AMD launches battle against Intel over APUs

roytaylorcropAn interview with AMD last week shed light on the latest battleground between Intel and AMD which underlies future changes in computing.  In a meeting with corporate  vice president for global channel sales, Roy Taylor, he said  both AMD and Intel are investing in microprocessor architectures which give equal prominence to both serial and parallel computing. And he claimed AMD is ahead of the game.

Using both the CPU as a serial processor and the GPU as a parallel or GPGPU (General Purpose GPU) processor these new devices form a category that AMD calls the APU.  The APU will be the bedrock of a new generation of x86 based HSA or Heterogeneous System Architecture devices. Current generation APUs such as Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge and the forthcoming Haswell parts from Intel, and AMD’s Trinity and Richland parts from AMD still use separate memory configurations, with each processor  having its own defined memory block.

But future devices in 2014, said Taylor, will use single memory configurations, allowing both the CPU and GPU to dynamically share a single memory array and be true HSA enabled processors.  Intel’s introduction of an L4 cache to speed up the performance between its CPU and GPU is also an indication of its intentions.

In defense of his argument for APU as a new microprocessor category, Taylor showed a diagram that illustrated the increasing commitment by Intel to a larger GPU configuration in its APU generations.  These indicated, he said, the need for successful HSA architectures to be balanced.
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APUs and Open CL
The growth and success of Open CL, which is able to take advantage of APU devices by using the GPU to accelerate parallel functions, is further ammunition to the establishment of the category, said Taylor.  Popular applications such as Handbrake for transcoding, and VLC Player for watching movies, take advantage of this open standard maintained by Khronos and supported by AMD, Apple, IBM, Intel and Nvidia. Open CL received a strong endorsement last week by the announcement by Adobe that it is using Open CL to hardware accelerate its Premier Pro product.

Since HTML5 also takes advantage of GPU acceleration it seems to make sense that in the future we will see APUs used wherever there is a need for a device which can replace the traditional but separate PC configuration of having a separate CPU and GPU.  “That configuration makes sense for higher end systems’”, said Taylor. But in the meantime currently available APU performance is surprisingly strong, he said.  To this end he went on to show the performance of AMD current APUs compared to Intel’s or configurations using both Intel and a separate Nvidia GPU together.
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When asked what this meant for the channel, Taylor said that at a time of austerity, being able to build relatively high performance desktop and notebook computers at a fraction of their traditional prices could have a huge impact. He may be right but only if system builders and e-tailers recognise the value of the new category and get behind it.

A quick read of the HSA Foundation website seems to show a significant ground swell behind the use of balanced compute architectures.  With companies like Qualcomm, ARM, Imagination Technologies and Samsung also investing in HSA it does seem that we can expect to see strong developments in this area.  It will be interesting to see what Microsoft thinks of the use of APUs to power Windows and whether the software community in general gets behind the category too.

We contacted Intel in Santa Clara for comment but at the time of press had not received a response.

Canon touts compact imaging

Canon logoCanon is helping its partners make the most of the increasing demand for compact imaging products.

It has launched two new compact black-and-white multifunctional devices (MFDs) as part of its  ImageRunner Advance range, which it claims will create new revenue opportunities in the desktop capture and output market.

According to the company’s recent Office Insights report, value and cost of MFDs were found to be the most important factors in the purchasing process for 34 percent of decision makers, followed closely by reliability – 20 percent and output quality – 18 percent.

Canon said its new devices helped bridge this gap and also added to its partner’s portfolio.

The new ImageRunner Advance 400i and 500i A4 devices have output and capture capabilities in a compact design claimed to provide users with smarter ways of working.

End-users can print from any Google Cloud Print enabled web-connected device, or scan to and print from the iPad, iPhone and Android mobile devices. The Uniflow platform is said to offer configurable document workflows to larger organisations or more demanding environments.

Uniflow also provides a secure platform for users to print from any device to any networked MFD.

The ImageRunner Advance 400i and 500i devices will be available across the UK & Ireland from 1 May 2013.

Labour wades into high street debate

highstreetLabour has put its oar into the “how to fix the high street debate”.

Ed Miliband, Labour leader,  said that he wants to see payday lenders and betting shops that “engulf” people in debt, as well as take-away food chains, banned from the high street.

The Labour leader is speaking out against the way these shops are allowed to open up at the drop of a hat – sometimes next to each other – at the launch of his party’s local election campaign.

He proposes changes to planning laws, allowing councils to refuse permission for certain businesses.

He is expected to say councils should be allowed to prevent shops opening, such as payday lenders and bookmakers, which do not have a community’s backing as he believes in “local solutions to local problems”.

Miliband says that too many councils are finding that they don’t have the real power to stand up for local people. He said that if a bank or store closed down there is currently nothing that can be done to prevent a payday lender or betting shop opening up.

Last year 1,800 leisure, retail and services shops closed in England. Many were replaced by pay day loan shops, which saw a 20 percent increase in openings.

Notebook shipments in Q2 to remain weak

notebooksIncreasing demand for tablets, coupled with weak demand from China, is expected to hit notebook shipments in the second quarter.

According to Barclays Capital, global shipments will tumble 17 per cent from Q4 2012, traditionally the strongest quarter for notebook shipments. Notebook sales in Q2 usually grow by about 6 per cent, but Barclays believes shipments will grow only 4 per cent this year. Yang attributed the decline in demand from China to the ever increasing demand for tablets.

Barclays analyst Kirk Yang believes the weaker than expected growth also reflects delays in the introduction of new models. Both Intel and AMD are about to introduce new mobile processors and a new generation of touch enabled Ultrabooks is also on the way.

Taipei Times reports that Quanta, the world’s leading notebook ODM, is simply not receiving many orders. International brands are reluctant to place large orders, as better gear is just around the corner.

The really bad news is that things will not pick up anytime soon. Weak demand will plague the market well into the fourth quarter of 2013.

There are some technical challenges as well. Next generation hybrids and convertibles aren’t making much of an impact on the market yet. A shortage of touchscreen panels means that the production of touch enabled notebooks won’t pick up until later this year, which will roughly coincide with the rollout of new Intel mobile chips. SSDs remain prohibitively expensive for some market segments and they are still reserved for quite pricey SKUs. The same goes for high definition 1080p screens in sub 14-inch market.

In other words, consumers who don’t opt for high end devices really don’t have much of an incentive to upgrade.

DRAM is strong, NAND is sluggish

nand-chipsIndustry analysts believe the memory sector will continue to do relatively well despite a decline in NAND demand. Although NAND might not be a very hot commodity, DRAM sales are expected to surge, reports The China Post.

The price of 2GB DDR3 chips in the first quarter rose 57.8 per cent, while NAND prices rose by 19.8 per cent, according to TrendForce. Strong demand for tablets and smartphones seems to be boosting DRAM sales, and the fact that an increasing number of vendors are introducing Android devices with 2GB of RAM should also help.

However, strong demand could also result in even higher DRAM prices. TrendForce believes the price of 4-gig DDR3 DRAM modules has the potential to rise by another 30 per cent. The outfit points out that the high season for mobile device launches is drawing near, which means more demand should be expected.

Although DRAM prices will remain strong, NAND prices are expected to decline in the short term. NAND prices should remain relatively stable, due to a reduction in supply.

It might sound a bit counter intuitive, but it is worth noting that smartphone and tablet peddlers are not increasing the amount of NAND storage in their devices. Most devices still ship with 8GB or 16GB of storage, while high end gear tends to ship with 32GB, or in some cases 64GB. This is in stark contrast to market trends just a couple of years ago, when each new generation of devices tended to offer a twofold increase in storage.

On the other hand, the amount of RAM is steadily growing. Three years ago smartphones used to ship with 512MB, which was upped to 1GB for the last two generations and as of late last year we are seeing an increasing number of Android devices with 2GB of RAM.

Embotics goes Microsoft Hyper-V

Hands across the waterEmbotics has released its Embotics V-Commander for Microsoft Hyper-V.

The virtualisation and cloud management software company claims that the new platform, with a new multi-tenant cost model capability, will help deliver IT-as-a-service (ITaaS) with support for multi-hypervisor environments, as well as help customers make the right economic decisions for their virtualised data centres.

Whilst the channel has done a great job of helping their customers to virtualise their IT environments, some customers have traditionally found it difficult to cut through the tough-talking and hyperbole from Microsoft and VMware about which vendor offers the most cost-effective hypervisors.

The new cloud management platform is said to change this offering easy-to-use rapid provisioning, self-service, service catalogues, IT costing and charge back, workflow automation, resource optimisation and lifecycle management capabilities and will now also give users a cost comparison functionality.

Embotics V-Commander is also said to help users integrate Hyper-V into their data centre environment for rationalisation via reclamation, optimisation and workload migration through multi-hypervisor adoption. Apparently data centres can implement Embotics V-Commander and accelerate cloud maturity without simultaneously accelerating costs or complexity.

Embotics V-Commander return on investment (ROI) is gained later through automation and the standardising of services for the best fit.

Additionally, by examining the historical view of the environment and how it grows, Embotics V-Commander can retrofit the environment to achieve ROI. It can also identify waste and help recycle, migrate and reclaim that waste on the Microsoft Hyper-V platform.

On Monday, just a year before XP goes

framedwindowsThis coming Monday will mark just one year until Microsoft ends extended support for Windows XP. Vista was a joke – but Windows 7 is quite good, and companies are being urged to upgrade their OS before exposing themselves to unnecessary risk.

Microsoft has itself advised companies to upgrade to 7 or 8, but according to a report from 1E, under a quarter of surveyed companies had migration in place. Just under half said they were in the process of upgrading – meaning headaches for IT departments if they do not get their upgrades guaranteed in time. 1E warns that with just a year left to complete that migration, it won’t be long before budgets are complicated by costly extended IT support.

In a statement, Sumir Karayi, CEO of 1E, said businesses will be under threat of security risk unless they upgrade their IT systems in time – and the migration should be done with as little disruption to the business as possible.

“Organisations that are not yet off the starting blocks or only a little way down the track are highly unlikely to complete before the Microsoft deadline,” Karayi said. “Whether the delay is because they misunderstood the sheer scale of the project, or that they are coming across technical hurdles, it means they cannot confidently predict when they will finish or how much it will cost them”. The prospects, Karayi warns, are a little grim – “few IT teams will have ever experienced such a complex migration,” he said.

Karayi said 1E leans toward fully automating the process on as many as machines as possible instead of partiallyautomating the process for every machine, because it can lead to 80 to 90 percent less desk visits. Using a totally automated approach “means organisations can deploy literally thousands of machines per day,” which is the “only way to get migrated within the available time”.

Camwood, a migration services company ‘s CEO Adrian Foxall said IT knows full well that the end of Windows XP is around the corner, but business isn’t paying as much attention.

“In these tough economic times, it is not surprising that business leaders do not want to invest a substantial amount of money in something that essentially isn’t broken, as is the case with Windows XP today,” Foxall said. “But with an estimated 40 percent of business desktops still running Windows XP and with the clock ticking, IT and the board need to join forces and work together to migrate to a new OS that will support their organisation now and into the future”.

If they don’t, companies will be putting themselves “in jeopardy”.

HMV to be aquired by Hilco

hmv-administrationTroubled HMV has grabbed a lifeline from Hilco buying it out.

The store, which went into administration earlier this year, putting thousands of jobs at risk, has been rescued by specialist restructuring firm Hilco in what is believed to be a £50 million deal.

Hilco now has 132 HMV stores, and nine branches of the Fopp chain. It is expected up to 2,500 jobs could be saved.

The chain is expected to be run by a combination of HMV and newly-appointed Hilco executives, while suppliers are also rumoured to have gone running back to the company offering new terms and given a positive nod to the deal.

HMV could be in safer hands with Hilco already having experience with the brand in Canada, which it bought two years ago.

The purchase rumours emerged a after Jessops was saved by Peter Jones.

Ingram Micro strengthens UC position, Avnet bows out

IMIngram Micro is continuing its investment into the unified communications (UC) market announcing that it has partnered with Sangoma.

The distie has said the new partnership will add Sangoma’s NetBorder Lync Express, which it claims is the only All-In-One Lync Server appliance with built-in Gateway/ SIP Connectivity,  to its growing portfolio of products and services in support of Microsoft LyncTM.

It has now developed a bundle around Lync Express including an on-boarding tool for new resellers wishing to learn about deploying Lync, with training and professional services options.

In addition to Lync Express, Ingram Micro will also bring Sangoma’s VoIP Media Gateway and Session Border Controllers in to the rapidly growing SIP Market.

Jon Bunyard, Director of the Advanced Solutions UK Division at Ingram Micro said the  addition of Sangoma to the company’s lineup, combined with proposition being developed through  partnerships with ShoreTel, Microsoft LyncTM, Cisco, OAISYS and Jabra, leant “significant weight to [the company’s] value proposition in the Unified Communications space.

“We consider UC a growing market and will be showcasing our existing vendor ecosystem at this month’s Convergence Summit North in Manchester where we look forward to talking to resellers about the opportunities these partnerships represent in the voice space,” he added.

The disties further moves into the UC market are a contrast to its rival Avnet, which last month announced that it had decided to shut up shop in the this sector.

At the time it said it would cease taking orders for these products in the UK by the end of March, shunning resellers such as Avaya, Lifesize and Audiocodes who it had worked with to bring these items to market.

Avnet decided to make the moves claiming that UC technology was not core to its overall strategy. However, it promised that it would be working with its partners and suppliers to ensure the transition runs smoothly.

SAS to hire 94 Scots

Flag_of_Scotland.svgSAS has said that it will be generating 94 new Scotland jobs within its new Advanced Analytics lab and its expansion of  its Scottish Research and Development Centre for Public Security.

The project is supported by £1.3 million from Scottish Development International (SDI), a partnership between the Scottish government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Island’s Enterprise.

SAS has said as well as creating the new job opportunities it will also safeguard the current employee base of 126.

The partnership was announced during a Scotland Week meeting with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond who was visiting New York as part of his programme to boost investment and employment in Scotland.

If follows the news yesterday with Daktari, an American life sciences company, also announcing it too would be creating 126 new jobs as a result of locating its global manufacturing base in Inverness.

Speaking from New York, Mr Salmond said the move by SAS was a “significant feather in Scotland’s cap”.

He added the new facility would position Scotland as an “international centre of excellence for big data analytics” and create a “substantial number” of highly-skilled, high-value jobs.

SAS said it was pleased to be spreading its wings in Scotland, claiming the investments allowed it to see the real “Scottish potential” with access to a pool of talent from Scottish universities.

PCs lose out to tablets worldwide

Dodo-birdA report from analyst company Gartner said that the traditional PC market will slip in 2013 by 7.6 percent as people open their wallets to spend on tablets and smartphones instead.

Gartner said the availability of low end tablets coupled with the features they’re now able to offer is fueling the move from PCs to tablets.  Said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at the company: “While there will be some individuals who retain both a personal PC and a tablet… most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device.”

Worryingly for PC vendors and X86 companies, people no longer think of PCs as devices that they have to replace regularly.

She said: “This is not a temporary trend induced by a more austere economic environment; it is a reflection of a long term change.”

Gartner estimates that worldwide tablet shipments will be 197 million units this year, a 69.8 percent increase.

And the Android operating system is set to dominate a mixed market which includes PCs, as this chart shows.
gart2013Gartner said that smartphones are becoming more affordable. “The trend towards smartphones and tablets will have much wider implications than hardware displacement,” Milanesi said.

Brits fail to secure their mobile devices

ipad3Despite many of us treasuring our mobile devices, we’re not taking precautions to keep them, and their content safe, a study has found.

In its latest report Norton by Symantec Brits are now living various aspects of their work, social and online lives through their mobile devices, surfing online, downloading apps and making payments through them.

In fact we’re so attached to our mobiles that 40 percent of those queried admitted that they could never give up their mobile device, and close to a quarter of adults even indicated that it would be one of the top two personal items they would save if their house was on fire.

A large majority – 63 percent – of mobile users indicated they also stored and access sensitive information on their mobile devices. However, they don’t seem to be guarding this with their lives with almost a half admitting to not using a password to help protect their personal data.

Norton said that this could prove detrimental in the event of theft or loss, giving thieves “a treasure trove of personal information” stored on the device, which can potentially be accessed. This includes personal emails, which could pave a potential gateway to other sensitive information such as work correspondence and documents, passwords for other online accounts, and bank statements.

The study also reveals that losing a mobile device is common, costly and stressful for consumers.

Around one in four adults have had a mobile device lost or stolen, costing individuals an average of £73 for the replacement or temporary use of a mobile phone, and double the money to replace a tablet.

However, it’s not security that comes to their minds when they lose a mobile phone with 39 percent of those asked claiming they were most worried about incurring costly bills due to telephone calls.

And it seems our keenness to get online is also letting us down with over a third
admitting to not always downloading applications from trustworthy sources, and 28 percent claiming that they do not use secure payment methods when making purchases from their mobile device, leaving their sensitive information such as credit card details vulnerable.

According to the survey, seven percent of UK mobile users have already fallen victim to mobile cybercrime.

Most adults also admitted to using free or unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots, and half of them were concerned about the potential risks of using free or unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots, but yet still go ahead.

Just over a third said they used free public Wi-Fi spots to check their personal emails and 16 percent of respondents said they accessed their bank details online through free, unsecured Wi-Fi connections, exposing their sensitive financial details to mobile sniffers.

XBox 360 gamers best in bed

buttonsXBox 360 owners are the the best in bed, a spurious new survey has found.

In its research VoucherCodesPro.co.uk, which asked 1,747 gamers’ partners about  their skills between the sheets, found Xbox 360 owners accounted for the highest percentage of partners rated as ‘good’, ‘very good’ and ‘excellent’.

However, ChannelEye’s own quick research suggested that Playstation 3 gamers were slicker in the bedroom, with 15 out of a panel of 20 women claiming that these gamers were more likely to push the right buttons in the bedroom.

One woman also pointed out that allowing her other half to have both consoles made her “very lucky indeed” if the research was correct.

After establishing  that their partner played videogames in their leisure time, Voucher Codes Pro asked respondents ‘Which games console does your partner play on most frequently?’ and asked them to choose from a list of options. The most common answer was the Xbox 360 with 31 percent of the vote. The Playstation 3 was next at 26 percent. Just 12 percent played on the Wii. Only 10 percent of respondents’ partners were PC gamers.

Nearly half of gamers were voted as being only ‘average’ or below.

Of those asked, 21 percent of partners also said they wanted more sex and less gaming.

When broken down proportionally between the most frequently played consoles, it emerged that Xbox 360 owners were the best in the bedroom, with 54 percent of them being described as ‘good’ or above.

Only 22 percent were regarded as ‘excellent’ by their partner.

In contrast, the smallest percentage of gamers scoring an above average mark in the sex stakes were PC gamers, with only three percent being described as ‘excellent’ and eight percent regarded as ‘very good’.

Mobile commerce set to explode in 2013 and beyond

smartphone-shoppingMobile commerce is slowly but surely going mainstream and a recent report from BI Intelligence found that m-commerce spending will skyrocket over the next couple of years.

The mobile boom is changing shopping habits, and fast. Consumers are using their shiny new smartphones and tablets to redeem coupons, research products, compare prices and, of course, pay for stuff both online and offline.

The trend has not gone unnoticed by major outfits and it is easy to see why, there are plenty of opportunities for just about every consumer oriented industry. The BI Intelligence report found that 29 per cent of US mobile users have already made purchases on their smartphones. Mobile sales accounted for 6.6 per cent of Cyber Monday e-commerce sales in 2011, up from just 3.9 per cent in 2010.

Bank of America now estimates that US and European shoppers will spend $67.1 billion using their smartphones and tablets.

Aside from huge revenue opportunities, mobile commerce has a few other things going for it as well. It is believed that mobile payments can create a more direct link between brands and consumers, with more coupons and loyalty reward programmes.

BI also concluded that the nature of mobile commerce makes it uniquely attractive to marketers, with technologies such as location targeting and in-store mobile marketing.

AMD extends Never Settle bundle to select APUs

AMD, SunnyvaleAMD’s Never Settle game bundles seem to have been quite successful in the past, so it’s hardly surprising that AMD has decided to extend the programme to select APUs. So far the Never Settle promotion was limited to discrete graphics cards.

According to a set of slides unearthed by German tech site hardwareluxx.de, AMD will start bundling Sim City with several APU SKUs later this month. Sim City is a rather interesting title for casual gamers and it doesn’t need discrete graphics to run properly, so it looks like a good choice. Sadly though, the Sim City launch has already been marred by a number of technical and DRM issues. However, everything will probably be sorted out before AMD’s new promotion takes off.

It appears that the programme will be limited to select A8 and A10 APUs. As AMD is expected to introduce a new series of desktop APUs based on the Richland core, it is safe to assume that the promotion will cover them, along with some Trinity chips.

In any case the buyers of eligible chips will get a free download code for Sim City, valued at $59.99. This sounds like more than a fair deal, as even the fastest AMD APUs tend to be quite cheap. A $59.99 gift as icing on the cake seems like a very clever way of adding even more value to these mid-range chips. Provided consumers like Sim City, of course.