needs. The so-called contract responsibility system (CRS), which had emerged bí 1983 appeared as an incentive for enterprises to maximize their financial surplus, was replaced … by the tax-for-profit system (li gai shui reform) until 1986, where profits were reclassified as taxes, and enterprises emerged as residual claimants on after-tax profits. As this system proved to be inefficient, a more developed CRS re-emerged, lasting only until January 1994, when fiscal reforms took place (enterprise tax payments were re-centralized), and the CRS was replaced by an income tax.

With the dramatic surge of Township and Village Enterprises (TVEs), inter-enterprise competition emerged. Between 1984 and 1988, the number of TVEs increased from almost 6.1 million to almost 18.9 million, and the number of employees rapidly rose from almost 52.1 million to 95.5 million, whereas during the same period SOEs slowly employed from 86.4 million to 99.9 million. Although job creation does not represent a direct measurement of outtput value (after all, gross output value of industry of SOEs was almost three times higher than  the TVEs gross output value within that same period), labor costs were lower in TVEs than in SOEs, as TVEs only performed productive functions, whereas SOEs were in addition burdened with providing social services (fuli) to their workers. The competition caused by the growth of TVEs progressively changed the conditions of the SOEs reforms, narrowing the monopoly profits of SOEs.

By 1989, SOEs had progressively lost their leading position in the national economy: in the late 1970s, they contributed nearly 80 per cent to industrial production, whereas, by the end of the 1980s, their contribution had declined to little more than 55 per cent. In addition, the dual-track price system created a misleading trend of market-determined prices and incentives for corruption. The launching of an austerity program after the 1988 high inflation rate, as measured by the consumer price index (18.8 per cent), provoked a systematic risk of social unrest, for which SOEs were pressured by the Chinese government to increase their labor demand during this third wave of reforms (1989-1992) – despite their lower capacity of production – and to continue to provide, as in the past, an “iron rice bowl” to their employees. As a result, underemployement re-emrged, profits dcreased, and the demand for loans and credits increased. SOEs were again unprofitable.

By mid-1993, the situation changed, and a fourth wave of reforms was launched: job reallocation of laid-off workers had to be done through the so-called Re-Employement Project (zaijiuye gongcheng, REP), where the government not only ordered all enterprises to use the same accounting system, but in opposition to the past, it imposed a relatively hard budget constraint aimed to stop the SOEs’ indiscriminate access to bank loans, and therefore avoid the collapse of the banking system. The breakdown of the “iron ricfe bowl” system was equally suggested: as an increase of unemployment was foreseen, an institutional watchdog had to be prepared. That is why the Ministry of Labor launched the REP, instigating local governments to promote the development of training programs through the creation of re-employment service centers (zaijiuwe fuwu zhongxin) through which unemployed redundant workers could be matched with other enterprises, or otherwise encouraging them to be self-employed. By 1996 the REP proved to be effective and operational in 200 cities. As a result, the Ministry decided to re-launch new re-employment training programs for at least 4 million laid-off workers and 6 million unemployed from 2001 to 2003, as part of the Tenth Five-Year Plan.

The current wave of SOEs reforms (since 2003) is much determined by SASAC’s role in centralizing state-owned assets and pushing at least in theory for a more effective capital management system. While the private sector is rapidly growing, the remaining strong SOEs (mostly large ones, withinn an approximate total of 200) have to further transform their corporate governance system, their productivity levels and eventually their over-dependence on the banks’ generous non-performing loans.

II. Recent information from the government (2007-2011)

Central SOEs net profits up 14.2% for first five months [June 7, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that are administered by the central government, or central SOEs, collectively posted a net profit increase of 14.2 percent year-on-year in the first five months of 2011.

This increase was 4 percentage points lower than that of the first four months.

The combined net profits of the government’s 121 central SOEstotaled 369.51 billion yuan (56.8 billion U.S. dollars) during the period, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) said in a statement on its website Friday.

The administration did not give any explanation for the profit increase or the lower growth rate.

The SASAC said revenues for central SOEs rose 24.7 percent year-on-year to hit 7.82 trillion yuan from January to May.

The SOEs had 696.7 billion yuan payable in taxes and fees for the first five months, up 27.5 percent from the same period last year, according to the statement.

Chinese SOEs ordered to hand over more profits next year [Dec 30, 2010] (emphasis is mine)

The centrally-administeredstate-owned enterprises (SOEs) were ordered to hand over 5 percent more of their after-tax profits to the central government beginning 2011, according to a statement by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) on Thursday.

According to the MOF statement on its website, 15 centrally-administered SOE giants in the resources and telecommunication sectors, including CNPC, Sinopec, CNOOC, State Grid Corporation, China Tobacco, Shenhua Group Co., Ltd. and China Mobile, should turn in to the MOF 15 percent of their after-tax profits next year, up from their current 10 percent requirement.

Also, beginning next year, 88 centrally-administered SOEs, including CHALCO, CNMC, COSCO, Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Merchants Group, will have to transfer 10 percent of their after-tax profits to the MOF, up from 5 percent this year.

Meanwhile, 33 other SOEs, including China National Nuclear Corp., China South Industries Group and China Film, will begin delivering 5 percent of their after-tax profits to the MOF in 2011. Currently, they don’t have to turn in any of their profits.

Two other SOEs — China Grain Reserve Corp. and China National Cotton Reserve Corp.– can still keep their profits for their own development next year, according to the MOF. The MOF administers China’s macroeconomic policies and the national annual budget, handles fiscal policy, economic regulations and government expenditure for local governments.

Chinese centrally-administered SOEs’ profits are expected to hit 1 trillion yuan (about 151 billion U.S. dollars) in 2010, according to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC).

Another 652 SOEs, mainly affiliated with the Ministry of Education, will be included in the budget system of managing state capital, which requires their expenditure be examined by national and local legislatures.

China’s central SOEs set to get smaller in size, stronger in competence
MONOPOLY OR NOT [Dec 21, 2007] (emphasis is mine)

Contributions from such central SOEs now accounted for 20 to 25 percent of China’s national fiscal revenue.

Along with jumbo revenue, which should have benefited common people, many constantly complained some SOEs were in such a monopoly position that they ate into consumer benefits.

For instance, expensive fees for making phone calls were brought up at meetings for the national congress every year. “Why should Chinese citizens be charged higher fees for making phones calls than in developed countries?” many queried.

The SASAC asked 116 pilot SOEs to turn in part of their revenue in 2006 to the government, a figure which was expected to hit 14 billion yuan. All central SOEs would hand in part of their revenue starting in 2007.

Eighteen enterprises that relied heavily on resources were required to hand in 10 percent of their revenue. Ninety nine others with a five-percent quota and two enterprises responsible for cotton and crop reserve were exempted from such obligations.

SASAC’s Li Rongrong said the revenue would be used to finance reforms of SOEs, especially to support the arrangement of laid-off workers. It could be injected into the social security fund, if possible.

The news also prompted the Chinese public to anticipate that the revenue could be included into the public budget to give more support to needy sectors such as education and medical care.

Li also said the top annual salary for managerial staff of central SOEs was 1.18 million yuan. In addition, the SASAC would publish salaries of senior SOE staff in future to introduce more transparency amid mounting speculation due to secrecy of such wages.

Central SOEs to return part of profits to exchequer next year [Sept 17, 2007] (emphasis is mine)

Central state-owned enterprises (SOEs) will begin to return some of their annual profits to the Ministry of Finance next year, according to a document released by the State Council, China’s cabinet, on Thursday.

The process will begin on a trial basis for some SOEs this year.

Since 1994, central SOEs have retained all their profits in their own coffers.

The document on State Council’s proposals on budgeting of state assets operation on a trial basis said finance authorities at all levels were responsible for budgeting. Part of the budgeted expenditure from state assets would be used for social security purposes.

It says returns on state capital include profits to be returned to the state by wholly-state-owned enterprises, dividends of enterprises with state holdings and proceeds from transfers of state-owned property rights and of state equities.

Budgeted expenditure from state assets would be mainly used for central SOE operation, development and restructuring, and be used to pay for cost of state-owned enterprises reform.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, from 2003 to 2006, central SOEs saw their profits increase by 151.1 percent from 300.6 billion yuan (40 billion U.S. dollars) to 754.7 billion yuan.

There are 168 central enterprises under the supervision of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.

China orders major state-owned firms to report large investments [Aug 2, 2007] (emphasis is mine)

China’s state assets watchdog on Wednesday ordered all central state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to report their major investment activitiesin a bid to shun investment risks.

Some SOEs continue to increase their investment despite their high asset liability ratio and some even embezzle bank loans to invest in stocks and real estate, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission(SASAC) said.

The China Banking Regulatory Commission announced on June 18 that two SOEs, the China Nuclear Engineering and Construction (Group) Corporation and the China Shipping (Group) Company, have misappropriated 4.46 billion yuan in bank loans to invest in the equity market and real estate projects.

The SASAC stated that the 155 central SOEs under its supervision should timely report their major overseas investment and investments in real estate, stocks, and insurance.

Senior officials of the major SOEs will be punished or even face criminal charges if they fail to report their major investments or cause heavy losses, the watchdog said, urging the firms to enhance their investment risk management and control.

China solves 76 commercial bribery cases in SOEs [July 12, 2007] (emphasis is mine)

China has solved 76 commercial bribery cases related to large state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in an intensive inspection campaign, with about 18 million yuan (2.4 million U.S. dollars) involved, according to the country’s state-owned assets watchdog.

Sixty-six people have been given criminal punishments and 28 administrative penalties, said the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council.

The cases came to light after the commission ordered large state-owned enterprises to carry out self-inspection of commercial bribery between April and December last year.

Commercial bribery usually refers to bribes offered by companies to government officials or state-owned enterprises in exchange for special favors.

The campaign mainly targeted property right transfer, construction projects and material and equipment procurement, the commission said.

Property right transfer has been a major target in the fight against commercial bribery among state-owned enterprises in China.

“The self-inspection campaign reviewed all the 1,198 property transfers from the beginning of 2005 till the end of last year,” said an official with the commission.

Last year, the commission and the Ministry of Financejointly issued a notice to further regulate the approval of state-owned property right transfer and bottom prices.

In addition, regional state-owned assets watchdogs have sanctioned 65 property right trading centers in a bid to regulate property right transactions.

A monitoring system linking these trading centers with state-owned assets watchdogs in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin has been established to enable the watchdogs monitor all the transactions and unified release of property right transfer information in the future.

China’s SOE supervisor vows to boost transparency after violations aired in audit [May 22, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) supervisor on Saturday said it would work to make the SOEs management more transparent after China’s top auditor publicized irregularities among a number of famed SOEs.

The release of the audit results will help the public to monitor the SOEs and help the SOEs to redress loopholes, said the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council in a statement on its website.

The supervisor said the SOEs have made progresses in management, risk controls and social responsibilities in the past years, but they still lag far behind top-level international enterprises and should take advantage of the disclosures to enact further changes, the statement said.

Heads of the enterprises will be asked to take the lead in saving, fighting against squandering, controlling “irrational spending” and reducing management costs so that limited funds and resources can be invested in enterprise development, the statement said.

The National Audit Office (NAO) on Friday publicized some irregularities and disciplinary violations in the financial statements of 17 SOEs for the 2009 fiscal year.

By March this year, 735 cases of irregularities have been corrected and 65 people responsible for the irregularities or violations have been punished, according to the office.

Last year, the NAO audited the financial statements of 17 centrally-administered SOEs, including CNOOC, CHALCO, COSCO and China Unicom, primarily for the 2009 fiscal year.

China introduces collective decision-making for state companies to curb corruption [July 15, 2010] (emphasis is mine)

China announced Thursday it would introduce a new collective decision-making procedure into its powerful and profitable state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in a bid to strengthen anti-corruption efforts and guard against financial risks to those companies.

All important decisions, appointments of key officials or executives, arrangements of major projects, and the use of large quantities of capital inside the SOEs must now be jointly decided by their collective leadership, said a statement released by the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the General Office of the State Council, or China’s Cabinet.

The statement highlighted China’s increasing pressure to keep executives of its profitable SOEs under the public’s direct supervision.

Thirty-five senior executives of China’s large SOEs, such as former Sinopec chairman Chen Tonghai, faced corruption charges last year and 31 of them were found to be connected to cases involving an average of 110 million yuan (16.2 million U.S. dollars).

With the new procedures, SOEs are expected to improve their decision-making mechanism by modifying the rules of procedures that include public participation, expert consultations and collective decisions concerning major issues, according to the statement.

Development strategies, filing for bankruptcy, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, transfers of ownership and overseas investment plans by SOEs are all to become subject to such collective decision making practices, said the statement.

The SOEs’ annual investment plans, financing, financial derivatives such as options and futures, imports of key equipment and technologies, bulk purchases and construction of major projects also would now need approval from their collective leadership, according to the new procedures.

Corruption watchdog promises closer supervision of China’s SOEs [Jan 7, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

China’s discipline and government watchdog Thursday pledged to tighten supervision on state-owned enterprises and fight corruption among their executives.

“We will push hard investigations into and punishment of corruption in the restructuring, merger, property transactions, capital operations and construction projects of state-owned enterprises,” said Vice Minister of Supervision Qu Wanxiang at a meeting in Beijing.

The watchdog would focus on cases involving executives and employees in senior positions, said Qu, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).

Severe measures would be taken to curb commercial bribery and the illegal practice of setting up “small coffers,” referring to funds, securities and assets that should, but frequently are not, listed in account books in a bid to escape supervision.

The inspectors would also target malpractice that harmed common employees’ legal rights and interests in the restructuring of state-owned enterprises, Qu said.

Last year, China saw a string of serious corruption cases in state-owned enterprises.

According to a report Tuesday by Faren Magazine, affiliated to the Legal Daily and overseen by the Ministry of Justice, 35 senior executives of China’s large state-owned enterprises (SOE) faced corruption charges last year.

Among them was Kang Rixin, general manager of the China National Nuclear Corporation(CNNC), who has been under investigation for alleged grave violations of discipline since August.

Another prominent case involved Chen Tonghai, former general manager of China Petrochemical Corporation, who was found to have taken almost 200 million yuan in bribes and given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve in July.

“Efforts should be made to incorporate corruption prevention in enterprise governance and risk control systems,” Qu said.

The government should further reform SOEs to help build sound corporate governance with proper decision-making, operations and supervision, he said.

Over the past three decades, China has been trying to introduce a modern corporate management in its state-owned enterprises, but faced problems with a lack of supervision and restricting the authority of managers.

China to watch out for corruption in SOE stimulus projects [Feb 8, 2009] (emphasis is mine)

China’s state assets watchdog will closely watch over projects implemented by state-owned enterprises(SOEs) in the country’s massive stimulus package to prevent corruption, an official said in BeijingSunday.

The State-owned Assets Supervision and Management Commission (SASAC) will strictly look into the progress and fund use of projects by SOEs directly under the central government, said the SASAC director Li Rongrong.

Many projects are estimated to see over tens of millions of yuan put in, making it a more important task to fend off corruption, he said at an SOE meeting on disciplinary inspection work.

China unveiled a stimulus package with a total investment of 4 trillion yuan (586 billion U.S. dollars) in November to boost domestic demand and offset the world economic slowdown.

Of the total, 100 billion yuan had been allocated by the central government by the end of last year.

Li said inspectors will particularly focus on projects in such sectors as power grids, telecommunications, transportation, equipment, construction and metallurgy.

The SASAC will also check whether the projects cause environmental hazards, consume too much energy and resources or result in excessive capacity, said Li.

A total of 4,960 Chinese officials above the county level were punished in a year ending November 2008, data show. They were involved in corruption and commercial bribes, hurting people’s interests.

China state executive posts attract rising number of applicants [Sept 12, 2008] (emphasis is mine)

More than 2,700 people have applied for 16 executive positionsof the centrally-administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs) open for public competition this year, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) said.

The 2,745 applicants more than doubled that of those applying for last year’s 22 posts.

Of this year’s available posts, six received 200 to 300 applicants for each.

SASAC said the positions included three general managers, 10 deputy general managers and three chief accountants from different industries. They covered electricity, metallurgy, electronics, chemical engineering and tradefirms.

China FAW Group Corporation, China Baosteel Group and China Southern Power Grid, all ranked among the world’s top 500 companies, were also recruiting.

SASAC also said 383 applicants, 12 from overseas and four from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, met the qualifications. They have been notified to sit for a written exam to be held soon.

Most qualified applicants have post-graduate degrees and are aged under 45, while 140 currently are heads of enterprises. In addition, 69, or 18 percent, have overseas working or study experience.

In 2003, SASAC started to recruit from both home and abroad. The agency hoped such managers could help improve the competitiveness of SOEs in the global market.

China considers cap on salaries at state monopolies [June 30, 2010] (emphasis is mine)

Chinese authorities are considering putting a ceiling on the total amount of salaries distributed at profitable state-owned monopolies amid government efforts to narrow the widening wage gaps between the rich and poor.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS) said in a report that it would proceed to map out specific measures to “strictly control” the total payments distributed at state-owned monopoly businesses. The report was obtained by Xinhua Tuesday.

The report, which was written after a working group from the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, put forward written proposals on the enforcement of the country’s Trade Union Law, did not spell out the upper limit of the payment aggregate.

In China, the monthly salary for an average employee at state-owned monopolies, such as telecommunications and natural resources, could be as high as three times compared to those working in the private sector, most of whom earn about 3,000 yuan (about 440 U.S. dollars) per month.

This widening gap has resulted in some public complaints and driven millions of college graduates to seek jobs at state-owned monopolies, where employees are assured of better healthcare insurance and a more stable income.

To establish a “normal wage growth mechanism”, the ministry said in its report it would continue to address wage gap problems through a procedure to “put a ceiling on high-income, expanding the medium-income class and ensuring minimum wages.”

The ministry would also continue to push for the establishment of a mechanism that grants workers more decision-making power in formulating salary policies and enables their wages to fluctuate in line with the ups and downs of businesses, according to the report.

It said the income of executives, especially those in the senior ranks, in centrally administered state-owned enterprises should be regulatedand authorities should ensure minimum wage standards be altered in a reasonable and timely manner.

The Standing Committee of NPC has assigned a working group to review the enforcement of the country’s Trade Union Law from July to August last year.

Based on investigations and research, the working group sent forward written proposals on the implementation of the Trade Union Law.

The MHRSS, in collaboration with the ministries of commerce and health, the All China Federation of Trade Unions, as well as the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, or China’s cabinet, mapped out the report based on these proposals.

The report was then submitted to the State Council and forwarded to the top legislature at the 15th session of the Standing Committee of the 11th NPC, a four-day meeting that ended Friday.

Copies of the report were distributed to members of the NPC Standing Committee during the meeting.

China strives to readjust income distribution to stop yawning gap [March 5, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Readjusting income distribution in a reasonable manner is both a long-term task and an urgent issue to address at present, Premier Wen Jiabaosaid Saturday in his government work report delivered at the parliamentary annual session.

According to Wen, three major measures will be taken in 2011: increasing the basic incomes of low-income people in both urban and rural areas, putting more effort into adjusting income distribution, and vigorously overhauling and standardizing income distribution.

“We will steadily increase the minimum wage of workers, basic pensions of enterprise retirees, and subsistence allowances for both urban and rural residents,” Wen said, noting that a sound mechanism of regular pay raises for workers and strictly enforce the minimum wage system will be established.

The government will also raise the individual income tax threshold on salaries, reasonably adjust the tax rate structure, and genuinely reduce the tax burden on low- and middle-income people.

“We will effectively regulate excessively high incomes, strengthen the dual controls on total wages and wage scales in industries in which incomes are excessively high, and strictly standardize the management of executive pay and bonuses in SOEs and financial institutions,” the premier said.

Wen added that illicit income will be resolutely prohibited and a system for monitoring income distribution will be quickly established.

“Through unremitting efforts, we will reverse the trend of a widening income gap as soon as possibleand ensure that the people share more in the fruits of reform and development,” he said.

Special Report: NPC, CPPCC Annual Sessions 2011

Political advisor expects more competitiveness of SOEs [March 8, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

A Chinese political advisor on Tuesday suggested that state-owned enterprises (SOE) raise their competitiveness only in the key sectors that bear on the lifeline of the national economy.

Large SOEs had benefited from the country’s loose monetary policy in recent years and taken the bulk of banking loans, and excessively expanded into sectors such as real estate and non-ferrous metals, said Ou Chengzhong, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Among the 398 economic sectors, SOEs were present at 380 and about 40 percent of them were involved in commonplace manufacturing, processing and commercial and trade sectors, according to the figures quoted by Ou.

Although China is regarded as one of the leading industrial manufacturers in the world, China has to import key equipment in some fields, the political advisor said at the on-going annual session of the CPPCC National Committee.

In this sense, SOEs have to raise their competitiveness with the focus on innovation, high technology, core manufacturing know-how and world-class brands, Ou said.

On the other hand, he suggested that SOEs exit from non-essential economic sectors to make room for the growth of private businesses.

SOEs employ less than 30 million people, while 160 million people work in non-governmental businesses, according to Ou.

China to let 20 more SOEs fully exit real estate business this year [Feb 22, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

More than 20 centrally administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs), whose core business is not property, will fully exit the real estate business this year.

Shao Ning, deputy chairman of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council(SASAC), the SOEs regulator, said Tuesday.

Fourteen SOEs exited the real estate sector last year, Shao told a press conference.

He said some companies need time to finish ongoing projects before they could fully retreat from the real estate business and focus on their core operations.

To curb asset bubbles, the SASAC banned 78 SOEs from investing in property in March last year as property was not their core business.

Shao also said the SASAC would make public the income of the SOEs’ executives when necessary.

Currently, China has 121 centrally administered state-owned enterprises with their total assets worth nearly 24 trillion yuan (3.65 trillion U.S. dollars).

Chinese vice premier urges SOEs to boost growth mode transformation [April 12, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang DejiangTuesday called for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to make greater efforts to boost economic development mode transformation.

Zhang made the remarks during his inspection tour of some SOEs in Beijing, including China MinmetalsCorporation, China State Shipbuilding Corporation and the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation Ltd. (SNPTC).

SOEs are the backbone of the national economy and it is very important for them to maintain a stable and relatively fast growth momentum to ensure the continual and healthy development of the economy,” Zhang said.

“With impacts of the global financial crisisstill lingering, China’s economic growth faces not only historic opportunities, but also risks and challenges,” Zhang said.

More efforts should be made to expand overseas markets, improve management, boost scientific innovations and highlight production safety, Zhang also said during the inspection tour.

Full text: Report on China’s economic, social development plan (2011)
5. Reform and opening up were further intensified. [March 17, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

In terms of enterprise reforms, the reform to institute a corporate system or a stockholding system was carried out in over 70% of the central state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and enterprises subordinate to them, and the pilot project for standardizing boards of directors was extended to 32 central SOEs. We made further progress in reforming the power industry, postal services and public utilities. We also promulgated and implemented a number of supporting policies to promote the development of the non-public sector and small and medium-sized enterprises.

In terms of reforming the fiscal and taxation systems, we implemented the reform to place county finances directly under the management of provincial governments in 970 counties across 27 provinces; conducted trials in the western region on the reform of resource taxes on oil and natural gas; and extended the urban construction and maintenance tax and education surcharge to foreign enterprises and nationals.

The development level of the open economy was raised further. We adhered to the strategies of diversifying markets and competing on quality; tightened control over exports of resource products and products whose production is energy-intensive or highly polluting; increased imports of raw materials in short supply on the domestic market, energy-intensive products, advanced technology, and key spare parts and components; and eased the trade imbalance. Total import and export volume reached US$2.97276 trillion in 2010, an increase of 34.7%. Exports rose 31.3%, imports rose 38.7%, and the trade surplus was down 6.4% from the previous year. We introduced the guidelines on better utilizing foreign investment and guided foreign investments toward high-end manufacturing, high-tech industries, modern service industries, new energy sources, energy conservation and environmental protection industries, and the central and western regions. Utilized foreign direct investment in 2010 (excluding the banking, securities and insurance sectors) totaled $105.74 billion, up 17.4%. Disbursed foreign loans reached $20.5 billion, up 57%. We vigorously implemented the “go global” strategy and made further progress in a number of major outward investment projects. Non-financial outward direct investment for the year amounted to $59 billion, an increase of 36.3%. Receipts from overseas project contracting operations reached $92.2 billion, an increase of 18.7%.

China’s central SOEs perform well abroad: regulator [Feb 22, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

China’s centrally administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs) had posted healthy profits in foreign markets since they adopted the strategy of going global in recent years, government official said Tuesday.

In 2009, China’s SOEs’ overseas assets took up 19 percent of their total assets while profits made in foreign markets accounted for 37 percent of the total, Shao Ning, deputy chairman of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council(SASAC), the SOEs regulator, said at a press conference.

While noting the commendable performances, Shao also warned of the potential risks.

“China’s SOEs generally lack international management skills. Moreover, they are not familiar with the foreign laws and market standards there,” Shao said.

He said the SASAC is working on a range of proposals to better regulate asset management of the SOEs in overseas markets.

Currently, China has 121 centrally administered SOEs with their total assets worth nearly 24 trillion yuan (3.65 trillion U.S. dollars).

Central SOEs sign contracts worth 293 bln yuan with Guizhou [Dec 26, 2010] (emphasis is mine)

Representatives for a number of centrally-administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs) signed 47 contracts worth 292.9 billion yuan (about 44.38 billion U.S. dollars) with authorities of southwest China’s Guizhou ProvinceSunday.

The 47 projects included industries such as minerals intensive processing, manufacturing, electricity, as well as transportation, said Wang Yong, director of the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council.

Thirty-three of the 47 projects will begin construction in 2011, with the investment totaling 237.6 billion yuan. The other 14 projects will start construction in 2012.

In recent years, a number of central SOEs, including the country’s oil giants PetroChina and Sinopec, have invested in Guizhou, a land-locked and poverty-ridden region in west China, which has boosted the local economic development and also helped the companies to expand in terms of strength and scale, Wang said.

“I hope central SOEs will continue to participate in Guizhou’s social and economic development and seek strategic cooperation with the province to push forward its leapfrog development,” Wang said.

China launches new state asset management company to accelerate reshuffle [Dec 22, 2010] (emphasis is mine)

China on Wednesday unveiled a new asset management company, with the aim of restructuring uncompetitive state-owned enterprises (SOEs) through stepped-up mergers.

The new firm, named China Reform Holdings Corporation Ltd., will focus on “reorganizing small SOEs which have no bearing on national security and are not crucially important to the national economy,” the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), the country’s regulator for SOEs said in a statement.

The first-phase registered capital of the new company, which is wholly owned by SASAC, is 4.5 billion yuan (681 million U.S. dollars). SASAC has not yet revealed which companies will be involved in the reshuffle.

Xie Qihua, former chairwoman of the Baosteel Group Corporation, China’s largest steel maker, has been appointed as board chairwoman of the new company. Liu Dongsheng, an SASAC official, will act as the general manager, it said.

“The launch of the new company marks an important move to advance an optimized restructuringof the distribution concerning state-owned economic entities,” Wang Yong, deputy director of SASAC, said at the launching ceremony.

The new company will participate in the share-holding reform of those centrally-administered enterprises featuring lesser importance or smaller scale, and will also invest in emerging industries with strategic importance, he said.

China’s SOEs include SOEs directly controlled by the central government and SOEs supervised by local governments, but exclude state-owned financial enterprises.

Profits of China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the first 11 months hit 1.81 trillion yuan (271.92 billion U.S. dollars), up 43.1 percent year on year, according to figures released by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) on Dec.17.

CRHC announces China Huaxing Group deal [May 26, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

State asset management company China Reform Holdings Corp (CRHC) announced Wednesday that it has formally acquired its first central government-controlled State-owned enterprise (SOE), China Huaxing Group.

In a meeting held Monday, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) announced that China Huaxing Group, which is active in sectors including chemicals and real estate, had been integrated into CRHC, the company said in a newsletter published on its website.

“Integrating Huaxing into CRHC is the commission’s strategy to promote the restructuring and reform of central government controlled SOEs by leveraging the platform of CRHC. It marks the formal kick-off of asset management operations by CRHC,” Shao Ning, the commission’s vice director, said.

CRHC holds the property rights over State-owned assets in the SOEs it merges and exercises the rights as an investor in these companies.

The restructuring of central government-controlled SOEs will speed up following the Huaxing acquisition, observers predicted.

Launched at the end of last year with 4.5 billion yuan ($692.91 million) in registered capital, CRHC, the third asset management company formed under SASAC, is mainly targeting small and underperforming SOEs in sectors that do not affect national security or core economic areas.

Founded in 1995 with registered capital of 819.66 million yuan, Huaxing is active in sectors as diverse as chemicals, real estate, IT and trade.

However, the conglomerate has been a loss maker. In 2009, it posted a loss of 40 million yuan and was one of very few SOEs running in the red, according to a report by China Business News Wednesday.

China has in recent years stepped up efforts to restructure central government controlled SOEs following initial SOE reform between 1998 and 2003. The number of central government-controlled SOEs has fallen from 196 to its current total of 120 following Huaxing’s integration into CRHC.

The key to reforming these SOEs is making them more market-oriented, Ding Yifan, a researcher with the Development and Research Center of the State Council, told the Global Times. Simply reducing their numbers does not amount to real reform, he said.

The Chinese government currently maintains absolute control of companies in key sectors such as electricity grids, oil and gas.

Profits of local SOEs continue dropping but declines narrow [Dec 24, 2009] (emphasis is mine)

Profits of China’s state-owned enterprises excluding those administered by the central government continued to drop in the first 11 months from a year ago, but the rate of decline narrowed sharply.

The SOEs posted combined profits of 258.39 billion yuan (38 billion U.S. dollars), down 6.5 percent year on year, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) announced Thursday.

The rate of decline was 11.7 percentage points lower than that for the first ten months, the country’s assets watchdog said.

Business revenue of the SOEs grew 2.8 percent year on year to 5.9 trillion yuan in the first 11 months.

The SOEs include enterprises affiliated to 82 central departments, and those administered by provincial, regional and municipal governments but exclude 131 enterprises administered by the SASAC.

Profits in China’s gov’t firms continue to fall but decline eases [Dec 18, 2009] (emphasis is mine)

Profits in China’s state-ownedenterprises (SOEs) continued falling in the first 11 months from a year earlier, but the rate of decline eased markedly because of a lower comparison base.

The SOEs posted combined profits of 1.19 trillion yuan (174.1 billion U.S. dollars) in the first 11 months, down 1.9 percent compared with the same period of last year, the Ministry of Finance announced Friday.

During the January-October period, profits in the SOEs declined 10.6 percent year on year, compared with a 17.6-percent annual drop during the January-September period.

In November, SOE profits edged up 0.8 percent from the previous month to 124.6 billion yuan. Business revenue of the companies rose 9.6 percent to 2.3 trillion yuan in November from October.

In the first 11 months last year, China’s SOEs experienced a sharp year-on-year drop in profits of 15.7 percent, as the impact of the global financial crisisstarted to weigh on the country’s economy with falling enterprise output and profitability.

The SOEs covered by the ministry statistics included 131 enterprises administered by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, on behalf of the central government, enterprises affiliated to 82 central departments, and those administered by provincial, regional and municipal governments.

Non-SOEs employ 80% of workforce in China’s industrial sector [Nov 23, 2009] (emphasis is mine)

Non-state-owned enterprises (non-SOEs) employed 70 million people, or 80 percent of China’s total workforce in the industrial sector in 2008, the National Bureau of Statistics(NBS) said in a statement Monday.

Despite the global economic downturn, non-state-owned industrial firms still hired 15 percent more people in 2008 than the previous year, the NBS said on its website.

Profits of these enterprises jumped 31.4 percent from 2007 while the figure for state-owned industrial firms dropped 16 percent.

There were 28 percent more non-state-owned industrial enterprises in 2008 than 2007.

The NBS gave no further details about the figures.

The non-public economy has developed rapidly since the State Council promulgated the first governmental document in 2005 to support and facilitate the growth of non-public enterprises.

According to the document, non-public enterprises enjoyed the same kind of market access with foreign capital and the same kind of treatment in project approval, financing, taxation, land use, foreign trade and economic cooperation as other businesses.

The number of people working in non-state-owned industrial firms had reached 70.4 million in 2008, a rise of 40 percent from 2005, said the statement.

Profits of non-state-owned industrial firms were up 160 percent in the four years to 2008. They represented more than 70 percent of the total profits created by Chinese industrial enterprises, up from 56 percent in 2005.

The number of non-SOEs in the industrial sector was up 65.7 percent from 2005 to 404,800 in 2008, accounting for 95 percent of the country’s total industrial enterprises.

The statistics were based on industrial enterprises with annual sales revenue of more than 5 million yuan (732,064 U.S. dollars), said the statement.

Two thirds of China’s SOE giants become share-holding companies [Aug 26, 2008] (emphasis is mine)

Almost two thirds of China’s centrally-administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and their subsidiaries become share-holding companies after three decades of reform, the country’s top state assets regulator said on Monday.

Li Rongrong, director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), said 64.2 percent of the SOEs and their subsidiaries had undertaken share-holding reforms, compared with 30.4 percent in 2002.

A number of large SOEs had gone public in both domestic and foreign stock markets. Of about 1,500 listed companies in China’s A-share stock markets, more than 1,100 were wholly or partly state-owned, he said.

Seventy-eight centrally-administered SOEs were listed in Hong Kong, New York and Singapore stock markets.

Meanwhile, the country’s state-owned economy was gradually converging into critical sectors that bore great significance to state security and the national economy.

Critical sectors such as oil, petrochemicals, power, national defense, telecommunications, transportation, and mining comprised about 83 percent of the total assets of centrally-administered SOEs, according to the SASAC.

These SOE giants had shouldered almost all the production of crude oil and natural gas and provided all the basic telecommunications and 55 percent of the country’s power supply, while 82 percent of civil aviation servicesalso came from those SOEs.

With deepening reforms, the number of China’s SOEs were declining, but they were growing.

The country has 149 centrally-administered SOEs, down from 196 in 2003, and the number is expected to shrink to between 80 and 100 by 2010, through merger and restructuring, according to SASAC.

Though declining in numbers, the major SOEs accounted for 35.91 percent of total assets, 61.54 of sales revenues, and 63.25 percent of profits of all the SOEs in the country.

From 2002 to 2007, centrally-administered SOEs saw their assets rise by 1.5 trillion yuan (218.95 billion U.S. dollars), sales by 1.3 trillion yuan, and profits by 150 billion yuan each year.

Cabinet approves 3 technological projects [Dec 26, 2007] (emphasis is mine)

China’s State Council, or the cabinet, approved three national technological projects in the fields of telecommunications, water pollution control, and pharmaceutical manufacturing and innovation, during Wednesday’s meeting.

Premier Wen Jiabaopresided over the executive meeting that deliberated the three projects. The three are a next-generation broadband wireless mobile communication network, water pollution control and treatment, and the manufacture and innovation of key new drugs.

“These technological projects, all set in the national medium- and long-term science and technology development plan, are of great significance to boosting China’s independent innovation capability and industrial competitiveness,” the meeting pointed out.

It said that “after a scientific, democratic and strict demonstration”, the three schemes had become ripe for inauguration.

The next-generation communication network represents the main direction of communications development. Applying it will greatly enhance the overall competitiveness and innovative capacity of China’s wireless mobile communication, and lift the industry to a more advanced world level, according to the meeting.

It said that the water pollution control projectwould provide solid technological support to address environmental woes of major water sources including the Yangtze River and Yellow River, to achieve an “energy saving and emission reduction” goal.

The drug innovation projectwould target the treatment and prevention of serious diseases and innovation of key drugs so as to offer the public safe, effective and cheap medical products, the meeting said.

The meeting also heard a report on the inspection and supervision of central enterprises, made by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, which was directly under the cabinet.

Central enterprises have deepened the reform, accelerated restructuringand maintained a sound momentum of sustainable and fast development,” it said.

However, violation of laws and regulations occasionally occurred due to relatively high debt and poor profits.

The meeting said that greater attention should be paid to SOE reform and management and supervision of state assets to promote sound development. It also asked enterprises to invest more in innovation, deepen SOEs’ shareholding reform, and safeguard state asset security.

China’s first state asset law, designed to protect state-owned assets from being illegally seized and to maintain the country’s basic economic system, was submitted last Sunday and is being given initial consideration by the top legislature.

China’s central SOEs set to get smaller in size, stronger in competence
REFORMS LEAD TO GROWTH [Dec 21, 2007]

statistics revealed that the total assets of central SOEs had already jumped 146 percent. In addition, profits increased two-fold when the number of SOEs dropped to about 160 last year from 196 in 2002.

Reforms were at the core of these impressive improvements of the SOEs, previously known for their “plump size and slack performance”.

After China’s SOEs were separated from administrative government bodies to exist as independent enterprises, a major shift from the planned economy, these enterprises went through further shareholder reforms to build themselves into real corporate entities.

In 2007, the pace of such reforms accelerated amid the country’s efforts to further promote the leading role of these large enterprises, the “backbone” of the national economy, said Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan.

As an important part of shareholder reform, another nine central SOEs offered initial public offerings this year, adding to the 33 SOEs listed domestically and abroad since the listing scheme launched in 2003.

Li Rongrong, head of the SASAC, was supportive of the overseas listings of Chinese enterprises, saying overseas markets had more sophisticated approaches that could help improve management of Chinese SOEs.

In a pilot move, the SOEs began to have outside directors. This was meant to make decision makers more detached from executive staff to better protect the interests of the company and common shareholders.

Currently, 19 such SOEs, including China Baosteel Group and China Shenhua Group, have picked up 66 outsider directors. The outside directors at 17 companies consisted of half or more of their board of directors members.

Since 2003, the SOEs started to recruit senior managerial staff in a more open way, whereas in the past these posts were not publicly available.

This year, 22 vacancies for high-level positions in central SOEs attracted 1,603 applicants. These included 25 foreigners and 10 from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

Li Fangyong, deputy general manager of China Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I), and Jiang Zhenxin, deputy general manager of China Netcom Group, were among those who finally beat their rival competitors. No foreigners have been recruited yet.

“Reforms have pushed central SOEs onto the front-line of the market to compete with other enterprises, including international companies. It is this kind of competition that has marked up the competitiveness of these SOEs,” said SASAC analyst Peng Huagang.

BRIGHT FUTURE AHEAD? [Dec 21, 2007] (emphasis is mine)

Chinese SOEs are still dwarfed in strength and core competitiveness when compared with multinationals and first-class international companies, said SASAC head Li Rongrong. He cited development imbalance among these enterprises, even within a single enterprise.

Nearly 70 percent of aggregate profits were generated by nine leading enterprises, including China Mobile, China National Petroleum Corporation, China Baosteel and the State Grid in 2006.

Corresponding information for this year was not revealed by the SASAC. It only said that shipbuilding, automotive and shipping enterprises were becoming new, significant profit earners, joining those in the petroleum, power generation and telecom sectors.

However, Li did express concern over the financial conditions of central SOEs at a working meeting recently held in Beijing. “Profitability of some enterprises was not well-grounded as their profits were concentrated in a few subsidiaries. Some enterprises reported a lower profit rate in core businessescompared with a year earlier,” he said.

About 31.2 percent of newly-earned profits of central SOEs were in the category of non-regular revenue. “This non-regular revenue usually comes from return from investment in other than core businesses, largely investment in securities,” said Liu Cheng, a University of Science and Technology Beijing professor.

Yet, experts believed the growth of enterprises was undoubtedly behind the profit surge of central SOEs, and investment returns from securities had made limited contribution to their profitability.

Profits earned by central SOEs have been increasing steadily since 1998, and there was no such fluctuation as to copy that of the stock market, said World Bank (WB) economist Zhang Chunlin.

SASAC’s Li also pointed out some SOEs relied too heavily on bank loans to expand their businesses. This increased their exposure to financial risk. The SASAC statistics showed that 18 enterprises expected to cover more than 70 percent of their investment budget with bank loans.

“These are ‘life and death’ issues of enterprises, and they deserve due attention from top management,” Li said.

Li said SASAC would further deepen reforms to build a modern corporate system into central SOEs in the coming year, upholding the goal of building “larger and stronger” individual enterprises.

The SASAC planned to cut the number of SOEs under its supervision to less than 100 by 2010. At the same time, it would get 30 such enterprises ranked among the world’s top 500 companies by 2015 at the latest, up from 16 for 2007.

Despite arguments saying large and well-performing SOEs should get listed on the domestic market to avoid sharing profits with foreign investors that were largely a result of government support and monopolized access to state resources, Li said SASAC encouraged qualified SOEs to list as a whole in 2008, and to list on both domestic and overseas markets.

III. Current situation: mostly related to the China Mobile

Chinese media report flight of state assets [June 16, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

On its front page today, the New Express newspaper, a spin-off of Guangzhou’s Yangcheng Evening News, reports figures released by an enforcement division of China’s central bank showing that since the mid-1990s an estimated 16-18,000 Party, government, police and state-owned enterprise officials from China have disappeared overseas with approximately 800 billion yuan, or roughly 123.6 billion US dollars.

This news was first reported yesterday by Beijing Youth Daily reporter Cheng Jie (程婕), in a piece re-posted widely across the internet [HERE too].

The basis for the reports from Beijing Youth Daily and the New Express is a document released on the internet by the Anti-Money Laundering Bureau (Security Bureau) of the People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank. The report is called, “Research on the Channels and Detection Methods for the Transfer Overseas of Asset by Corrupt Elements in Our Country” (我国腐败分子向境外转移资产的途径及监测方法研究).

Audit reveals more financial indiscrepancies and fraud [May 23, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) were once again thrown into a fresh image crisis over the weekend. The turmoil came after China’s audit watchdog published irregular practices and disciplinary violations in the financial statements of 17 SOEs operating directly by the central government.

According to reports released by the National Audit Office on Friday, the irregular practices include overstating earnings, understating assets with improper accounting procedures, concealing information about investment activities overseas, evading taxes, excessive bonuses and forged invoices.

The office said in a statement on Friday inadequate investment decisions, which led to losses or potential losses of State-owned assets and improper management of their subsidiaries, are the key problems contributing to irregularities in the financial statements of these SOEs audited. Second and third tier SOEs were found to be guilty of the most infractions.

Sinosteel Corporation overstated 1.99 billion yuan ($306.48 million) of sales earnings between 2007 and 2009. The company was also found to have more problems related to investment overseas.

Sinosteel International Holding Co, a subsidiary of Sinosteel Corporation, failed to adequately report three investment projects overseas.

Provident Faith Investment, a subsidiary of Sinosteel International Holding Co, was found unable to recover 1.85 million yuan in overseas futures transactions made through overseas illegal futures brokers.

During the time when the company was charged with managing the capital of the Sinosteel Corporation overseas, Golden Prosperity Development Co, another subsidiary of Sinosteel International Holding Co, withdrew large sums of cash to pay commissions to individuals.

The company also transferred part of the funds to the personal accounts of working staff in other parts of the group for daily expenditures for the institution.

Days before the audit report was released, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) announced it would remove Huang Tianwen, president and deputy Party Secretary of the Sinosteel Corporation, from his position without giving details.

Other SOEs including the China Three Gorges Corp, China Unicom and China National Nuclear Corp were also found to have problems managing their funds.

The audit, conducted last year, once again threw into the limelight the SOEs who have long been made the target of public attacks due to their monopolies, high incomes and privilege.

A spokesman for the SASAC said Saturday they would increase transparency of SOE operations.

Wang Yukai, professor of governance at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the irregularities and violations exposed problems in the governance of SOEs, making them hard to supervise.

“Besides, some SOEs’ leaders are too eager to impress their supervisors by making instant profits through investments overseas during their tenure, but lack proper investment expertise,” he said.

China’s state-owned firms mired in scandals [June 16, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

China’s state-owned enterprises have been hit by scandal after the country’s supreme audit office announced in May that it had uncovered several acts of misconduct such as tax evasion and the inappropriate use of company money by officials in 17 state-owned firms.

The National Audit Office of the People’s Republic of China (CNAO) made the announcement after reviewing the financial statements of these companies, which included the China United Network Communications Group Co and the China Three Gorges Corp, which operates the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze.

A total of 65 company representatives are currently under investigation, according to the office.

Prior to the investigation, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec)was revealed to have squandered millions of yuan on expensive wines and illegally awarded bonuses to its employees.

In addition, China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency reported that the Anhui branch of the State Grid Corporation of Chinahad illegally provided 300 of its senior employees with private cars.

Several officials from leading telecom firm China Mobileare also said to have been under investigation since 2009 for inappropriate corporate behavior.

The scandals, which were initially discussed intensively on the internet, have now become a nationwide subject of debate after coming under the media spotlight for over a month.

After the Sinopec “expensive wine” scandal, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) convened a meeting with the companies to discuss public opinion — and discontent — as well as ways to resolve the issue, according to the Chinese-language Beijing News.

At a meeting to explain the company’s extravagant spending on wine, Sinopec director Li Chunguang complained that he could not understand why the public was criticizing companies that contribute billions of yuan in taxes to the country each year.

In an effort to improve industry’s image, SASAC released the contact information of the spokespersons of 120 state-owned companies to the public in February this year.

Furthermore, sources said that some companies had also hired public relations companies in recent years, and invested several million yuan to improve their interactions with the media and public.

Economist Hua Sheng said that the public’s anger towards state-owned companies is a reflection of their dissatisfaction about the unequal distribution of income and government finances.

Liu Cheng, a professor at the University of Science and Technology in Beijing, noted that the reason these companies have become targets for public anger is because they had not fulfilled their social responsibility of serving the national interest. Instead, they have become tools for personal gain, he said.

Chinese professionals prefer domestic firms [June 9, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

SHANGHAI – With the growth of the national economy and the continuous development of Chinese enterprises, more middle- and high-level professionals in China now prefer to work for domestic companies rather than foreign-owned enterprises, human resources experts said.

“Multinational companies have long been in a favorable position in the recruiting market due to their liberal reward and advanced management culture,” said Chen Jiewei, senior consulting manager with China International Intellectech Corporation (CIIC), a Shanghai-based HR services company.

“But over the past five years, Chinese companies have been doing excellently and many of them have been listed abroad. They have demonstrated their competitive strength,” Chen told China Daily, “Now they can offer salaries and bonus plans that are competitive with foreign companies, which makes them increasingly attractive for high-level management professionals.”

A report from CIIC said that the annual salary for management positions in Chinese enterprises is basically equal to that in Japanese enterprises, about 200,000 yuan ($30,880) a year (before tax), while for European and US enterprises it is about 250,000 yuan a year. For director positions, European and US enterprises generally provide an annual salary of more than 400,000 yuan, while Chinese enterprises offer more than 300,000 yuan and Japanese enterprises about 300,000 yuan.

For senior management positions, the annual salary in a European or US enterprise is about 800,000 yuan, while large Chinese enterprises offer about 600,000 yuan and Japanese enterprises about 500,000 yuan.

But Chen said that it is not only the salaries that are driving high-level talent toward Chinese companies. It is also a better personal career path.

“Multinational companies have developed for a long time in China, and practiced a localization strategy, but even so, a lot of senior management positions are still dominated by foreigners. High-level Chinese staff often find it’s hard to break through the bottleneck and advance,” Chen explained. “They have no scope for their particular talents.”

“Some large Chinese companies, on the other hand, can provide sufficient room for people’s career development,” Chen added.

“Chinese enterprises have developed very fast and improved effectively over the past years in terms of the management level, working environment, compensation packages, as well as the promotion system. They have competitive advantages over their foreign counterparts in recruiting staff,” said a 33- year-old man, surnamed Wang, who declined to give his full name.

Wang currently works as a department manager in a US technology company but he hopes he can move to a Chinese company, especially a State-owned company.

State-owned enterprises have improved their market performance and have comprehensive competitiveness. That means there may be more opportunities for self-development,” Wang said.

State-owned enterprises overtook foreign and private enterprises as the top destination for job-seeking graduates in 2010, according to a survey of 200,000 students conducted by ChinaHR.com. Eight of the top 10 companies named in the survey are State-owned.

Chinese companies are more popular among students born between 1980 and 1990, majoring in science and engineering, according to a survey by Aon Hewitt, a global human capital consulting company.

Aon Hewitt polled graduates over the past two years and found that China Mobile, Alibaba and Haier have overtaken Google and P&G to become the most popular employers among graduates.

Expansion of Central SOEs Causes Concern [June 9, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Many of China’s provincial governments have been enthusiastic about getting investments from the country’s most powerful enterprises to spur development of their local areas.

Local officials have signed agreements with companies controlled by the central government, adding up to trillions of yuan.

These mega contracts have triggered concerns among both economists and economic regulators.

At the latest signing ceremony in Beijing, representatives from Henan Province signed more than one hundred agreements with enterprises controlled by the central government. The contracts are worth some 300 billion yuan or more than 40 billion US dollars in total.

These projects involve scores of state-owned enterprises, including China Mobile, a giant in the telecom industry.

Wang Jianzhou, Chairman of the company’s Board of Directors, reveals that China Mobile’s investment in Henan will reach 20 billion yuan over the next three years.

“We are planning to install new equipment in Henan to build a call center and an internet data center.”

Shi Jichun, Deputy Governor of Henan Province, explains the motives behind the cooperation.

“Our cooperation with the state-owned enterprises can benefit local economic development in terms of upgrading our industries and introducing new economic growth patterns.”

During the past year, similar motives have driven a dozen provincial governmentsto send delegations to Beijing, where they scramble for the favor of state-owned enterprises.

So far, the total value of agreements signed between them has amounted to more than six trillion yuan.

However, Dong Yuping, an economic researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says he’s concerned about the negative impact of the massive expansion of state-owned enterprises.

“The state-owned enterprises have been holding sway in sectors concerning national economic security, however they still want to engage in other sectors where they compete with private enterprises. This surely puts the private operators at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, I don’t think those multi-billion agreements will necessarily bring about the intended benefits to local governments.”

The country’s top regulator of state-owned enterprises has expressed similar concerns.

Wang Yong is Chairman of the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.

The companies’ cooperation with local governments should not deviate from their core businesses. They should adjust their own structures to become stronger in that area, instead of blindly expanding in size and quantity.”

Chinese enterprises are basically divided into two categories: state-owned and private. The central government directly controls more than 100 of the powerful state-owned companies. These elite enterprises control the nerve centers of the national economy, like oil industries, telecommunications and power generation.

Telecoms Carriers Put Under Anti-Corruption Review [May 27, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Investigation teams from the party disciplinary commission were sent to China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom.

The government has launched an anti-corruption investigation over China’s big three state-owned telecom carriers that monopolize the industry, Caixin learnt from with several sources.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China sent investigation teams each to China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, targeting middle-level managerial staff and above, according to the sources.

These executives have been ordered to turn in their passports temporarily, said the sources.

Over the past year, many senior executives at China Mobile have been found to be involved in major corruption scandals, with several cases surrounding behind-the-scenes deals with the company’s service providers.

In late 2009, Zhang Chunjiang, China Mobile’s former vice chairman, was sacked and placed under investigation on allegations of corruption.

China launches probe into alleged graft at telcos [June 2, 2011]

The government and telecom firms have refused to comment on the investigation. But public commentary on dismissed executives at China Mobile has spread like wildfire. The investigation will last until June, during which all middle-level and above administrative staff have been asked to submit their passports.

Seven high-ranking China Mobile executives have been punished since 2009. Former Party chief and deputy general manager of China Mobile Zhang Chunjiang has been removed from his official post and expelled from the CPC for taking bribes. Shi Wanzhong, general manager of human resources at China Mobile, was detained for accepting bribes from Siemens. Lin Donghua, former deputy general manager of China Mobile’s Hubei branch, was also punished for serious corruption.

In March 2010, several regulatory authorities opened an investigation of Li Xiangdong, former general manager of China Mobile Sichuan’s wireless music base. After meeting with central government auditors to discuss his assets and the allocation of company funds, he disappeared into the night with hundreds of millions of RMB. Luckily, he was caught by police before he could flee the country.

China Mobile recently confirmed that Ma Li, deputy general manager of the company’s data division, was under investigation on suspicion of “serious disciplinary violations.” Ye Bing, former CEO of ASPire Holdings, a subsidiary of China Mobile, had also been taken away by authorities for investigation. Ye Bing was appointed as CEO of ASPire Holdings in 2008, which provides data services for China Mobile.

“Lack of efficient supervision on high-profile executives of governments and companies has led to rent seeking behavior,” said Fu Liang, an independent telecommunications analyst.

China’s Seizure of China Mobile Executive Leads to Wider Probe [June 1, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

China’s seizure of a China Mobile Ltd. executive on graft allegations in March led to a probe of more than 60 people that may involve 350 million yuan ($54 million) of “illegal money,”the official Xinhua News Agency said.

China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd., and China Telecom Corp., the nation’s second- and third-largest carriers after China Mobile, are included in the investigation, according to today’s Xinhua report, which didn’t say what the alleged corruption entailed.

The three operators are adjusting their business- cooperation policies “to reduce the corruption risk,” Xinhua said. The allegations come amid Chinese media reports that the government will overhaul leadership at the nation’s biggest telecommunications carriers.

The corruption probe may be an attempt to clear up any problems before new management takes over to allow them to start with a clean slate, Jim Tang, an analyst at Shenyin Wanguo Securities Co. in Shanghai, said in a phone interview today. If the investigation means China Mobile is addressing problems, it’s a good thing in the long run, he said.

Tang rates China Mobile and China Telecom “neutral,” and China Unicom “outperform.”

China Mobile gained 0.6 percent to HK$71.45 at 10:45 a.m. in Hong Kong Stock Exchange trading. The shares have dropped 7.5 percent this year, compared with a 2.7 percent advance in the benchmark Hang Seng Index. China Unicom fell 1.3 percent to HK$17.04 while China Telecom was unchanged at HK$4.66.

Executive Reshuffle

Sophia Tso, a Unicom spokeswoman, and Jacky Yung, a spokesman for China Telecom, yesterday denied reports about planned management changes at their respective companies. Tso and Yung didn’t immediately return calls today regarding the Xinhua report on the corruption probe.

Rainie Lei, a spokeswoman at China Mobile, didn’t return calls or e-mailed requests for comment on the reports about management changes.

Caijing magazine reported yesterday that Xi Guohua, vice minister at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, will replace Wang Jianzhou, 62, as chairman at China Mobile. China Unicom Chairman Chang Xiaobing will have his post taken by President Lu Yimin and become chairman of China Telecom Corp., while China Telecom Chairman Wang Xiaochu will become governor of Yunnan province, according to the magazine.

Zhao Yi, a spokesman for China Mobile, said he couldn’t immediately comment on today’s Xinhua report or provide contact information for Ma Li, the data department deputy manager who the official newswire reported was seized by anti-graft officials.

China Mobile’s value-added data such as mobile music services “were an essential driver of total revenue growth” last year, accounting for 31 percent of operating revenue in 2010, Chairman Wang said in March.

China Mobile said 549 million customers made use of value- added services in the first quarter of this year, and 476 million used its wireless music service. The value-added services were “the driving force” of sales growth in the first quarter, the company said in April.

On Way to Beijing, China Mobile Chief Crashes [July 16, 2010]

A financial misconduct probe at China Mobile’s Sichuan branch has shattered executive Li Hua’s promotion dream

Li Hua worked hard and waited years for the career leap that he triumphantly announced to friends at a banquet on the eve of Spring Festival.

Very soon, Li told the dinner guests earlier this year, he would be transferred from Chengdu to the telecom group’s headquarters in Beijing.

Moreover, Li said he would rise from his current job as Sichuan Province general manager and regional party secretary for China Mobile to a coveted front-office position as a group vice president.

A month later, however, a nightmare overwhelmed Li’s career dream. A subordinate named Li Xiangdong, who directed the company’s digital music and data department, grabbed company cash and fled the country after a government audit found discrepancies tied to the company’s business with a value-added service provider.

Within weeks, Communist Party investigators looking into further evidence of malfeasance at China Mobile were knocking on Li’s door. Now, no longer in line for a headquarters post, Li is being detained on charges of financial misconduct.

In addition, Li’s case may be connected to the detention by party investigators in December of executive Zhang Chunjiang, a former China Mobile vice president and the company’s national party secretary.

A source at China Mobile told Caixin that Li’s case is being handled by provincial party officials in Sichuan but directly supervised by the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which rarely gives such close attention to provincial matters.

Caixin also learned that his most serious charges may be connected to deals with an equipment supplier. Before Li’s case was made public, the Sichuan office of China Mobile sent an internal memo stating Li had offended a powerful, well-connected equipment supplier.

“It’s quite possible that Li fell into trouble because of this” supplier issue, said a source.

Several equipment suppliers are currently assisting authorities in their investigation. But some officials from equipment companies reportedly have, like Li Xiangdong, fled China.

Li, who earlier hand-picked Li Xiangdong for a promotion, had been barred from leaving China after the disappearance on grounds that he was needed to help investigators looking into the case.

Li earlier told Caixin the disappearance was “not related to any other person” at China Mobile’s Sichuan division. Yet financial misconduct linked to the digital music and data department also apparently involves Li, who worked closely on its development with Li Xiangdong.

The company launched the moneymaking division four years ago with about 1 billion yuan. Today, its annual operating revenues exceed 22 billion yuan.

Ladder Climber

In his long quest for a promotion to headquarters, Li built a network of personal contacts so extensive that he may have seemed untouchable. He was known in the industry for being outspoken, but took a low-key approach toward the news media and shared little personal information with the public.

Li was born into a high-ranking military family in 1959 in Chengdu. Raised on a military compound, he was strong and competitive from an early age.

Li loved to read and returned to school in his 40s, earning a master’s degree in management at Sichuan University’s business management school in 2005. Two years later, he received an advanced degree from Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Influenced by his father, Li grew up with a military disposition. He earned a reputation as a brave, loyal yet domineering company boss. Some at China Mobile liked his personality, others did not.

“Li had a rare talent as a field commander, one that I have hardly seen within the China Mobile system,” a company source said. “He had strong leadership ability, and was pragmatic and competent.”

Mid-level cadres whom Li handpicked for promotions were also often aggressive and sharp-witted – and did not fit the standard, cautious mold of a state-owned enterprise executive.

Li loves traveling, photography and fine wines. He’s known for a high alcohol tolerance and would drive a black Volkswagen Phaeton between work and his family’s luxury villa in Chengdu, which he apparently could afford thanks to what some said was an annual salary of around 2 million yuan.

Workmates called Li bossy, saying he was never satisfied with income levels from ordinary projects. “He wasn’t short of money, nor was he a greedy person. He handled matters justly, believing that if he could help you he would, and if he was unable to help he would say so,” a source said. “It wasn’t about how much money could be made, but rather whether he thought you were the right person, or whether or not he liked you.”

Li served in the army before retiring from the military in the early 1990s. He took a job at the Neijiang post office and was later transferred to a provincial post office management department, where he was appointed director.

Li later joined the newly formed Mobile Communications Bureau, which divided government and enterprise functions and established China Telecom Corp. An internal mobile communications department was created, and Li was hired to serve as director.

By the late 1990s, national telecom industry reform led to the separation of China Telecom’s mobile business operations. China Mobile’s Sichuan division was established in 1999, and Li was appointed to his current position as general manager.

Li was restless at China Mobile yet repeatedly fended off transfer orders to cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou. Instead, he waited for a call to Beijing.

While waiting, he became a provincial magnate and held his Sichuan post longer than anyone in similar positions. Ordinarily, China Mobile transfers high-level executives every four to six years.

While avoiding transfers, Li also dodged several controversies during his tenure. Many thought he would always successfully survive hints or even accusations of misconduct.

But because of an outspoken and domineering personality “the investigation of Li Hua was both expected and unexpected,” a China Mobile source told Caixin. Many at the company thought he would “get in trouble sooner or later.”

1 yuan = 14 U.S. cents

Shutdown for a Gatekeeper of Telecom Gold [July 30, 2010] (emphasis is mine)

Connections, ‘consulting’ and art collecting helped telecom insider Zhang Rui play a profitable game before authorities moved in

Equipment and IT services that sell for hundreds of billions of yuan, advertising contracts worth billions of yuan, and huge piles of cash for value-added services and special projects: It’s all in a pot of gold at the end of China’s telecom rainbow.

Many have found the gold, from multinational equipment manufacturers such as Siemens and Ericsson to small construction companies that build infrastructure for the nation’s state-owned telecom empire.

But access to this glistening pot is restricted; only a limited number of executives at giant telecom companies, like leprechauns, know the secret way.

One of the gold gate-keepers was businessman Zhang Rui(张锐), according to investigators who have spent several months tracing corruption in China’s telecom industry. Zhang was a key industry insider who apparently helped suppliers and contractors find those gold nuggets, while pocketing quite a few for himself.

Zhang moved freely through the executive suites of China’s telecom world, giving advice to operator chiefs who called him an “industry sage” and quietly cutting deals for contractors in ways that earned him the nickname “invisible man.” Only executives at the industry’s highest echelons knew his name and his game.

Beijing art lovers, however, best knew Zhang Rui as the owner of a swank restaurant on the city’s near-east side and a collector of contemporary art.

He might have held on to his art-lover front while continuing to run his advisory business Beijing Ruizhi Telecommunications Consulting Co. Ltd. behind the scenes if not for an investigation that exposed a corruption trail leading to his desk.

The first step on the trail, numerous sources close to China Mobile told Caixin, was the sudden dismissal and detention of China Mobile Group’s former party secretary and vice president Zhang Chunjiang(张春江) in 2009. Authorities tied him to bribes worth more than 10 million yuan.

A pair of China Mobile leaders were the next to fall: the president of Sichuan Mobile, Li Hua(李华), who has been detained since June; and the president of both Sichuan Mobile’s data department and China Mobile’s wireless music operations, Li Xiangdong(李向东), who fled China earlier this year with an unknown amount of money.

Zhang and his wife, Raynetwork Advertising Co. President Yang Ruining, were recently detained by authoritieson charges that remain unclear.

In the wake of the investigations, China Mobile has launched a major personnel shuffle involving several subsidiaries. And according to a telecom industry veteran, Zhang’s trouble led to an exodus of Chinese executives working for several multinational telecom suppliers. They apparently left the country to avoid trouble.

The snowballing affairreflected the breadth and depth of the telecom industry’s spending habits, and the enormous incentive for contractors to do whatever may be needed to find that pot of gold.

“I never imagined that telecom server-room air conditioning systems and alarm systems could be so lucrative,” said one equipment supplier. “But telecom company fixed asset investment is really big, and even a small portion from the cup is still a lot.”

‘Consulting’ Fees

Opposite Workers Stadium in Beijing is a peculiar building that combines a modern steel structure with ancient ornamentation. It’s said this is a 200-year-old house that was moved from Jiangxi Province and is now the home of Le Quai, an upscale restaurant owned by Zhang.

Local officials, foreign diplomats and celebrities alike feel at home here. Over the years, Zhang has hosted a slew of high-profile events revolving around his reputation as an art collector. Some say his home is a veritable Guggenheim Museum, with nearly 1,000 works of art.

Few art fans know, however, that Zhang made his fortune in the telecom business. He got a start in Dalian in the 1990s as a representative for switchboard makers and eventually built an empire through firms offering “consultant” services to foreign companies seeking business with state-owned telecoms, advertising deals and mobile phone services.

In Dalian, he met his rainmaker and future government-business insider Zhang Chunjiang, then-deputy director of the Dalian Post and Telecommunications Administration, who later became, among other things, the youngest vice minister ever when the Ministry of Information Industries was formed in December 1999.

Zhang kept good relations with this rising star through a period of rapid growth for the nation’s telecom industry.

Since 1992, the number of fixed-line subscribers in China has increased to 1.1 billion from 10 million, while the number of mobile subscribers grew to 800 million from almost zero. Regulators and telecom operators have had to expand networks quickly and on a massive scale. Paying for all this growth required a pot of gold that equipment and service providers were eager to tap, creating enormous opportunities for insiders such as Zhang.

Foreign telecom equipment manufacturers that joined local suppliers lining up for contracts soon learned about the importance of relationships in the Chinese business world. But foreigners who found themselves caught between overseas regulatory constraints and the need to cultivate relationships signed up with Chinese agents and consultants who acted as middlemen.

Zhang signed up numerous telecom equipment and software companies who hired him as a consultant. In fact, though, authorities say he functioned as a third-party representative by transferring payments from contractors to telecom company insiders. He called the payments “consulting fees.”

What Zhang did is common in the industry, insiders say, especially when foreign companies are involved. Middlemen often enjoy close ties to telecom executives and government officials.

Zhang was “a middleman for many foreign companies,” a close associate said.

Gold Rush

Yet Zhang was more than a middleman. As his friend Zhang Chunjiang climbed his career ladder, Zhang expanded his business scope.

Zhang established Beijing Huamai Electronic Technology Co. Ltd. with registered capital of 2 million yuan in July 1995. His wife Yang Xuxia (who later changed her name to Yang Ruining) put up 800,000 yuan, and Zhang and Zhang Chunjiang’s now ex-wife Ji Rong each put up 600,000 yuan.

This became a foundation for Zhang’s other platforms, such as a company with a Hong Kong connection that made alarm systems for clients including China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom. But mainly these entities built relationships and shuffled documents; Caixin found only a few employees recently working at the alarm company’s office in Beijing.

Zhang established his first telecom company – Beijing Siruide Computer System Integration Co. – in 1997 and became its legal representative. The company handled computer communication network technology and project integration, but also sold telecom equipment. Huamai Electronic was a shareholder. Others were Sichuan Galaxy Technology Co. Ltd. and Sichuan businessman Li Xinze.

Apparently, one of Zhang’s first business ties to Sichuan was Li, who later worked up to Sichuan Mobile value-added and data services posts, and became a core member of the mobile phone music services provider Sichuan Mobile Music Base.

Zhang established Beijing Ruizhi in 1998, offering communications products as well as computer software and hardware. In 2001, the company invested in another outfit called Raynetwork.

Raynetwork was valuable because it held a telecommunications business license. Such a license requires approvals from multiple government departments and applications are tightly controlled by the government. Zhang sold it in 2007 for 7.2 million yuan.

These and other deals underscored the advantages Zhang enjoyed thanks to Zhang Chunjiang, who became director of MII’s Telecommunications Management Office in 1998, and other friends in high places.

Advertising Whiz

Advertising profit potential caught Zhang’s eye in 2001 after China’s telecom sector had completed its first reform step, which separated companies from government administrations. Telecom operators began to spend more money on image promotion, for example, and so Zhang and his wife set up Beijing Raynet Advertising.

In the first year, the ad company’s sales topped 14.7 million yuan thanks to big clients such as China Mobile and Sanyo. By 2002, revenues had soared to 56.4 million yuan.

The agency won a national contract from China Netcom in 2004, the year after Zhang Chunjiang took a job as Netcom’s president.
By 2007, Raynet had expanded its client base to provincial departments of telecom operators in Shanghai, Liaoning, Changchun, and other regions. Money poured in.

“After getting the Netcom project, we basically didn’t need to do ads for other telecom companies,” a Raynet executive told Caixin.

“A single provincial telecom can support a large advertising company, which can live well,” said a former provincial director of a mobile advertising agency.

A senior advertising source said it’s not uncommon for telecom executives to invest in advertising and advertising production companies, some of which can be half-owned by a telecom company chief or his family. Because production companies have no equity links to advertising companies, it’s difficult to trace the ownership links. They are also less risky than under-the-table gift-giving.
“Everyone avoids directly giving ‘red envelopes’ (cash payoffs),” said one industry insider. “Travel packages, Louis Vuitton bags, jewelry, etc., are too low brow.”

Raynet’s performance opened a door to cooperation with the global ad giant Ogilvy & Mather. The companies established a joint venture in 2007, with Zhang’s wife serving as legal representative.

Sichuan Trio

Another moneymaking venture for Zhang started in 2003, when he and Li each put up 250,000 yuan to establish We Think, a telecom technology company based in Sichuan. Its downtown Chengdu headquarters opened two years later.

The plan was to grab some of the gold available in value-added services (VAS), which had become the fastest-growing sector for the country’s major telecom operators. A rapid increase in mobile phone and Internet users gave birth to an army of VAS providers.

First came text message services, and then mobile music services through places such as China Mobile’s Mobile Music Base in Sichuan. Again, revenues surged.

China Mobile elevated the successful Sichuan Mobile’s music business, giving it oversight of the company’s nationwide music business. Numerous wireless VAS providers like We Think sprang up, and a Caixin survey found several names appeared frequently in the list of these companies’ shareholders: Zhang, Li and Tan Chunling.

Sichuan Mobile became We Think’s largest customer, but the Zhang-Li venture also did plenty of business with Sichuan Telecom.

We Think increased its capitalization to 5 million yuan in October 2004, with Zhang and Li increasing their share of the capitalization to 2.25 million yuan each through non-patented technology. The phrase “non-patented technology” refers to a mobile operator data service analysis system developed by the pair called Comprehensive Evaluation System for the Operational Strength of Mobile Operators.

Zhang and Li’s said the system’s sales revenues would rise to 6 million yuan the first year, 12 million yuan the second, and then climb to 20 million yuan, 26 million yuan and 30 million yuan respectively over the following three years. This forecast allowed them to assess intangible assets of their technology at 4.51 million yuan.

Similar technology assessments-for-investments are described in documents at other companies run by Zhang.

Service and content providers who wanted business on China Mobile’s network platform had to go through the Sichuan Mobile Data Department and Mobile Music Base. We Think waltzed through the door through Zhang’s connections at Sichuan Mobile.

Annual operating revenue rose to tens of millions of yuan by 2005, and in 2007 We Think reported 72.4 million yuan in revenue and net income totaling 27.1 million yuan.

These days, We Think has lost its sheen. Unpaid bills were found recently taped to the company’s Beijing office gate, which is shut tight. Caixin noticed Zhang’s name on one bill.

Another company registered at the address of We Think’s Sichuan branch – Sichuan Heze Technology Co. Ltd. – is in the business of communications equipment consulting and equipment sales. Established in 2004, investors included Zhang, Li and Tan.

Tan was originally a director at Sichuan Television. He later opened an advertising company whose major clients were Sichuan Mobile and other telecom operators. Li and he were the shareholders.

Tan’s main gig was an independent digital music support platform company for the Sichuan Mobile Music Base called Myoo Music Entertainment. He started it in 2005 and, with Li, bought the company in 2007 just as Sichuan Mobile Music Base was starting to provide mobile music services.

Myoo is currently near to launching an initial public offering on China’s Growth Enterprise Market. It’s already completed two rounds of fund-raising.

Wang Feng, an executive at Bond Advertising, said he invested more than 10 million yuan in Myoo. But the recent shakeup in the telecom world, the detention of Zhang, and the exposures of shady business ties linking Tan, Li and others has left him feeling uneasy about the investment.

Wang has good reason to be nervous. It appears the listing plan of Sichuan Mobile Music Base’s most important service provider Myoo now hinges on the outcome of the cases against Zhang and the rest of the telecom insiders who found a way to the pot at the end of the rainbow.

1 yuan = 14 U.S. cents

China’s Bad Signal for Mobile Phone Investors [May 26, 2011]

Myoo, Ultrapower and NetQin won investor hearts and then broke them by relying on China Mobile’s monopoly

Some 18 months after putting 10 million yuan on what appeared to be a sure bet, Chinese media investor Wang Feng is coming to terms with a disturbing truth.

“We still cannot get our money back,” lamented Wang, chairman of Bond Global International Media Advertising (Beijing) Co., in a recent interview with Caixin. “The assets of Myoo Music Entertainment Co. are all frozen, and there’s nothing we can do.”

Nothing, that is, except painfully watch China’s largest mobile phone operator China Mobile seal Myoo’s coffin in the wake of an executive corruption scandal.

Moreover, Caixin learned from sources close to China Mobile’s Sichuan Province subsidiary, Wang is now standing by helplessly as the telecom giant switches its music content business to a new provider named China Straits Global.

China Straits replaced Myoo in late April as China Mobile’s official and sole provider of music, hollowing out Wang’s investment.

The demise of Chengdu-based Myoo was dramatic and unexpected. The company looked good when it launched a start-up fund-raiser in 2009, attracting Wang and others with a promise to corner the mobile phone-wireless music market through an exclusive deal with China Mobile. It planned to launch an initial public offering in 2010, giving foundation investors a chance to cash in their chips.

Persons close to Myoo told Caixin the company booked 80 million yuan in revenues and 50 million yuan in profits for the first nine months of 2009. Revenues and profits were forecast to rise to 100 million and 60 million yuan, respectively, for 2010.

The dream started falling apart in mid-2010, however, shortly after Li Hua, former general manager of manager of China Mobile’s Sichuan branch, was placed under investigation for alleged financial misconduct. That move followed the disappearance in March of Li Xiangdong, then the general manager of China Mobile’s Sichuan Mobile Wireless Music Base, who apparently fled the country with a sizeable amount of money and is currently at large.

The investment in Myoo was a fraction of the large amount of private money that’s been rushing into the telecom industry in China in recent years. Even today the players keep coming, despite the industry’s status as a state-owned sector monopolized by state companies such as China Mobile.

Neither the Myoo investment debacle nor business troubles now facing China Mobile contractors Ultrapower and NetQin curtailed investor interest in telecom businesses. But these cases are now serving as a wake-up call for players such as Wang, and a reminder that business foundations can be fragile for second-tier telecom service providers in China.

By teaming up with a state monopoly and massaging official connections, a private telecom service provider initially may find it easy to overcome technical and policy barriers for doing business. But success often hinges on orders from companies at the mercy of ever-changing government policies and subject to fallout when management troubles, such as a corruption case involving a high-ranking executive, bubble to the surface.

Death by Scandal

The troubles in Sichuan followed the late 2009 sacking of Zhang Chunjiang, China Mobile’s vice chairman, who had been placed under investigation for alleged corruption.

These high-profile corruption cases at China Mobile laid the groundwork for Li Yue’s appointment as China Mobile CEO last August and a broad reshuffling among executives at provincial branches. Li Yue’s predecessor Wang Jianzhou gave up the CEO job but retained his post as company chairman.

Li Yue adopted a strong stance with promises to reform business models of the company’s value-added services. These measures are designed to restructure internal and external interests. But the process has threatened a large number of “related parties” – sometimes called “parasites” – that cannot live without China Mobile.

Just a few months before the Sichuan executive scandal broke, Wang decided to put his money on Myoo. He made the decision after reading an investment report issued by CITIC Securities, whose direct investment arm Gold Stone Investment Ltd. had also joined in financing Myoo.

In December 2009, Myoo hired a broker, accountants and a legal team to help steer the company toward a listing on the Shenzhen exchange’s high-tech start-up board ChiNext by 2010.

Myoo’s equity capital started at 1 million yuan and quickly swelled to 46 million yuan after two financing rounds. The company attracted support from more than 20 individual and four institutional investors.

Some investors, such as Wang, were lured by Myoo’s growth prospects outlined in the CITIC report and impressive financials. Others had various inside connections to the new company.

Sources close to Myoo Chairman Tan Chunling said more than 10 players in the first round claimed special connections with the company and even “deep government” ties.

Myoo had fewer than 70 people on its payroll but an exclusive contract to support China Mobile’s Sichuan-based wireless music base, which generates tens of billions of yuan in revenue every year.

Moreover, the company had a monopoly. Like other well-connected service providers in China’s state-dominated sector, it enjoyed an exclusive sales channel and stable cash flow. Plus, its growth potential seemed immense.

One source said the investor group included some Myoo backers whose unique connections or official backgrounds offered the company special advantages.
After the corruption probe started, however, Myoo lost its contract with China Mobile. Sources close to Sichuan Mobile said Myoo’s Tan visited Beijing in July 2010 in hopes of salvaging the deal with China Mobile.

But Tan was unsuccessful. And he was later implicated after telling police he gave Li access to a 2 million yuan bank account. He later discovered that the balance had ballooned to 20 million yuan. Myoo’s accounts were subsequently frozen by authorities.

Risky Business

The dangers inherent for investors in monopoly-related service providers such as Myoo are also evident in the recent histories of China Mobile contractors Beijing Ultrapower Software and NetQin Mobile Inc.

Ultrapower and NetQin were both successfully listed. Both companies are now on the rocks, along with their start-up investors.

Ultrapower operates China’s Mobile’s Fetion instant messaging service, which links mobile phones and computers on the Internet. It’s almost exclusively dependant on the telecom giant.

Ultrapower’s foundation investors included CITIC Securities’ Gold Stone and venture capital firm Huijin Lifang Capital Investment Co., which bought respective 2.2 percent and 2.8 percent stakes five months before the 2009 IPO. They paid only 20 percent of the IPO launch price of 58 yuan a share.

Just before the listing, China Mobile extended its contract with Ultrapower to three years, encouraging investors. And within four months of going to the stock market, Ultrapower’s share price surged 500 percent.

Then came the corruption scandal and China Mobile’s decision to reorganize value-added services. In connection with the ongoing overhaul, the company may decide to let its Fetion contract with Ultrapower run out when the current deal expires in November.

Ultrapower’s future is now uncertain, since it does not own the Fetion brand nor the intellectual property rights. Investment funds have been pulling out of Ultrapower since the first quarter, and its share price has declined nearly 20 percent so far this year.

NetQin is also heavily reliant on China Mobile, having signed a contract in 2010 to provide security scanning and authentication for all software, games and files uploaded to China Mobile’s application store.

Caixin found that while NetQin’s prospectus says most revenue comes from mobile carriers and value-added service providers, including China Mobile and Tianjin Yidatong Technology Development Co. But China Mobile is by far the biggest moneymaker.

Yidatong accounted for 52.7 percent of NetQin’s net revenues in 2008, but that portion shrank to no more than 21 percent in 2009 and 2010. In fact, 9-year-old Yidatong merely functions as a bridge between China Mobile and NetQin.

But investors loved NetQin and participated in four rounds of financing between 2007 and 2010. Sequoia Capital and GSR Ventures jointly invested US$ 3 million in June 2007. Ceyuan Ventures and Fidelity Asia Venture added undisclosed amounts in October 2007, while GSR and Ceyuan invested a combined US$ 20 million in April 2010. NetQin increased its stock in November 2010, attracting Taiwanese mobile phone maker HTC Corp., which invested US$ 2.5 million, and Gaintech, a subsidiary of Taiwanese chip maker MediaTek, which provided US$ 2.2 million.

Investors knew all about NetQin’s inside connections. The company made no secret of its being favored by “leaders” and “revolutionary predecessors.”

A NetQin press release last November announced a company visit by General Zhou Erjun, a nephew of the late premier Zhou Enlai and former political department director at the National Defense University. The company called itself “a revolutionary offspring” and “a new generation of technology worker that grew up under the red flag.”

NetQin’s walls started collapsing March 15, a day before the company planned to submit its IPO application, when the official China Central Television (CCTV) reported that the company was forcing consumers to use its software. The report labeled company products “rogue software.” And according to the report, consumers were being forced to pay service charges through Yidatong.

After the CCTV story appeared, China Mobile temporarily suspended its business with NetQin, but it did not penalize Yidatong.

NetQin then submitted its New York Stock Exchange IPO application to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as planned but lowered its asking price, scaling back the fund-raiser to US$ 75 million from US$ 100 million.

NetQin expanded its SEC report April 9 to cite risks tied to the CCTV exposure, adding that the company should reduce its reliance on mobile carriers such as China Mobile.

On launch day May 5, NetQin’s share value fell 19 percent from the initial asking price, exposing another dimension to the risks inherent among China Mobile’s contractors and across the board for monopoly sectors in China.

China Mobile names new manager [May 31, 2010]

China’s biggest mobile carrier China Mobile announced Monday that Wang Jianzhou, the current general manager of China Mobile has been nominated chairman of the firm, and Li Yue, the deputy manager of the company will be appointed as the general manager of the corporation.

Wang used to be the deputy secretary of CPC leadership group of China Mobile.

At the request of the State Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), the firm will set up a board of directors with a chairman and general managers.

Wang said that the firm has made great achievements in the past years, but faces many challenges ahead. Li stated that the development of the internet would bring new opportunities for the firm and it will strive for more.

Ericsson Employee Probed for China Mobile Scandal [Nov 18, 2010] (emphasis is mine)

The probe is related to corruption charges surrounding two high-ranking executives from China Mobile over telecom equipment procurement

(Beijing) – An equipment procurement officer from Ericsson, the international mobile equipment supplier, was brought in for questioning to assist in the investigation of the ongoing China Mobile scandal in Southern China.

The investigation is related to corruption charges surrounding two high-ranking executives of China Mobile’s Sichuan branches who stand accused of accepting bribes in exchange for equipment deals. Li Hua, the general manager of China Mobile’s Sichuan branch, and Chen Binglan, the deputy general manager of China Mobile’s Sichuan branch responsible for equipment and project procurement, have been placed under custody of the party’s disciplinary agency.

Caixin learned from sources close to the situation that just after the corruption case of Li was exposed, the focus of investigation has since moved to Chen.

China’s telecom industry has seen a huge expansion of networks in recent years and equipment procurement deals have become a hotbed for corruption. Since the 1990s, fixed line telephone subscribers have increased from 10 million to 1.1 billion, and mobile phone subscribers grew to 800 million from zero. The huge volumes involved in telecom equipment purchases and related services have become an important source for global equipment suppliers to grow their profits.

Equipment suppliers from different countries have employed strikingly creative tactics to grab a bigger share of the pie.

Previously, the corruption case of Shi Wanzhong, former chairman of China Mobile’s Anhui branch, this year brought to light the involvement of Siemens Telecommunication. (See Century Weekly’s cover story of “Shutdown for a Gatekeeper of Telecom Gold” in the 30th issue for details. http://english.caing.com/2010-07-30/100165466.html)

Another person detained for investigation by related authorities was Shen Changfu, the Party chief, chairman and general manager of China Mobile’s Chongqing branch, for his dealings in equipment procurement from foreign suppliers, including Ericsson.

Similar to the career path of Li Hua in the telecom sector, Shen Changfu was formerly the director of Chongqing Telecom Administration, and later in charge of China Mobile’s Chongqing branch when the company was founded along with reforms in the telecom sector.

Both Sichuan and Chongqing are important regions for Ericsson’s presence in China. In 2004, Ericsson established its Western China headquarters in Chengdu. Ericsson had four regional units in China at the time: the Northern region, the Southern region, the Central regions and the newly-established Western region. The Western region of Ericsson China covers markets in Sichuan, Chongqing, Yunnan, Guizhou and Tibet. The company has on several occasions reiterated Ericsson’s strategic development in Sichuan, saying that it is one of the most vigorous telecom markets in China. The company is counting on the central government’s active support of infrastructure development in Western regions for greater demand in telecoms platform building.

Chongqing is yet another important base for Ericsson. Founded in 1998, Chongqing Ericsson Technology Co., Ltd. is the sole subsidiary of Ericsson in Western China, providing professional telecom services, primarily responsible for the delivery of telecom services and technical training to operator customers of Ericsson in China’s Southwestern areas. In 2006, a center for supply, procurement and telecom services was opened by the subsidiary in Chongqing, offering procurement, integration and backup services to Ericsson China and its global products.

Although Ericsson has remained the No. 1 telecom equipment provider in the global market for quite some time, its performance has disappointed many this year. As revealed in its third quarter financial report in October, net sales were SEK 47.5 billion, up 2 percent year-on-year but down 1 percent from quarter-on-quarter. In the first nine months of this year, Ericsson reported total sales of SEK 140.6 billion, down 5 percent year-on-year, and an operating income of SEK 16.1 billion, down 6 percent year-on-year. Its profit margin this quarter was 39 percent, up three percent year-on-year.

In contrast to the fast growth of Chinese equipment manufacturers such as Huawei and ZTE, Ericsson, as one of the global telecom giants entering the market of China at an early stage, has been relegated to daily diminishing market presence in China. Ericsson ranked next to last place among all the suppliers in terms of successful bidding during the fourth round of TD-SCDMA bidding this year.

Former Telecom Executive to Face Charges [Jan 7, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

China Mobile’s former deputy manager and party secretary will be handed over to judicial authorities now that the almost year-long party disciplinary investigation has been completed

(Beijing) — A former executive of China’s largest telecom operator, China Mobile, may face official charges after the completion of a Communist Party investigation, according to Gan Yisheng, deputy secretary of the Central Commission Discipline Inspection (CCDI).

The case of Zhang Chujiang, China Mobile’s former deputy manager and party secretary, has been handed to the country’s judicial system by the party’s disciplinary agency to be formally charged, said Gan.

Caixin learned that a provincial prosecutor in Northern China will process Zhang’s case of alleged corruption.

The Party investigation into 52-year old Zhang’s dealings at China Mobile was launched in December 2009. On September 10, 2010, Zhang was expelled from his position and the Communist Party of China.

Zhang has spent most of his career in the telecom industry at China Mobile and China Netcom. In addition, he has worked for the central government and at one point held the position of vice minister at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

After the Party investigation opened into Zhang early last year, several other officials at China Mobile’s Sichuan branch were implicated in similar allegations of official wrongdoing. Li Hua, president of Sichuan Mobile and Li Xiangdong, head of China Mobile’s wireless music operations, as well as a procurement officer from global mobile equipment provider Ericsson was also found to be involved in the crimes.

Sources familiar with the situation told Caixin that the investigation headed by the CCDI has come to a close.

Chief Engineer of MIIT Under Probe [March 24, 2011]

An industry insider said the case may be linked to the China Mobile corruption scandal

(Beijing) — Su Jinsheng, chief engineer of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), is under investigation on alleged disciplinary violations, Caixin has learned from sources close to the situation.

A source familiar with the matter said Su had been absent from work since he was taken away for questioning by disciplinary authorities.

The exact cause of his detention has yet to be revealed. An industry observer said Su is suspected of involvement in China Mobile’s corruption scandal, currently under investigation by the Communist Party’s disciplinary agency.

An initial probe into China Mobile brought down a group of China Mobile’s high-level officials on corruption charges last year, including Li Hua, the general manager of China Mobile’s Sichuan branch, and Chen Binglan, the deputy general manager of China Mobile’s Sichuan branch. The investigation has yet to be concluded.

Su was named the chief engineer of MIIT in April 2009. He was also the director of MIIT’s Telecommunication Management Bureau, and the director general of the Telecommunications Administration Bureau of the Ministry of Information Technology. In June 1999, he was appointed temporary Communist Party secretary and the head of a working team in charge of preparation work for establishing the China Mobile Communications Corporation.

Su made his last public appearance on March 16 when he attended an industry conference in Beijing.

Wrong Key Fumble for China Mobile in Pakistan [May 23, 2011]

Last place among Pakistani carriers was not what China Mobile expected when it started a global expansion

Ramble around Islamabad and you’ll find the word Zong plastered on walls everywhere, and prominently displayed on signboards near the city’s most popular Chinese restaurants.

But Islamabad’s familiarity with Zong, the brand name for China Mobile Ltd.’s overseas operations, need not be interpreted as a sign of success for the Chinese mobile phone service in this crowded capital city, or anywhere else in Pakistan.

China Mobile has been struggling to build a Pakistani business since buying the domestic carrier Paktel, today known as CMPak and the brand name Zong, in early 2007 – four years after Pakistan opened its telecom market to international competition.

The acquisition marked a proud beginning for the Chinese carrier’s global expansion, which continues today. China Mobile paid US$ 560 million for what was then Pakistan’s fifth-largest mobile operator.

But today, Zong is still in fifth place – at the bottom of the heap among mobile carriers in Pakistan, where the mobile phone penetration rate has stabilized at about 60 percent.

Zong’s user base has increased from less than 1.5 million in 2007 to 6.92 million by the end of 2009, but its major competitors have picked up far more customers, according to the Pakistan Telecom Administration (PTA).

Among the 97.6 million Pakistanis with mobile phones in 2009, PTA says nearly one-third were serviced by Mobilink, a subsidiary of Egypt’s Orascom. The Pakistani subsidiary of Norway’s Telenor counted 22.5 million customers, while Warid Telecom had 18.8 million users and Ufone 18.5 million.

Neither is Zong getting the kinds of revenues enjoyed by its competitors. Among all carriers, PTA says, average revenues per user are about US$ 2.50 per month. But a Zong user generates only an average US$ 1.50 for the Chinese company.

Because Pakistan and China are political allies, Zong’s struggle has been particularly painful for China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless service in terms of subscribers.

“If we cannot succeed in Pakistan, we’d better not go anywhere else” outside China, the company’s Chairman Wang Jianzhou declared after the Paktel acquisition.

Door Knocking

PTA data obtained by Caixin says Pakistan’s mobile phone user coverage rate was only around 8 percent in 2004 and 22 percent the next year. China Mobile bought into the market when the coverage rate had reached 54 percent. The rate continued growing rapidly as the Chinese company settled into its new territory and, in 2008, launched the Zong brand.

By the time Zong arrived, its four competitors had already secured market positions, and the coverage growth rate had slowed considerably.

China Mobile first knocked on Pakistan’s door in 2005, after the Pakistani government offered to sell a 26 percent stake in Ufone, a subsidiary of Pakistan Telecommunication Co., to the highest foreign bidder.

China Mobile was one of 13 international players that participated in the auction, but lost with an offer of US$ 1.4 billion. The winner was Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates, which paid US$ 2.6 billion.

Afterward, Wang said he had no regrets. “Market pressure would have been too great had we offered a price that was too high,” he said.

Nevertheless, Ufone’s strong performance in the following years brought Etisalat satisfactory returns. According to PTA, Ufone’s subscriber list has grown nearly 11-fold since 2004, stabilizing at around 20 million in 2010.

Negotiations with Nasdaq-listed operator Millicom gave China Mobile another opportunity in 2006. The Luxembourg-based company then had about 10 million subscribers in 16 emerging countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, including Pakistan.

And at the time, Paktel was a Millicom subsidiary – as well as the worst performer in the multinational’s portfolio.

China Mobile hired China International Capital Corp. (CICC), China’s largest investment bank, as a financial advisor to prepare a bid for Millicom in collaboration with Bain Capital, a private equity firm.

The deal was close to signing, a source told Caixin, and Millicom’s market capitalization was around US$ 5.6 billion when CICC suggested China Mobile offer US$ 4 billion. The advisor had valued the Paktel portion of the company at zero.

The Chinese eventually abandoned the Millicom deal due to concerns about political risks in emerging countries and potential management issues. But in the end, China Mobile got Paktel.

More recently, minus Paktel, the market capitalization of Millicom has risen as high as US$ 15 billion.

China Mobile tried to open the Pakistani market door with the same key that worked in China. But the key didn’t fit because each market functions under a different regulatory framework, with a different business environment.

For example, China’s telecom market is monopolized by state-owned China Mobile and two other carriers, while Pakistan’s market is open to price-cutting competition.

A PTA report said the Pakistani mobile industry generated US$ 2.8 billion in total revenues in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, up 11 percent from a year earlier, even though tariffs decreased up to 20 percent.

Pakistan is also one of the few countries that heavily taxes telecom operators. And Pakistani mobile phone subscribers are typically price-oriented, say industry experts, with a habit of chatting on the phone for long periods of time.

Another difference is that mobile phone numbers are freely transferable in Pakistan, allowing customers to switch service providers at will. So if Zong tries to raise prices, its subscribers are likely to leave for another operator with a better tariff.

This business environment means user coverage rates are crucial for operator profits in Pakistan, and so far Zong’s rate has fallen far behind its rivals.

China Mobile tried to win more Pakistani customers by applying a rural market strategy that succeeded in China. It was Wang who had won China Mobile a huge rural customer base starting in 2004 – a move that’s underpinned the company’s high growth rate for years since.

But the strategy failed in Pakistan, partly because rural land needed for telecom bases and equipment is not cheap. Rural property in China, on the other hand, costs far less than urban parcels. In addition, carrier network operations and maintenance have been impeded by weak infrastructure in Pakistan, especially in rural areas.

China Mobile’s lackluster performance in Pakistan can also be attributed to human resources. An investment banker familiar with the company told Caixin that China Mobile executives rejected the advice to retain a Pakistani management team after buying Paktel, and instead dispatched a team of Chinese managers to oversee operations and control critical areas such as human resources and finance.

“The first batch of people sent to Pakistan came from domestic provincial branches of China Mobile,” the banker said. “They did not have good language skills, and therefore encountered serious communication problems.”

China Mobile gradually withdrew its Chinese managerial staff starting in 2009 and switched to a localized approach. The Zong marketing staff, whose job includes overseeing an army of signboards in Islamabad, is now entirely Pakistani.

Another Try for Telecom-Broadcast Reform [March 11, 2011]

Last year’s plan to integrate the nation’s telecom and broadcast operations is dead, but the reform push is still alive

A plan to integrate China’s media networks ground to a halt last year as broadcasters and telecom operators failed to settle their differences.

This year, however, a fresh start may be coming soon as policymakers get involved with new efforts to integrate operations, particularly broadband Internet, through top-down restructuring orders.

Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MITT) chief Miao Wei recently declared the pilot integration plan will not expand this year, telling legislators at the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference sessions that an ambitious project aimed at blending networks had breathed its last.

A source told Caixin that each of 12 cities and provinces involved in the pilot project’s initial stage last year later submitted detailed plans to the central government to push forward the integration. But none received a reply, thus underscoring the government’s interest in trying a fresh approach.

In another signal that the government wants to move forward, Caixin learned MITT recently urged telecom operators to explore possibilities for a new round of restructuring.

That call was followed by a plan floated by telecom operators to break up the nation’s largest mobile phone company, China Mobile, and divide its assets between two telecoms – mobile provider China Unicom and landline giant China Telecom – as well as the nation’s broadcasters.

In a March 7 interview, China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou told Caixin he’s heard the arguments for a new round of telecom reshuffle. But Wang called the idea impractical. And MITT officials denied the existence of a breakup plan.

The nation’s telecoms had strongly opposed an earlier plan to shift some telecom responsibilities to broadcasters floated by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. It called for transferring all 100,000 Internet data facilities run by China Telecom and China Unicom – facilities which see annual revenue at about 6 billion yuan – to cable television companies operating under a proposed, new National Broadcasting Television Network Co.

Broadband Battle

This proposed national broadcast company would operate a broadband cable network supervised by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT). That’s because to many in broadcasting industry, broadband issues pose the greatest barrier to telecom-broadcast integration.

China Telecom and China Unicom currently dominate China’s Internet services by providing broadband networks, the international access, data centers and content flow.

The government lets broadcasters and telecoms alike operate broadband services, and it’s given broadcasters certain advantages. But only telecoms offer international broadband access and intra-network settlement.?

Broadcasters argue that relaxing the telecoms’ monopoly grip on Internet broadband should be a first step toward network integration.

Under the academy of sciences plan, China Telecom and China Unicom would appraise the values of their data center businesses before breaking them up to hand over to the National Broadcasting Television Network Co.. The proposed network company would be responsible for operating and servicing all content on the Internet and TV in China.

Under the plan, MITT would focuses on regulating telecom operations and competition among the country’s three operators – China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile. And the operators would be responsible for building and operating the broadband and Internet access networks.

Meanwhile, SARFT would become responsible for monitoring broadband media content and issuing permits for operating, monitoring and managing the broadband market.

Among those objecting to the plan is Kan Kaili, a professor at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, who argues that network and business operations must be separated in a way that breaks up the monopoly in broadband market. He said any restructuring that creates a larger company with a vertically integrated monopoly would make a bad situation even worse.

Yang Peifang, a telecom expert from the MITT, also opposes the academy’s plan. He said broadband woes are mainly a business problem that would not be resolved through a new administrative monopoly. Yang said service businesses should be developed to encourage orderly competition and make the communications market more profitable.

The central government has long supported giving SARFT responsibility for an integrated broadcast-telecom platform, but telecoms consistently objected.

Luo Mingwei, an official with China Telecom’s Department of Regulatory Affairs, recently wrote in an article for the industry publication People’s Posts and Telecommunications News that the plan to “centralize broadcast and control rights under the broadcasting sector” triggered concerns among network operators. These concerns centered on “whether market operation and industry development is moving toward the market, or rather toward a model integrating politics and business,” he wrote.

Luo’s article underscored the argument that any telecom-broadcast reform will require clearly separating politics and business, and building an industry regulation model that satisfies market needs as well as supports national security.

Yang told Caixin a current priority should be to build and coordinate a regulatory body that oversees broadcasting and telecom management. The next reform moves should create “a complex system that cannot be simplified,” he said.

“It’s hoped that this reform can follow more technological and economic principles, and refer more often to opinions from industry experts,” Yang said.

China Mobile, SPDB Join Hands in Mobile Payment [Nov 26, 2010]

The size of the mobile payment market in 2010 will reach 2.84 billion yuan, while customers are expected to hit 150 million

(Beijing) — Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (SPDB) and China Mobile Ltd. announced a strategic partnership on November 25 in which the two will jointly develop financial services through mobile phones.

According to Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile, the mobile carrier’s equity investment in SPDB was completed in October. China Mobile now holds a 20 percent stake in SPDB.

Xue Jianhua, general manager of SPDB’s electronics department, said that the biggest obstacle for China’s electronic payment services market is the lack of technological and regulatory standards. Backed by the partnership, the two will try to push forward a national standard for mobile payments for mainstream use.

According to Xue, China Mobile and SPDB will launch new products or services under the partnership as early as the second quarter next year.

In 2009, China’s mobile payment market was valued at 1.97 billion yuan with 82.5 million customers. According to consulting group iResearch, the size of the mobile payment market in 2010 will reach 2.84 billion yuan, while customers are expected to hit 150 million.

Xue said that the two will also jointly explore more business cooperation opportunities related to ATM machines and other payment terminals.

How Jack Ma’s Mistake Damaged China’s Market [June 14, 2011]

By secretly transferring Alipay, the Alibaba founder violated contract rights that China should reinforce

Business contract principles and property rights together form a basic cornerstone of the market economy. But contract violations can crack the cornerstone and undermine an entire market structure.

Few people ever thought China’s Jack Ma, the highly successful Internet entrepreneur who frequents international events speaking fluent English, would ever secretly transfer the online payment service Alipay, a core asset of Chinese-foreign joint venture Alibaba Group, to a private firm he controls.

But Ma and his management team, an Alibaba minority shareholder, did indeed transfer Alipay starting in June 2009 and closed the deal in August 2010. A low price was paid, and the process went unreported until recently.

In the face of this outcome, Alibaba’s foreign stakeholders Yahoo and Softbank have two options: They can sit down at the negotiation table with Ma and work out a compensation package, or they can pursue a legal course by suing Ma and his management for maliciously infringing on shareholder interests, and hopefully bring Alipay back to the Alibaba fold.

Yahoo and Softbank together control 70 percent of Alibaba. Currently, Yahoo wants to bargain for compensation while Softbank has refused to talk with Ma, leaving room for maneuvering.

No one knows what will happen next, but public opinion has already rendered judgment. We agree with the majority who say Ma is wrong. He made a mistake by violating contract principles that support the market economy, and his error is having dire consequences.

Ma founded Alibaba and took most of the credit for Alipay’s commercial success. He has every reason to be fully committed to and concerned about the company’s future outlook. And he is well qualified to benefit from Alibaba’s growth.

However, by acting without the consent of Alibaba’s leading shareholders, Ma was presumptuous to transfer the company’s core asset to a concern under his name, for a price too low to be fair. He seriously violated a contract between Alibaba’s shareholders, and the contract between shareholders and management.

Yahoo and Softbank lost a valuable asset. Yahoo’s share price slumped as a result, and now the company faces a class-action lawsuit filed by U.S. shareholders. Unless there was some other kind of agreement that hasn’t been revealed, also seriously damaged were the interests of other members of the managerial staff with stakes in Alibaba.

The ostensible beneficiaries of the transfer were Ma and another Alibaba founding member, Xie Shihuang. Ma owns 80 percent and Xie 20 percent of the private firm that took over Alipay.

Even if Yahoo, Softbank and Ma work out a compensation agreement that’s approved by Alibaba’s board of directors, a basic fact cannot be denied: Management led by Ma took unilateral action and violated a basic principle of commercial society by failing to abide by a contract.

A contract requires credibility and integrity. A violation leads to imbalance and weakens an enterprise. So Ma is paying a heavy price: The international business reputation that he has been building for years has been tarnished, and prospects for Alibaba’s long-term growth have been diminished.

The damage does do not stop there. In economic terms, the move points to a great “negative externality.” If contracts are not respected, an entire society could face an increase in commercial risk that unnecessarily drives up business costs.

Honoring contracts is often a weakness for Chinese companies. It’s not uncommon for insiders to re-appropriate assets. But this old black eye becomes even more pronounced when it involves someone like Ma, an internationally respected figure who’s seen as a representative of Chinese entrepreneurship and, as the Alibaba chief, a success story China can be proud of.

The Alipay transfer at a discount likewise delivered a direct blow to overseas investor confidence in Chinese companies, sapping their trust. That may explain why many who once loved Ma and pinned their hopes on him now feel so much regret.

Of course, Ma’s mistake is not simply a matter of personal integrity. He is an entrepreneur with good credit, as his track record proves. And one reason why he went against contract principles on the Alipay issue is connected to the hesitancy of regulators at the People’s Bank of China.

The central bank for years delayed a regulatory decision on licensing third-party payments businesses such as Alipay. The vague process reflected a less-than-open-minded attitude toward foreign investors in third-party payment operations.

The central bank started soliciting opinions on proposed rules for third-party payment systems back in 2005. In the regulations finally enacted in June 2010, the central bank said foreign-funded third-party operators would have to follow special rules to access the Chinese market and would need State Council approval.

Yet at this point, China can and should open its third-party payment services to foreign investors. It’s unnecessarily complicated to make Chinese and foreign companies follow different sets of rules. So it is regretful that the Alipay transfer by Ma was not only an unwise move but motivated by unwise policy.

Contract fulfillment hinges on a complete institutional arrangement. The planned economy unfortunately disrupted China’s long-standing commercial traditions. Even today, we are still traveling a long, arduous road to build a market economy. In the next stretch, we should create a system in which independent mediators, arbitrators or a judicial force can be summoned to settle contract disputes. Such a legal system is needed to support the market economy. Currently, if Softbank or Yahoo sue Ma in China, the impartiality of Chinese judicial officials would be tested.

The Jack Ma success story is perhaps more famous in today’s China than the original Arabian Nights story of Alibaba. We hope that eventually Ma’s tale has a happy ending. We also hope to see more wealth stories for Chinese companies.

But this is no fairytale scene. There is a real need to uphold the spirit of contractual agreements with honor and integrity, and thus reinforce a solid market economy in China. Reaching this goal has much to do with the future of China’s vibrant commercial system.

China Mobile repositioning for TD-LTE with full content and application aggregation services, 3G [HSPA level] is to create momentum for that

Follow-up: – Good TD-LTE potential for target commercialisation by China Mobile in 2012 [July 13, 2011]

See also: Mobile Internet (Aug’11) which is a total update on Aug 26, 2011 with a lot of additions to the original July 19, 2010 content on the following subjects:
– LTE and LTE Advanced — HSPA Evolved (parallel to LTE and LTE Advanced) — Heterogeneous networks or HetNets — Femtocells and Picocells — Qualcomm innovations in all that — Ericsson’s LTE Advanced demo — Current roadmaps on evolutions of current 3G+ broadband mobile networks

China Mobile to accelerate TD-LTE commercialization [June 10, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

China Mobile reportedly has decided to accelerate its investment in TD-LTE technology aiming to push the commercialization of TD-LTE networks one year ahead of its original schedule, according to industry sources.

The affects of poor sales on the commercialization of its 3G TD-SCDMA networks has pushed China Mobile to move forward into the 4G segment, the sources indicated.

The move by China Mobile has attracted attention from a number of chipset makers including Qualcomm, Sequans Communications, MediaTek and VIA Technologies as well as China-based Spreadtrum Communications, Hisilicon Technologies and Innofidei, as they have all been eyeing the 4G chipset market in China, the sources noted.

MediaTek has decided to expand its R&D team for the development of LTE and WiMAX chips in Taiwan and China, with plans to raid talent from other wireless chipmakers as well as from HTC, said the sources, noting that MediaTek also does not rule out the possibility of acquiring related LTE R&D teams at home and abroad later.

Global opportunities for LTE TDD [Ovum, February 2011]

Quite often, LTE TDD (also known as TD-LTE) is wrongly presented as a Chinese technology. … However, unlike TD-SCDMA, which was originally a Chinese technology that was subsequently adopted by 3GPP, LTE TDD has been part of the 3GPP standardization effort since its inception. … China Mobile learned at its cost with TD-SCDMA that being a 550 million customer mobile operator helps to attract vendor attention but is not enough to make a technology a global success. The operator consequently built a strategy to position LTE as the next GSM, making LTE the de facto global standard for mobile broadband – something most cellular operators would welcome for cost reasons.

China Mobile is facing several challenges with TD-SCDMA. One of the most acute relates to the smaller economies of scale associated with a weaker device ecosystem compared to UMTS/HSPA. This is why China Mobile quickly oriented its long-term mobile broadband strategy towards LTE TDD. … In terms of LTE TDD network expansion, we believe that it could be faster than TD-SCDMA as the network will leverage many aspects of the current TD-SCDMA network including cell site facilities, backhaul, and even parts of the base stations. … Despite the large scale of the trials, the drawback of a 1H12 launch is the impact it may have on the development of the LTE TDD ecosystem. Fortunately for the technology, another significant market, India, may launch commercial LTE TDD services before the end of 2011.

It is Ovum’s view that LTE TDD will become widely adopted in the global market, but this will take time, as exemplified by our forecasts. There will be a delay of 12–18 months between the take-off of the two LTE variants. For LTE FDD take-off should be around 2012–13, while it is expected that this will be around 2013–14 for LTE TDD. We forecast 89 million LTE TDD connections by 2015, representing roughly 25% of total LTE connections.

First Pre-commercial LTE TDD/FDD Uni-Mode Single Chipset USB Dongle to be Launched in June [June 9, 2011]

In June 2011, the world’s first pre-commercial LTE TDD/FDD uni-mode, multi-band, single chipset USB dongle supporting LTE TDD/FDD idle mobility (cell reselection) will be launched by Huawei Hisilicon. Successful completion of the IOT tests with all of the 10 infrastructure vendorsindicated that it had fully satisfied the Uu IOT and terminal test requirements of MIIT and CMCC.

Detailed  design parameters are as follows:

The TD-LTE USB Dongle makes an unprecedented advance in functionality, performance, form factor, and interoperability. Prior to the launch of this pre-commercial TD-LTE dongle, 3 other critical development stages were completed:

  1. The first release of TD-LTE single-mode USB dongle test samples were released at the Shanghai World EXPO in mid 2010. All the terminals were custom-designed for the trial/ demonstration with the 65nm chipset design. Most of them passed the IOT tests with 1-2 infrastructures.
  2. The first release of LTE TDD/FDD dual-mode Single Chipset USB (65nm design) dongle test samples were released at GSMA MWC 2011 in February 2011. The USB dongles provided by Huawei Hisilicon and Qualcomm can support TD-LTE and LTE FDD in a single chip. The dongle is designed to support TD-LTE or LTE FDD based on the software that is loaded.  IOT tests with 3-4 infrastructrues were passed during this phase.
  3. The pre-commercial TD-LTE single-mode multi-band USB dongles (45nm design) were launched during the GTI 1st workshop in April 2011. These were targeted for trial applications and installations. More than 20 TD-LTE USB dongles from ZTE provided problem free services during the two-day GTI workshop. The DL peak data rate reached 80Mbps and the average single user DL data rate reached 4Mbps. The dongle demonstrated the commercial readiness, stable performance and rapid development of the TD-LTE dongle.

The development quickly progressed from a 65nm test sample to a pre-commercial, Full IOT, Uni-mode, 45nm solution in less than a year. TD-LTE Large Scale Trials in China and commercial deployment in India and Japan will speed up its commercial readiness. The TD-LTE dongle will be commercially available in 2011.

Spreadtrum Communications Acquired Stake in MobilePeak Holdings, Ltd., a Leading UMTS/HSPA+ Modem Chipset Designer [June 9, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Spreadtrum Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRD; “Spreadtrum” or the “Company”), a leading fabless semiconductor provider in China with advanced technology in both 2G and 3G wireless communications standards, today announced that it has acquired approximately 48.44% of the total outstanding shares of MobilePeak Holdings, Ltd. (’MobilePeak’), a privately held fabless semiconductor company based in Shanghai and San Diego that specializes in the design of highly integrated UMTS/HSPA+ modem chipsets.

Spreadtrum acquired approximately 48.44% of MobilePeak’s total outstanding shares, and provided a short-term loan to MobilePeak for the repayment of MobilePeak’s outstanding convertible bridge loans, for an aggregate cash consideration of approximately US$32.58 million. Spreadtrum intends to purchase all of MobilePeak’s issued and outstanding shares, and expects to complete the acquisition in the third quarter of 2011. Thanks to MobilePeak’s efficient operations, Spreadtrum expects the acquisition to have a minor impact on its earnings per share in Q2 and the remaining quarters in 2011, and Spreadtrum maintains its Q2 2011 guidance in terms of revenue, gross margin, and operating expenses as a percentage of revenue.

Commenting on the transaction, Spreadtrum’s Chairman, President and CEO, Dr. Leo Li, said, ’We are very pleased and excited to welcome the MobilePeak team. The synergies between the two companies and the opportunities created by this transaction are clear. With MobilePeak’s complete UMTS/HSPA+ solution, we will broaden our portfolio of worldwide wireless handset technologies, and make inroads into the WCDMA feature phone, smart phone and tablet markets.

“Utilizing our advanced 40nm technology, mature GSM/GPRS/EDGE and TD-SCDMA platforms, and working closely with MobilePeak’s Shanghai and San Diego teams, we will be well equipped to expand our international market shares. These capabilities are also a solid foundation for developing the next generation multi-mode FDD-LTE/WCDMA and TDD-LTE/TD-SCDMA technologies over the next two years.”

Mr. Qiuzhen (Joe) Zou, Chairman and President of MobilePeak, said, ’ We are eager to work with the Spreadtrum team. Since MobilePeak’s inception in 2005, our team has developed world-class baseband chipsets with support for 3GPP Standard through Release 7, including HSPA+ technology up to Category 14 with 21Mbps maximum downlink speed and 11Mbps maximum uplink speed. MobilePeak has more than 100 patents granted or pending worldwide, and its solutions have passed GCF tests and top-tier handset makers’ strict in-house tests. We are confident to roll out the first 40nm HSPA+ solution platform for feature phones and smart phones by 2012.’Mr. Zou will assume the role of Chief Technology Officer at Spreadtrum.

Mr. Zou founded MobilePeak in 2005 and has since served as MobilePeak’s Chairman. He served as MobilePeak’s Chief Technology Officer from 2005 to 2010 and assumed the position of President in 2010. Mr. Zou has more than 18 years of experience in the wireless communications industry. From 1993 to 2003, Mr. Zou held various positions with QUALCOMM, Inc., where he became a Vice President of Engineering in 2000. At QUALCOMM, Mr. Zou led various semiconductor design projects, including multiple generations of CDMA baseband chipsets. Mr. Zou received a BSEE from Southeast University in Nanjing, China in 1992, followed by an MSEE from Stanford University in 1993.

China market: 3G network investment totals CNY289 billion [June 14, 2011]

China Mobile, China United Telecommunications and China Telecom have cumulatively invested a total of CNY289 billion (US$43 billion) in setting up 3G networks consisting of 697,000 base stations around China, China-based http://www.xinhua.com has cited Ministry of Industry and Information Technology officials as indicating.

The three carriers had 67.57 million 3G subscribers in total as of the end of April 2011, the report indicated.

Goal for domestic 3G network set at 50m users [June 9, 2011]

The Chinese government has set a target of achieving more than 50 million third-generation (3G) mobile users by the end of 2011 for its homegrown telecommunication standard, but analysts predict the technology may not be the biggest winner in the 3G era.

Zhao Bo, deputy director of the electronics and information department with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said on Wednesday that China should continue to push forward its TD-SCDMA (Time Division-Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) 3G technology.

“The TD-SCDMA technology should realize its strategic target of acquiring at least one-third of China’s market, and grab 50 million users by the end of this year,” Zhao said.

He said he is confident that China Mobile Ltd, the world’s biggest telecom carrier by users, will achieve the goal within the schedule.

China Mobile is building the TD-SCDMA 3G network in China, while its domestic rivals, China Unicom Ltd and China Telecom Corp Ltd, adopted the WCDMA and CDMA2000 3G technologies.

Ye Lin, an official from the technology department of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said since the three Chinese telecom operators obtained 3G licenses in early 2009, China has made major progress in 3G network development.

The three carriers have invested a total of 289 billion yuan ($44.6 billion) in 3G network construction in the past three years, Ye said. More than 697,000 3G base stations have been set up in the same period, he added.

The ministry recently announced that the number of 3G users in China reached 67.6 million by April.

China Mobile topped the list with 29.4 million, and China Unicom followed with 20.4 million. The smallest telecom carrier, China Telecom, had 17.8 million by April.

The great leap forward: How the world’s largest operator aims to jump one generation [Ericsson Business Review, June 10, 2011] interview with Bill Huang, GM of the China Mobile Research Institute (emphasis is mine)

China Mobile is pushing the time division (TD) flavor of LTE hard. Why is it necessary to have more than one kind of LTE, and what benefits does TD offer end users?

To understand, you must look back at what caused this technology evolution. There was an understanding that to go digital we must have a global standard. There were many candidates but they fell apart. GSM was a very good effort and succeeded in becoming the first real global standard. Then came 3G. In retrospect, 3G was a questionable development. It optimized voice capacity and quality but data traffic was kind of an afterthought. GSM did the job just fine. The best example is China Mobile. We deployed the world’s largest GSM network with the lowest tariffs, and never saw the need for a better voice service. 3G was a solution looking for a problem. And indeed, WCDMA did not take off until HSPA was developed. So from a historical perspective, HSPA was the only killer application for WCDMA, and internet access is the only reason HSPA took off.

Mobile internet is the only growth area for mobile communicationLTE carries the heritage of GSM and WCDMA with it … the selection of TD technology as a strong candidate in the evolution of LTE gives us an internet advantage. Historically, mobile communication has been symmetrical, dominated by voice. Internet traffic is not symmetrical. Downlink is typically 10 times faster than uplink, and addresses this. TD is unique in the way you can adjust the uplink and downlink ratio. And that’s why TD has become very useful – not only does it allow operators to use spectrum more efficiently, it also offers consumers a better user experience and lower costs.

How will China Mobile use 3G?

We will accelerate. For China Mobile 3G is an important licensing issue, and we are building a 3G infrastructure to create the momentum [with 3G HSPA level?] with which we move towards 4G.

Isn’t that a long way off in the future? Don’t you need to develop mobile broadband now?

Completely wrong! We are targeting commercialization next year, not in five years. In fact, operators in India and Japan plan to go commercial this year, but we are not that aggressive. So you see: 4G is not being pushed by the vendors, like 3G was. 4G is being pushed by the carriers. LTE is the only standard in the industry where, if you have a product, people will buy it right away. It’s  the reverse of how things used to be, and very interesting. LTE is being developed fast, but not fast enough.

Instead of looking at data volume, we can charge for downloading a movie, regardless of size, or a song or a book. We have all of that already in place. But frankly I don’t think consumers are used to content based billing, so we need to educate them – in many cases. … China Mobile’s strategy is that we will be a content and application aggregator, therefore becoming a smart pipe – not a dumb pipe that just provides access without aggregating anything. So we become the Walmart of information.

Instead of charging for content or traffic we can create a club. People are familiar with that concept. You pay one monthly charge and everything is free. It’s very effective; Netflix is a good example of a subscription based service that I think has a very good future as a business model. At China Mobile we can do anything with scale, but we can’t do everything in a niched or personalized way. So, if we provide a club we get to leverage that scale. We have 600 million subscribers. If only 10 percent sign up, that’s already 60 million members. If just 1 percent sign up, that’s 6 million members.

How do you handle the threat from the over-the-top (OTT) players, the internet companies?

It is a very real threat: OTT services can now replace almost any communications service imaginable. ott services are usually free, so this business model is based on backward billing. … What we hope to entice the user with is the quality of service – that’s our most important competitive advantage. … we must also look to reduce the cost of our services, potentially making them free as well. If we use other ways to generate revenue – like advertising or the club concept, and the user subscribes to a bandwidth bundle – we could provide the voice club service for a fixed fee, while guaranteeing the quality. Then I think we could kill off OTT very easily.

What do you expect from the cloud?

For mobile internet we have established a three-front strategy: LTE; the smartphone (operating Ophone, which is based on Android plus); and cloud computing. Only by combining all three can we create a really competitive and successful mobile-internet business.

We believe the cloud is an infrastructure technology that can address the cost of computing, reduce energy consumption and become a common platform for society, consumers and companies. Historically telecom operators have been reluctant to embrace it, but this was a mistake. In the US, I think carriers have already given up. They allow Google, Amazon and Microsoft to run cloud computing. But there are opportunities for China Mobile. If anything, we can do infrastructure on a large scale, data centers and so on. We do not have to develop all of the internet services in the world to compete with Google or Facebook. What we could do is build a cloud-computing infrastructure and invite all the internet companies to partner with us.

The most important phenomenon that will drive change in the mobile communications industry today is the evolution of smart phones. What used to be a communications device is now an all-purpose computing device. Today, fewer than 20 percent of our subscribers use smartphones. We think that in three to five years over 80 percentof our subscribers will use smartphones.

Have tablets changed this picture?

No, I see them as just bigger smartphones. In fact, Microsoft and others have tried for many years to introduce tablets and failed. But when Apple introduced the iPad, which is just a big iPhone, everybody loved it. So, this proves that a successful tablet is a big smartphone. The look and feel is very similar to that of a phone.

How do you work with the app store concept?

We embraced it completely and the way we differ from Apple is that we support all operating systems – including iOS if Apple wants us to. … We hope to create a platform that is independent of operating systems. … The reason China Mobile chose Android was that we need the flexibility to differentiate. We need to add components, APIs and functionality to Android. That’s why we call it Android plus.

I don’t know if video is going to be a major revenue stream, but I am sure it’s going to be a major application. I say that because making video calls on IMS [IP Multimedia System]will become an internet application, so it depends on how we charge for it. It opens up the potential for more creative billing strategies. We would be able to deliver a level of quality that would be very difficult for an ott player to achieve.

We studied what kind of apps users download and you’d be surprised how similar people’s tastes are. The top 1,000 apps have a 99-percent share of the market. That’s very good news for operators. We are not very good at long tail, but we are definitely good at short tail.

We want a mobile phone to be able to transmit TV to a large screen – so you can watch the program on your phone’s small screen or your computer screen, but also take it with you when you visit someone and watch it together on a large screen, in high definition. You won’t need the DVD. The mobile becomes the set-top box. So China Mobile doesn’t need a three-screen strategy – we only need a one-phone strategy. We are working on a wireless multimedia transmission technology called WiMo for this, and expect it to be available in two to three years.

Are you ready for mobile banking?

To be frank, we have not figured out which technology’s the right one to get the credit card or the payment mechanism into the phone. The most viable one for phones would be near-field communication (NFC). We have already established our architecture for mobile commerce and an account system with connections to all the banks, so from a service point of view we already have everything in place. What we need right now is for more phones to have the capability to carry the mobile payment and transaction engine – the right chip and components to support it, along with NFC.

Is banking a comfortable area for operators?

We don’t necessarily have to compete with the banks. We can rather just be the wallet and charge a monthly fee for the service. In other words, the banks can issue the cards and put them into our phones. We will make our platform open for all the banks. We don’t have to issue our own cards; all we have to do is to become the channel for the credit cards. And then we can make money. It is a great service – to sign up you don’t have to fill in a lot of forms; we have all the customer data that is needed.

How China institutional changes influence industry development? The case of TD-SCDMA industrialization [May 25, 2011]

… in view of that China state capitalizing on different SOEs and accompanying institutional changes, we further break framework into two time-periods:
– During stage 1 (2002- 2008) that China central government started to support Datang Group, aiming to commercialize TD-SCDMA technology into products. State also assigned Datang to lead TDIA [TD-SCDMA Industry Alliance designed to function as the platform of TD-SCDMA development, involving the activities of setting standard, sharing IPR, organizing supply chain, and coordinating among members] for TD-SCDMA industrialization.
– In stage 2 (2009-present), China state turned to mandate China Mobile to promote TD-SCDMA, not only responsible for networking building and service providing, but also for organizing of mobile handset supply chain (Wang and Tsai, 2010).

The R&D capacity of Datang Group as a whole is questionable, despite that Datang set home-grown TD-SCDMA standard (interview ES1). Since 1992, CATT had received national grant to undergo the earliest home-grown standard (SCDMA, 2G), but failed to commercialize due to weak R&D capacity in commercialize large-scale system development (Chen, 2005; Soh and Yu, 2010)11. Second, Datang XiAn, founded in 1993 and specializing for telecommunication equipment manufacturing for digital automatic switching (SPC) product, can not compete with local minying enterprise Huawei and mixed enterprise ZTE since late 90’s to early 2000’s (Fuller, 2005: 201; Harwit, 2007; Liu, 2008).

… the Datang Group is state-owned enterprise spin off from CATT, and they didn’t directly confront market and no pressure for survival(interview ES1and IS1). Although state continuously channeled national resources to compensate the loss (cf. Table 1 2004 negative profit) from developing TD-SCDMA and that Datang Mobile indeed deployed on R&D and accomplish some patents, Datang Group as a whole can not develop innovation capacity in designing parts and testing whole TD-SCDMA network system. One of the reason is that Datang Group lacked of associated knowledge and experience before (Soh and Yu, 2010).

The same situation occurs in TD-SCDMA mobile terminal products. The joint ventures IC design firms of Datang and MNCs, such as T3G or Commit, launched none of TD-SCDMA products to the market and ended up merged by ST-Ericsson or bankrupted. Likewise, Datang Mobile fruited no complete TD-SCMDA handset, so the state turned to university and public-sector research institutes to support the development of TD-SCDMA (Liu, 2008, 2009).

TDIA also confronted frustration in knowledge sharing and organizing of supply network. There’s no patent license-out or cross-license among member (Sumtttier et al., 2006; Whalley et al., 2009), except occasional license out from Datang to ZTE and Putian (Soh and Yu, 2010). Theoretically, Datang supposed to invite and global companies, such as Huawei and ZTE, into the supply chain of TD-SCDMA and leverage on their experience. But Datang, as the father of TD-SCDMA, tried to protect and guard their child (interview ES1). On the other hand, the R&D capacity of Huawei and ZTE outperformed Datang, so Huawei and ZTE won’t bother to join Datang on patent sharing and further on TD-SCDMA technology/product (interview RS4 and RS6).

State pick winner [and looser] SOE as national team

By contrast to Datang, the state evolves to pick China Mobile as the new national team by assessing past performance as selection criteria. First, China Mobile has near 500 million (end of 2008) users, making it as the largest telecom operator worldwide (BMI, 2010). So it’s a feasible path to migrate most China users from 2G (GSM) to home-grown standard (Interview, ES1). Second, China Mobile is most profitable and potential operator in China that China Mobile had the capacity and capital to promote TD-SCDMA (Interview ES1, SS2, ES1).

… the state threatens China Mobile: TD-SCDMA or none of 3G licenses. Coupled with impact on Mr. Wang’s political career, China Mobile has no choice but to promote TD-SCDMA (Interview ES1). On the other hand, the state also subsidizes RMB$10 billion (SinoCast, 2009) to compensate for potential loss estimated RMB $30 billion each year (Interview RS5).

In short, China state changes institutional means of supporting core SOE by both subsidies and threat, rather than carrot without stick. The state also changes to assess SOE’s past performance for prospects of TD-SCDMA. Despite the mandatory mission, China Mobile indeed starts to recruit R&D staff with high salary (Interview RS5) and experiments several innovations on TD-SCDMA network deployment, mobile phone launch, and service package to users (Interview IS1).

For the particular case of TD-SCDMA development, this paper contributes to discover that China state experiments and adapts institutions, along with the mentality adjusted from ‘standard matters’ to ‘R&D capacity rules’. More, the macro-level institutional learning also leads to meso-level institutional adaptation in the telecommunication industry. China Mobile acts as a mediator between state and network of firms, with the resources re-distribution and demand for collective action through the whole supply chain. Therefore, China Mobile not only managed to offer users with innovative service and networking build through in-house R&D, but also to organize the preliminary formation of TD-SCDMA production networks.

China Mobile, as a customer rather than rival of equipment manufacturers, had invested RMB$148 billion during 2008 to 2010 through four stages bids of infrastructure construction (BMI, 2010; IEK, 2010). Both local and global firms, such as SOEs Datang and Putian, minying Huawei and MNCs Nokia-Siemens, all compete for TD-SCDMA network building (Wang and Tsai, 2010). The final winners are Huawei and ZTE, for their cheaper but good product quality than MNCs’ and SOEs’ (Interview ES2). It indicates that China Mobile also selects their cooperating partners basing on market performance as the foremost criteria. This is different from the previously protectionism signal that Datang sent, since the SOE was targeted to dominate China market under the umbrella of MIIT, and which formulated the national industrial policy.

China Mobile also realizes that the biggest problem of TD-SCDMA industrialization is the shortage of TD-SCDMA handsets in the market. Under the pressure from mission and profit, China Mobile urges their current partners (e.g. Nokia and Motorola) to produce TD-SCDMA products through replicating the same incentives tools that state imposed upon China Mobile. That is, China Mobile, basing on their market significance, threatens their main suppliers (e.g. Nokia and Motorola): TD-SCDMA products or none of other business (Interview IS1). On the other hand, China Mobile first offered RMB$ 600 million to three chipsets designers and nine handset suppliers, to induce these leading firms to offer cheap products to penetrate China market. Thus, Nokia, HTC, Samsung and some local firms started to launch TD-SCDMA handsets. Most of all, China Mobile plays as a coordinator to integrate the supply chain, from upstream IC design firms to downstream  manufacturers (Interview IS1).

China Mobile awards 12 companies TD-SCDMA research grants [May 17, 2009] (p. 4, emphasis is mine)

China Mobile will provide funding of RMB 600 million ($87.77 million) to 12 mobile phone and chip manufacturers for the research and development (R & D) of terminal devices based on the homegrown TD-SCDMA standard, China Mobile announced on May 17.

According to the announcement, the 12 companies include nine mobile phone manufacturers, namely Motorola Inc., Samsung Corp., Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific Co. Ltd., Dopod Communication Corp., LG Electronics (China) Co. Ltd., ZTE Corp., Hisense Group, Guangzhou New Postcom Equipment Co. Ltd. and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. along with three chip makers, namely T3G Technology Co. Ltd., MediaTek Inc., and Spreadtrum Communications Co. Ltd.

As China Mobile stipulated that chip makers and mobile phone manufacturers pair up in the R & D project, T3G will work with Motorola, Samsung, Dopod and Huawei while MediaTek will work with Yulong, ZTE and LG. Spreadtrum will collaborate with Hisense and New Postcom.

Motorola, Samsung, Yulong, Dopod and LG, together with their chip maker partners [T3G and MediaTek], will receive combined funding of RMB 310 million ($45.35 million) from China Mobile for R & D of high-end TD-SCDMA mobile phones. The remaining mobile phone manufacturers [Huawei, ZTE, Hisense and New Postcom], together with their chip maker partners [T3G, MediaTek and Spreadtrum], will be responsible for R & D of low-end TD-SCDMA mobile phones and will receive combined funding worth RMB 290 million ($42.42 million) from China Mobile, the announcement said.

China Mobile Reveals TD-SCDMA Handset Subsidy Bidding Results [May 17, 2009] (emphasis is mine)

On May 17, China Mobile (NYSE: CHL; 0941.HK) held a signing ceremony for subsidies targeted at joint TD-SCDMA handset R&D, with nine handset manufacturers and three chip manufacturers signing a “cooperative R&D” agreement. China Mobile will invest RMB 600 mln in the subsidies, driving total investment of over RMB 1.2 bln in TD-SCDMA R&D, with the remaining contributions coming from participating vendors.

6 joint bids won subsidies for China Mobile’s “Flagship Broadband Internet Handset” project: Motorola and 3G chip manufacturer T3G; Samsung and T3G; mobile handset manufacturer Yulong and TD-SCDMA chipmaker Leadcore Technology; Smartphone manufacturer Dopod and T3G; LG Electronics and Leadcore; and ZTE and Leadcore. China Mobile will invest approximately RMB 310 mln in the project.

For the “Low Cost 3G Handset” project, the five successful bids were ZTE and Leadcore; LG and Leadcore; Hisense and wireless baseband chipset provider Spreadtrum Communications (Nasdaq: SPRD); Guangzhou New Postcom and Spreadtrum; and handset manufacturer Huawei and T3G. China Mobile will provide approximately RMB 290 mln of funding for this project.

7 months later these 11 handsets were shown [as per China Mobile’s Dec 17, 2009 press release in Chinese

China Mobile‘s 200 Models of TD Mobile Phone Listing This Year [March 18, 2011]

Recenly Li Yue, president of China Mobile, attended the Results Announcement said that China Mobile has an adequate supply in the 3G mobile phones. Currently, 50 companies are available to TD phones, and another 200 models will be able to supply soon.

At the end of last year, China Mobile has conducted 6 million low-end TD mobile phones tender. And in February this year, China Mobile has conducted 12.2 million high-end TD mobile phones procurement, of which, about 150 million units flagship Internet terminals, 30 million units dual card dual standby terminals, 320 million units multimedia intelligent terminals, 400 million units fashion and entertainment terminals and 320 million units universal intelligent terminals.

Xue Taohai, vice president of China Mobile, said the group will control the handset subsidies in 17.5 billion yuan. It is reported that China Mobile set a new goal for 25 million 3G users this year, and the current 3G network has covered 656 cities.

China Mobile Changes Strategy in Terminal Procurement [April 22, 2011]

Foreign mobile phone makers that has been disappointed in the bidding invitation of China Mobile Ltd. (SEHK: 0941 and NYSE: CHL) for centralized procurement of 6 million TD-SCDMA terminals last year, have turned things around in this year’s first round of centralized procurement kicked off by the leading telecommunications carrier.

Reporters find out that foreign mobile phone makers have won more than half of the share in recent centralized procurement, indicating that China Mobile has adjusted its philosophy in terms of the development of TD-SCDMA terminals, pointed out an insider who declines to reveal his name, saying that the company is not satisfied about current situation for the distribution of TD-SCDMA mobile phones.

A top executive of China Mobile opens out that the sales volume of TD-SCDMA terminals is small, indirectly confirming the report, saying that TD-SCDMA mobile phones have bad quality and high prices.

In the opinion of a researcher of iSuppli, China Mobile has changed its strategy to snatch market share and enlarge user base through low-end TD-SCDMA terminals and will improve the brand influence and boost the sales volume of TD-SCDMA mobile phones through the promotion of flagship terminals.

At the end of 2010, a domestic TD-SCDMA chipmaker has begun preparing for the next year’s centralized procurement of TD-SCDMA mobile phones by China Mobile, since the distribution of TD-SCDMA terminals completely relies on telecom carriers.

The top management of the chipmaker has been determined to win the centralized procurement. However, in February 2011, the announcement of China Mobile about the result disappointed them.

China Mobile has focused on medium- and high-end mobile phones in this year’s first round of centralized procurement while bid winners were all domestic TD-SCDMA terminal makers last year.

The changing philosophy of China Mobile is unfavorable to domestic mobile phone makers, which are mostly oriented to the manufacturing of medium- and low-end TD-SCDMA terminals.

Take the example of upstream chipmaker Leadcore Technology Co., Ltd., its shipment of TD-SCDMA chips topped 13 million in 2010. In last year’s centralized procurement, the company took over half of the share.

In contrast, US IC designer Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL) that is oriented to the medium- and high-end TD-SCDMA smart phone market is likely to snatch more than half of the share in the latest centralized procurement.

Whatever strategy China Mobile adheres to, its aim will not change. That is to attract more customers for TD-SCDMA mobile phones. A top executive of Leadcore Technology believes that high-end TD-SCDMA terminals will help China Mobile improve its brand influence. But, to boost sales volume, the company still has to rely on medium- and low-end mobile phones.

(1 USD = CNY 6.51) Source: http://www.nf.nfdaily.cn (April 22, 2011)

Muted group procurement result of TD smartphone in May, indicating backend loaded demand with low SP mix in 2011 [May 24, 2011]

Leadcore, Huawei, and Borqs indicated that China Mobile (CM) procured only 1.2mn TD smartphone (SP) with a minimum order of 200,000 for each model, well below the market expectation of 12mn units with minimum guaranteed order of 800,000 per model. CM has selected six models (three Ophone, two Android, and one feature phone) from Huawei, ZTE, Samsung, Lenovo, Motorola, and Coolpad. They attributed the disappointing central procurement result of TD smartphone to relatively poor quality of phones. That said, Leadcore believes that MIIT has required CM to add 30mn TD-SCDMA subs in 2011 and TD terminal or chipset shipment is likely to be 53mn in 2011. Leadcore is hopeful that feature phone and SP could represent most of the TD phones with fixed wireless terminals at only 3-4mn in 2011. Leadcore expects CM to shift to open channels, which also receives a subsidy through contracts with provincial or local CM subsidiaries; and we predict the mix of open channel and central procurement to increase from 30% and 70% in 2011 to 70% and 30% in 2012, respectively. Similarly, Spreadtrum also expects TD chipset market to reach 45-50mn in central procurement (fixed wireless 35%, feature phone 50%, smartphone 10-15%), and 60mn-70mn units in total (including the open channel). Spreadtrum has seen strong recent demand from open channel. We note that open channel tends to sell more feature phones and fixed wireless phones.

Leadcore and Spreadtrum aim to gain TD market share in 2011

Leadcore believes that it has 50% of TD market share together with Mediatek. Marvell has relocated some of its R&D resources to China and is getting support from OEM. CM would like to give 60% of its SP orders to Marvell. However, in a recent stability test by CM, Leadcore scored at 95% pass rate, with T3G at 93% and MRVL at only 65%.

Rumor: China Mobile Establishes National Handset Procurement Arm [May 27, 2011]

An industry source said recently that China Mobile (NYSE: CHL; 0941.HK) has circulated a memo internally announcing the establishment of a terminals center, to be announced officially in August, that will operate as a national-level handset procurement subsidiary. The operator is currently making necessary internal adjustments in order to transfer staff to the new center.

The new terminals center will be operated like a division of China Mobile, overseen directly by China Mobile headquarters, and will focus on terminal procurement and sales. The center will be comprised of several departments, including products, procurement, marketing, channels, systems support, general services, and finance. While it is being referred to internally as the “mobile terminals center,” externally it will operate like a company.

Previously, the source said, China Mobile’s headquarters had been separate from provincial-level procurement operations, which it will now unify under the new terminals center. If a handset manufacturer is not on the center’s supplier list, it will be unable to promote its handset through provincial subsidiaries.

Earlier reports claimed that China Mobile had planned to transform handset distributor Topssion, which it acquired in March, into a terminal sales subsidiary.

Borqs Unveils Latest OPhone Handsets at 14th China Beijing International High-tech Expo [May 20, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

With the coming of the World Telecommunications Day, the 14th China Beijing International High-tech Expo (the Expo) opened at China International Exhibition Center from May 18th to 22nd, 2011. This Expo was co-organized by several state departments of China, including the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Many innovative enterprises participated into the Expo with their innovation achievements. Borqs, one of the members of China’s National Special Key Projects, were also invited and exhibited the new serial of TD smartphones running on OPhone OS 2.0 or higher.

From “Made in China” to “Created in China”, and then to “China Standards”, enterprises based in Zhongguancun have always been committed to innovation and development since their establishment. As technology advancement and industry transfer are seen everywhere around the world, China Mobile developed and launched the first 3G standard in China, TD-SCDMA, a decade plus ago. As of today, China Mobile has maintained 61.9 million 3G mobile users as well as 26.99 million TD-SCDMA users. Recently, Mr. Jianzhou Wang, the Chairman of China Mobile, pointed out that TD system was no longer a test network but a commercial one covering 656 cities around China with the joint efforts of China Mobile and its industry partners from within and outside the country. Especially, the TD-SCDMA industry chain has emerged in recent years,, consisting of near 50 telecommunication enterprises, including many manufacturers and providers of network, terminals and chips, in and outside China.

OPhone OS is closely related to TD. Up to now, OPhone smartphones account for 50% of TD smartphones. At the Expo, a wide range of TD terminals are exhibited, including many new OPhone-based models. Following its receiving recognition from the state officials at the prior 11th Five-year Plan Major Science & Technology Achievements Exhibition, OPhone OS continued to be all the rage and attracted many visitors at the Expo.

TD-LTE Industry Briefing – May 2011 by China Mobile [May 27, 2011]

TD-LTE Large Scale Trial in China Update –All 6 Cities Have Launched Base Stations

  • All 6 cities have launched base stations. The number of launched Base Stations has reached 20% of the planned ones.
  • The planning of continuous coverage in hot spot areas has been completed in all 6 cities. The constructions are under way:
    – 78% supporting facilities modification accomplished
    – 69% equipments arrived
    – 35% equipments installed
      • Transmission tests have been completed in several cities
      • EPC and Security tests initiated in several cities in April 2011
      • RANtests are planned to start in the end of May 2011TD

GTI Official Website: http://www.lte-tdd.org

The GTI official website was launched during the 1st GTI Workshop [on 27-28 April 2011 in Guangzhou, China]. The website shares the latest information about TD-LTE related News, Events, Reports and Statistics. GTI operators have the rights to access the Working Space on GTI website for technical presentations and further deliverables of GTI.

China Mobile Almost Finishes Pilot TD-LTE Network Deployment [June 7, 2011]

China Mobile, one of the Big Three telecom operators in the country, has completed deployment of a pilot TD-LTE network in most of the cities selected for a planned test, disclosed people familiar with the matter today.

Most of the system equipment makers have completed the first TD-LTE call in cooperation with the branches of China Mobile, according to one of the people, noting that additional telecom equipment makers are expected to make a presence in the program for an expansion of the test.

The TD-LTE network test, kicked off on March 24 with the releasing of document from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), has been going on smoothly reflected by a group of telecom equipment makers’ success in TD-LTE call.

Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd., one of the top-ranking telecom equipment makers in the country, helped launch the first TD-LTE wireless connection in Shenzhen on April 6, facilitating the rollout of high-speed download service and high-definition video service based on the TD-LTE data card.

TD LTE to revolutionize wireless broadband [May 31, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

During the second international LTE conference held in New Delhi, the industry said that it has become imperative to deploy LTE technology to set standards. With numerous benefits of TD LTE, the industry is graping with deployment challenges while early availability of devices has become another area of concern. Bharti Airtel is conducting trial in Chandigarh. The deployment of TD LTE at right time as well as availability of devices will be a challenge, and it is coming out with a lot of hope.

Speaking at the event, J Gopal, Advisor (Technology), DoT said that they are looking forward for this technology to bridge digital divide and facilitate economic growth. With various consumer-centric advantages, TD LTE is becoming an important tool for every operator today while some of them have already begun trials.

“Eventually we see migration from WiMax to TD LTE and significantly there is a global initiative to promote it. India and China are the leading contenders of this technology, which is mature now,” said Sujit Bakre, head, 4G business development and product management (APAC), Nokia Siemens Networks. Large investments have already been done on 2G/3G and now we should leverage voice onto TD LTE, he added. Bakre reiterated that they bagged two commercial deals in Middle-East and Latin America but however couldn’t name the operators.

Puneet Garg, VP, Networks, Bharti Airtel said that TD LTE is a next step towards broadband wireless and is the fastest BWA technology and has become a realty now. “It will make high speed wireless broadband affordable to urban and rural consumers. This technology facilitate low TCO”, he added.

Rajan S Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India said that broadband is the single big imperative for the country. “As we are poised to be the largest economy by 2050, therefore we couldn’t afford to miss the broadband bus,” he said. Mathews said that the government is aggressively implementing the national policy on broadband and TD LTE is a great opportunity for the country to get into building standards.

20 Operators Have Joined GTI [May 19, 2011]

Following the 1st GTI Workshop, GTI has gained strong momentum. Till May 19th, 20 operators from Europe, Asia, America and Oceania have formally joined GTI.

These 20 GTI operators are:

Aero2, Belltell, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, Clearwire, Datame, E-Plus, FarEastone, First International Telecom Corp,KT, Omantel, Nextwave, Packet One, Smoltelecom, SoftBank, Tatung Infocomm, Vividwireless, Vodafone, Voentelecom, Woosh.

GTI was formed to promote the TD-LTE ecosystem as a major standard in mobile broadband technology and drive the early development TD-LTE networks. Seven operators including Aero2, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, Clearwire, E-Plus, Softbank Mobile and Vodafone jointly kicked off GTI activities in February during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

GTI objectives are:

1) Energizing the creation of a world-class and a growth-focused business environment;

2) Delivering great customer experience and bringing operational efficiencies;

3) Promoting convergence of TD-LTE and LTE FDD in order to maximize the economy of scale;

4) Facilitating multilateral cooperation between and/or among operators.

GTI has started preparing the 2nd Workshop and initiated the discussions on the technical areas which will be investigated among GTI operators.

Vividwireless joins global TD-LTE promotion initiative [May 19, 2011]

vividwireless a Seven Group Holdings Limited [media-related] company, owns and operates Australia’s first 4G wireless broadband network. vividwireless launched in Perth in March, 2010. The network has since been expanded to cover select parts of metropolitan Sydney and Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane.

Vividwireless – which presently operates mobile WiMAX networks in capital cities – has joined the Global TD-LTE Initiative (time division long term evolution) launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February.
GTI, which held its first working meeting in Guangzhou earlier this month, was formed to promote the TD-LTE ecosystem as a major standard in mobile broadband technology and drive the early development TD-LTE networks. Its founding members were ChinaMobile, Bharti Airtel, Softbank Mobile, Vodafone, Clearwire, E-Plus, and Aero2. Vividwireless says it was invited to join at the launch.

Commenting on the launch of GTI at the time, Julien Grivolas, principal analyst at Ovum said: “A certain scale for LTE TDD was guaranteed by strong support from China Mobile, the largest operator in the world. However, as TD-SCDMA [China’s 3G mobile standard] proved to its cost, this is not necessarily enough to make LTE TDD technology a global success. China Mobile consequently considered it strategically vital to garner support from other key players.”

He added: “This LTE TDD evangelism started years ago, often behind the scenes, and finally came to fruition with the creation of the GTI. As a consequence, the main merit of the GTI announcement really lies in the official support for LTE TDD (and better harmonisation with LTE FDD) from a number of international players.

“With heavyweights such as China Mobile, Bharti Airtel, Softbank Mobile, and Vodafone Group – serving more than 1.1 billion subscribers in total at the end of 2010 – the GTI is certainly heading in the right direction. However, to further contribute to the virtuous cycle that the GTI aims to fuel, the organisation remains fully open to all operators and technology vendors interested in promoting LTE TDD.”

Vividwireless said that the GTI would “organise a series of activities to bring TD-LTE operators and vendors together to share development strategies and technology know-how, expediting the development of terminals and fostering global roaming and low-cost terminals.”

Vividwireless trialled LTE in Sydney earlier this year and says “The trials…demonstrated that TD-LTE can deliver wireless broadband that is faster than ADSL2+, with peak speeds as high as 128Mbps and consistent ‘real world’ speeds between 40 – 70Mbps.”

Following the trial the company said it was sufficiently impressed to consider using TD-LTE rather than WiMAX for its planned major east coast network rollouts. CEO Martin Mercer said “The technology is far more mature than we had expected. The Huawei SingleRAN solution [used in WiMAX mode in Vividwireless’ networks today] is basically ready to go today and is at a price point that would enable us to take service to market at prices comparable to what we offer today.

“We could deploy this technology in our east coast rollout and provide customers with services superior to those we provide today and equivalent prices. The question for us now based on the results of the trial is: do we rollout TD-LTE on the east coast…and do we deploy it in other markets as well?

vividwireless First To Trial 100Mbps Broadband TD-LTE In Australia [Nov 10, 2010] (emphasis is mine)

Leading 4G wireless broadband provider, vividwireless, today announced the first
Australian trial of superfast mobile wireless broadband – TD-LTE – (Time-Division
Duplex Long Term Evolution) which can deliver peak speeds of more than 100Mbps.
vividwireless CEO Martin Mercer said the trial with technology partner Huawei Australia
was part of the company’s continuing technology roadmap assessment.

“vividwireless is trialing the advanced TD-LTE technology to evaluate and determine the
very best mobile voice and broadband service to meet our customers’ future needs.
vividwireless is determined to ensure that it retains its ranking as Perth’s fastest wireless
broadband provider,” he said.

Huawei’s global experience with the technology has found TD-LTE can deliver wireless
broadband that is much faster than ADSL2+, with peak speeds of more than 100Mbps.
The trial will cover the market readiness of TD-LTE, including the technology’s capacity,
coverage and ‘real world’ performance.

“Demand for high speed wireless connectivity is increasing rapidly. Customers want fast,
reliable HD video streaming, gaming, communications, transactions and other
entertainment to be available wherever they are,” said Mr Mercer.

“Our current network satisfies this demand and this trial will help us to ensure that we
continue to be Australia’s leading wireless broadband provider,” he added.

The trial will commence in December 2010 in inner-city Sydney around Redfern, as well
as Western Sydney around Horsley Park. These locations will allow vividwireless to test
the performance of the technology in high demand, high density, inner city conditions
such as apartments and cafes, as well as suburban conditions.

Huawei Australia Chief Technology Officer Peter Rossi said, “Having worked with
vividwireless in rolling out its Perth network and the initial footprints in Sydney,
Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane, we are delighted to be working on this
TD-LTE trial.

“Huawei’s SingleRAN solution allows vividwireless to make a smooth transition from
WiMAX to TD-LTE to suit its network requirements, and with Huawei holding the title of
the world’s number-one LTE essential patent holder
, vividwireless will always have a
cutting-edge mobile network,” he concluded.

Ovum encourages operators in developed countries to be pragmatic [May 6, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Ovum has highlighted the potential of LTE TDD on many occasions, but has also pointed out the various challenges it faces. In particular we have highlighted that the current status of the device ecosystem may negatively impact the pace of rollout. Devices are always a crucial success factor for any kind of technology, but for LTE TDD they are even more important. This is largely due to the fact that most of the operators that have announced aggressive LTE TDD plans are based in emerging markets (China, India, and Russia).This means that low-cost devices will have to be made available quickly to serve these markets. In that sense, the creation of the Global TD-LTE Initiative at Mobile World Congress 2011 is a step in the right direction.

Launch of the GTI accelerates ecosystem development

In February 2011, China Mobile, Bharti Airtel, Softbank Mobile, Vodafone, Clearwire, E-Plus, and Aero2 officially launched the Global TD-LTE Initiative (GTI). The organization will focus on promoting the fast development of LTE TDD technology, promoting the convergence of LTE TDD and FDD modes to maximize economies of scale, and sharing the ecosystem with other TDD technologies, such as the Japanese eXtended Global Platform (XGP) technology.

In the mobile telecoms industry, scale is vital – something that WiMAX can testify to. A certain scale for LTE TDD was guaranteed by strong support from China Mobile, the largest operator in the world. However, as TD-SCDMA proved to its cost, this is not necessarily enough to make LTE TDD technology a global success. China Mobile consequently considered it strategically vital to garner support from other key players (as stated in our report TD-LTE, China Mobile’s long-term engagement with ‘TD’, OVUM051850). Attracting vendors’ interest was the easy part given China Mobile’s size, but making sure that other operators would consider the LTE TDD option required more imagination. This LTE TDD evangelism started years ago, often behind the scenes, and finally came to fruition with the creation of the GTI. As a consequence, the main merit of the GTI announcement really lies in the official support for LTE TDD (and better harmonization with LTE FDD) from a number of international players. With heavyweights such as China Mobile, Bharti Airtel, Softbank Mobile, and Vodafone Group – serving more than 1.1 billion subscribers in total at the end of 2010 – the GTI is certainly heading in the right direction. However, to further contribute to the virtuous cycle that the GTI aims to fuel, the organization remains fully open to all operators and technology vendors interested in promoting LTE TDD.

China Mobile will not be the first to launch commercial LTE TDD services

The GTI launch event in Barcelona confirmed what we expected (see the report Global opportunities for LTE TDD, OT00063-016): with a launch expected in 2012, China Mobile will not be the first operator in the world with commercial LTE TDD services. However, it is true that the operator’s large-scale trial networks to be deployed in seven cities in 2011 will be much bigger than the majority of LTE (TDD and FDD) commercial networks available at that time.

Among the LTE TDD frontrunners, the GTI event confirmed Aero2 from Poland as a candidate to become the first with commercial services, in as early as May 2011. The operator will use equipment from Huawei to construct a converged LTE FDD/TDD network. Softbank Mobile also unveiled plans to commercially launch LTE TDD services in Japan before the end of 2011. Like Aero2, the Japanese operator will use the 2.5GHz spectrum band. Softbank Mobile recognizes that the timeline set for its LTE TDD project is aggressive, but claimed that it has full confidence in vendors to overcome the various challenges. In Softbank’s opinion, LTE TDD is better suited to handle mobile data services. This is because the technology’s asymmetric nature fits well with mobile broadband data usage patterns and because of the greater technical efficiency of LTE TDD versus LTE FDD in terms of smart antenna systems. Finally, the official support of LTE TDD by Bharti Airtel means that there are now three 2.3GHz broadband wireless access spectrum owners committed to rolling out the technology in India. Speaking at the event, the CEO of Bharti Airtel, Sanjay Kapoor, stated that support from operators in India and China will ensure scale for LTE TDD and definitely signals the end of WiMAX’s hopes.

Ovum encourages operators in developed countries to be pragmatic

So far, operators have continued to favor the FDD variant of LTE, especially in developed markets. However, we recommend that these operators, which sometimes own unused TDD spectrum, closely monitor the development of the LTE TDD market. The reason is simple: given the rise of data traffic, all spectrum is valuable. They should continue to adopt a very pragmatic approach to LTE TDD. This consists of ensuring LTE FDD/TDD integration into network equipment now and into devices once the LTE TDD device ecosystem is sufficiently mature. If LTE TDD becomes widely adopted, by 2014-15 LTE FDD operators may well be tempted to leverage LTE TDD cost benefits to add extra capacity to their networks.

The E-Plus Group, China Mobile and ZTE sign a MOU for TD-LTE field trial in Germany [Feb 14, 2011]

The E-Plus Group, China Mobile Communications Corp. and ZTE will work together to launch a TD-LTE field trial in Germany in Q1 2011. The trial is based on 2.6 GHz spectrum that E-Plus acquired in the German spectrum auction. China Mobile, with its leading position and rich experience in the operation and maintenance of TDD networks, will empower this trial. ZTE will provide base stations developed on the advanced SDR platform and co-siting solution of LTE FDD/TD-LTE, which is a breakthrough in the industry.

The E-Plus Group is the third largest mobile network operator in Germany. The E-Plus Group has been one of the most innovative mobile operators during years. After revolutionizing the mobile voice market for larger user groups E-Plus is now opening the mobile data market for the masses with low-priced data tariff schemes and the roll-out of a HSPA+ network with speeds up to 21.6 Mbps. On top of the high speed mobile data network roll out, E-Plus will now test TD-LTE in the field. The E-Plus Group is one of the founding members of the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance.

The E-Plus Group and ZTE agreed and scheduled a field trial program for 2011 consisting of several streams to investigate the capabilities of ZTE’s commercial SDR equipment and best utilisation of the spectrum holdings of E-Plus in 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz, both TD-LTE and LTE FDD.

China Mobile claims the largest number of mobile subscribers in the world. From TD-SCDMA to TD-LTE, China Mobile is devoted to promoting TDD industry being equipped with rich experience in TDD network deployment. Furthermore, China Mobile is pro-active in TDD technology globalization and convergence of TD-LTE and LTE FDD industry by seeking cooperation with overseas operators in Europe, Asia, America and Australia.

With joint effort of the E-Plus Group, China Mobile and ZTE, this trial will not only demonstrate the latest progress of TD-LTE/LTE FDD convergence in standards and industry development, but also lay an excellent ground for the full commercialization of TD-LTE.

About the E-Plus Group
The E-Plus Group is the challenger on the German mobile communications market. Simple services tailored to customer needs and a major reduction in call and data charges can be traced back to the initiative of the third-largest mobile network operator in Germany. After revolutionizing the voice market for larger user groups now the company opens the mobile data market for the masses by its massive network roll-out and highly attractive low-priced data tariff schemes. As a result of innovative business models, modern structures and strong partnerships the E-Plus Group was able to significantly strengthen its market position and show a more dynamic and profitable development than the market. Since 2005 E-Plus Mobilfunk GmbH und Co. KG has developed into a family of brands offering target group-specific services and thus breaks new ground in mobile communications in Germany. More than 20 million customers are using the network of the E-Plus Group to make calls and send text messages or data. The Group generates an annual revenue of €3.2 billion (2010) and employs more than 2,500 people (FTE) in Germany.

326 Million Dual-Mode 4G Devices to be Activated by 2016 [May 31, 2011]

326 Million Dual-Mode (3G + LTE) Devices will be Activated by 2016 according to Maravedis’ latest research titled “Global 4G Device Forecast 2011-2016”.

“All LTE devices activated during 2010, including USB data cards, modems and notebooks, were single-mode,” said Cintia Garza, author of the report. “However, LTE+3G smartphones have emerged during 2011 as more LTE operators begin to add LTE to their device offering, in particular smart phones whose adoption will be key to LTE uptake.”

In the United States, Sprint’s early success with WiMAX smart phones suggests a very promising uptake for LTE smart phones. Many other carriers around the world are also looking at introducing smart phones in their LTE device portfolio by the end of 2011, such as NTT DoCoMo (Japan), and Yota (Russia).

“By 2013, more than 50% of LTE devices activated worldwide will support both FDD and TDD duplex modes, once TD-LTE deployments consolidate in China, India, Malaysia, Korea and other APAC countries,” continued Garza. “On the other hand, 75% of the LTE devices will support legacy systems (2G/3G) and 9% will support WiMAX technology; these devices will mainly include smart phones, tablets and USB dongles”.
Tablets are also one of the most promising devices in the 4G device market. Maravedis’ report predicts tablet shipments will grow from 46 million in 2011 to nearly 150 million by 2016. Apple iOS is expected to remain the most popular tablet for the coming years, reaching 46% market share by 2016.

Additional Research Findings: 

  1. 260 million dual-mode (TD LTE + FDD LTE) devices will be activated by 2016
  2. Android will account for 48.5% of the smart phone market, Windows 21% and iPhone (iOS) 16.5% by 2016.
  3. APAC and Europe will account for the largest number of smart phones and tablets activated by 2016.
  4. By 2016, 95% of the tablet installed base will be 3G/4G enabled.

Source:Maravedis

LTE Subscriptions to Experience Growth of over 3,400% Between 2011 and 2015 [June 9, 2011]

Between mobile applications, data, voice, and streaming and broadcast video, global wireless bandwidth usage has increased ten-fold since 2008, and there are no signs of it stopping. This obsession to connect anywhere, any time, on any device, viewing any type of digital content is about to have a very real and sudden impact on the wireless world. In-Stat (www.in-stat.com) forecasts that LTE subscriptions will experience a 3,400% explosion of growth between 2011 and 2015.

“Although there are regional variations in the adoption of cellular services, due in part to current available technology, LTE will clearly be the 4G service of choice moving forward,” says Chris Kissel, Analyst.  “3G will remain the predominant service subscription, also with robust growth, but over the next 5 years things will trend toward LTE as 4G service availability is ramped up.”

Recent research by In-Stat found the following:

  • North American FDD-LTE subscriptions are set to increase roughly 2100% from 2011 to 2015. In 2015, the ratio of North American FDD-LTE subscribers to TDD-LTE subscribers will be almost 14 to 1.
  • 3G subscriptions remain dominant with WCDMA technology capturing 26% of 3G subscriptions.  CDMA Rev B will be the smallest segment of the 3G technologies based on subscriptions.
  • 2G service subscriptions will peak in 2012, then they will begin a slow decline during the remainder of the forecast period.
  • More than half of all new deployments are LTE.

Mobile broadband subscribers overtake fixed broadband [June 7, 2011] (“in the text” emphasis is mine)

Market research firm Infonetics Research today released excerpts from its latest Fixed and Mobile Subscribers market forecast report

ANALYST NOTE

“As we predicted, mobile broadband subscribers surpassed wireline broadband subscribers in 2010 (558 million vs. 500 million). Fixed-line services are not dead, though, especially with China giving a boost to the worldwide wireline broadband base with its massive fiber-based program led by the Chinese government, which has set a 20Mbps benchmark for all broadband subscribers, where most today receive 2Mbps to 3Mbps at best,” notes Stéphane Téral, Infonetics Research’s principal analyst for mobile infrastructure.

FIXED AND MOBILE SUBSCRIBERS MARKET HIGHLIGHTS

  • Infonetics forecasts the number of mobile phone subscribers to grow to 6.4 billion in 2015 (the current global population is 6.9 billion)
  • In 2010, Asia Pacific accounted for nearly half of all mobile subscribers
  • The number of cellular mobile broadband subscribers jumped almost 60% in 2010 to 558 million worldwide and should top 2 billion by 2015
  • Access lines (residential, business, and wholesale PSTN, POTS, and ISDN connections) are forecast to continue declining, falling to 759 million worldwide by 2015
  • As access lines disappear, new forms of wireline broadband continue to thrive; the number of wireline broadband subscribers (DSL, cable, PON, Ethernet FTTH, FTTB+LAN) hit 500 million worldwide in 2010
  • WiMAX, in high demand in many regions with inadequate wired infrastructure, remains modest in scale but not growth: despite the global recession, the number of WiMAX subscribers grew 75% in 2010, with more strong growth ahead, reaching 126 million in 2015
  • The number of VoIP subscribers (including VoIP over access lines and over other broadband lines, such as cable) is forecast to grow from 157 million in 2010 to 264 million in 2015
  • While growth in the number of video subscribers is being challenged by over-the-top (OTT) and free-to-air services, telco IPTV subscribers are forecast to triple between 2010 and 2015, and digital and satellite cable subscribers will see healthy annual growth as analog cable video subscribers continue their inevitable decline

REPORT SYNOPSIS

Infonetics’ report provides worldwide and regional market size and forecasts through 2015 for access lines and fixed and mobile subscribers, including cable broadband, DSL, PON and Ethernet FTTH, residential and SOHO VoIP, telco IPTV, cable video, satellite video, mobile (GSM, W-CDMA, TD-SCDMA, cdmaOne, CDMA2000), cellular mobile broadband (W-CDMA/HSPA, CDMA2000/EV-DO, LTE, WiMAX, phone-based, PC-based), WiMAX (802.16m, 802.16e, 802.16d), and IMS subscribers. See report prospectus for details.

The report includes customizable pivot charts and analysis comparing subscriber types, regional service provider subscriber highlights, fundamental drivers of the market, technology developments, excerpts from Infonetics’ service provider capex reports, and analysis of overall market conditions for service providers, enterprises, subscribers, and the global economy.

Acer repositioning for the post Wintel era starting with AMD Fusion APUs

Follow-Up (Aug 2, 2011):
Acer & Asus: Compensating lower PC sales by tablet PC push [March 29, 2011 with comprehensive update on Aug 2, 2011] which is showing serious technical and market problems with the original version of Honeycomb (particularly for Acer!) which are only now overcome

Acer reducing 2011 tablet PC shipment target by 50% [June 16, 2011]

Acer, on June 15, announced that the company has reduced its annual tablet PC shipment forecast from originally 5-7 million units to only 2.5-3 million units, a drop close to 50% and with brand vendors such as Motorola, RIM and Samsung Electronics all reportedly having reduced their tablet PC sales targets for 2011, concerns about whether Android-based tablet PCs will be able to compete against Apple’s iPad are starting to rise among market watchers.

At the company’s investors meeting on June 15, Acer chairman JT Wang pointed out that the company is currently in the middle of a great transition and the company’s current goal is to lower its retail channel inventory. The company expects to continue working on digesting its inventory throughout the third quarter with expectations to have an inventory level the same as 7-8 years ago. Although Acer will reduce its annual tablet PC shipments, Wang is still confident about the performance of Android-based tablet PCs.

Wang pointed out that all the things that the closed system can do will all be able to function in the open system, but if consumers use the former, they will need to follow everything the closed system designers says and have no choice for expansion, or run Flash, and will not be able to be their own master. Acer is trying to serve consumers who want to make their own decisions.

Wang noted that after taking a series of emergency measures, Acer is currently in a safer state than before and should reach its shipment goal for the second quarter of a sequential drop of 10%. For the future, Wang expects Acer’s third-quarter shipments to share a similar volume as in the second with a chance to be better. Its performance will bounce out of the button after the third quarter.

In addition to reducing inventory, the company is also working on reorganizing its employee management and is set to lay off about 300 employees in Europe, Africa and the Middle-East, while the US, Greater China and Asia Pacific markets will see no changes.

Acer president Jim Wong pointed out that the company already shipped 800,000 tablet PCs before the end of June and with the launch of its new 7-inch tablet PC, Acer’s tablet PC shipments in the third quarter will reach 800,000 units. Wong added that the estimated numbers are all retail channel sales and include no additional ‘push’.

Acer may fall out of the worldwide top-3 notebook ranking in 2Q11 [June 16, 2011]

As Acer is still working on resolving its notebook inventory issues and expects to suffer a sequential shipment drop of 10% in the second quarter, Lenovo, the fourth-largest global PC vendor, which is expected to see shipment growth in the quarter may surpass Acer and become the third-largest PC vendor worldwide.

In the first quarter of 2011, Acer shipped 9.01 million PCs and ranked the third-largest PC vendor worldwide with Lenovo behind with shipments of 8.18 million units, a gap of about 800,000 unit, according to data from IDC. If Acer sees shipments drop, while Lenovo enjoys an increase, the two firms may see their ranking switch in the third quarter.

In addition to strong PC demand in the China market, Lenovo’s acquisition of NEC’s PC business has successfully helped Lenovo to become the largest vendor in Japan, while its purchase of Germany-based brand Medion also significantly raised its visibility in Western Europe.

However, Acer president Jim Wong, at its investor conference on June 15, pointed out that Acer lost about 3% share in the EMEA market while clearing its inventory, but the situation already turned stable in May and Acer is expected to maintain its advantage in the market.

Acer decreases netbook shipments to focus on tablet PCs, say Taiwan makers [June 15, 2011]

Acer shipped 400,000-500,000 netbooks in May, 50% fewer than in April, and will maintain such decreased shipments in June and July, implying that Acer will not give up netbooks but will shift R&D and operational resources from the product line to tablet PCs, according to Taiwan-based makers in its supply chain.

With Acer’s tablet PC orders quickly rising to 200,000-300,000 units per month in May, the sources are optimistic about Acer’s strategy to turn its focus to the tablet PC as the profitability generated by netbooks is much lower than that of tablet PCs, and Acer’s upstream partners should all benefit from the higher gross margins of tablet PC products.

In addition to Acer, players such as Asustek Computer, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Lenovo have all switched their focus to tablet PCs, although the players are still launching new netbook products, related marketing resources invested are rather low compared to before, as netbooks can be easily substituted by tablet PCs.

Although Acer is turning its focus to the tablet PC market, the company still launched its second-generation Aspire One Happy this month in the US and Europe.

Acer notebook shipments in retail channel expected to surpass 3 million in June [June 14, 2011]

Acer’s notebook shipments in the retail channel are expected to surpass three million units in June and if the company’s upstream partners such as Compal Electronics, Wistron and Quanta Computer all see increased shipments in the month, it will indicate that Acer has achieved a great advance in digesting its inventory and should return to its normal operation in near future, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.

Acer only shipped about 1.6-1.8 million notebooks to the retail channel in April and the volume increased close to 60% on month in May; however, notebook shipments of Acer’s upstream partners did not enjoy the same amount of growth in May, especially Compal, which only shipped 3.6-3.7 million notebooks including tablet PCs in both April and May. Compal even saw s shipment drop on month in May, indicating that Acer was still working of digesting its inventory.

The sources pointed out that Acer still has a high inventory level in Europe retail channel, but since the company has already seen improvements in both Southeast Asia and China, the company is now working aggressively to clear up its remaining inventory through its global logistic system with estimates of seeing shipments of 7.2-7.4 million notebooks in the second quarter.

Acer’s non-consolidated revenues in May grew 25.9% on month indicating that the company is seeing slow recovery in its operation, but since the company still has not yet provided its guidance for the third quarter, the sources expect Acer to have chance to release the related information at its investor conference on June 15.

Acer shareholders approve cash dividend and elect new board of directors [June 15, 2011]

Acer’s shareholders have approved the 2011 cash dividend of NT$3.60 (US$0.12) per share, and the reduction of employee bonuses for 2010 by 40%. Shareholders also elected a new board of directors and supervisors.

Acer announced in early June plans to lower channel inventory in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) by providing US$150 million in sales allowances and a one-time write off. The board and supervisors also voluntarily cut their remuneration by 50%. Today, the shareholders further approved plans to reduce employee bonuses by 40%, from NT$1.5 billion to NT$900 million. The cash dividend of NT$3.60 per share remains unchanged.

Shareholders elected a new board of directors and supervisors for the next three-year term. The newly elected seven-member board consists of JT Wang, Stan Shih, Hung Rouan Investment, Philip Peng, representing Smart Capital, Hsin-I Lin (former chairman of Industrial Technology Research Institute), Dr FC Tseng, and Sir Julian Horn-Smith. The supervisors are Carolyn Yeh and George Huang.

New to the board are the independent directors FC Tseng and Julian Horn-Smith. Acer expects to benefit from the knowledge and experience of Tseng and Horn-Smith, who are both globally distinguished talents. Their contribution from an independent standpoint to the company strategy, along with the board, will create a strong and well-rounded team to lead the corporation forward and enhance corporate governance, the company said.

Tsengco-founded Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) as a pioneer specializing in the foundry-only semiconductor manufacturing business. A core member of the TSMC management, he is also considered a veteran in the semiconductor industry. Horn-Smith was a founding member of Vodafone Group and is regarded as the principal architect in developing Vodafone’s international strategy. He retired from the Vodafone board in July 2006, where he held the title of deputy CEO.

What is an APU? [Jan 8, 2011]

With Fusion technology from AMD, the PC industry will be changed forever. AMD is incorporating multi-core CPU (x86) technology, a powerful DirectX®11-capable discrete-level graphics and parallel processing engine onto a single die to create the first Accelerated Processing Unit (APU). Learn how AMD is doing that here.

Computex 2011: AMD announces solution for tablet PC [June 2, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

AMD, at its press conference at Computex 2011, announced a new 40nm Z series APU codenamed Desna to target the tablet PC market, according to Rick Bergman, Senior Vice President and General Manager Products Group, AMD.

In 2012, the company will advance its Z series APU to a new structure with a codename Hondo. The Hondo-based Z series APU will have an even lower power consumption to allow it to become more suitable for tablet PC products.

Bergman pointed out that AMD’s tablet PCs will be deeply integrated with operating systems such as Windows to support HTML 5, Adobe Flash 10.2 and external screens, and will add enterprise-level security functions to make them suitable also for the enterprise market.

Bergman, at the conference, also displayed AMDs 28nm Trinity APU, which is set for mass production in 2012.

AMD also announced its 9-series chipset, a part of AMD’s new desktop Scorpius platform. In addition to the chipset, the Scorpius platform is formed with an eight-core Zambezi processor and Radeon HD 6000 series discrete graphics card.

The 9-series chipset supports AMD’s AM3+ CPU and is backward compatible with AM3-based CPUs. With native support for AMD’s CrossFireX, the chipset can support up to four Radeon graphics cards and through AMD’s OverDrive software, the chipset can also manage the clock speed of each card.

A New Visual Computing Experience for Tablets | Fusion – AMD Blogs [May 31, 2011]

While I’m not planning to edit or create any PowerPoint decks on a tablet anytime soon, I personally see value in a tablet that gives me both the ability to consume and create content. For example, one of the applications I use every day in my work and home life is the OneNote application in Microsoft Office. Being able to access it across multiple devices via Windows Live has been invaluable for me of late. When I tried to access this on a non-Windows device, you can see what the result was in this picture below:

This is why I’m looking forward to getting my hands on one of the new tablets based on the new Z series AMD Fusion APU, code-named “Desna”. At Computex earlier today, we announced these new AMD Fusion APUs as part of our 2011 AMD HD Tablet Platform targeted at the fast-growing number of Windows-based tablet designs coming to market. And since a press release can only tell part of the story, here’s what you can expect from tablets powered by the new 2011 AMD HD Tablet Platform:

  • AMD Z-01 APU with AMD Radeon™ HD 6250 discrete-class graphics. This APU features two 1 GHz “Bobcat” CPU cores and checks in at TDP of 5.9 watts.
  • Full intelligence and operability of the Windows® 7 OS
  • Consistency in user interface and applications from work to home
  • Full access to view and edit work and personal documents created in Microsoft Office and other leading applications
  • Free and automatic online Windows 7 OS updates to enable the most current features
  • Full compatibility with iPhone, Windows Phone, Blackberry and other leading mobile phones
  • Seamless connectivity with virtually any USB device
  • HDMI support to enable a full 1080p visual experience
  • Full compatibility with XBOX 360 Media Extender Functionality

The AMD Z-Series Fusion APUs are shipping today. MSI’s WinPad 110W is the first tablet announced by an OEM that leverages the new platform, giving consumers high-end performance graphics in a tablet that takes advantage of the Windows ecosystem –  the largest installed base of any client platform … by a wide margin.

One final thought, a company to keep your radar screen as you do your tablet research is BlueStacks. BlueStacks is helping to reshape the tablet ecosystem by essentially bridging the Windows and Android ecosystems together, thus opening up new application possibilities in the amazing clarity and detail that only an AMD Fusion APU-powered tablet can offer.

Look for a review of my experience on the MSI WinPad 110W in the coming weeks on our AMD Fusion blog.

Computex 2011: AMD Announces Bobcat-based Z Series APUs for Tablet Market [June 1, 2011]

While AMD does not have a true SoC to combat the likes of Intel, NVIDIA, and ARM, this doesn’t mean they’re completely ignoring the market for the type of devices SoCs normally go in. Announced today at Computex 2011 and shipping immediately will be AMD’z Z series APUs, AMD’s formal entry into the modern tablet market.

While at this time it’s nigh-on impossible to get into a phone without a SoC (just ask Intel), tablets can be more forgiving. With a larger device and a larger battery, such devices don’t necessarily have the same extreme integration requirements and battery life requirements as a phone, even if the processors used in such devices are often the same. As a result of AMD’s current resources and technologies, it’s the tablet market that they have decided to go after first.

The Z-series, codename “Desna”, currently has a single APU that is shipping immediately: the Z-01.

AMD APU Lineup
APU Model
Number of Bobcat Cores
CPU Clock Speed
GPU
Number of GPU Cores
GPU Clock Speed
TDP
AMD Z-01
2
1.0GHz
Radeon HD 6250
80
276Mhz
5.9W
AMD C-30
1
1.2GHz
Radeon HD 6250
80
280MHz
9W
AMD C-50
2
1.0GHz
Radeon HD 6250
80
280MHz
9W
AMD E-240
1
1.5GHz
Radeon HD 6310
80
500MHz
18W
AMD E-350
2
1.6GHz
Radeon HD 6310
80
500MHz
18W

The Z-01, as near as we can tell, is a power optimized version of AMD’s existing C-50 APU. It features the same dual-core CPU design, using a pair of Bobcat CPU cores running at 1GHz. The GPU meanwhile is a Radeon HD 6250, and while AMD hasn’t listed the clocks, we believe it’s clocked at the same 280MHz as in the C-50. We don’t have any information on whether AMD is using the same packaging for the Z-01 as they are the C series, but otherwise the available specifications are identical to the C-50 with one exception: TDP. While the C-50 is rated for 9W, the Z-01 is rated for 5.9W. Given the 33% power reduction, it’s a fair guess that AMD is binning Ontario chips to find ones that operate at the low voltages Z-01 would require.

Based on what we’ve seen with the C-50, the Z-01 should perform far above any other tablet processor. However the 5.9W TDP means that it’s not going to be in the same market as the likes of OMAP 4, Tegra 2, Apple’s A5, or even Intel’s Moorestown. All of these SoCs/platforms use well under 5.9W, and with the exception of Moorestown are all ARM based.

Ontario and Atom by Hans de Vries [Sept 16, 2010] [he is an industry and enthusiast community veteran]

Improved image with some benchmark info:

http://www.chip-architect.com/news/AMD_Ontario_Bobcat_vs_Intel_Pineview_Atom.jpg

[Such sensity is indicating that TSMC’s 40nm process is quite dense. If these numbers hold true that would mean Ontario is not only smaller than Atom, but also much higher performing. Note the amount of die area dedicated to graphics. This is going to be very good for entry level systems.]

Re: Welcome Llano! by Hans de Vries [March 13, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Azazel wrote:
BTW, did you notice that top speed of mobile 4c Llano is just 1.8GHz when mobile 4c/8t SB lies in 2.2/2.3 GHz.
Why is that?

The “top-speed” part is made up by you……….

A 1.8GHz quad core AMD propus uses only 25W at 45nm.
Expect the power dissipation of the four 32nm Llano cores to reach far lower levels as that. It will get under 15W at 1.8GHz when the process matures.

Intel doesn’t have any quad core mobile processor running at less than 45 Watt, not even at 32nm. 45W is too much power dissipation especially if you also want a bit of reasonable (discrete) graphics in your very expensive notebook.

It’s seems we’ll have to wait until 2013 when Intel’s 22nm process matures enough to yield an economic quad core Ivy Bridge before we’ll see a quad core Intel mobile processor for the mainstream mobile market.

Regards, Hans

Acer Iconia Tab W500 Microsoft® Windows® 7 Tablet Delivers Ultimate Productivity for Customers in North America [April 21, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Acer America today announced that the Acer Iconia Tab W500 – a 10.1-inch tablet running Microsoft® Windows® 7 – is available for sale now in North America.

The Acer Iconia Tab W500 is the ultimate productivity device for anyone who wants the flexibility and mobility of a tablet with the efficiency and familiarity of a Windows PC. It’s especially ideal for schools, small businesses, and for industries such as healthcare that need a tablet to be productive and stay in touch as they move around their work environment. In addition, customers can use the tablet to keep up with social networks and enjoy digital entertainment at work, at home and on the go.

The unique design centers on the high-resolution 10.1-inch multi-touch screen. Supporting multi-touch allows customers to interact intuitively with the display to check email, access websites, use cloud-based applications, and enjoy digital media. When it’s time to focus on productivity and creating content such as reports, spreadsheets and presentations, customers can get a true notebook PC experience with the system’s full-size chiclet docking keyboard.

“The Acer Iconia Tab W500 is the perfect tablet for people who want the touch capabilities that are so natural and efficient on the go, but also need a Windows environment to access productivity applications for work and school,” said Eric Ackerson, senior product marketing manager, Acer America. “So much of what we’re doing on the go is accessing information and consuming content in cloud-based applications, such as realtors and salespeople who need access to databases and Intranet sites. The Acer Iconia Tab W500 is the ultimate reflection of our lives – able to multitask between work and fun, and ready at a moment’s notice.”

“We’re pleased to see Acer continue to drive innovation that delivers new, exciting computing experiences to customers,” said Soren Lau, general manager of OEM Marketing, Microsoft Corporation. “The Acer Iconia Tab W500 combines the familiarity, security and portability of Windows 7 with entertainment and social connection features that allow customers to work and play on a single PC.”

Innovative Design Boosts Productivity
The combination of a responsive and intuitive touch experience with a dedicated docking keyboard makes the Acer Iconia Tab W500 a productivity booster. The full-size chiclet docking keyboard easily connects to the tablet via USB, holding it up at a comfortable viewing angle. The keyboard also provides docking station capabilities with extended connectivity of an Ethernet port for fast Internet connections, and a USB port for external devices. Plus, the docking keyboard features the Acer FineTrack™ pointing device with two buttons for convenient navigation.

When it’s time to transport the Acer Iconia Tab W500, the tablet deftly connects to the docking keyboard with quick-linking magnets, transforming it into an easy-to-store clamshell notebook. It easily fits in a briefcase or book bag. If users want to minimize travel weight, they can simply leave the keyboard behind; the tablet weighs only 2.14 pounds and measures 10.83(W) x 7.48(D) x 0.63(H) inches. The additional docking keyboard weighs 1.34 pounds and measures 10.83(W) x 7.48(D) x 0.43-0.77(H) inches.

The embedded Acer PowerSmart long-life 3260 mAh Li-polymer battery pack delivers up to four hours of unplugged HD video playback and six hours of Internet browsing.(1)

Configurations, Availability and Pricing
The Acer Iconia Tab W500 is available in two models: the W500-BZ467 with Windows® 7 Home Premium has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $549.99, while the W500P-BZ841 with Windows® 7 Professional has a MSRP of $619.00. Both models are ready to be used for productivity and creation with Microsoft® Office Starter 2010 and are now available for sale at select retailers and channel partners in the United States.

The Acer Iconia Tab W500-BZ607 with Windows® 7 Home Premium is available at select retailers and channel partners in Canada for a MSRP of $599 CAD. The Acer Iconia Tab W500P-BZ412 with Windows® 7 Professional has a MSRP of $649.00 CAD and will be available in the channel by end of June.

Meaningful Communication with Video, Voice, Internet
Staying in touch on the go is easy with the Acer Iconia Tab W500. Customers can connect to Wi-Fi networks with reliable Acer InviLink Nplify 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi CERTIFIED wireless technology at home and on the go for Internet access, checking email, and staying current on everything from news and blog sites to their Twitter feed. They also have Bluetooth to connect to printers, keyboards and other Bluetooth devices.

Two Acer Crystal Eye 1.3MP webcams – one each on the front and back of the device – used with Acer Video Conference Manager, let customers engage in video conferencing, as well as record HD videos and then quickly share them on Facebook, YouTube and other sites. The tablet also delivers excellent audio with Acer PureZone technology with two built-in stereo microphones featuring beam forming, echo cancellation, and noise suppression technologies.

Entertainment and Fun on the Go with Latest Technology
Work seamlessly blends into entertainment in so many ways today, and the Acer Iconia Tab W500 can be used to handle productivity and fun simultaneously. Powered by an AMD C-50 processor and supported by 2GB of DDR3 memory, the tablet delivers fast and reliable mobile performance. It also boasts integrated ATI Radeon HD 6250 graphics for realistic, crisp visuals on movies, web video and games. It also supports Adobe Flash and comes installed with Adobe Flash 10.1.

The tablet is ready to play back high definition Internet content and 1080p video on the high resolution 1280×800 LED-backlit display. Plus, sound is vibrant and clear with Dolby® advanced audio v2. The models come with a 32GB solid state drive,(2) which provides incredibly fast data access while reducing weight and noise. The SD card reader can support SD cards up to 32GB in capacity.(2)

The ambient light sensor on the Acer Iconia Tab W500 allows it to be used in a range of environments. The integrated accelerometer provides auto-rotation between portrait and landscape modes for viewing presentations, documents, websites, movies, games and more in the most appropriate orientation.

Acer Ring Elevates Intuitive Touch Experience
Like all Acer Iconia products, the core of the Acer Iconia Tab W500 touch experience is the Acer Ring. Easy to launch with a simple grab gesture, it offers immediate access to special features and touch applications. By placing five fingers in a circular pattern, the Acer Ring appears to let consumers surf the web, capture screen images, post photos and status updates, watch movies and more, all in the manner most comfortable and natural to them.

Utilities in the Acer Ring include Clean Disk to manage and optimize disk space; Snipping Tool to quickly select, tag, and clip screen images; Device Control to fine-tune the tablet settings; Camera to launch Acer Crystal Eye Webcam; Calculator and Games.
The Acer Ring also features a series of AppCards that enhance everyday usage:

  • TouchBrowser provides a touch-optimized browsing experience to let customers search for, open, resize, and select content from the web.
  • SocialJogger connects three of the most popular social networking sites – Flickr, Facebook, and YouTube – in a single interface so that customers can connect with and update their networks holistically.
  • My Journal lets customers collect web clips that are dynamically updated to stay posted on news of interest.
  • Scrapbook is a convenient place to store, annotate and share website and photo images and other content.
  • TouchPhoto, TouchMusic and TouchVideo provide direct access to multimedia files stored on the tablet.

clear.fi for Digital Media Sharing
Acer clear.fi is the digital media sharing system that lets customers enjoy their digital media content across their home quickly and effortlessly. Clear.fi automatically connects all Acer devices on a network (smartphones, notebooks, desktops, HD media players and storage devices) and then gathers and organizes media files by type (video, music, photo, pre-recorded TV). Users can browse the categories and then drag and drop the media to any of the connected PCs or devices for playback. The HDMI port with HDCP support ensures a single cable for true HD audio and video output.

ICONIA FAQ 13 (emphasis is mine)

Q: Does a stylus work on the Acer Iconia TAB W500 or Acer ICONIA dual screen touchbook?

A: Yes, a stylus that is compatible with capacitive touch screens can function on the Acer Iconia TAB W500 or Acer ICONIA dual screen touchbook.

Specifications Part Number: ICONIATabW500 Acer ICONIA Tab W500 Tablet Series

Following are the specifications for the Acer ICONIA Tab W500.
Specifications are subject to change without notice or obligation.

Feature
Specification
Operating System
Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium 32-bit
CPU and chipset1
AMD C-Series dual-core processor C-50 (1 MB L2 cache, 1 GHz, DDR3 1066 MHz, 9 W)
AMD A50M Fusion™ Controller Hub
Memory1, 2,
Up to 2 GB of DDR3 onboard system memory
Display1
10.1″ HD 1280 x 800 resolution, high-brightness (350-nit), 146 PPI Acer CrystalBrite™ LED-backlit TFT LCD with integrated multi-touch screen, supporting finger touch and image auto rotation
Wide viewing angle up to 80/80/80/80 degrees (up/down/left/right)
Mercury-free, environment-friendly
Graphics
AMD Radeon™ HD 6250 Graphics with 256 MB of dedicated system memory, supporting Unified Video Decoder 3 (UVD3), OpenGL® 3.1, OpenEXR High Dynamic-Range (HDR) technology, Shader Model 5.0, Microsoft® DirectX® 11
Dual independent display support
16.7 million colors
External resolution / refresh rates3:
  • VGA port up to 1920 x 1200: 60 Hz
  • HDMI™ port up to 1920 x 1080: 60 Hz
MPEG-2 DVD decoding
VC-1 and H.264 AVC decoding
MPEG-4 Part 2 DivX® decoding
HDMI® (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) with HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) support
Audio
Optimized Dolby® Advanced Audio® v2 audio enhancement, featuring Audio Optimizer, Audio Regulator, Volume Leveler, Volume Maximizer, and Surround Virtualizer (for built-in speakers) technologies4
High-definition audio support
Two built-in stereo speakers
MS-Sound compatible
Acer PureZone technology with two built-in stereo microphones, featuring beam forming, echo cancellation, and noise suppression technologies
Storage
Solid state drive
  • 32 GB or larger, with mini-SATA (mSATA™) interface connector1, 5,
2-in-1 card reader, supporting:
  • Secure Digital™ (SD) Card, MultiMediaCard™ (MMC)
  • Storage cards with adapter: miniSD™, microSD™, Reduced-Size Multimedia Card (RS-MMC)
Webcam
Acer Video Conference1, featuring:
  • Dual Acer Crystal Eye webcams with 1280 x 1024 resolution
  • Acer Video Conference Manager software, featuring Video Quality Enhancement (VQE) technology, supporting online video calls6
  • Acer PureZone technology
Wireless and networking
WLAN:1, 7, 8,
  • Acer InviLink™ Nplify™ 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™
  • Acer InviLink™ 802.11b/g Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ (available only in Russia, Pakistan, Ukraine)
  • Supporting Acer SignalUp™ wireless technology
WPAN:1 Bluetooth® 3.0+HS
LAN: Fast Ethernet on the dock
Dimensions and weight
Dimensions
275 (W) x 190 (D) x 15.95 (H) mm (10.83 x 7.48 x 0.63 inches) for the tablet
275 (W) x 190 (D) x 11/19.5 (H) mm (10.83 x 7.48 x 0.43/0.77 inches) for the dock
Weight
0.97 kg (2.14 lbs.)9 with 3-cell embedded battery for the tablet
0.61 kg (1.34 lbs.)9 for the dock
Power adapter and battery1
Product Safety Electric Appliance and Materials (PSE) certified for battery pack
Power adapter
2-pin 40 W Acer MiniGo AC adapter:
  • 93.2 (W) x 48 (D) x 32.2 (H) mm (3.66 x 1.88 x 1.26 inches)
  • 180 g (0.39 lbs.)9 with 250 cm DC cable
Embedded battery
  • Acer PowerSmart long-life battery, supporting up to 1,000 charge cycles10
  • 36 Wh 3260 mAh 3-cell Li-polymer embedded battery
Battery life: 6 hours11 for Internet browsing; 4 hours11 for 720p HD video playback
Input and control
84-/85-/88-key full-size Acer FineTip keyboard with international language support on the dock
Acer FineTrack™ with two FineTrack™ buttons
Dedicated Windows® key supporting single-press for Windows Start; single-press combined with power button for Ctrl+Alt+Del
Dedicated volume up/down keys
Rotation lock switch
Input and output
2-in-1 card reader (SD™, MMC)
Two USB 2.0 ports each on the tablet and the dock
HDMI® port with HDCP support
Headphone/speaker jack, supporting 3.5 mm headset with built-in microphone for Acer smart handhelds
Ethernet (RJ-45) port on the dock
DC-in jack for AC adapter
Sensors
Ambient light sensor
G-Sensor
Software16
Productivity
  • Acer Ring
  • Acer ePower Management
  • Adobe® Flash® Player 10.1
  • Adobe® Reader® 9.1
  • AUPEO! (US only)
  • Bing™ Bar
  • Device Control
  • Kobo™ (Canada only)
  • Microsoft® Office 2010 preloaded (purchase a product key to activate)13
  • Microsoft® Office Starter 201014
  • New York Times Reader (US only)
  • NOOK for PC (US only)
Security
  • McAfee® Internet Security Suite Trial15
Multimedia
  • Acer clear.fi
Gaming
  • WildTangent® Tablet Edition
Communication and ISP
  • Acer Crystal Eye for dual cameras
  • Acer Video Conference Manager1
  • Microsoft® Silverlight™
  • My Journal
  • SocialJogger
  • Skype™
  • TouchBrowser
  • Windows Live™ Essentials 20111
Web links and Utilities
  • Acer Identity Card
  • Acer Registration
  • Acer Updater
  • eBay® shortcut 2009 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, UK, US only)
  • Netflix shortcut (US only)
Ecocompliance
ENERGY STAR®, WEEE, RoHS, Mercury-free
Options and accessories
Optional:
  • Exclusive USB keyboard dock
  • 2-pin 40 W Acer MiniGo AC adapter
  • External USB HDD
  • External USB ODD
Warranty
One-year International Travelers Warranty (ITW)
Windows®. Life without Walls™. Acer recommends Windows 7.
  1. Specifications vary depending on model.
  2. Shared system memory may be allocated to support graphics, depending on system memory size and other factors. Actual system memory available to the operating system will be reduced by any memory used by the graphics solution and resources required by the operating environment.
  3. Resolution/refresh rates depend on display capability and color/depth settings.
  4. Dolby® is a registered trademark of Dolby® Laboratories. Dolby® Home Theater® is a trademark of Dolby® Laboratories.
  5. 1 GB is 1 billion bytes. Actual formatted capacity is less and may vary depending on preloaded materials and operating environment.
  6. Two VQE-enabled Acer notebooks with dual-core processors are required to enjoy the exclusive benefits and added performance of VQE.
  7. Actual throughput may vary depending on network conditions and environmental factors such as network traffic or overhead, building construction, and access point settings.
  8. Acer Nplify™, a high-throughput wireless solution, delivers superior performance and reliable connections while enabling emerging voice, video and data applications. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™, it supports Acer SignalUp™ wireless technology and is compliant with 802.11a/b/g/n and 802.11b/g standards.
  9. Weight may vary depending on product configuration, vendor components, manufacturing variability, and selected options.
  10. The battery will hold up to 80% of its original capacity after as many as 1,000 recharges. A full recharge comprises a complete charge-and-discharge cycle, and does not always occur each time the notebook is plugged in to a power source, as several partial charges can add up to a full recharge.
  11. The listed battery life is based on the following test conditions: wireless on; 150-nit LCD brightness; 3G, light sensor, Bluetooth® off; McAfee® anti-virus program enabled; Windows® scheduled programs and Standby/Hibernation power states disabled. Battery life rating is for comparison purposes only. Actual battery life varies by model, configuration, applications, power management settings, operating conditions, and utilized features. A battery’s maximum capacity decreases with time and use.
  12. Bundled software may vary depending on hardware configuration, OS and regional availability.
  13. Purchase an Office 2010 product key to activate one of the following Office 2010 suites preloaded on this PC: Office Home and Student 2010, Office Home and Business 2010, Office Professional 2010.
  14. Includes limited-functionality Microsoft® Word and Excel with advertising; no PowerPoint or Outlook. Purchase Office 2010 to activate full-featured Office.
  15. Trial periods vary depending on the geographic region and specifications: 365-day trial for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore (Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese OS models); 60-day trial for other regions.

Acer places orders for 80,000 Z series APUs from AMD for tablet PCs [June 9, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Acer has recently placed orders for 80,000 Z series APUs from AMD for use in tablet PCs, targeting the enterprise market, according to sources from upstream component makers. However, both Acer and AMD did not confirm the orders.

In addition to Acer, Micro-Star International (MSI) is also developing tablet PC models using AMD’s APU.

Since Google Android 3.0 currently still has issues which need to be resolved, while the next-generation Android operating system codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich will not appear until the end of 2011, some tablet PC vendors have decided to launch Windows 7-based tablet PCs targeting the enterprise market to maintain their shipments.

Since Intel’s Oak Trail-based Atom processor is higher in both price and power consumption, several notebook vendors have already started considering AMD’s platform. In addition to Acer and MSI, some vendors have also started inquiring about AMD’s Z series APU.

AMD’s Z series APU is produced through Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s (TSMC’s) 40nm process and is already shipping, targeting the Windows-based tablet PC market, noted the sources adding that they expect shipments of Z series APUs to reach at least 500,000 units in the second half of 2011, creating strong pressure on Intel’s Oak Trail processor.

AMD announces details of a new generation of Fusion chips for 2011-2012 – slideshow [June 15, 2011]

AMD has now announced a complete line of series hybrid CPU + GPU Fusion chip designed for portable computers and mobile devices such as tablet (see previous news from the list of chips). In addition, AMD has presented information on the rest of the Fusion generation including processors that will compete with Intel’s Sandy Bridge generation – details can be seen on the slides.

AMD announces A series APUs for mainstream PCs [June 14, 2011]

AMD has announced the availability of the new high-performance AMD Fusion A series accelerated processing units (APUs) for consumer notebooks and desktops.

The AMD A series APUs combine up to four x86 CPU cores with an integrated DirectX 11-capable discrete-level graphics unit that features up to 400 Radeon cores along with dedicated HD video processing on a single chip. AMD A series APUs also support features such as gesture interfaces, multiple-monitors, 3D and real-time image stabilization.

The AMD A series APUs (Llano) are currently shipping and scheduled to appear in more than 150 notebooks and desktops from the global OEMs throughout the second quarter of 2011 and beyond. Delivering serial and parallel computing capabilities for HD video, 3D rendering and data-intensive workloads in a single-die processor, the AMD A Series APUs offer software developers unprecedented power and potential in an ever smaller package, said AMD.

The AMD A series APUs are capable of delivering more than 10.5 hours of battery life during idle mode, a more than 50% increase compared to AMD’s previous mainstream platform. Additionally, AMD dynamic switchable graphics optimize battery life on PCs featuring AMD dual-graphics solutions by intelligently managing power states on the APU and separate discrete AMD Radeon GPU.

TSMC wins orders for 28nm GPU from AMD, says paper [June 17, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

AMD reportedly has completed the tape-out of its next-generation GPU, codenamed Southern Islands, on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s (TSMC) 28nm process with High-k Metal Gate (HKMG) technology, according to a Chinese-language Commercial Times report. The chip is set to expected to enter mass produciton at the end of 2011.

TSMC will also be AMD’s major foundry partner for the 28nmKrishna and Wichita accelerated processing units (APUs), with volume production set to begin in the first half of 2012, the report said.

TSMC reportedly contract manufactures the Ontario, Zacate and Desna APUs for AMD as well as the Northern Island family of GPUs. All of these use the foundry’s 40nm process technology.

TSMC was quoted as saying in previous reports that it had begun equipment move-in for the phase one facility of a new 12-inch fab (Fab 15) with volume production of 28nm technology products slated for the fourth quarter of 2011. The foundry previously said it would begin moving equipment into the facility in June, with volume production expected to kick off in the first quarter of 2012.

Foundry partners for next-generation AMD APU and GPU series
Product/Partner 2011 2012
Mainstream and high-end APU Llano Trinity
Foundry partners Globalfoundries 32nm SOI Globalfoundries 32nm SOI
Entry-level APU targeting tablets Ontario/ Zacate/ Desna Krishna/Wichita
Foundry partners TSMC 40nm TSMC 28nm HKMG, Globalfoundries 28nm HKMG
GPU Northern Islands Southern Islands
Foundry partners TSMC 40nm TSMC 28nm HKMG

Source: Commercial Times [Chinese language], compiled by Digitimes, June 2011

AMD Said to Contract TSMC, GlobalFoundries to Make 28nm Chips [June 20, 2011]

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is reportedly to designate Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) as its primary contract supplier of 28nm Krishna/Wichita microprocessors early next year and GlobalFoundries as another contract source later in 2012, according to local media.

The report said that Krishna/Wichita are the next-generation versions of the low-end AMD Ontario/Zacate family. AMD has contracted TSMC, currently the world`s No.1 pure silicon foundry, to build its Ontario/Zacate processors and the Desna processors meant for tablet PCs using 40nm process technology.

Robust demand for Ontario/Zacate and Desna processors in developing economies has promoted AMD to ramp up contracts to TSMC.

Also, AMD Northern Island-family graphics processing units are under volume production at TSMC based on 40nm process. The graphics lineup`s next generation, the 28nm Southern Island family, has seen its tapeout completed by TSMC, which is expected to start contract manufacturing of the chips for AMD by the end of this year.

AMD`s 32nm Llano processors have entered into volume production at GlobalFoudries. The report also noted that GlobalFoundries will be also a major contract manufacturer of AMD`s Trinity processors, which are designed on 32nm SOI rule, in 2012. Trinity is developed for laptops and more efficient than Llano.

Globalfoundries names interim CEO, new key management appointments [June, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

The board of directors of Globalfoundries, along with its majority shareholder the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), has announced its new leadership.

Semiconductor industry veteran Ajit Manocha has been appointed interim CEO of Globalfoundries. James Norling will serve as executive chairman and Ibrahim Ajami will serve as VP of the company’s board of directors. All appointments are effective immediately.

Doug Grose, who has served as CEO of Globalfoundries since its inception, will transition to become senior adviser to Globalfoundries and ATIC with a focus on technology leadership and ensuring delivery of next generation technologies for competitive differentiation. COO Chia Song Hwee will remain with the company in that position until August 2011, when he will return to be part of Singapore’s business future, Globalfoundries indicated.

“Doug Grose and Chia Song Hwee formed the foundation of Globalfoundries, bringing together the world’s leading-edge manufacturing technology with the heritage of a full-service foundry partner,” said Norling. “This new leadership team will build on that foundation, as we increase investment in technology, capacity and talent while optimizing performance.”

Norling also said an executive search for a permanent CEO has already begun. Manocha’s focus is to work closely with top management and talent of the company to optimize performance, and continue progress on the capacity and technology roadmap.

Manocha has more than 30 years of global expertise in operations, general management and manufacturing. He was previously executive VP of Worldwide Operations at Spansion.

Norling is the former chairman of Chartered and also served as interim CEO of that company in 2002. He was previously with Motorola from 1965 to 2000 holding various positions.

“Globalfoundries, with the continuous support of ATIC, is in the middle of an intense, competitive ramp-up of manufacturing capacity and technology development,” said Ajami, who will also remain CEO of ATIC. “Under this new leadership team, investment in Globalfoundries will double over the next 18 months.”

Through end of May 2011, ATIC had invested over US$6 billion to acquire the former manufacturing assets of AMD in Dresden, Germany, and the assets of Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing of Singapore, as well as an estimated US$1 billion to construct a new fabrication facility in upstate New York. Through the end of 2012, ATIC will invest another approximately US$6 billion in manufacturing capacity in Dresden, Singapore and New York with initial construction to begin in Abu Dhabi, Globalfoundries said in a statement.

AMD displaying next generation APU platform; adopts 28nm process in 2012 [June 16, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

AMD has displayed notebook models using its next-generation Trinity platform, based on Bulldozer at its Fusion Developer Summit (AFDS), and is set to launch the new platform in 2012 with enhanced performance and power consumption compared to its current Llano platform. The new platform’s parallel calculations are also estimated to perform 50% better, according to Rick Bergman, Senior Vice President and General Manager Products Group, AMD.

AMD’s APU product line is currently divided into several different segments:
G series CPUs, set to target embedded products;
C series CPUs designed for ultra-thin notebooks or tablet PCs;
Z series mainly targeting tablet PCs;
E series targeting ultra-thin notebooks or small form factor (SFF) desktop PCs; and
A series targeting mainstream notebooks, all-in-one PCs and desktop PCs.

Compared to Intel’s processors, Bergman believes AMD’s APU shares a similar concept as Intel’s Sandy Bridge, but Sandy Bridge is unable to provide parallel calculations as strong as AMD’s APU, and does not support the existing industry standards such as DirectX 11, Open GL 4.1 or OpenCL. In addition, Sandy Bridge is designed based on the application user interface of Windows Vista, while AMD’s APU is capable of fully supporting the application user interface of Windows 7, Bergman added.

As for the product design, Intel’s graphics technologies only account for a small proportion of the CPU product’s size, while AMD’s GPU design accounts for about 40% of the APU’s size. The company is even integrating a graphics solution with a performance level of discrete graphics chips to offer strong parallel calculations and Intel’s graphic solution, which is rather basic and simple, is not capable of competing against such advances, Bergman noted.

In addition, AMD’s Dual Graphics technology also allows its APU to coordinate with AMD’s discrete graphics cards to allow a graphics performance boost of 75%. With Intel’s graphics solution in Sandy Bridge, the integrated graphics is not used if an additional discrete graphics card is added to the platform, Berman pointed out.

The Trinity platform will still adopt 32nm process and AMD is set to launch Krishna with 28nm process in 2012, Bergman noted. Commenting on questions whether AMD will outsource its production to Globalfoundries or Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Bergman only said that both firms will have the chance to produce the 28nm products for AMD.

Leaked Presentation Reveals AMD’s Fusion Strategy [May 27, 2011]

AMD APUs for 2012: 32nm Trinity, 28nm Krishna, 28nm Hondo. Not shown are 28nm Wichita, Weatherford and Richland

AMD Details Future Technical Roadmap for its Award Winning Fusion Architecture at Industry Developer Summit [June 14, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

AMD (NYSE: AMD) detailed to more than 700 developers and PC industry executives the roadmap for its Fusion System Architecture (FSA). The specific design features planned for future AMD products were presented in the opening keynote of the AMD Fusion Developer Summit. FSA describes AMD’s overarching design for having combinations of CPU and GPU processor cores operate as a unified processing engine that is both higher performance and much lower power than previous architectures. Many of the specific FSA enhancements discussed will be leveraged by newer programming languages, and interfaces like OpenCL™ and DirectCompute, making it easier for the software developer to fully exploit the unique capabilities of the AMD accelerated processing unit (APU).

“The first APUs from AMD dramatically increase processing performance while consuming less power and now we are building upon that achievement with our next generation of products” said Phil Rogers, AMD Corporate Fellow. “Future innovations are intended to make the different processor cores more transparent to programmers. They can then seamlessly tap into the gigaflops of power-efficient performance available on the APU and design even faster, more visually stunning applications on a wide range of form factors.”

Today’s APUs

Available since January of this year, AMD’s line-up of APUs are the first to integrate x86 CPU cores and DirectX™ 11-capable Radeon™ GPU cores on a single die and have been widely adopted by computing OEMs worldwide.  Being on the same chip reduces the system power and bill-of-materials, speeds the flow of data between the CPU and GPU through shared memory, and allows the GPU to function as both a graphics engine and an application accelerator in highly efficient compute platforms.

APUs of Tomorrow

Building on the success of the integration of CPU and GPU processing cores on the same chip, AMD is now focused on evolving the architecture to make it appear as a unified processing element to the software programmer.   That includes a number of evolutionary steps expected to continue through 2014 such as:

  • Support for C++ features that more fully leverage the GPU as a parallel processor
  • User-mode scheduling for lower latency task dispatch between CPUs and GPUs
  • Unified memory address space and fully coherent memory shared by the CPU and GPU so they operate seamlessly together

AMD also announced plans to publish a detailed specification on the features and functionality required to meet the requirements of the architecture.

Supporting Resources

  • A webcast replay of Phil Roger’s keynote will be available for 10 days
  • Access AMD’s Developer Central site for the latest tools and tutorials
  • Information on the AMD Fusion Family of APU processors

What’s next for AMD Fusion? [June 15, 2011] By Phil Rogers – Corporate Fellow at AMD (emphasis is mine)

What a year it has been already for AMD and its APU products – we have now announced top-to-bottom families of processors that support everything from low-power tablets to performance notebooks and desktops.   All of which integrate DirectX™ 11™-capable graphics with new “Bobcator 32nmStars” x86 CPU cores.   Bringing the GPU and the CPU together on a single chip was a critical step for AMD, and the resulting processors are finding a welcome home with OEMs and end-users.

We are just getting started.

At this week’s AMD Fusion Development Summit in Bellevue, Washington, I spoke to more than 600 attendees about where we plan to take the industry next with the AMD Fusion System Architecture (FSA).  The audience was primarily software developers, recognizing that they are critical to our success and that we want their participation during the development of the platform.  I have been developing 3D graphics and parallel computation software for more than 20 years, so I understand why total platform design is required to fully enable a programmer’s creativity and productivity.

In steering the architectural direction of FSA in my role as Corporate Fellow, my primary concern has been how to make heterogeneous (i.e., APU) programming easier, more natural and accessible to the largest possible community of software developers.

So what does that mean, really?  We aim to make the unprecedented parallel processing capability of the GPU on the APU as accessible to programmers as the CPU is today.  To do that there are a series of simplifying steps we plan to take that will improve on what is already a great foundation:

  • Add support for C++ features that more fully leverage the GPU as a parallel processor
  • Unify the memory address space shared by the CPU and GPU, and make it coherent, so they operate seamlessly together.
  • Add user mode scheduling, to dramatically reduce the time it takes for the CPU and GPU to dispatch work to each other.

There are others, but these are big ones, resulting in the biggest leap forward.  Once the AMD Fusion System Architecture is realized, the GPU is a true peer processor to the CPU, with direct access by software.

In the meantime, the benefits of the integration step are readily apparent:  dramatic improvements in battery life for AMD platforms; smaller form factors through reduction in the silicon footprint; acceleration of applications that leverage OpenCL and DirectCompute via the GPU, just to name a few.

I hope you will check back in to the AMD Fusion Blog from time-to-time to get updates on our progress!

A webcast replay of my keynote will be available for the next 10 days.

AMD Announces Thought Leaders from ARM and Microsoft to be Among Keynote Speakers at AMD Fusion Developer Summit [April 26, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

AMD (NYSE: 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.

Jem Davies, ARM fellow and vice president of Technology, Media Processing Division, will deliver a keynote about ARM’s long history of heterogeneous computing, its future strategy, and ARM’s support of standards, including OpenCL™.

The summit will open and close with AMD keynote presentations as well. AMD corporate fellow Phil Rogers will explore the programmer’s guide to Accelerated Processing Units (APUs), and Eric Demers, AMD corporate vice president and chief technology officer, Graphics, will deliver a keynote that chronicles the evolution of AMD’s graphics cores and discuss next-generation AMD graphics technology.

“The development experts we’ve chosen to share their work at AFDS are at the forefront of next-generation programming, and are working to harness the full processing power of heterogeneous computing technologies,” said  Manju Hegde, corporate vice president, AMD Fusion Experience Program. “The AMD Fusion Developer Summit is the best place for developers, academics and innovators to collaborate around parallel programming and industry standards, helping the developer community to realize the promise of the latest computing methodologies, today and into the future.”

Technical sessions, tutorials, hands-on labs and keynote presentations at AFDS will cover a range of topics including heterogeneous and high-performance computing (HPC), next-generation user interfaces, parallel programming tools and industry-standard application programming interfaces (APIs) such as OpenCL™, OpenGL™, Java and Microsoft DirectCompute. The Session Catalog for the AMD Fusion Developer Summit lists more than 90 in-depth technology sessions to be presented by industry and academic experts.

Speakers will be in attendance from a range of industry companies, universities and government organizations. Session topics include:

  • Developer Tools
  • Enterprise Computing
  • High-Performance Computing
  • Multimedia Processing
  • Professional Graphics and Visual Computing
  • Programming Models
  • Security
  • User Interface and Media Experiences

Developers interested in the latest heterogeneous computing tools and training can register for AFDS on the event website and take advantage of a special low registration fee of $300 this inaugural year.

Resources

AMD Demonstrates Llano APU [Oct 18, 2010]

AMD’s Chris Cloran demonstrates the Llano APU in Taipei at the 6th annual AMD Technical Forum and Exhibition. In the first public demonstration of Llano, Chris demonstrates simultaneous HD video playback, multi-threaded Pi calculation, and N-Body simulation utilizing the CPU and GPU cores.

AMD Ushers in Next Generation of Computing with AMD A-Series APUs [June 14, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

AMD (NYSE: AMD) today announced the next generation in mainstream consumer computing with the availability of the new high-performance AMD Fusion A-Series Accelerated Processing Units (APUs). Enabling truly immersive computing experiences in consumer notebooks and desktops, the AMD A-Series APUs enable brilliant HD graphics, supercomputer-like performance and over 10.5 hours of battery life2.

In an increasingly digital and visually oriented world, consumers are placing ever-higher priorities on multitasking, vivid graphics, lifelike games, lag-free videos, and ultimate multimedia performance. To meet these needs, the AMD A-Series APUs combine up to four x86 CPU cores with powerful DirectX®11-capable discrete-level graphics and up to 400 Radeon™ cores along with dedicated HD video processing on a single chip. AMD A-Series APUs also allow for advanced capabilities such as gestural interfaces, multi-monitor support, 3D entertainment and real-time image stabilization3.

“The AMD A-Series APU represents an inflection point for AMD and is perhaps the industry’s biggest architectural change since the invention of the microprocessor,” said Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager, AMD Products Group. “It heralds the arrival of brilliant all-new computing experiences, and enables unprecedented graphics and video performance in notebooks and PCs. Beginning today we are bringing discrete-class graphics to the mainstream.”

The AMD A-Series APUs (previously codenamed “Llano”) are currently shipping and scheduled to appear in more than 150 notebooks and desktops4 from leading OEMs throughout the second quarter of 2011 and beyond. Delivering powerful serial and parallel computing capabilities for HD video, 3D rendering and data-intensive workloads in a single-die processor, the AMD A-Series APUs offer software developers unprecedented power and potential in an ever smaller package.

AMD AllDay™ Power: Battery Life that Lasts

The AMD A-Series APU delivers the power to match how consumers actually use their PCs: all day – without sacrificing performance. Delivering more than 10.5 hours of resting battery life – a more than 50 percent increase compared to the 2010 AMD Mainstream Platform – users can get their work done or watch multiple HD movies on a single charge5. Additionally, AMD dynamic switchable graphics optimize battery life on PCs featuring AMD dual-graphics solutions by intelligently managing power states on the APU and separate discrete AMD Radeon™ GPU.

“The battery life of the AMD A-Series APU is a huge leap forward and will surprise many consumers and commercial customers,” said Chris Cloran, Vice President and General Manager, Client Division, AMD. “And the supercomputer-like performance will give people some revolutionary capabilities, like real-time image stabilization –taking out all the shakes and jitters in those hand-held videos on the fly, while you’re watching.”

Brilliant HD: Every Pixel Matters

People are making, sharing and enjoying more digital content than ever on their PCs, and the AMD VISION Engine – cutting-edge hardware and software featured with every AMD A-Series APU that automatically helps digital content like videos, games and photos look their best. HD video is crystal clear through dedicated video playback technology and dynamic post-processing, and websites render faster with accelerated HTML5 and Direct2D performance. Editing, transferring and viewing HD content is fast and easy with support for advanced connection standards, including HDMI 1.4a, DisplayPort 1.1, and USB 3.0, along with native support for multiple monitors.

Also introduced with the AMD A-Series APU is a new feature called AMD Steady Video6 designed to stabilize videos during playback – making unsteady, jumpy content look steady and smooth. The AMD A-Series APU can also enables advanced capabilities like gestural interfaces, 3D gaming and 3D Blu-ray video entertainment – features that are now key to consumer PC experiences and expectations.

Every PC built with an AMD A-Series APU delivers brilliant HD by offering discrete-class DirectX® 11-capable graphics – with models available at virtually every price point. Only AMD Fusion APUs offer true AMD Dual Graphics, with up to 75 percent graphics performance boost, when paired with an AMD Radeon™ discrete graphics card7.  This faster, higher-quality, more vivid and lifelike delivery makes consumers feel fully present in their digital world, especially when gaming.

Personal Supercomputing: Ultimate Performance

Consumers are doing more than ever before with their PCs – from work to play – and with the AMD A-Series APU, even their laptops can keep up, delivering  next generation  parallel processing.  With up to 400 gigaflops for notebook, and up to 500 gigaflops for desktops8, AMD A-Series APUs ensure users have the horsepower needed to handle the most demanding applications such as video and image processing, facial recognition, gesture recognition and multitasking scenarios. For the most challenging environments, AMD Fusion A-Series APUs offer AMD Turbo Core Technology, which dynamically optimizes and boosts CPU and GPU performance to power-efficient levels depending on the applications being run.

The Growing AMD Fusion Ecosystem

AMD has seen great momentum in the software developer community since the launch of AMD Fusion APUs in January 2011, with more than 50 leading applications now accelerated by the family of AMD Fusion APUs and advanced browsers like Internet Explorer 9 delivering even more immersive, next generation web experiences when running on an AMD Fusion APU-powered PC. And, the inaugural AMD Fusion Developer Summit, running now through June 16 in Seattle, Washington, is providing a forum for developers, academics and innovators to collaborate around parallel programming and industry standards, like OpenCL™, helping the software ecosystem build on the promise of the latest computing methodologies.

Supporting Resources

AMD Fusion APU Llano in a Multi-Tasking Technology Demonstration [Feb 28, 2011]

AMD’s Fusion APU code-named Llano handles high definition graphics and video with ease and excellent power efficiency. In this demonstration, The Llano APU goes head-to-head in visually intense workloads against a system based on Intel Core i7-2630QM based on the Sandy Bridge architecture. CPU –

Configurations Employed In Video Demo
APU – AMD Accelerated Quad-Core Processor [A8-3510MX later coming out @1.GHz and 45W] Engineering Sample
Chipset – AMD Fusion Controller Hub Engineering Sample
Video Driver – 8.830.0.0
Screen Size – 14 inch Diagonal
Screen Resolution – 1366 X 768
Memory – 4 Gb 1333 DDR3Ram
Hard Drive – C300 128Gb SSD
OS – Windows 7 Professional 64 bit

CPU – Intel® Core™ i7-2630QM 2.0Ghz
Graphics – Intel® HD 3000 Graphics
Chipset – Intel® 6 Series/C200 series chipset family
Video Driver – 8.15.10.2279
Screen Size – 14 inch Diagonal
Screen Resolution – 1366 X 768
Memory – 4 Gb 1333 DDR3Ram
Hard Drive – C300 128Gb SSD
OS – Windows 7 Professional 64 bit

AMD Platform Innovations with ‘Sabine’ [A-Series] [June 9, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

I recently attended an AMD event in Abu Dhabi, UAE where we held a briefing of our upcoming “Sabine” notebook platform featuring our new APU, codenamed “Llano.  In AMD parlance, “Llano” is the “big iron”, that is, processors designed for performance first.  After I delivered my presentation, I had a chance to speak with some of the press to gauge their feedback.  One universal theme was the great impression that we made with our platform innovations, features, features outside of the core x86, graphics, video and compute functions.  Here is a brief summary of the great steps forward we have made with the platform features of “Sabine”.

Power

Systems based on AMD technology have long been criticized for having a shorter battery life than systems based on competing technology.  This is no longer the case with “Sabine.”  Yes.  In fact, internal testing demonstrates our “Sabine” platform will yield as good or better battery life than our competitor’s current platforms.  In our labs we were able to exceed our expectations in terms of battery life using the Windows 7 idle test on the very same platform that we sampled to the press. This battery life performance handily surpasses a competing platform that was purchased at retail.

This will be a shocker to many people including the competition.  As with any significantly disruptive product, the “Llano” APU is transformational across many vectors.  As if the nearly 500 Gigaflops or Quad Core x86 combined with a Discrete Class DirectX 11-capable GPU wasn’t enough, Llano has exceeded expectations is reducing our idle power consumption and increasing our power efficiency.

AMD has become increasingly religious about lowering power consumption over the past few years.  When we designed the “Llano” APU, power was of primary importance in our design goals.  It would be very convenient if there was just one area that consumed excessive power; what we found however was that cumulative savings came from many contributing factors and our engineering teams fought for every last mW of those savings. In the end we delivered enough power savings to enable us boost battery life dramatically over our prior platforms! How long exactly? You’ll have to wait until we launch in June for that info. But trust me, it will be worth the wait.

Ironically, we have engineers in the company who work on delivering the best performance available for a 300 watt graphics card — and those same engineers fought for 50 mW on other products.  50 mW is 1 6000th of 300 watts!

Our course, it is not just idle power where AMD has innovated.  With modern graphics based workloads, we really show “Llano’s” mettle.  As the video below demonstrates, the “Llano” APU enables several hours of intensive graphics active platform use, while on battery power, surpassing the capability of the competitive platform. This is a testament to AMD’s decision to use an extremely efficient and powerful graphics processor.

USB 3.0 Integration

With our new “Sabine” platform, AMD is the first company to integrate USB 3.0 into its core logic.  Because of this, we’re enabling the following benefits of USB 3.0 over USB 2.0:

  • 10X bandwidth allowing up to 5 Gbps transfer rates
  • Full Duplex and Asynchronous operation
  • More power available through the ports

Translation:  USB 3.0 enables the use of 1080p cameras!  This means a new level of realism for video conferencing and other forms of tele-presence.  We have been working with our partner, Point Grey who have developed a very small USB 3.0 based camera which they call “Flea3”.  This camera can stream uncompressed 1080p60 video. As you can see in the linked video <link>, while an AMD system using Flea3 is able to request and process the same frames per second rate as the Intel system, it’s also able to display up to 4x the Hz— enabling a much sharper, jolt-free visual experience.  There are other benefits to integrating USB 3.0 as well, including the availability of 4 ports instead of the current 2 found in most discrete solutions today.

AMD has really transformed itself over the past 4 years as “Llano” gestated.  As we get closer to the launch, more details will continue to trickle out.  AMD is extremely excited to finally deliver the “Big Iron” APU.  Personally, I cannot wait until I can get hold of one to call my own.

The art of the possible with Unilimited Realities [June 14, 2011]

You know when you see something that makes you say “Wow”. That was my reaction when I saw the work that New Zealand-based Unlimited Realities was doing in the area of touch-based consumer applications. And now, I’m pleased to be able to talk about our collaboration on the next generation of their Fingertapps suite of apps.

What is unique about Unlimited Realities is that they combine the latest technologies, like graphics acceleration with DirectX 11, with new ways of interacting with your PC, like touch, to create applications that appeal to a broad consumer base. Things like touch-based musical instruments, family activity apps and multi-player touch enabled games.

At AMD’s Experience Brilliance launch of the AMD A-Series APUs in Seattle last night, we showed off some of the work that the teams have been doing over the past few months to demonstrate what is possible when you combine software and hardware innovation. The new apps take advantage of the unique capabilities in the AMD Fusion APUs to give you an amazing visual experience not possible on previous generations of processors.

The AMD APU-optimized versions of Fingertapps are expected to be available later this summer.

Flirtatious Francois: AMD Fusion [June 8, 2011]

AMD’s line-up of APUs are the first to integrate x86 CPU cores and DirectX™ 11-capable Radeon™ GPU cores on a single die.

AMD Unveils New Software Tools Designed to Accelerate the Development of Brilliant Computing Experiences [June 13, 2011]

AMD (NYSE: AMD) today announced a new set of software development tools and solutions to enable developers to optimize their applications for OpenCL™ standards. These advanced tools create a foundation for software companies to realize the full potential of the AMD Fusion Family of Accelerated Processing Units (APUs), harnessing the combined compute power of AMD’s high-performance CPUs and GPUs across a wide array of heterogeneous computing platforms. As a result, developers can bring to life innovative experiences like HD video, 3D gaming, video conferencing and intuitive user interfaces, to truly differentiate their applications in the market.

“AMD is working closely with the developer community to make it easier to bring the benefits of heterogeneous computing to consumers, enabling next-generation system features like vivid video, supercomputer-like performance and enhanced battery life,” said Manju Hegde, corporate vice president, AMD Fusion Experience Program. “Our advanced developer tools and solutions enable a new era of parallel programming that’s based on industry standards and focused on delivering innovative user experiences that span a variety of computing form factors.”

Among the new offerings is the gDEBugger™ product, which was created by experts from AMD’s new Israeli research center, based on AMD’s acquisition of startup company Graphic Remedy in October 2010. gDEBugger is an advanced OpenCL and OpenGL debugger, profiler and memory analyzer. The new AMD gDEBugger release provides developers with the ability to debug OpenCL kernels, running on AMD GPUs, and step through their source code while examining kernel variables and data. This product, which is a plug-in designed to work with Microsoft Visual Studio®, includes all of gDEBugger’s previous features and capabilities.

Additional developer solutions include a Parallel Path Analyzer (PPA), Global Memory for Accelerators (GMAC) and Task Manager tools, which are being developed by Multicoreware in collaboration with AMD. These new tools and solutions, expected to be available in Beta during Q3 of this year, are designed to make OpenCL GPU development easier and more efficient.

  • Parallel Path Analyzer (PPA) is an advanced profiling tool for developing applications that optimize both GPU and CPU load. The PPA visualizes data transfers and kernel execution, identifies system-wide critical paths and locates data dependencies.
  • The Global Memory for Accelerators (GMAC) API provides a framework in which a developer can create applications leveraging the immense compute capabilities of OpenCL, but without the overhead of having to explicitly manage multiple data buffers across the separate address spaces of GPU and CPU.
  • The Task Manager API provides a framework for managing compute tasks in a heterogeneous multi-core environment. OpenCL kernels can be automatically scheduled to execute on an available and task-appropriate device, providing dynamic load balancing, optimizing use of available compute resources and removing the burden of explicit schedule handling.
  • The new tools expand AMD’s robust line of developer solutions that are publicly available on the AMD Developer Central website, including software development kits, libraries, compilers, webinars and educational support. In addition, developers will be able to learn more about AMD’s comprehensive set of software tools and solutions at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit taking place this week in Bellevue, Washington. Summit participants will be able to engage in interactive sessions and hands-on labs to deepen their knowledge of advanced CPU and GPU programmability.

Resources

AMD Launches Contest for Developers to Create Heterogeneous Compute Applications [June 15, 2011]

AMD (NYSE: AMD) today announced the AMD OpenCL™ Coding Competition, being run by software development leader TopCoder. This contest is intended to encourage the creation of applications that take advantage of OpenCL™ as well as the award-winning AMD Fusion accelerated processing unit (APU) architecture. The OpenCL™ Coding Competition is open to software developers with great ideas, and up to $50,000 in prizes will be awarded to winning submissions.

“We’re at an inflection point in the computing industry with evolving chip architectures and the shift to common programming interfaces and industry standards, which enable developers to enable amazing new experiences,” said Manju Hegde, corporate vice president, AMD Fusion Experience Program. “The OpenCL Coding Competition is just the beginning of a new wave of application development by the software community as they embrace heterogeneous computing across multiple platforms.”

AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing (APP) technology (formerly ATI Stream) is a set of advanced hardware and software technologies that support OpenCL and enable highly parallel compute-capable GPUs to work in concert with a system’s CPU to accelerate applications beyond traditional x86 graphics and video processing. AMD Fusion APUs combine multi-core x86 technology with a discrete-level DirectX® 11-capable GPU in a single processor design, connected by a high speed link, to deliver up to 500 gigaflops of compute performance.1

Developers and students who choose to participate will be asked to submit an abstract that outlines how they plan to use the latest generation AMD APP software development kit (SDK) with OpenCL support to create an accelerated application for the AMD Fusion APU platforms.

Contestants can choose to create an application in any category including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Video Processing
  • Image Processing
  • Security
  • Human Computer Interface
  • Data Mining
  • Gaming
  • Physics processing
  • Social Networking / Communication
  • Other

“We see APU architecture continuing to be widely adopted for new computing designs, and believe that developers will want to build and optimize their applications around the high performance achieved with these new hardware platforms,” said Matt Murphy, TopCoder platform manager. “This technology shift signifies a sizeable opportunity for developers around the world who want to be early to embrace a new era of heterogeneous computing.”

In addition to the SDK, contestants will need the latest AMD Catalyst™ drivers that include the OpenCL runtime compiler. Released in May 2011, the latest AMD Catalyst drivers for Windows and Linux also bring new features, including expanded support for multi-display environments through AMD Eyefinity technology, which developers can leverage to create even more immersive experiences for end users.

For full details and a complete set of Official Rules for the AMD OpenCL™ Coding Competition, please visit http://community.topcoder.com/amdapp/

Resources

AMD and Academic Experts Collaborate with Morgan Kaufmann Publishers on OpenCL™ Book [June 15, 2011]

AMD (NYSE: AMD) today announced its   collaboration on a new book for developers, Heterogeneous Computing with OpenCL, to be published by Morgan Kaufmann, an imprint of Elsevier Science & Technology Books. The book provides hands-on OpenCL™ experience and details multiple device architectures and application programming interfaces (APIs), from multi-core CPUs, GPUs and fully integrated Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) like AMD Fusion APU technology, to fundamental parallel algorithms.

“This book is just one more example of how AMD enables the university and the developer communities with information and tools they need to embrace OpenCL and other common platforms,” said Manju Hegde, corporate vice president, AMD Fusion Experience Program. “The continued adoption of OpenCL will significantly expand the possibilities for software vendors and developers leading to a wide array of innovative applications and new experiences that benefit from massively parallel processing. There is a resultant need for education and training of the university community which this book will meet.”

“We are seeing increasing demand for reference resources about common APIs,” said Todd Green, senior acquisitions editor of Morgan Kaufmann. “Application development across the PC, tablet and smartphone markets are red hot in terms of reader interest. We thank AMD and Northeastern University for shedding light on the common platforms and parallel computing movement; it’s a must-read book for every developer.”

The book was co-authored by several industry and academic leaders from AMD and Northeastern University, including:

  • Benedict Gaster, OpenCL architect, AMD
  • Lee Howes, member of technical staff, AMD
  • David R. Kaeli, director of the Northeastern University Computer Architecture Research Laboratory (NUCAR), co-leader of the Northeastern University Institute for Information Assurance (IIA) and associate dean of Undergraduate Programs in the College of Engineering at Northeastern University
  • Perhaad Mistry, Ph.D Student, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northeastern University
  • Dana Schaa, Ph.D Student, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northeastern University

Heterogeneous Computing with OpenCL is expected to be available in print and electronic formats in August 2011 from many major booksellers. The book provides detailed examples that illustrate the power and elegance of OpenCL to handle image processing, web plugins, random number generation, video processing and more.

Resources

Hardware and Software Leaders Fulfill Promise of Brilliant Experiences and New PC Capabilities with AMD A-Series APU Technology [June 14, 2011]

AMD (NYSE: AMD) today announced growing support for the AMD Fusion Family of Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) with more than 50 leading applications now accelerated by AMD Fusion APUs. With today’s launch of the new AMD A-Series APUs, AMD unleashes unprecedented levels of performance in mobile and small form factors, with outstanding battery life. From software vendors and developers to motherboard suppliers, AMD’s APU ecosystem is basing hardware and software development on the new AMD A-Series APUs to help bring innovative new devices and applications to market. The APU is enabling new user experiences, for example, making video more life-like and enabling notebooks to achieve “supercomputer-like” performance.

“AMD’s APU architecture gives developers a new set of tools with which they can build exciting applications,” said Nathan Brookwood, research fellow at Insight 64. “Developers who best exploit these new capabilities will help position their organizations for dramatic success.”

“Our developer community is embracing the AMD Fusion APU platform with wonderful creativity and initiative,” said Manju Hegde, corporate vice president, AMD Fusion Experience Program. “We’re only at the beginning of a wave of innovation that’s powered by our APU technology. With forward thinking from leading software developers and device manufacturers, we are creating the next generation of computing experiences.”

New, Differentiated Applications

Dozens of today’s most popular software applications are accelerated by AMD APU technology, many of which are being showcased this week at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit in Bellevue, Washington. These applications span a wide range of PC and tablet user scenarios, including multimedia, gaming, productivity, web browsing, facial recognition, video conferencing and more.

Following is a sample of leading software and online content providers offering vivid computing experiences that are accelerated by AMD A-Series APUs:

“Our customers expect the ultimate viewing experience from their Storm media player,” said Tom Yang, chief technology officer, BaoFeng, Inc. “We optimized our application with AMD Fusion APU technology to continue to deliver outstanding performance. Now, hundreds of millions of users receive just that – clear, smooth and incredibly vivid video from BaoFeng, a leading high-definition media player company in China with 180M users.”

Industry-Leading Infrastructure Partners

AMD motherboard partners are also continuing to innovate around AMD Fusion APUs, as leading original design manufacturers (ODMs), including ASUS, ASRock, Biostar, ECS, Foxconn (Hong Hai Precision), Gigabyte, Jetway, MSI and Sapphire, are either shipping or have announced integrated APU/motherboard products featuring AMD Fusion technology.

AMD Vision Engine Software

AMD VISION Engine Software uniquely differentiates AMD APU-based PCs. This exclusive software suite includes the AMD software driver that controls graphics and display, the AMD Vision Engine Control Center, and an OpenCL driver. AMD Vision Engine offers graphics and video features enabling DirectX11 gaming, dynamic contrast, edge enhancement and vibrant colors to help videos and visuals look more life-like. This software set also includes AMD Steady Video, enabling advanced image post processing technology to help stabilize shaky images during real-time playback of streaming videos1.

Resources

AMD Celebrates Innovation with VISIONary of the Year Award Winners [June 14, 2011]

AMD (NYSE: AMD) today announced the AMD OpenCL™ Coding Competition, being run by software development leader TopCoder. This contest is intended to encourage the creation of applications that take advantage of OpenCL™ as well as the award-winning AMD Fusion accelerated processing unit (APU) architecture. The OpenCL™ Coding Competition is open to software developers with great ideas, and up to $50,000 in prizes will be awarded to winning submissions.

“We’re at an inflection point in the computing industry with evolving chip architectures and the shift to common programming interfaces and industry standards, which enable developers to enable amazing new experiences,” said Manju Hegde, corporate vice president, AMD Fusion Experience Program. “The OpenCL Coding Competition is just the beginning of a new wave of application development by the software community as they embrace heterogeneous computing across multiple platforms.”

AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing (APP) technology (formerly ATI Stream) is a set of advanced hardware and software technologies that support OpenCL and enable highly parallel compute-capable GPUs to work in concert with a system’s CPU to accelerate applications beyond traditional x86 graphics and video processing. AMD Fusion APUs combine multi-core x86 technology with a discrete-level DirectX® 11-capable GPU in a single processor design, connected by a high speed link, to deliver up to 500 gigaflops of compute performance.1

Developers and students who choose to participate will be asked to submit an abstract that outlines how they plan to use the latest generation AMD APP software development kit (SDK) with OpenCL support to create an accelerated application for the AMD Fusion APU platforms.

Contestants can choose to create an application in any category including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Video Processing
  • Image Processing
  • Security
  • Human Computer Interface
  • Data Mining
  • Gaming
  • Physics processing
  • Social Networking / Communication
  • Other

“We see APU architecture continuing to be widely adopted for new computing designs, and believe that developers will want to build and optimize their applications around the high performance achieved with these new hardware platforms,” said Matt Murphy, TopCoder platform manager. “This technology shift signifies a sizeable opportunity for developers around the world who want to be early to embrace a new era of heterogeneous computing.”

In addition to the SDK, contestants will need the latest AMD Catalyst™ drivers that include the OpenCL runtime compiler. Released in May 2011, the latest AMD Catalyst drivers for Windows and Linux also bring new features, including expanded support for multi-display environments through AMD Eyefinity technology, which developers can leverage to create even more immersive experiences for end users.

For full details and a complete set of Official Rules for the AMD OpenCL™ Coding Competition, please visit http://community.topcoder.com/amdapp/

Resources

AMD and Leading Software Vendors Continue to Expand Offerings Optimized for OpenCL™ Standard  [June 8, 2011]

AMD (NYSE: AMD) today announced increasing industry adoption of the OpenCL™ standard across a broad range of innovative software applications. As a long-standing proponent of industry standards, AMD works closely with leading software companies to help optimize their applications across common platforms, while accelerating these solutions with the latest technology offerings, including AMD Fusion Accelerated Processing Units (APUs).

“Software developers can benefit significantly from working with common programming interfaces to harness the outstanding performance of innovative, heterogeneous technology like AMD Fusion APUs across platforms,” said Manju Hegde, corporate vice president, AMD Fusion Experience Program. “The software industry continues to advance at breakneck speed with an ever increasing number of innovative applications that are coming to market, which are based on common platforms such as OpenCL, OpenGL and DirectCompute.”

As software developers embrace common application programming interfaces (APIs), the industry is seeing a groundswell of consumer and commercial applications built on the OpenCL standard, thanks to its inherent flexibility across platforms, operating systems and vendor hardware.

“Today’s creative professional needs a complete solution that delivers clear, crisp and stutter-free visuals that will allow them to edit, process and create content quickly and without interruption,” said Dave Chaimson, vice president of global marketing, Sony Creative Software. “New support has been added to Vegas Pro 10.0d for accelerated OpenCL based video rendering. We see this as a solid first step towards a faster production workflow for video professionals, and we are strongly committed to the OpenCL standard.”

HP Labs also is working with AMD to implement OpenCL acceleration of real-time imaging software for HP large-format, commercial and industrial printing solutions. “Innovative, leading-edge technology is key to providing the best possible support to HP’s commercial printing customers,” said I-Jong Lin, principal scientist, Print and Content Delivery, HP Corporate Research Laboratory. “The application of GPU acceleration in raster image processing has enabled a breakthrough in commercial printing solutions, and we anticipate replicating that success across market segments by porting our OpenPL library to OpenCL standards.”

Following is a sample of leading applications that already support OpenCL or will support it in the near future:

DVD/Media Players

  • ArcSoft, TotalMedia® Theatre – All-in-one video playback software
  • Corel WinDVD® – Blu-ray™ and DVD player software

Telepresence and Webcam Apps

  • ArcSoft, Webcam Companion® – Application bundle with HD and 3D support for web cameras
  • ViVu VuRoom – Multi-party desktop videoconferencing software
  • ViVu VuCast – Large-scale video webcast software

Video Creation/Editing Software

  • ArcSoft, ShowBiz® – Video editing software
  • Corel Digital Studio™ – integrated multimedia software suite
  • Corel VideoStudio® Pro – HD video-editing software
  • Cyberlink PowerDirector – Video editing software
  • Sony, Vegas Movie Studio HD – Home studio solutions for HD video editing
  • Sony, Vegas Pro – Professional solutions for HD video, audio and Blu-ray™ Disc creation

Video, Photo Effects, Imaging and Utilities

  • ArcSoft, Panorama Maker Pro – Photo and video stitch plus media manager
  • eyeon, Fusion® – Visual effects and compositing tool
  • HP Labs, “Every Page Is Different” raster image processing and giga-pixel real-time imaging for HP large-format, commercial and industrial printing solutions
  • Viewdle, Uploader® – Facial recognition software for photography formats
  • Viewdle, Video SDK – Facial recognition software kit for video development

Video Transcode Software

  • ArcSoft, MediaConverter – Multimedia file converter
  • Rovi, MainConcept® Transcoding Platform – Professional transcoding applications
  • Rovi, MainConcept® H.264/AVC OpenCL – Encoding Software Development Kit

Engineering Simulation Software

  • Altair Engineering, HyperWorks RADIOSS – Finite element analysis (FEA) solver for linear and non-linear simulations
  • Dassault Systemes, PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) – Simulation and CAD software
  • DEM Solutions, EDEM – Discrete element modeling software solutions for particle flow simulation
  • ESI Group, PAM-CRASH and PAM-STAMP 2G solvers – Digital simulation software for prototyping and manufacturing processes
  • MSC Software, MSC Nastran – General purpose finite element analysis solution
  • OPTIS, RTLab and VRLab – Real-time ray-tracing software solutions

A sampling of these applications will be demonstrated in the Experience Zone at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit to take place June 13-16 in Bellevue, Washington. Summit participants will be able to engage in interactive sessions and hands-on labs to deepen their knowledge of advanced CPU and GPU programmability, and gain a better understanding of how software applications can take full advantage of the parallel processing power of APUs, bringing supercomputer-like performance to everyday computing tasks.

Resources

AMD Fusion Accelerated Processing Units Win 2011 Best Choice of COMPUTEX TAIPEI Award [May 24, 2011]

MD (NYSE: AMD) is awarded today with the highest industry honor, “2011 Best Choice of Computex TAIPEI Award” for its Fusion Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) in the Computer & System category. The award is given by Taipei Computer Association, key player in IT industry and exhibition in Taiwan, and appraised by a panel of government representatives, academicians, research analysts, oversea media, editor-in-chiefs and industry experts.

AMD Fusion APUs offer a brand-new approach to processor design and better address users’ needs to handle more demanding workloads and visual computing in a small form factor device with long battery life. Only AMD Fusion APUs are engineered to deliver powerful CPU and GPU compute capabilities in a single-die processor for today’s HD video, 3D and data-intensive workloads for anyone looking for a richer visual computing experience whenever, wherever they want.

“We are honored to receive this prestigious award from the Taipei Computer Association, which is a manifestation of our efforts and excellence in AMD Fusion APUs,” said Andy Tseng, AMD Corporate Vice President and Taiwan General Manager. “AMD Fusion APUs are already widely recognized within the industry for being creative and innovative. This award proves the importance of listening to our customers and designing breakthrough products around their needs.”

Best Choice of COMPUTEX TAIPEI Award has recognized achievements in product design and technology innovation since 2002; it’s one of the important official events during COMPUTEX TAIPEI, the second largest ICT exhibition worldwide. Through reviews, the jury selected outstanding design and cutting-edge technology across 10 product categories.

AMD and other awarded products will be demonstrated at Best Choice Award Pavilion by Taipei Computer Association at the upcoming 2011 Computex Exhibition. In addition, AMD’s products showcase will be located at Booth# L0617 in the TWTC Nangang Exhibition Hall. For more information on AMD 2011 Computex, please visit our event portal.

For developers interested in learning more about APUs and heterogeneous computing, AMD will be holding its first AMD Fusion Developer Summit (AFDS) from June 13-16 in Bellevue, Washington. Summit participants will be able to engage in interactive sessions and hands-on labs to deepen their knowledge of advanced CPU and GPU programmability, and gain a better understanding of how software applications can take full advantage of the parallel processing power of APUs, bringing supercomputer-like performance to everyday computing tasks.

Additional Resources

AMD Fusion APU Receives “Best in Show” Award at Embedded Systems Conference [May 11, 2011]

AMD (NYSE: AMD) announced the AMD Embedded G-Series APU was named “Best in Show” for hardware at the Embedded Systems Conference by the industry analyst firm VDC Research, which has been presenting the Embeddy Awards at ESC for seven years running. The primary criteria for the hardware category are an enabling product that offers new innovation and new or significantly better functionality.

“We selected the AMD Embedded G-Series processor because it is an integrated circuit that combines a low-power CPU and a discrete-level GPU into a single embedded Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) for advanced graphics and multi-media integration,” said Richard Dean, program manager, VDC Research. “Among the benefits are the integration of the APU, which reduces the foot print size of a three-chip platform to two chips, and the overall reduction in costs across the product’s lifecycle.”

“Embedded Systems Conference showcases the best of the best in our industry and it’s very gratifying that a product we feel can change the dynamics of the industry has been recognized as the top hardware product this year,” said Buddy Broeker, director, Embedded Solutions, AMD. “The AMD Embedded G-Series platform represents a major advancement for the capabilities of embedded systems and yet still enables reduction of the key thresholds of power, area and costs. This is a trend that AMD expects to continue in the years to come.”

AMD is the only company in the industry today providing a complete roster of CPUs, chipsets, discrete GPUs, and APUs with the features and support to meet embedded system requirements.

Additional Resources

New AMD Embedded G-Series APUs Provide Thirty Nine Percent Power Reduction for Fanless Designs [May 23, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

AMD (NYSE: AMD) today announced immediate availability of two new AMD Embedded G-Series APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) with thermal design power (TDP) ratings of 5.5 and 6.4 watts, up to a 39 percent power savings compared to earlier versions1. The very low power consumption and small 361mm² package is ideal for compact, fanless embedded systems like digital signage, kiosks, mobile industrial devices and many of the new emerging industry-standard small form factors such as Qseven. This is an unprecedented low-power offering for the embedded market that features one or two low-power x86 “Bobcat” CPU cores and a discreet class DirectX® 11-capable GPU on a single die.

“We have seen many of our embedded customers deploy fanless systems even with our 15W TDP processors in the past. Today we take the ground-breaking AMD Fusion APU well below 7W TDP and shatter the accepted traditional threshold for across-the-board fanless enablement,” said Buddy Broeker, director, Embedded Solutions, AMD. “System designers can now unleash their creativity without being constrained by heat or size issues.”

A fanless solution is crucial for many small embedded systems where the added cost for an active cooling system can be prohibitive or for environments where silent operation is a key requirement. Additionally, many embedded products are deployed in harsh environmental conditions where the presence of a fan represents a potential failure point for the system. The AMD Embedded G-Series platform provides enterprise-class features and performance with the reliability, cost- and power-efficiencies these systems require.

Systems based on the new low power AMD Embedded G-Series platform include an industrial mobile device from Amtek, a Pico-ITX single board computer from Axiomtek, a Qseven form factor computer-on-module from datakamp, and a fanless digital signage platform from iBASE. Additional customers are expected to bring new products to market in the coming quarters.

Additional Resources:

Metro styled new entertainment experience on Xbox 360

Although not mentioned in any of the press materials (see the excerpts below) Microsoft has shown a brand new Xbox 360 UX interface in its E3 keynote today. It is based on the same Metro design language as Windows Phone 7 and other, including the latest ‘Windows 8’ UX. See more information about that in: Next-generation cloud client experiences based on the Metro design language [Jan 24]

Here are the screenshots of the new Xbox interface:

Xbox New Home
New Xbox Home

New Xbox Music

Xbox New Games
New Xbox Games

Xbox New Video
New Xbox Video

Xbox Bing for Discovery
Now joined by Xbox Bing: here for starting the discovery

Xbox Bing search results for voice introduced x-men
and here showing the search results for the voice introduced
‘X-Men’ keyword (the games and others with ‘X-Men’)

Xbox Live TV
Now joined by Xbox Live TV as well

The above screens of the new UX have beeen shown via voice activation on the scene and commented as:

Use your voice to find the entertainment [with the help of Xbox Bing].

… TV is more amazing when you are the controller.

At the same time navigation in the new UX has not been showm. First we could probably see that when Xbox Live TV service will be introduced in a month or so. Most likely we will have the new UX at the start of the holiday season when voice search is coming. See the following excerpt from one of the press materials:

Voice search with Bing on Xbox will become available this holiday season, as part of the Xbox LIVE update.

See more: Xbox 360: The Future Revealed – the already available recording of today’s morning show by Microsoft
(position to [1:04:44—1:10:45] to watch the above new UX in action)

Relevant excerpts from the press materials:

Xbox 360 Gives TV a New Voice — Yours [June 6, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Microsoft Corp. today kicked off the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) by solving the challenge of finding the entertainment you want, quickly and easily. The solution: voice search with Bing on Xbox 360. Bing on Xbox searches Netflix, Hulu Plus and ESPN, as well as music, video and Xbox LIVE Marketplace to find exactly the entertainment you want to enjoy. With Bing on Xbox and Kinect for Xbox 360, you can effortlessly find the games, movies, TV shows, sports and music you want. You say it, Xbox finds it.

Over the past two years, Microsoft has joined with some of the world’s largest TV operators to bring live television to Xbox LIVE in the United Kingdom with Sky TV, in France with Canal+ and in Australia with FOXTEL. Now, Microsoft has announced its commitment to expand access to live television programming on Xbox 360 to more providers in the United States and around the world during the upcoming year. Consumers will enjoy news, sports and their favorite local channels, all just a voice command away, on Xbox 360. Also this year, Microsoft is teaming up with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)* to bring the depth of the world’s best mixed martial arts programming to Xbox LIVE.

Microsoft is building on its expansive catalog of tens of thousands of movies and TV shows available on demand from Hulu Plus, Netflix and Zune by bringing YouTube** to Xbox 360. You will gain access to great “Web original” content from around the world — the latest videos, gaming tips and a universe of compelling content. And for the first time ever, you can control YouTube videos just by using your voice. A great way to experience YouTube is now on Xbox 360.

Did you miss “The Social Network” in the theater? You will be able to simply tell your television what you want to watch and choose from the multiple sources on Xbox 360 that may be offering it live or on demand. Want to play the latest viral videos from YouTube from the comfort of your couch? Xbox 360 and the magic of Kinect make it as easy as using your voice. Xbox 360 brings together the entertainment you want, whether it’s movies, TV shows, music, sports, or your favorite games, available instantly with the command of your voice through Bing on Xbox 360 and Kinect.

Xbox LIVE Fact Sheet [June, 2011] (emphasis in bold is mine)

Xbox LIVE is the online entertainment service for your Xbox 360 console, connecting you to an ever-expanding world of games, movies, TV shows, music, sports, and ways to be social with family and friends. … Xbox LIVE is an active community of nearly 35 million people throughout 35 countries.

Better with Kinect. Compatible with every Xbox 360 console, Kinect for Xbox 360 makes you the controller. With Kinect, your voice is the remote control. Interact with your entertainment on Xbox LIVE through the sound of your voice or a wave of your hand. Kinect creates experiences that are familiar, intuitive and tailored for each game or entertainment experience.

Voice search. Finding the right entertainment is easy when you are the controller. Coming Holiday 2011, you say it, and Xbox finds it immediately, regardless of where your favorite entertainment resides across Xbox LIVE.4 Through the simplicity of Kinect and the intelligence of Bing on Xbox, you’ll have the ability to find entertainment content on your Xbox 360 system including games, movies, TV shows, sports and music.

Xbox: All-In-One Hub for the Living Room [June 6, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

“Last year, Xbox 360 changed the game with Kinect. This year with the power of Xbox, the simplicity of Kinect and the intelligence of Bing, Xbox 360 will change living room entertainment forever,” says Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business. “Combine all that we offer with great partners and a growing audience, and Xbox is poised to register another record year. This year Xbox 360 will go from being the number one selling console in North America to the number one selling console globally.”

At last year’s E3, Microsoft introduced the world to Kinect, which went on to become the fastest-selling electronic device in history. Though Microsoft doesn’t have a singular star like last year’s Kinect to showcase at E3, the so-called Super Bowl of the electronic entertainment industry, Molly O’Donnell, Xbox 360 director of marketing integration, says the company will show competitors, the media and fans that Xbox 360 “has a deep bench.”

“Last year with Kinect, you could say, ‘Xbox, play’ to start a movie or music, but we thought we’d take the power of voice to the next level,” O’Donnell says. “With voice search, you can say ‘Xbox, Bing, Harry Potter,’ and your Xbox will find all the Harry Potter content available to you on Xbox LIVE, whether it’s a game, a movie, or a soundtrack.”

Voice search with Bing on Xbox will become available this holiday season, as part of the Xbox LIVE update.