ARM’s notable success in smartphones and tablets can obscure the fact that most of the chips using its designs are microcontrollers for using the input of sensors. The firm has announced collaboration with Logmein to push its Mbed project with developers that sign up to the Xively Cloud service.
ARM’s Mbed project aims to bring a standard workflow to hardware design in order to help more firms to make better use of the microcontroller technology that already exists. Simon Ford, director of Online Tools at ARM told The INQUIRER that the MBed project is intended to help hardware designers turn microcontrollers into final products.
Logmein and ARM worked on the Xively cloud based rapid prototyping service to offer hardware developers a way to speed up and lower the cost of the development lifecycle. Those developers who sign up for the service will also get a Xively Jumpstart Kit that includes an ARM Mbed prototype module to get started.
Ford said, “You’re trying to build a product, the intelligence you want embedded is critical but it isn’t the only problem you have. If you are trying to make a product, you have a whole raft a problems. [...] We are expanding the Mbed project to look at how do you have an industrial grade platform that is open, free to use and that removes barriers for someone that has this idea to proving a concept all the way to production.”
While ARM and Logmein promote the service as a way to build the much hyped internet of things, it can be used to develop any hardware that makes use of ARM’s extensive range of microcontrollers. With Logmein’s Xively cloud service, the firms are hoping to enable developers to cut the costs associated with hardware design, enabling smaller firms to get into the market.
The Pentagon has cleared BlackBerry and Samsung mobile devices for use on Defense Department networks, a step toward broadening the military’s variety of technology equipment makers while still ensuring communications security.
Lieutenant Colonel Damien Pickart, a Pentagon spokesman, said the department cleared the use of BlackBerry 10 smart phones and BlackBerry PlayBook tablets using its Enterprise Service 10 system, as well as Samsung’s Android Knox.
“This is a significant step towards establishing a multi-vendor environment that supports a variety of state-of-the-art devices and operating systems,” Pickart said in a statement.
The Pentagon said last Wednesday it also expected to clear Apple mobile devices using the iOS 6 system at some point in early May.
The move to open up Defense Department networks is expected to set the stage for an intensified struggle for Pentagon customers among BlackBerry devices, Apple’s iPhones or iPads and units using Google’s Android platform such as Samsung Electronics’ phones.
The Pentagon currently has some 600,000 users of smart phones, computer tablets and other mobile devices. The department has 470,000 BlackBerry users, 41,000 Apple users and 8,700 people with Android devices. Most Apple and Android systems are in pilot or test programs.
The move to open up the networks to a broader array of mobile devices is part of a Pentagon effort to ensure the military has access to the latest communications technology without locking itself in to a particular equipment vendor.
To ensure security, mobile devices and operating systems go through a security review process approved by the Defense Information Systems Agency. Once their Security Technical Implementation Guide – or STIG – is reviewed and approved, the devices can be used on the network.
The Iconia A1 is full-featured, has an “accessible” price and will raise the stakes in the tablet wars, said Jim Wong, president of Acer, during a speech at a press event in New York on Friday morning.
The tablet offers more than eight hours of battery life and an IPS display, also found on iPads. The tablet also has a quad-core processor, which is likely based on an ARM design. Shipment information for the product was not immediately available.
With the Iconia A1, Acer is entering a highly competitive low-cost tablet market, with vendors lowering prices as a way to gain market share. Acer’s new tablet comes just a few days after Hewlett-Packard started shipped the $169.99 Slate 7, which has a 7-inch screen and dual-core processor, but misses many basic features like GPS. Acer’s tablet has a larger screen and an equivalent processor to Google’s Nexus 7, which has a 7-inch screen and the latest version of Android.
Acer’s PC shipments have been falling over the last few quarters, and it is now the fourth largest PC maker in the world.
The company’s PC market share started tumbling as people moved to tablets and left behind netbooks, a market in which Acer was a leader.
Six years after the sale of the first iPhone and 14 years after the first BlackBerry email pager was debuted, smartphone shipments have outnumbered sales of other types of mobile phones, according to IDC.
IDC said 216.2 million smartphones were shipped globally in the first quarter of 2013. The smartphone total accounted for 51.6% of all mobile phones shipped.
Shipments of other mobile phones, which IDC calls feature phones, totaled 202.4 million in the quarter. Total shipments of all mobile phones was 418.6 million, IDC said.
“The balance of smartphone power has shifted,” said IDC analyst Kevin Restivo in a statement. “Phone users want computers in their pockets. The days when phones were used primarily to make phone calls and send text messages are quickly fading away.”
IDC also noted the emergence of China-based companies, including Huawei, ZTE, Coolpad and Lenovo, among the leading smartphone vendors, .
Those newcomers and others have displaced longtime mobile phone leaders Nokia from Finland, BlackBerry from Canada, and HTC from Taiwan, in the list of top five smartphone makers, IDC said.
BlackBerry was producing what was essentially a smartphone before Apple introduced the iPhone in June 2007.
The first BlackBerry device was an email pager, introduced in 1999. Those devices were subsequently combined with voice calling.
Nokia has long been a top producer of mobile phones, though it slipped off the top five list for the first quarter.
A year ago, it was common to see previous market leaders Nokia, BlackBerry and HTC among the top five, said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC.
IDC ranked the top five smartphone vendors in the first quarter as: Samsung (70.7%); Apple (37.4); LG (10.3%); Huawei (9.9%); ZTE (9.1%). The rest made up 36.4% of the market.
IDC ranked the top five vendors of feature phones and smartphones combined as: Samsung (27.5%); Nokia (14.8%); Apple (8.9%); LG (3.7%) and ZTE (3.2%). All others combined to hold 41.9% of the market.
Speaking at the Information Security 2013 conference (Infosec) in London on Wednesday, Hypponen said that though Apple’s iOS is a closed system, it works in terms of security because users can’t install what they want on the software, only apps that have been inspected by the vendor.
“I believe the most important innovation over the last 10 years was the Apple App Store. Think about the Apple model, you have a device where you can’t program on it,” Hypponen said.
“This is the same model we saw in the Playstation and Nintendo for example, now we have it in our pockets. Say what you will about the system, it works.”
Hypponen referred to the success of the iPhone, which has become “the second largest smartphone platform on the planet” since its launch six years ago in summer 2007.
“[It's a] highly visible, very big target, and there’s not been a single case of malware in that time,” Hypponen said. “Six years and not a single case, that’s a massive success story and it’s no coincidence, it’s a job well done by Apple.”
When quizzed about how a closed ecosystem is more innovative than an open operating system such as Google’s Android, Hypponen said that despite the security benefits of closed software, he was surprised by how eagerly end users have embraced the closed model.
“I think a more open approach could be better and I definitely prefer open environments and open source. But we’ve got to give credit – despite all its shortcomings, it has worked,” he said.
“If you don’t like them, you don’t have to use them and frankly I’ve been surprised how willing and eager people are to embrace this model. They’re happy to give up the right to program your own device or run whatever program they want. Apple took a gamble and it worked out.”
However, though Apple’s iOS is the most secure mobile operating system at present, Hypponen claimed earlier today that we will always be fighting cyber crime and it’s unlikely we will be able to secure everything, perhaps hinting that Apple malware is inevitable.
ARM posted market-beating first-quarter financial results, thanks to strong demand for its chip designs. The company forecast that annual revenue would be in-line with market expectations.
ARM’s first quarter revenue rose 28 per cent to $170.3 million from $132.5 million a year earlier. Analysts had expected a 20 per cent rise in revenue to $158.8 million. The company made an adjusted pretax profit rose 44 per cent to $89.4 million from $61.9 million a year earlier. Analysts were expecting a 25 per cent jump to $77.6 million.
Chief Executive Warren East said the company has “delivered another quarter of strong revenue and earnings growth, driven by robust licensing and record royalty revenue.” ARMs royalty revenues again outpaced the wider semiconductor industry, riven by market share gains in key end markets including digital TVs and microcontrollers, he said. ARM also continues to benefit from the growth in smartphones and tablets.
This year ARM said it had made an encouraging start with more leading companies choosing to sign up to ARM technology. More than 22 processor licenses were signed in the first quarter ended March 31 from smartphones, mobile computing, digital television and other technology.
In the quarter there were more than 2.6 billion ARM-based chips were shipped, up 35 per cent from a year earlier.
Apple recorded a profit of US$9.5 billion for the second quarter ending on March 30, falling from the $11.6 billion profit reported in the same quarter last year. The company’s revenue was $43.6 billion, growing from $39.19 billion in the year-ago quarter. Analysts expected revenue to be $42.33 billion.
IPhone sales grew, totaling 37.4 million units, compared to 35.1 million in last year’s second quarter; however, in that period last year unit shipments increased by 88 percent year over year. Mac sales were flat, totaling just under 4 million units during the quarter.
The company recorded fast growth with iPads, with shipments totaling 19.5 million during the quarter, compared to 11.8 million in the previous year’s quarter.
Apple CEO Tim Cook in a statement said that new products are in the pipeline.
“Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software and services, and we are very excited about the products in our pipeline,” Cook said in a statement.
Announcements could be made at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, for which a date hasn’t been announced. WWDC is usually held in June in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Apple had no major product releases in the previous quarter. In February, the company upgraded the MacBook Pro with Retina display and MacBook Air laptops with faster processors and more storage.
Apple expects revenue between $33.5 billion and $35.5 billion for the third quarter.
The subscription-based GoToWebcast allows users to broadcast unlimited audio and video presentations to live and on-demand audiences that can access them using mobile devices such as Apple’s iPhones and iPads, or Android-based smartphones and tablets.
To simplify administration, GoToWebcast has a five-step wizard that walks users through setting up their event. Users are first asked to schedule the event, including deciding audience size and if the web cast should be available on-demand or live with an archive. Users are then asked to select registration alternatives, multimedia options, choose what content to upload and finally decide on security and email settings.
In addition to audio and video, users can upload presentation documents, chat with attendees, conduct polls and link to social media channels. Citrix didn’t announce any pricing for the new service, only saying that users pay a fixed monthly fee.
The company also released a beta version of GoToWebinar with HDFaces for the 500- and 1,000-attendee plans. HDFaces is a video conferencing technology that lets up to six presenters lead interactive Q&A sessions, host panel discussions, or do demonstrations in high-definition.
The announcement comes after the recently announced availability of HDFaces for up to 100 participants in GoToWebinar and GoToTraining sessions, as Citrix adds high-definition video across its GoTo portfolio.
The company reported first-quarter sales of US$7.63 billion, down 20 percent year-on-year, and a net loss of $272 million, smaller than the year-earlier loss of $928 million.
Nokia sold a total of 61.9 million mobile phones during the first quarter, of which 6.1 million were smartphones (including 5.6 million Lumia devices). A year earlier, it sold 82.7 million phones, of which 11.9 million smartphones, and more than 2 million of those were Lumia devices. (Nokia does not categorize phones in its Asha range, even the touch-screen models, as smartphones.)
Since then, Lumia’s fortunes have gone up and down: Nokia sold 4 million in the second quarter; 2.9 million in the third quarter and 4.4 million in the fourth.But the increase seen during the first quarter is good news, according to Blaber.
“This is undoubtedly a sign that its moving in the right direction,” Blaber said.
The timing of this sales boost is critical because of the pressure Nokia’s mobile phones have come under, as overall unit sales dropped by 25 percent. It is clear that Series 40-based phones, and the Asha range in particular, are coming under pressure from Android, according to Blaber.
“This is the first quarter in a very long time where the smartphone business is showing more positive signs than the mobile phone business,” Blaber said.
Amazon.com Inc has managed to snag more than a fifth of the market for digital music downloads, helped by the launch of its own tablet computers and aggressive pricing, according to an industry study released on Tuesday.
AmazonMP3, the online retailer’s digital music business, had 22 percent of the market for music downloads in the United States in last year’s fourth quarter, research firm the NPD Group said in its Annual Music Study.
That compares with 15 percent in 2011, 13 percent in 2010, 10 percent in 2009 and 7 percent in 2008, NPD data showed.
Apple Inc’s iTunes store, which turns 10 years old on April 28, was still dominant with 63 percent of the market in the fourth quarter of 2012. But that was down from 68 percent in 2011 and 69 percent in 2009, according to NPD.
“Amazon’s entry into tablets probably helped,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president, industry analysis, at NPD Group.
Amazon launched its own tablet, the Kindle Fire, in 2011, and last year the company rolled out larger versions of the device to compete more with Apple’s iPad.
Amazon is using the Kindle Fire to try to sell more digital goods, such as music, video, apps and games, where iTunes leads.
Amazon, known for low prices, has also taken that approach in music downloads, running frequent price promotions to spur more sales. In 2011, the company offered Lady Gaga’s album “Born This Way” for 99 cents in MP3 format. Demand was so strong that Amazon’s computer servers stalled, forcing the company to run the promotion again a few days later.
Amazon has also benefited from a large base of consumers who buy physical CDs from the retailer. As those shoppers switch to digital music, the company has managed to keep many of them as customers, Crupnick explained.
Amazon sells digital music without Digital Rights Management, or DRM, a technology that limits how people can consume such content. The company’s DRM-free approach boosted demand because it let consumers listen to music on any devices, including Apple devices like iPods and iPhones, Crupnick said.
Facebook Thursday unveiled Home, a home screen, along with family of apps all for Android smartphones.
Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg stressed during the unveiling that Home is not an operating system, it simply sits on top of Android so the first thing users see when they boot their phone is Facebook.
Zuckerberg described the home screen as ”the soul” of a smartphone, and added that Facebook is looking to focus more on people than on apps.
“We’re putting people first in your phone,” he said.
That statement seems to have got under Microsoft’s craw.
“I tuned into the coverage of the Facebook Home event yesterday and actually had to check my calendar a few times,” said Microsoft spokeman Frank X. Shaw in a blog post. “Not to see if it was still April Fools Day, but to see if it was somehow still 2011. Because the content of the presentation was remarkably similar to the launch event we did for Windows Phone two years ago.”
Shaw explained that when Microsoft started to design the Windows Phone OS, which was launched in 2011, its engineers began their work with the idea that people should be the focus. “Put people first,” he said.
“People are more important than apps, so phones should be designed around you and the people you care about, not the apps you might use to reach them,” Shaw said. “Millions of Windows Phone owners have already discovered how great a phone can be when it’s designed this way.”
Shaw also took a swipe at the Android mobile OS, calling it “complicated.”
With the post, Microsoft was obviously trying to dim the glow of Facebook’s Home announcement, and to capitalize on the buzz surrounding it.
Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said Microsoft may be a bit jealous of the facebook move.
“Microsoft may have started with the idea, and may have tried to build a community around it [from scratch],” he said.
Meanwhile, he said that Facebook is working on the same theory, but is starting with “a community of 800 billion. The idea just doesn’t work without a community.”
According to Internet tracker comScore, Apple iOS- and Google Android-based devices accounted for 89.7% of smartphones used in the U.S. during the last quarter of 2012. Microsoft’s Windows Phone-based smartphones accounted for a distant 2.9% of the market.
ARM has said that vendors are looking to standardize on both one chip architecture and a single operating system such as Linux across their product lines.
With many of ARM’s licensees preparing to make a big splash in the server market, the firm claimed its architecture is the only one that scales from smartphones all the way up to servers. Lakshmi Mandyam, ARM director of Server Systems and Ecosystems told The INQUIRER that the ability to stick with one chip vendor and run the same operating system throughout its product stack is something “people find very interesting”.
ARM expects most of its servers to end up powering open source software stacks, which strongly suggests Linux as the underlying operating system, especially since FreeBSD’s ARM port is seemingly in a state of flux. According to Mandyam, companies are increasingly interested in concentrating on a single processor and software stack, saying that vertical integration – the term given to keeping everything in-house – is once again becoming fashionable.
Mandyam said, “In the industry there is a trend back towards vertical integration where if you look [back] 20 years [they] did their own ASIC, they did everything themselves and then after that it migrated to outsourced [then] to merchant silicon, but I think people are seeing a benefit for integrating again.”
Mandyam used Chinese consumer and enterprise IT vendor Huawei as an example of how ARM chips are deployed from its smartphones through to its network infrastructure equipment. She said, “Huawei uses the ARM architecture for handsets, set-top boxes, routers, base stations and they have talked publicly about their server intentions.”
According to Mandyam, ARM is the only vendor that can allow companies such as Huawei to stick to one architecture from smartphones to servers.
“Definitely [customers] see the advantages of standardising across one architecture from low to high and ARM’s the only architecture that can scale down to the low, and allow people to do integration. The integration curve is the other curve ARM can go down and the other guys can’t.”
However Mandyam said the advantages of ARM weren’t limited to just being able to deploy a single vendor’s chips but also include the ability to deploy Linux throughout the product range. She said firms are working with Linaro’s Enterprise Working Group in order to have some influence on the direction of enterprise Linux deployment because they see it as a key component to a cost-effective server.
Mandyam said, “If you look at who is participating in Linaro’s enterprise group, you have end users like Facebook that are participating as well, because they see the value of getting involved early and it really shortens the time to market. If you think about the Linux kernel, it’s all standardised – based on the ARM architecture. Everyone, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel at different times, you have everyone cooperating.”
Despite Linaro’s Enterprise Working Group containing many firms that compete against each other for business, Mandyam claims that Linux still allows them to “maintain differentiation” that is needed to get a competitive advantage.
The combination of ARM’s architecture scaling from embedded devices to servers combined with a similar capability for Linux could be the combination that allows firms to cut costs and ultimately increase profits.
Google Inc will offer a new version of its Nexus 7 tablet powered by Qualcomm Inc’s Snapdragon processor around July, according to two sources, as the software giant pushes deeper into the cut-price mobile hardware market.
Google is aiming to ship as many as eight million of the Asustek-made tablets in the second half of the year, throwing down the gauntlet to other low-end tablets such as Amazon.com Inc’s Kindle Fire and Apple Inc’s iPad mini, the sources with knowledge of the new product said.
Google, which gets almost all of its revenue from online advertising, wants the aggressively priced Nexus tablets to be a hit as more Nexus users would mean more exposure for Google’s ads.
The latest version will have a higher screen resolution, a thinner bezel design and adopt Qualcomm’s chip in place of Nvidia Corp’s Tegra 3, which was used in the first Nexus 7s released last year, the sources said, declining to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
In a blow to Nvidia, Google weighed both U.S. chipmakers’ processors but finally decided on Qualcomm’s for power reasons, one of the sources added.
Qualcomm and Nvidia are competing aggressively in the tablet market as they seek to expand from their traditional strongholds of cellphones and PCs respectively.
A Google spokesman declined to comment on its new tablet. Qualcomm and Nvidia also declined to respond to questions.
The three devices will run the BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system, which powers the Z10 smartphone and the upcoming Q10, which features a physical qwerty keyboard, according to the slide, which first appeared over the weekend on Twitter as @BB10Leaks.
BlackBerry officials didn’t comment on the road map. However, in comments to analysts last Thursday, CEO Thorstein Heins said repeatedly that the company will introduce more BlackBerry 10 devices this year, though he didn’t indicate what form factors the products would feature.
The three new devices shown in the slide include a BlackBerry 10 tablet with a widescreen aspect ratio, as well as a “U10″ phone-tablet, which some call a phablet, and an “R10″ phablet with a physical qwerty keyboard.
The slide indicates that the B10 tablet will ship in the third or fourth quarter, while the two phablets will be released later, with the U10 shipping at the end of the year and the R10 in spring of 2014.
There are no specifications on the slide, but the devices appear to be shown roughly in proportion to one another, with the phablets appearing to be wider than the existing Z10 and Q10 smartphones.
BlackBerry already has a 7-in. tablet called the PlayBook that is more square in shape than the widescreen look of the B10 in the slide. Some analysts and bloggers said it’s possible that BlackBerry is developing a competitor to the various 9-to-11-in. tablets already on the market, including many Android tablets, as well as the 9.7-in. iPad.
“BlackBerry wants to be a full-line competitor, particularly for business users, so they have to have a full line of products to compete head-on with Apple and Android, primarily Samsung,” said Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates. “I would expect any viable competitor to establish a full line of products touching on all the various preferences of the marketplace, which includes smartphones, phablets and tablets.”
Gold couldn’t confirm whether any of the details in the leaked slide were accurate, but he noted that it doesn’t appear to include the mid-priced smartphones that Heins and other executives have hinted that BlackBerry may launch over the next few quarters.
The PlayBook tablet first went on sale in April 2011, running on what BlackBerry then called the BlackBerry Tablet OS, based on QNX. BlackBerry later said it would merge that tablet operating system into BlackBerry 10. The company also released a major update to the PlayBook tablet operating system in February 2012.
The first release of the PlayBook was criticized for not having native email.
Analysts are not sure that BlackBerry can keep up with production demand for so many new devices that depend on a relatively constrained supply chain for displays and other components. But to boost its global smartphone market share, currently at less than 10%, BlackBerry will need a product lineup with a variety of options.
ARM has been pushing its Mali GPU architecture both as a graphics engine and as a GPGPU accelerator through its support of OpenCL. The firm said that not only could chip vendors see improved performance by offloading onto the GPU but they could also cut costs by moving tasks from dedicated silicon to the GPU.
Ian Smythe, director of marketing at ARM also said that firms could move tasks such as image stabilization over to the GPU, which is already on the system on chip (SoC), and cut back on other parts of the chip.
Smythe said, “You might be able to save some cost somewhere in the SoC by cutting out a bit of hardware that you had and run it on the GPU instead. So cost reduction and an improved capability. So maybe they will cut out some of the ISP and they will do it on the GPU because the silicon is already there, it’s power efficient, it’s a quicker way of doing [it], you get a cost reduction, and performance goes up.”
Aside from lower cost chips, Smythe’s comments suggest that chip vendors and in particular vendors such as Samsung, which also develops software for its Android smartphones, will make use of GPGPUs as a way of cutting bill of materials costs and reducing chip complexity.
Smythe added that GPGPU computing doesn’t have a single ‘killer application’ but rather could be applied to use cases such as computational photography, as seen in the HTC One and gaming. However given Smythe’s comments, perhaps the real killer application for hardware vendors will come from lower material costs.