Tag: hardware

Open Source hardware needs a supply chain

INDUSTRY HP 1The Open Compute Project, which wants to open up hardware the same way Linux opened up software, needs a supply chain badly.

OCP President and Chairman Frank Frankovsky said it formed OCP four years ago to spread the gospel of open hardware and eventually build a market for it.

It now has an impressive array of vendors and customers, including HP, Cisco, Juniper, Broadcom, and Samsung.

While companies looking to adopt this kind of gear include some blue-chip names Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Capital One are members, the weakness in the set up is the supply chain.

You can’t download servers or boxes in the same way you can open source software,” Frankovsky said.

OCP is looking to business realities when members propose new contributions to the project. It wants the name of a lead customer that wants to buy the technology and the lead supplier that’s willing to build it, as well as whether it’s available from multiple channels so users will have a choice of where to buy it, he said.

Manufacturers despair of Microsoft

Microsoft campusA company based in Seattle that is launching an operating system next year is not getting a positive vote from hardware companies desperate to sell more kit.

Microsoft is introducing an operating system next year called Windows 10 that is already delayed and will be free of charge to anyone who has made the mistake of instaling or buying Windows 8.1.

Microsoft is jumping from Windows 8 to Windows 10, ignoring the number nine, purely for marketing reasons.

But according to Taiwanese wire Digitimes, PC vendors in the country are shaking their heads because they don’t feel that people will spend money on new kit.

It quotes vendors as saying that Microsoft’s partnerships with Oracle and VM Ware will also adversely affect PC hardware vendors.

To read between the lines, it seems that the hardware vendors are telling the rather ancient Microsoft that it’s history.

Google gets its hardware knickers in a twist

Nexus 9A report by financial analysts at Seeking Alpha suggests that Google has come adrift with its smartphone hardware strategy.

Seeking Alpha claims the Nexus programme does not now include the kind of devices most people would rush out to buy.

And even devices like the joint Google-HTC One GPe – which the analysts describe as the “Rolls Royce” of five inch Android smartphones is in a spot of bother. Because it’s sold out.

The Nexus 5 is last year’s model with an ancient Qualcomm 800 CPU and less memory.

The Nexus 6 is sold out but anyway it’s too big because few want a six inch screen.  The Motorola G isn’t sold out but it’s last generation.

Seeking Alpha Analyst Anton Wahlman says that everything Google is selling on its site is sold out, suggesting the behemoth is losing its way on the hardware front. You can read more of what he has to say about the debacle, here.

Microsoft takes on Chrome

Chrome-4-Wallpaper-Background-HdSoftware giant Microsoft appears to be attempting to give the Chromebook a run for its money.

Vole has arranged a few deals with some of its hardware partners to create $199 to $249 Windows laptops which are based around cloud storage systems.

HP will be Microsoft’s number one chum and will lead the way to lower-priced Microsoft Windows computers this year.

First off the block will be a $199 laptop dubbed the HP Stream 14. Details for the device leaked to Mobile Geeks. The data sheet that the magazine got its paws on shows a  14-inch laptop which could provide an interesting alternative to a Chromebook.

The HP Stream 14 is a bit like a Chromebooks.  It has a 1366 x 768 display and energy-efficient AMD chips. It has an untaxing 2 GB of memory and either 32 or 64 GB of flash storage as well as an SDXC card slot. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, three USB ports, HDMI out and a webcam.

The laptop runs Windows 8.1 and is connected to Microsoft’s cloud storage services. Like a Chromebook, the HP Steam 14 will come with 100 GB of OneDrive storage for two years, which is the identical

It appears that Microsoft is not going to give the bottom of the market to Google without a fight and we are expecting to see other products from Volish partners in the $199 to $249 price range in the coming months.

Intel’s TSX development grinds to halt

ship-wreckA bug in Intel’s Haswell CPU core TSX instructions has stopped developers from using the chip function, according to Techreport 

The TSX instructions promise to make certain types of multithreaded applications run much faster than they can today.

But that work may stop because Haswell’s TSX implementation has bugs that can cause critical software failures.

Intel revealed the news of the bug to a group of hacks during briefings in Portland last week. The TSX problem was apparently discovered by a software developer outside of Intel and it is a cock up of huge proportions.  Bugs of this size aren’t often discovered this late in the life of a CPU core.

Intel has disabled the TSX instructions in current products using a CPU microcode update delivered via new revisions of motherboard firmware.

While disabling TSX should ensure stable operation for Haswell CPUs, it does mean that those chips will no longer be capable of supporting TSX’s features, including hardware lock elision and restricted transactional memory.

If any software developer does want to work with TSX will have to avoid updating their systems to newer firmware revisions and retain the risk of TSX-related memory corruption or crashes.

The bug was discovered too late to be fixed in the first revision of Intel’s upcoming Broadwell Y-series chips and will not be part of the Core M-based tablets to be released later this year. First production Broadwell chips will also have TSX disabled via microcode.

Intel said that it will have a fix for Broadwell’s next incarnation. Given that most Haswell and all Broadwell systems affected are shipping in consumer-class systems, the impact of this TSX snafu should be small. TSX is mostly for server-class applications. Intel’s server-class Xeon lineup relies on the older Ivy Bridge core, which lacks TSX.

Putin the thumbscrews on Western tech companies

imperial_russiaTsar Vladimir Putin is taking his revenge on the US for bringing in sanctions against its Ukraine activity by cutting back on the use of American technology.

Apparently Putin is cross about the sanctions which froze the business assets of some of his closest business supporters. He thinks he should be allowed to supply missiles to pro-Russian supporters to use how they see fit without any world sanctions.

It looks like Putin is taking out his frustrations on US companies like Microsoft and IBM and ordering the country to be less reliant on Yankee tech.

Russia’s executive secretary of the commission for the State Duma, Andrey Chernogorov, was quoted as saying, “This all has to do with sanctions. Given the current international tensions, substituting imports with local software and hardware becomes the key to ensuring self sufficiency.”

The State Duma is currently in the process of drafting a bill which would seek to replace products from Microsoft and IBM in favour of software and hardware made by local companies.

It looks like the Russians will eventually only buy products that do not need to be imported or have licensed components.

It is not clear how that will play out yet. Probably some support or pressure to move to Open Source products. That might work well with the software, but hardware dependence on US, made in China, goods will be harder to shake.

How Microsoft and Intel lost the plot

The TitanicWhile no-one could say that the writing is on the wall for giant tech companies Intel and Microsoft, there is a warning there but so far it’s just written in invisible ink.

As I write this, Intel’s share price (NASDAQ:INTC) stands at $21.93 and Microsoft’s (NYSE:MSFT) at $26.90.  They’ve ticked along in this way for many a long year now and the only way seems to be down.

Signs of bombers approaching have been on the radar for many a year now, and both companies seem to be like supertankers, which take an awfully long time to run round.  The Vole and the Zilla have got complacent and failed to take steps years ago to re-engineer their businesses.

You still have time to have a wee and wash your hands before a PC boots up and despite the undoubted process advances Intel has made over the years, people are fleeing the Win platform in their droves.

Both companies have failed to make inroads into the smartphone and tablet market, even though they whined on and on about convergence for many a year.  Handset manufacturers, by and large, do not want to be in the tender embrace of the two companies which essentially dictated what went in the PC industry.

And besides, their basic technology deeply sucks, for different reasons. Intel is forced, because of its huge capital investment commitments, to put a premium on its notebook microprocessors while it is safe to say that its much vaunted Atom range is just a total flop.

Microsoft’s software has always basically sucked anyway and it’s only by cunning marketing that it achieved its pre-eminence in this side of the business. I don’t think anyone, apart from Intel executives, have got smartphones powered by Intel Inside. Oddly enough, at an Intel Developer Forum years and years ago, when it still had its StrongARM stuff, me and a few other journos did ask why Intel just didn’t go and develop really low power devices based on the ARM chip and give people what they really wanted.

While Intel and Microsoft have been shilly-shallying and, essentially, living in the past, competition has crept up and overtaken them.

And so at some point this year, current CEO Paul Otellini is to depart from his captain’s cabin at Intel, to be replaced by who-knows-who to guide the ship into 2013 and beyond.

Right now, and as an Intel and Microsoft watcher for nigh on 30 years, I just can’t see how these particular conjurers are going to pull any rabbits out of their magic hats. Maybe they’ll specialise in producing cabbages from up their sleeves, instead.