MWC 12: Intel branded, Atom-powered smartphone to be sold by Orange

Subject: Mobile | February 26, 2012 - 08:06 PM |
Tagged: z2460, SoC, smartphone, orange, MWC 12, MWC, Intel, atom z2460

Reuters is reporting that European cell phone carrier Orange will be selling a reference design Medfield smartphone under the Intel brand name.  The Atom Z2460 SoC will find its first major distributor to be one of the world's largest service providers - this could potentially be a big opening for Intel in a market it desperately wants to compete for.

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I find it very interesting that not only has Intel developed a processor that has finally garnered attention for the mobile market but the team at Intel has built a reference design that was fine tuned enough to direct sell to consumers.  Will the company avoid becoming a typical, low margin SoC company by focusing on vertical implementations like this one?  It is an interesting thought and no other vendor has really done it, with possibly the exception of Samsung that owns the entire device process already.

Anandtech has the major specifications of the phone, codenamed "Santa Clara":

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These are basically identical to the reference design we saw at CES with only some minor changes to the form factor.  Ice Cream Sandwich isn't included out the gate but we are hoping the upgrade will get pushed soon since Intel showed ICS on the Atom SoC in January.

I haven't been able to find anything about availability or pricing yet but I'll be sure to report it when I find it.  The mobile market continues to intrigue...

Source: Reuters

WonderMedia Announces PRIZM WM8950 with Android 4.0 Support

Subject: Processors, Mobile | January 5, 2012 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: WonderMedia, PRIZM WM8950, SoC, arm, cortex-a9

Taipei, Taiwan, January 5, 2012 -WonderMedia Technologies, Inc, a leading innovator of energy-efficient, feature-rich system-on-chip platforms, today announced the WonderMedia PRIZM WM8950 SoC.Combining a highly energy-efficient ARM Cortex-A9 core running at 800MHz with advanced graphics and stunning 1080p video playback capabilities, the WonderMedia PRIZM WM8950 further extends WonderMedia's leadership in the fast-growing Android media tablet market.

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Prizm WM8950The next generation WonderMedia PRIZM platform and software suite provides customers an easy migration path to a Cortex-A9 SoC and offers support for the latest Android 4.0 and Windows CE 7.0 operating systems. With its high-performance, and feature-rich design, the WM8950 is also optimized for a wide range of innovative system design applications, including smartbooks, Smart TV, SmartStream for wireless display and multimedia streaming, networked projectors, digital signage, and thin clients.

"Our line of PRIZM platforms has spurred the explosive growth in the Android media tablet market," commented Tzumu Lin, President and CEO, WonderMedia Technologies, Inc. "The new WM8950 delivers greater computing power and richer multimedia experiences to meet the ever growing global demand for affordable smart mobile devices."

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PRIZM WM8950 Highlights:

  • 800MHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor
  • ARM Mali-400 3D graphics Processor
  • Multi-standard 1080p video decoding engine
  • H.264 video encoding
  • DDR3/LPDDR2 DRAM interface
  • Multiple video interface including HDMI, LVDS, and DVO
  • Flexible networking and peripheral interface
  • Advanced hardware security engine
  • Android 4.0 and Windows CE7.0 support

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

Qualcomm Commits To Gaming Market With Software and SoCs

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 3, 2011 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: SoC, qualcomm, PC, mobile, gaming, console

Mobile gaming has seen a relatively sharp rise in popularity in recent years thanks to the rise of powerful smartphones and personal media players like the iPod Touch and its accompanying App Store.  Mobile networks, powerful System On A Chips (SoC) that are capable of 3D graphics, lighting, and physics, and a large catalog of easy to download and play games have created an environment where people actually want to play games on their mobile devices.  Many people now indulge themselves in quick Angry Birds sessions while in long lines, on work breaks, or wherever they have time when out and about.  

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One area where mobile devices have not caught on; however, is at home.  Mobile devices face stiff competition from game consoles and the PC.  That competition has not stopped numerous manufacturers from trying to implement an all-in-one mobile console that was portable and easy to plug into a larger display when at home.  Everything from cheap controllers with logic inside that allows them to play old arcade games to smart phones with HDMI outputs costing hundreds of dollars have passed through the hands of consumers; however, the mobile console has yet to overcome the sheer mind share of consumers who prefer dedicated game consoles and their PCs.

According to Anandtech, Qualcomm, a popular manufacturer of ARM SoC for smart phones has announced its plans to pursue that vision of an integrated, mobile console.  They claim that the increased power provided by next generation SoC technology will allow tablets and smartphones to deliver graphics that are better than those of current dedicated game consoles like the PS3 and Xbox 360.  Due to Sony and Microsoft wanting to extend the lives of consoles well into the future, mobile technology may well surpass it.  The company "is committed to delivering both the hardware and the software support needed to bring developers to these mobile platforms," according to Anandtech.

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Qualcomm wants to bring portable consoles to the masses powered by their SoCs and backed by their software.  The tablets and smartphones would be able to connect to displays using HDMI or wireless technology in addition to supporting controllers (or acting as a controller itself).  Further, the games library will be the culmination of software from all platforms and will rival the graphical prowess of the current consoles.  Qualcomm hopes that a large library and capable hardware will be enough to entice consumers to the idea of a portable console becoming their all-in-one gaming device.

Portable consoles are similar to tablets and 3D television in that there is a major push for it every few years, a few devices come out, and then it dies off to be reborn again a few years later.  Whether Qualcomm is able to pull off the plans for a portable console remains to be seen; however, the device is bound to catch on at some point.  At the very least, this is certainly not the last time we will hear about the portable console.  You can see more of Qualcomms plans here.

What do you believe is holding back the portable console from catching on with consumers?  Is it a good idea in the first place?

Source: Anandtech