Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Inevitable Sadness of AMD

It would seem that the arms race between AMD and Intel has ended, and the victor is Intel. The most recent news to come out of AMD’s headquarters is that they are going to stop researching and producing high-end CPU’s. AMD will instead change the focus of their company.

The first rumors out were speculating that AMD was out of the desktop processor game completely and moving towards mobile devices, but the day after these rumors appeared AMD made a statement saying that they will not be stopping their entire line of processors, but not moving forward with new high-end equipment. These statements are coming off the fresh “failure” of the bulldozer chipsets which had so much potential. AMD has also announced that they laid off nearly twelve percent of their workforce. In AMD’s statement they stated that they will be focusing on their x86 processor models and mobile technology moving forward.

Consumers are now left with major questions: Who will step in the ring and try to contend with Intel? How long until the first anti-trust lawsuit against Intel appears? Who will drive Intel to continue on its track record of excellence and force them to be competitive in their pricing? It does not seem like a feasible option for any processor company at this time to do so. - AMD Not Competing with Intel Anymore, Goes Mobile - AMD Still Committed to x86, Whatever That Means - AMD struggling to reinvent itself

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Western Digital's Deal to Acquire Hitachi's HDD Business Approved

Western DigitalWestern Digital has just secured conditional approval from the European Union's competition regulator to purchase Hitachi's hard disk drive business for a grand total of $4.3 billion. This was only made possible, however, after Western Digital agreed to sell several of its production operations.

Western Digital, which just so happens to be the world's second largest competitor in the hard disk drive (HDD) sector, and Hitachi, which just so happens to be the third largest, unveiled the deal back in March. The deal itself is aimed at giving the United States company a competitive edge in developing next-generation information storage technology.

This decision by the European Commission confirmed a story published last week by Reuters. According to European Union Commissioner Joaquin Almunia in a recent statement, "The proposed divestiture will ensure that competition in the industry is fully restored before the merger is implemented."

Western Digital did promise to sell essential production assets for the manufacturer of 3.5" disc drives, including a production plant, according to the Commission, which cited reduced competition in the sector after Seagate Technology bought Samsung Electronics' hard disk drive business recently. In addition to that the company agreed to transfer or license intellectual property rights to the business to be sold off. What's more is that Western Digital will also transfer staff and the supply of HDD components to the unit.

Western Digital is unable to complete the deal until it finds an appropriate buyer for the unit, which will then need to be approved by the regulator, according to the commission. If Western Digital is unable to find a suitable buyer, it stands to reason that this deal, although approved, will never actually come to fruition, which could be disappointing for both companies.

Source: Reuters - Western Digital cleared to buy Hitachi disk drive business

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Microsoft Kinect for PC Coming Soon

On Tuesday, November 22 Microsoft announced that it is working on getting its Kinect motion-sensing device ready to use on PCs that run Windows. The company currently sells Kinect for its Xbox 360 gaming console; however, it is hard at work and says that it will have the PC version ready by early 2012.

"Coupled with the numerous upgrades and improvements our team is making to the Software Development Kit (SDK) and runtime, the new hardware delivers features and functionality that Windows developers and Microsoft customers have been asking for," wrote Craig Eisler, general manager of Kinect for Windows, in a blog post.

"Simple changes include shortening the USB cable to ensure reliability across a broad range of computers and the inclusion of a small dongle to improve coexistence with other USB peripherals," Eisler continued. "Of particular interest to developers will be the new firmware which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision, with graceful degradation down to 40 centimeters. 'Near Mode' will enable a whole new class of 'close up' applications, beyond the living room scenarios for Kinect for Xbox 360. This is one of the most requested features from the many developers and companies participating in our Kinect for Windows pilot program and folks commenting on our forums, and we're pleased to deliver this, and more, at launch."

This announcement about the PC version of the Kinect comes on the exact same day that Microsoft officially acquired VideoSurf. Microsoft acquired the company, which was founded in 2006, for $70 million. It hopes to incorporate the California-based company’s online video search technology into the Xbox Live system.

According to a statement released by the companies on Tuesday, November 22, VideoSurf "offers a back-end computer vision technology that 'sees' frames inside videos to make discovering content fast, easy and accurate."

"VideoSurf's content analytics technology will enhance the search and discovery of entertainment content across our platform," said the director of Xbox Live for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business Alex Garden. "This holiday we will launch voice search across our entertainment partners on Xbox Live. Over time, as we integrate VideoSurf's technology into our system, we are excited about the potential to have content tagged in real time to increase the speed and relevance of the search results.”

According to Microsoft, the acquisition would "make it easier for world-class video partners to take full advantage of advanced features such as voice search enabled by Kinect for Xbox 360."

Microsoft also said that in the next few months it will bring "nearly 40 world-leading TV and entertainment providers to Xbox Live." These will include Bravo, Comcast, HBO GO, Verizon FiOS, and Syfy in the U.S.; BBC in the U.K.; Telefónica in Spain; Rogers On Demand in Canada; Televisa in Mexico; ZDF in Germany; and Mediaset in Italy.

"Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Division is at the leading edge of connected entertainment," said Lior Delgo, the CEO and co-founder of VideoSurf, in the statement that they released with Microsoft. "We are incredibly excited to be working together on our mutual passion for creating amazing consumer experiences and reinventing how consumers search, discover and enjoy content on their televisions."

Source: PCMag - Microsoft Preps Kinect for PCs Hardware, Firmware

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Japan's K Computer Remains as the World's Most Powerful Supercomputer

K ComputerThere is a recently released list of the Top 500 most powerful computers in the world, and once again Japan's K Computer takes the number one spot with an increase from 8.162 petaflops to 10.51 petaflops per second. This balances out to 10.51 quadrillion floating-point operations per second. The letter "K" is short for the Japanese word "kei", which symbolizes 10 quadrillion. Coincidence? I think not.

On the Top 500 list from June, the K Computer took the number one spot out of the hands of China's Tianhe-1A system. The Tianhe-1A remains in the number two spot at the moment at 2.57 petaflops. Following in the number three spot is the Oak Ridge National Lab's Jaguar supercomputer. After that, the rest of the list looks pretty much the same as the last, with many companies holding the same spots as they previously did. According to TOP500 editor Erich Strohmaier, "This is the first time since we began publishing the list back in 1993 that the top 10 systems showed no turnover."

The K Computer, which is installed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe, Japan in partnership with Fujitsu, uses 705,024 SPARC64 processing cores. If you want to know just how many that is, it is more than the rest of the top five on the list combined. In addition to that, the K Computer uses 12.66 megawatts of power, four times more than its nearest competitor. This is also more than the 9.89 megawatts of power the computer recorded in June. However, despite these high numbers, the K Computer is still one of the most efficient supercomputers on the list, delivering 830 Mflops per watt.

The K Computer was installed in 672 racks back in June. An expansion of 800 cabinets allowed the 10 petaflop achievement to be accomplished. Just a week ago, Fujitsu announced the expansion possibilities of the K Computer as it could possibly grow to a theoretical 23 petaflops.

Aside from the rankings remaining unchanged, other characteristics evolved with the November 2011 list. The entry point for being on the Top 500 list is now at 50.9 teraflops with the combined performance across all 500 supercomputers being 74.2 petaflops, an increase from the 58.7 petaflops recorded in June. Gigabit Ethernet is still the most popular internal system interconnect, being used in 223 systems. However, InfinfBand use increased to 213 systems.

Average power consumption continued to rise with 29 systems on the list confirmed at using more than one megawatt of power. The most energy efficient supercomputers are BlueGene/Q with 2,029 Mflops per watt. IBM just filed a patent for a massive supercomputer that could potentially reach 107 petaflops. In total all of the systems that reported in on power consumption combined for more than 159 megawatts.

Source: Data Center Knowledge - K Computer Still the Most Powerful Supercomputer

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Friday, November 11, 2011

HDD Shortages to Spill Over into Q1 2012

HDDConsidering operations are disrupted at over a dozen hard disk drive (HDD) factories thanks to flooding in Thailand, PC manufacturers should begin preparing for significant supply shortages according to market research firm IDC. Worldwide HDD shipments could suffer almost a 20% decline starting in the middle of this month that could extend far into the first quarter of 2012 according to the firm.

Thailand accounts for somewhere between 40% and 45% of HDD production in the entire world. As of early November, almost half of Thailand's production was directly affected by flooding. Even though production at some factories was halted as a result of flooding, the industry also faces work stoppages due to poor access and power outages. The full extent of the damage to the industry will not be known until all the floodwaters recede, even though it is already clear that there will be supply shortages into the first quarter of 2012 according to IDC.

Research Vice President at IDC John Rydning stated earlier in the month that hard drive manufacturers will favor their high-margin products used in enterprise servers and storage systems. "But the HDD vendors can't neglect their smaller customers, whose business will continue to be important once capacity is fully restored." Prices for HDDs have already started to increase rapidly in some cases, some by more than 30%.

IDC noted that the industry should be able to restore drive production quickly once the waters recede, though today's shortages will continue to constrain supply for an extended period. Hard drive prices should stabilize by next June, according to IDC, and the industry should be back to normal by the second half of 2012. IDC also says that the decline in total shipments for the fourth quarter is expected to be "less than 10%" due to the fact that a large chunk of PC shipments have already taken place for this quarter.

Worst-case scenarios put the total loss for the first quarter of 2012 at around 20% though IDC said that there are opportunities for larger PC vendors to capture enterprise accounts from smaller competitors and accelerate industry consolidation, more specifically in faster growth markets.

According to Program Vice President for IDC's Worldwide Consumer Device Trackers Loren Loverade, "The HDD shortage will affect smaller PC vendors and lower-priced products most, including mini-notebooks, emerging markets and entry-level consumer PCs. However, even the largest vendors are expected to face HDD shortages, particularly for portable PCs where the market is more consolidated. Nevertheless, the shortage will relieve some pressure on pricing and margins and present some opportunities for strategic share gains among the larger players."

Source: Computer World - PC makers should 'brace' for drive shortages

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

School Computers to Be Replaced by School iPads in 2016

school iPadsWith the technological age in full force, computers have become a staple in schools. Every single grade it seems is using computers for learning and entertainment while teaching. But, could the age of classroom computers be over? Is there a new piece of technology that will undoubtedly dethrone the computer in the classroom? Maybe, as many think tablets will eventually replace desktop computers in classrooms.

A recent survey of district tech directors discovered that all of them were testing or deploying tablet devices. What's more is that the survey also discovered that these directors expect tablets to outnumber computers in the classroom by the year 2016.

Analyst for Piper Jaffray Gene Munster recently surveyed 25 educational IT directors at a conference about the integration of technology in classrooms. Munster's survey, which was titled "Tablets in the Classroom", revealed that all 25 directors were using Apple's iPad in their schools while none of the participants were testing or deploying Android-based tablets. Munster went on to explain that this trend in education may be due to a familiarity with Apple devices among students and school employees.

According to Munster, "Within the next five years, our respondents expect to have more tablets per student than they currently have computers." Considering iPads represent a majority of the tablets in schools, Munster believes that the word "tablet" is synonymous with "iPad". The school districts that were represented in the survey currently have about 10 students per every computer. However, in the next five years, IT directors expect that number to drop to about six students per iPad. Devices, like the iPad, are more desirable over computers in the classroom because they provide a more individualized learning experience than traditional computers.

Tim Cook, the new CEO of Apple, stated earlier this year that demand for the iPad is strong among education customers. Back in February Georgia Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams proposed a plan to replace conventional textbooks in middle schools with the iPad. Williams met with Apple to talk about a plan to make the iPad a central component in the state's education system.

The iPad is slowly creeping its way into schools. Many students can rent the devices from their campus library in college and some schools, like the ones surveyed by Munster, are actually using them in the classroom. If expectations are correct, students in 2016 are going to have some fun times in the classroom.

Source: School Library Journal - IPads to Outpace Computers in Schools by 2016, Poll Says

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