CES 2012: Android Design Style Guide released

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 13, 2012 - 02:54 AM |
Tagged: google, CES 2012, CES, Android

Android is known for many things: relatively free and open, flexible, creepy little green dudes, and patent warfare. Consistent design is not one of those points. This year, towards the end of CES, Google announced and released the Android application design guide for developers interested in creating for Ice Cream Sandwich. As a result of the announcement, Joshua Topolsky sat down with Matias Duarte, the Google director of Android user experience, for a video interview. Listen in for all of the tough questions and see Google sweat.

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Make it Google. Please, for the love of all that is holy... make it Google.

The purpose of the design specification is not to force developers into a single static design such as what could be seen in other, more curated marketplaces. The purpose of the design specification is to show people what Google considers a good design choice in an assortment of situations and hope that people follow suit. The idea is that when given a default choice a developer would need to go out of their way to invent their own solution; once enough developers follow suit it then becomes more difficult to invent your own solution as your customers are already conditioned to a standard method.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: The Verge

Intel Aims For ARM With New x86 Smartphone Reference Design

Subject: Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 01:46 AM |
Tagged: x86, smartphone, Intel, CES, Android

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What do you do if you’re a big company with lots of money, but are having trouble convincing manufacturers to adopt your technology in their products because your competitors are already established in the market?

You build the product yourself.

That’s what Intel has done with its new smartphone reference platform. Revealed at the company’s keynote by CEO Paul Otellini, the reference platform is a fully functional smartphone running an x86 port of Android. It was demonstrated at the keynote and used to play games, watch video and output video to a monitor via HDMI.

Intel has been down this many times before, of course, but never had much success. That was before a fully functional reference platform was made available, however.  The device shown today could potentially be put on store shelves as-is (after a few more months of testing, perhaps). It is thin, it is light, it has a 4-inch display with a resolution of 1024x600 and it runs Android.  This is no thick and bulky test mule – it’s a functional example that can be used by vendors as a starting point so they don’t have to build a device from the ground up.

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Such a strategy can help get Intel’s foot in the door, and in fact already has. After showing the reference design, Otellini announced a multi-year “strategic partnership” with Motorola. If things go as planned, Motorola should be shipping out phones with Intel processors inside them in the second half of this year. 

Lenovo showed another phone even closer to release. Known as the Lenovo K800, it should be out within months. There’s just one problem (for us) – it’s China only. 

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Inside the reference design is an Intel Atom Z2460 running at up to 1.6 GHz. This is not an Atom in brand name only - the architecture is basically the same as any other Intel Atom processor. Unlike almost every other modern smartphone processor, this is a single-core part (for now). 

Though down a core to the competition, Intel suggested that the reference design is generally quicker than all current smartphones. Some early CPU benchmarks from Anandtech seem to back up that assertion. However, the graphics component isn’t up to par with today’s best, a fact that became evident when Intel showed a game demo using the reference device. It looked okay, but was clearly inferior to games running on Tegra 3.

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While the hardware seems to be coming together, software remains a potential roadblock. Intel showed their smartphone running Android 2.3 ported for x86. Because of how Android handles code, most Android apps are compatible despite the change in processor architecture.

Just one problem – some apps make specific references in their code to ARM features, and these apps will not function on x86. Intel is attempting to compensate for that using on-the-fly ARM to x86 code conversion.  It’s hard to judge how well that works without testing it first-hand, but at least Intel has a plan for dealing with the issue. 

My excitement about this announcement is tempered by the lack of available products. Timing is critical. The reference hardware might be quicker than today’s most popular smartphones, but new designs are constantly emerging, each quicker than the last. Releasing this product six months from now may result in a competitive product – but a delay forcing it into the holiday season could yet again spoil Intel’s dreams of smartphone dominance.

But even if Intel’s partners don’t translate this reference platform into products quickly, it at least shows that Intel is headed in the right direction. ARM is entrenched, but Intel has the resources and the engineers required to provide serious competition. CES 2013 could end up being the conference where x86 and ARM devices go toe-to-toe.  

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Intel

Panasonic Launches Ruggedized ToughPad A1 and B1 Tablets

Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2012 - 11:52 PM |
Tagged: toughpad, tablet, ruggedized, Panasonic, mobile, CES, Android

Panasonic dropped a new tablet on us at CES. Literally, they dropped the tablet on stage to show just how tough their new ruggedized ToughPad really is. The A1 and B1 ToughPad tablets are Android powered 10" and 7" tablets rated to be dust and water resistant. Both tablets are MIL-STD-810G and IP65 rated and ready to perform in very extreme work environments.

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The ToughPad A1 is Panasonic's 10" Android tablet and brings some decent hardware to bear. On the outside, the ruggedized exterior and rubberized edges absorb shock and keep dust and water out. The front of the tablet includes a 10" multi-touch display with a resolution of 1024 x 768 and 500 nit brightness. The touchscreen can be used by either finger gestures or an included digitizer. Further, the front of the tablet houses a 2 megapixel front camera as well as microphone, ambient light, accelerometer, and digital compass sensors. The tablet internals include a 1.2 GHz Marvell dual core processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal memory, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, and optional 3G or 4G modems. A lithium Ion battery rated at 7.4 volts, 4690 mAh is also nestled inside. A microSDHC card slot, micro USB 2.0, and micro-HDMI connector as well as a stylus holder are also present. The device runs Android 3.2 and supports TPM chips and hardware encryption. It weighs 2.1 pounds (the price of going rugged, I suppose) and has an MSRP of $1200 USD.

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The B1 model is the 7" version and will be available in the fall. Exact specifications on this model are not yet known; however, expect it to follow closely in line with it's bigger sibling's dual core processor, 1 GB of RAM, ruggedized exterior, and hefty price tag.

Unfortunately, all I can think about when looking at this tablet is how the heck Panasonic expects to sell this for $1200 bucks. This is definitely not a consumer tablet and moreso something businesses will invest in for workers in harsh (to electronics anyway) environments.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Toshiba unveils plans for world’s thinnest 10-inch tablet at CES

Subject: Mobile | January 9, 2012 - 09:28 AM |
Tagged: toshiba, tablet, CES, Android

Last year, Toshiba unveiled their first offering into the mobile tablet frenzy with the 10.1-inch Thrive, which was moderately successful by many people's standards because of its unique form factor that included an HDMI port, USB port, and full SD slot. New information has been trickling in about their latest Excite X10 tablet, which is being touted by Toshiba as the "world's thinnest 10.1 tablet".

 

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Courtesy of Toshiba

The Excite X10 is being released at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and the specs are somewhat unusual with the inclusion of a Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 1.2GHz dual-core processor versus other multi-core offerings from NVIDIA or Qualcomm. The Excite X10 is just 0.3 inches (7.7mm) thin and weighs a little more than a pound (1.18 lbs) and includes micro-USB and HDMI ports, a micro-SD slot, and wifi and bluetooth connectivity. They also added a 1280x800 resolution display that showcases a scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass display with an anti-smudge coating. There are also 2MB front and 5MB back cameras (with flash) for photos and 1080p video recording and conferencing.

The Excite X10 tablet will be available in the first quarter of this year for $529.99 for the 16GB model and $599.99 for the 32GB model.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Toshiba
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction, Design and Ergonomics

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The original ASUS Eee Pad Transformer was a bit of an upset in the tablet market. Before its launch, there was no particular reason to believe that ASUS would be able to provide a better product than any of the many other PC manufacturers entering the Android tablet fray. Sure, I like most of the ASUS products that I’ve been able to review, and I believe they have some good engineers. But they also had no experience beyond a few Windows tablets and convertible tablets. 


Yet they were successful. At the time I called the Transformer "the best Android tablet on the market today” and gave it with a Gold Award. Consumers apparently agreed, as it flew off shelves with such speed that ASUS has decided to debut a follow-up only half a year after the original hit the market.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Transformer Prime tablet!!

Intel Medfield x86 SoC Targets Android Phones and Tablets

Subject: Processors, Mobile | December 26, 2011 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Medfield, Android, x86, SoC

Intel hopes that 2012 will finally be the year they see mainstream phones with Intel inside.  Despite Intel's attempts to tell us otherwise for the past several generations, the upcoming Medfield design is the first truly serious attempt to enter the phone and tablet market currently dominated by the many ARM-based partners of phone manufacturers all over the world.  A recent post over at Technology Review discussed the advantages that Medfield offers over previous Intel Atom-based designs with Steve Smith, Intel's VP of Architecture.

First shown at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco this past September, a Medfield-based reference design has many believing in what some thought was impossible but what others thought was inevitable: Intel x86 cores in a phone that matters.  Why the change from many in the analyst space?  Medfield is the first option from Intel that is truly a single-chip solution, removing design space concerns and power consumption issues that previous Atom-architecture solutions were saddled with. 

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Intel showed Technology Review the Android-based reference phone running Gingerbread.

The phone prototype seen by Technology Review was similar in dimensions to the iPhone 4 but noticeably lighter, probably because the case was made with more plastic and less glass and metal. It was running the version of Google's operating system shipping with most Android phones today, known as Gingerbread; a newer version, Ice Cream Sandwich, was released by Google only about a month ago.

Intel has a lot of experience in the consumer markets though it took a shift inside the company to really put the focus on phones and tablets over netbooks and convertible-notebooks.  At the recent showing not only did they have the reference design phone but also an iPad-like tablet device running Ice Cream Sandwich, another key to the consumer's dollar.  And as you can clearly see in the diagram below, there is a lot of money being made that Intel wants in on.  A LOT.

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Source: Technology Review, IDC

Intel will also enjoy a process technology advantage over the competition with current Medfield SoCs built on the company's internal 32nm process and the upcoming 22nm technology promises even more power consumption advantanges.  ARM designs are built at different foundries including Samsung and TSMC and while they are competitive, no one can keep up with Intel on this front. 

Anandtech also had some interesting information to share from an investor conference earlier this month about the power consumption and performance levels of Medfield. 

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Source: Anandtech.com

The diagram shows that power consumption on Medfield should be competitive with the current ARM-based SoC leaders in the market today.  Areas like 3G standby, basic audio playback and video playback should be accomplished with minimal power draw in order to have battery life extended to at least current expectations.  The performance graphs here on Browser Mark and "Graphics" are impressive as well though obviously we have a TON of missing information to really make the graph meaningful.  Anand puts it well:

Barring any outright deception however, there seems to be potential in Medfield.

I tend to believe that Intel is too smart to misjudge a product to investors, but remember how impressive the initial performance results of Larrabee were for years? 

I am hopeful and excited for Intel's mobility plans in 2012 as other information we have seen looks impressive.  Let's see what CES has to offer.

Qualcomm Licensing PowerVR Display Intellectual Property Technology

Subject: Mobile | December 16, 2011 - 06:00 AM |
Tagged: tegra, SoC, qualcomm, PowerVR, mobile, Android, adreno

Quite a few mobile device manufacturers are implementing graphics processors and image processors based on Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR technology. Popular licensees of Imagination Technologies PowerVR core patents include Intel, LG, Samsung, Sony, and Texas Instruments (a big one in regards to number of SoCs using PowerVR techs for mobile phones).

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Interestingly, Qualcomm is not currently licensing the graphics processor portfolio that man other mobile OEMs license. Rather, Qualcomm is licensing the PowerVR display patents. The intellectual property features the PowerVR de-interlacing cores and de-judder purposed FRC (Frame Rate Conversion) core. The de-interlacing core(s) can do either “motion adaptive (MA) or motion compensated (MC) de-interlacing” as well as a few other algorithms to deliver smooth graphics. Further, the FRC cores take 24 FPS (frames per second) source material and outputs it as either 120 Hz or 240 Hz while applying image processing to keep the video looking smooth to the eye. The method for grabbing and extrapolating “extra” frames to take a 24 FPS video and display it on an LCD screen that refreshes at 120 Hz by displaying each one of those 24 frames five times every second involves a bit of math and algorithmic magic; a simplistic explanation can be read here.

It will be interesting to see how Qualcomm applies the image processing technology to their future SoCs (system on a chip) to entice manufacturers into going with them instead of competition like Texas Instruments or Nvidia’s Tegra chips. The Verge speculates that this Qualcomm and Imagination Technologies deal may be just the first step towards Qualcomm licensing more PowerVR tech (possibly) including the GPU portfolio. Whether Qualcomm will ditch their Adreno GPUs remains to be seen. If I had to guess, the SoC maker will invest in more PowerVR IP, but they will not completely abandon their Adreno graphics. Rather, they will continue developing next generation Adreno graphics for use in their SoCs while also integrating the useful and superior aspects of PowerVR graphics and display technologies. Another option may be to develop and sell both platforms (possibly with one being high end competition to Tegra and the other being for the rest of phones as competition to other low end, low power chips) to hedge their bets into the future of mobile SoCs which is a rapidly advancing industry where change and what is considered the top tech happens quickly.

Source: The Verge

Via X86 Hardware Will Have Support for Android OS

Subject: Systems | December 15, 2011 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: x86, VIA, Nano, embedded, Android

Today low power X86 platform manufacturer Via Technologies announced Android operating system support with their embedded x86 motherboards and processors. Currently, the company is supporting Android on their EITX-3002 platform, with more options likely to come in the future. Via believes that running Android on X86 embedded systems presents the opportunity for low cost entertainment systems capable of playing back 1080p video in vehicles, planes, and kiosks.

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Including the usually Android SDKs, Via has released a new SMART ETK (Embedded Tool Kit) that allows monitoring and control of peripherals. Applications of this include controlling lights or environmental systems in your home via a touchscreen enabled embedded home control center. In the video below, Via shows off Android running on their EITX-3002 platform and using a touchscreen panel connected to it to control an external light and fan.

The EITX-3002 is a motherboard based on the Em-ITX form factor. The boards is then paired with either a 1.2 GHz VIA Nano X2 E-Series or a 1.0 GHz Eden X2 dual core processor. In addition, a VIA VX900 MSP is located on the underside of the motherboard. This co-processor assists with the decoding HD video thanks to hardware acceleration. The VX900 MSP supports decoding MPEG-2, H.264, VC-1, and WMV9 codecs. The embedded platform itself is able to output to two independent displays and resolutions of 1920 x 1080. Fan-less enclosures can be used with this low power setup, and rear I/O includes HDMI, VGA, two Gigabit Ethernet, two COM ports, four USB 2.0, four USB 3.0, and audio jacks. Via will support the Windows 7, XP, Embedded Standard 2009, WES7, Debian Linux, and Android 2.2 operating systems.

There are already projects like AndroidX86 that allow users to use the Android OS on traditional PCs but not officially. This Via platform would be good for embedded systems and pairing it with Android is a good move. Especially now that many people are familiar with or have at least seen how the Android OS works, having a similar setup in vehicle and in-flight entertainment systems will make the UI all the more intuitive. Not to mention that the Android OS uses less resources than a traditional Windows installation which means power savings for end users. Whether Android will catch on or not for entertainment kiosks and car computers remains to be seen but it’s an interesting option for sure.

Source: Via

Lephone leaked by Lenovo

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2011 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, lephone, Android, windows phone

Lenovo is moving into BlackBerry's territory with several new mobile products, two phones and a tablet that can act as as phone.  The first phone will be running an older version of Android and bears the unfortunate name of Lephone K2.  The Inquirer reports that the other will be running Windows Phone OS though it would not be at all surprising if it ends up based on Win8.  This may really hurt RIM as they are currently the choice of smartphone for enterprise users; these same users are likely using a Lenovo as their PC.  With the already established place that Lenovo bears in the office, if they can create a decent phone that interacts with their Lenovo laptop or desktop, they could push RIM right out of the office.

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"CHINESE HARDWARE VENDOR Lenovo has unveiled not one but two smartphones, the Lephone K2 and an unnamed Windows Phone 7.5 Mango device.

The Lephone K2 is the Android device and will come with Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, not Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Details are very light on Windows alternative, apart from that it will run Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system and tip up in the second half of next year, according to PC Mag."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Amazon

Introduction, Design and Ergonomics

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The tablet market is starting to heat up. After a long period of dominance by the iPad and its long line of Android imitators, we have new competitors looking to spoil the tablet world order. On the high-end we have the incoming volley of buff Tegra 3 based products, and on the low end with have the Kindle Fire, a simple $199 tablet that seems to prefer that its users don’t think for a second about the hardware inside. 

That’s actually a bit odd, because the hardware inside is at least competitive. Though priced $300 less than the cheapest iPad 2, the Fire offers a dual core processor at the same clock speed of 1 GHz. It also provides 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage, neither of which will blow away competitors, but all of which is competitive. While the 7” size of the Fire means there is simply less tablet to build, it’s impressive that Amazon has managed to cram reasonably impressive hardware into one of the cheapest Android tablets on the market today.

Hardware is only a small part of equation, however. Amazon really intends the Fire to be a portal to its world of services, which includes ebooks, streaming video, apps and much more. This is very much a walled garden, even more so than Apple’s iPad, and for it to work the spoils of the garden need to be damn good. Let’s see if $200 is really a good value given that users must buy into Amazon’s services as well. 

Continue reading our review of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet!!