Tag: Haswell

Checkpoint puts AV on Intel chip

Israel Checkpoint

Israel Checkpoint

Israeli security outfit Check Point has come up with a way of checking the CPU for unusual activity, which it says, will catch attacks early.

Dubbed SandBlast, the new software monitors CPU activity looking for anomalies that indicate that attackers are using sophisticated methods that would go unnoticed with traditional sandboxing technology.

Nathan Shuchami, head of threat prevention sales for Check Point said that traditional sandboxes, including Check Point’s, determine whether files are legitimate by opening them in a virtual environment to see what they do.  You also have to move the cat to use them effectively.

To get past the sandboxes attackers have devised evasion techniques, such as delaying execution until the sandbox has given up or lying dormant until the machine it’s trying to infect reboots.

SandBlast thwarts the evasion technique called Return Oriented Programming (ROP), which enables running malicious executable code on top of data files despite protection offered by Data Execution Prevention (DEP), a widespread operating system feature whose function is to block executable code from being added to data files.

ROP grabs legitimate code called gadgets and forces the file to create new memory page where malicious shell code can be uploaded to gain execution privileges. This process has the CPU responding to calls that return to addresses different from where they started.

SandBlast’s CPU-level detection engine picks up on this anomaly and blocks it. The engine relies on features of Intel’s Haswell CPU architecture.

It is not cheap. For new customers, the service costs between $3,500 and $30,000 per year per Check Point gateway. The appliances range from $27,000 to $200,000. If you are an existing Check Point customer, the upgrade is free.

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.

Dell Precision M3800 workstation raises the bar

Dell logoDell has rolled out a new Dell Precision mobile workstation and it’s a very interesting piece of kit. Dell claims the new M3800 is the world’s lightest and thinnest workstation, which is hard to dispute as it weighs in at just 4.15 pounds and it’s a mere 18mm thick.

But the really good stuff is under the bonnet. It features a 15.6-inch IPS display with a staggering 3200×1800 resolution, or 205 pixels per inch. Only the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus and Lenovo’s new Yoga 2 Pro offer such a resolution on a Windows machine. The screen is tucked away under a sheet of Gorilla Glass and it has five-finger multitouch support.


It’s got the brains to back it up, too. It is powered by an Intel Core i74702HQ processor and Nvidia’s Quadro K1100M professional GPU. It can be configured with up to 16GB of DDR3 and there’s no shortage of storage options, as it has two standard 2.5-inch bays and a mini-card SSD option.

The M3800 goes on sale November 14 in the US, with prices starting at $1,799. Not exactly cheap, but similarly specced products from Lenovo and Samsung don’t come cheap, either.

Intel promises more cheap tablets and hybrids. Again

Intel-logoIntel’s new CEO Brian Krzanich is at it again. He is promising $99 tablets, along with $299 Haswell laptops, $349 2-in-1 hybrids and $299 Bay Trail clamshells. The prices aren’t exactly new – Krzanich talked about $99 tablets back at IDF 2013.

In the meantime the first Bay Trail products have started to appear, although they are not widely available yet. Early benchmarks found that Bay Trail tablets were roughly on a par with the latest ARM SoCs from Nvidia and Qualcomm. The bad news is that Intel’s chips are manufactured using a superior process (22nm vs. 28nm) and that they cost a bit more than ARM chips. Intel’s official prices for Bay Trail-T SoCs are $32 to $37, while high-end ARM chips are estimated to cost $20 to $28.

With that in mind, it is obvious that Intel doesn’t stand to make much cash on $99 tablets, which don’t exactly have much room for Intel’s traditionally high margins. The price points for hybrids and laptops are more realistic, but demand for Windows hybrids has yet to materialise.

That is a bigger problem than actual hardware. Intel’s new x86 SoCs have what it takes both in terms of performance and efficiency, but they are going after a limited market that simply isn’t there, at least not yet. Aggressive pricing should help, but Krzanich stated that the price cuts should also involve OEMs and ODMs.

This will be a bitter pill to swallow for many of them, as they are already struggling to make ends meet in a slow PC market. They would effectively have to give up some of their margins to hit Intel’s price points and at the same time they could cannibalize their own product lines.

This is where the failure of Windows RT and the lacklustre market performance of Windows 8 tablets could back come to haunt Intel. While PC makers were waiting for competitive x86 parts to stick in their hybrids and tablets, most of them decided to roll out ARM-based products with Android, dropping RT in the process and limiting Redmond’s footprint on the tablet market. For example, Asus, Lenovo and HP are already selling Android hybrids. Lenovo even introduced its first Android IdeaPad laptop a few days ago and it should sell for less than 200 pounds.

The only thing Intel has going for it in this segment is x86 support, i.e. the ability to run Windows 8 and offer hybrids that can use the wide range of Windows productivity apps. However, vendors appear to be focusing on higher performance Haswell tablets for Windows 8, which can’t come close to the $299 mark for a variety of reasons.


Dell to sell new Latitude ultrabooks, laptops

dell-latitude-7000-330pxDell has revamped its range of business friendly Latitude products, with a nice ultrabook on top. The Latitude 7000 is the new anorexic flagship, while Latitude 5000 and 3000 series products are designed with SMBs, education and small customers in mind.

The 7000 is quite a looker, a far cry from dull business designs of the past. The 12-incher is 20mm thick and it weighs just 2.99 pounds, which is not bad but it’s still a bit bulkier than the MacBook Air. However, unlike the Air, it is also available with a 14-inch screen, tucked underneath a carbon lid. All the usual business features are on board, like Intel vPro processors, TPM, optional fingerprint and smartcard readers, as well as NFC.

Battery life should be good, too. Dell promises up to 8.5 hours on a small three-cell power pack, which is pretty good. It can use existing E Docks as well as wireless WiGig docks. USB 3.0 and HDMI are on board as well. Although it’s thin and light, it is rather rugged and it complies with MIL-STD 810G.


Base models ship with 1366×768 matte screens, but they are available with 1080p touchscreens, with a pane of Gorilla Glass on top. The 14-inch is available with a matte, non-touch 1080p panel. Both models ship with SSDs as standard, but the 14-inch version can also be ordered with a hybrid drive for more storage on a budget.

The entry level 3000 series and the mid-range 5000 series come in two sizes, 14 and 15 inches. They can also be ordered with touchscreens and due to their size they offer a lot more options under the bonnet, including discrete graphics, a bigger choice of processors, three different battery sizes and hard drives ranging up to 1TB, or SSDs up to 256GB.

Pricing starts at $599 for the 3000 series, but the sleek 7000 series is a lot pricier, starting at $1,049 in the US. There is still no word on 5000 series pricing.

Pricey PCs kill any hint of recovery

pc-sales-slumpPC shipments have been slow for months and they should start bottoming out soon, but the PC cause is being undermined by pricey laptops, analysts believe. A new breed of high-end designs based on Haswell parts is shipping, but their prices seem out of touch with reality. 

Buyers just don’t want to pay the premium for new chips, touchscreens or new form factors – and that premium can be quite steep. Most new Haswell laptops and ultrabooks cost a lot more than the average budget laptop and quite a few of them are priced north of £1,000.

“The thought that you can sell a $1,400 notebook is ridiculous. The mess is partly credited to Windows 8,” said Roger Kay, president and principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, reports IDG News Service. “In their bones they don’t get it. They refuse to deal with the reality of what’s going on.”

Mikako Kitagawa, research analyst at Gartner, believes laptop prices have stabilized and may even creep up. PC vendors are trying to position laptops as premium products compared to tablets, which means they are more likely to focus on high-end and mid-range models, with higher margins.
This may leave more room for cheaper brands, who could focus on entry level laptops, but then again such laptops are experiencing high cannibalization rates from tablets, so the trend is a mixed bag at best. Still, someone always finds a way to make the most of a crisis and we reckon Chromebook makers could do well in such a climate.

However, things aren’t that great in the high-end, either. Now that most people are used to dirt cheap laptops and equally cheap tablets, convincing them to pay more for “premium” models won’t be easy.

Other than prestige or brand snobbery, it’s really hard to make a convincing case for high-end laptops right now. There will be no shortage of executives willing to pay £1,000 or more for a stylish piece of kit, or enthusiasts who go for even pricier, boutique offerings. However, most users will probably be better off buying a budget model for £500 and spending the rest on a tablet, or a vacant apartment complex in Spain.

Channel cautious on Ivy Bridge notebooks

Intel-logoSome channel retailers are expected to switch away from Ivy Bridge based notebooks and back to the classic desktop, on the back of weak industry demand.

Plenty of channel retailers, according to Digitimes, are struggling getting rid of their Ivy Bridge notebook interviews and are taking a cautious approach to placing new orders for the classic back to school period of September and October. This is traditionally serves as a boost for notebook sales, but the economic outlook is having varied depressive effects on the industry in general.

Intel Haswell desktops could account for as much as 30 percent of all desktop shipments for the third quarter, above the 10-20 percent in notebooks, so Digitimes believes channel retailers are pinning their hopes on the former.

Ivy Bridge inventories, still reportedly high, will be the main focus for the channel – so Haswell models with touchscreen features may not be promoted until the beginning of 2014.

If correct, a way to read this is Ivy Bridge PC prices could be knocked down for the back to school period, and almost certainly will become cheaper when efforts are concentrated on Haswell next year.

Cash strapped consumers and cautious businesses may not want to upgrade to the highest end gear either, save enthusiast communities. As a result, there will be an effort to popularise low end gear, with cheaper kit coming out like Atoms in Q3 and more affordable Kabini laptops.

Haswell tablets might show up this year

Intel-logoAlthough Intel has failed to cash in on the tablet craze so far, things may be about to change later this year. In addition to Silvermont-based Atoms, the chip maker plans to roll out the first Haswell chips with extremely low TDPs, perfectly suited for high-performance Windows 8 tablets.

Of course, the most obvious challenge facing Intel is the lack of market opportunities for Windows 8 tablets, but that might change.

Intel in Atomic damage control mode

Intel-logoIntel reported its second-quarter earnings on Wednesday and the general consensus is that the numbers were weaker than expected. Net income was down 29 percent, while sales of PC chips, which make up about two thirds of Chipzilla’s revenue, were down 7.5 percent. Sales fell five percent to $12.8 billion, missing analysts’ forecasts by $100 million. 

Gartner slashes 2013 IT forecast

pc-sales-slumpGartner has revised its forecast for worldwide IT spending due to very soft demand for PCs. The outfit believes sales of traditional PCs will continue to lose steam in the second half of the year and there seems to be no end in sight. 

The analyst firm estimates spending on IT will total $3.7 trillion this year, which is actually up two percent from last year, but it is still far short of 4.1 percent predicted earlier this year. A number of other factors are hurting demand. Big G said unfavourable exchange rates and constant currency growth in Western Europe are not helping, either.

Windows 8 and Haswell failed to jump start the PC market, Gartner notes , but there might be light at the end of the tunnel. New devices and new form factors are coming, but at this point it is very unlikely that a bunch of hybrids and touch-enabled Ultrabooks can turn the tide. They will help, but they won’t reverse the trend.

Although IT departments aren’t expected to go on a spending spree over the next six months, things could change in early 2014, as they get ready to phase out XP boxes in Q1 and early Q2. Despite that, there doesn’t appear to be much room for optimism this year.

Windows 8.1 will launch on a number of new devices, but nobody is expecting it to make much of an impact. Intel Haswell and AMD Richland chips are out and the first products are already shipping and they will soon be joined by low-voltage Atoms and AMD Jaguar based APUs. On top of that, new Ultrabooks and hybrids are coming, too.

However, businesses rarely go for Atoms and Jaguars and IT departments tend to view new form factors like hybrids and thin clamshells as unnecessary gimmicks, so most new products that will enter the fray this year will be consumer oriented.

Citi sees more gloom in PC market

pc-sales-slumpIt’s no secret that things are bad in all facets of the PC market and Citi Research believes things are about to get even worse. In a note to investors sent late Friday, the outfit revised its previous forecasts downward. It originally expected the PC market to contract 4 percent this year, but now it expects a 10-percent slide.

The dire predictions indicate that Windows 8.1 and Haswell won’t have much of an effect on overall shipments. It cited sub-seasonal demand in the first quarter and a slowdown in notebook production as contributing factors. Citi also noted that the benefits from Haswell and Windows Blue will be muted and that PC-end demand will remain soft. Computex didn’t help and emerging market aren’t coming to the rescue, either.

“We do not see any meaningful catalysts near-term supported by our product and company meetings at Computex in Taiwan last week which revealed a focus on convertible & higher-end Ultrabooks running Haswell, which addresses the smaller premium notebook market,” Citi said. “We also believe investors will be disappointed when they learn that low-priced touch-capable notebooks (sub-$600) will not be available to consumers until 4Q13.”

Citi forecasts notebook shipments of 179 million units this year, down from 201 million in 2012. Desktops are down as well, 137 million units vs. 148 million units last year. Meanwhile tablet shipments are expected to hit 237 million units, up from 144 million in 2012, reports CNET.

It gets worse. Citi says it previously modelled +2 percent growth year-on-year in PC shipments in 2014 and 2015. That figure has gone out the window.

“We now expect cannibalization from tablets…to more than offset any ‘stabilization’ in demand resulting from stretched replacement cycles or more compelling notebooks,” Citi said.

Compelling seems to be the key word in the PC industry, nowadays. There are no compelling new products or form factors, no compelling OS upgrade or compelling new features. PCs are becoming so mature that they are starting to resemble household appliances, with no apparent need to upgrade until they die.

Disties offer gourmet delights

Big snail in Old TaipeiComputex 2013 begins next week – a jamboree where there’s a chance to meet a plethora of industry types from all over the world and those at the heart of the supply chain.

We’ll be covering all the important announcements on both ChannelEye and our brother pub TechEye.net.

And here we’ll be bringing you all the gossip and yak yak we hear on the grapevine and on the Nangang strasse.

Let’s start with a juicy story that demonstrates how business is done differently in Asia than in Europe. Well, we think UK vendors [what vendors, Ed?] wouldn’t find themselves in an analogous situation.  A well known vendor from Old Taipei found himself being entertained in the Philippines recently, with lashings of very strong beer and a delicious goulash like soup.  At the end of the evening, the vendor asked his hosts about the delicious stew – to be told that they’d been supping speciality dish horse penis soup.

All the main news  buzz over here is about aggressive acts by the Philippines against a Taiwanese boat recently.  That led, we hear, to a Canadian woman being unceremoniously ejected from one of the famous Taipei cabs because the driver thought she was a Filipino.

You might remember the other week that several HTC suits in America were beamed out of the company – prompting speculation that there was something afoot in the beleagured Taiwanese company. It turns out many of the suits were ex-employees at the Redmond Volehill and, strangely enough, the Microsoft culture didn’t fit with the HTC culture.  Once, of course, Microsoft and HTC were very pally indeed, introducing a smartphone superficially very similar to a really pioneering smartphone from a British company that ended up successfully suing Microsoft.

Meanwhile, some folks are very enthusiastic about Intel’s announcements next week of its Haswell technology.  Bitter and twisted hacks over at sis pub TechEye believe the chip giant isn’t going to do Haswell as people expected.  That, of course, remains to be seen but expect that Intel’s new CEO, already dubbed “Special K” and who was speedy to institute a purge of positions at Chipzilla, will be watching its progress with some degree of trepidation.  So will we, Mr K, so will we.

More – and there will be much more – later.

* If you’re new to Computex and to Taiwan, check out this site – We View Taiwan – for some really useful information.

Haswell notebooks head to retail channel

Intel-logoManufacturers are hoping that a new crop of notebooks based on Intel’s Haswell processors and Windows 8 can help them buck negative trends in the PC market. A torrent of announcements is expected at Taipei’s Computex next month and the first designs are ready and shipping.

The first Haswell-based notebooks have already shipped and they are expected to arrive in retail channels by the end of the month, which means we shouldn’t see many paper launches at Computex.

However, most vendors are playing it safe and they don’t appear to be placing huge orders. With the PC market contracting by double digits, one can hardly blame them for such caution. As a result, ODMs are expected to see little growth in May, but if vendors regain their confidence they could place more substantial orders in June and beyond. Digitimes reports that Quanta, Compal and Wistron all saw their shipments decline by 10 to 20 percent in April.

Intel is trying to rekindle interest in notebooks by issuing new design guidelines and trying to keep prices down. This is especially true of Ultrabooks, which failed to catch on due to their relatively high prices.

Intel is hoping to shave off a couple of hundred dollars from Ultrabook manufacturer suggested retail prices by the end of the year. In addition to new Haswell chips, a growing number of vendors are choosing to integrate touchscreens in their next-gen Ultrabooks.

It’s not just Intel’s skin on the line, either.

Microsoft is already taking a lot of flak over lacklustre Windows 8 sales, Nvidia is hoping to grow its discrete GPU market share on Haswell notebooks, Seagate and Western Digital have both rolled out Ultrabook friendly 5mm hard drives and hybrid drives and the list goes on.

With so much at stake, plenty of big players have a vested interest in helping Intel’s Haswell push, which offers some hope of good news for consumers as it should translate into better value for money.

Ivy Bridge notebook prices slashed

Intel-logoThe UK market is following in Taiwan’s lead and slashing Ivy Bridge notebook and desktop prices in preparation for Intel’s Haswell launch, resellers have said.

However, they have warned that in the current climate the company is doing itself no favours with the price reductions.

The comments come after a report in DigiTimes suggested  that retail channels in the Taiwan market had begun to slash prices of Intel’s Ivy Bridge machines, which retail from $611, by an average of 10 percent. However, other models were reduced further with discounts between 20-30 percent.

And the orders from above have filtered down to the UK with resellers also feeling the pressure to slash.

“We’re getting orders for reductions too for the same reasons. But, this isn’t anything new, it’s the way the cycle works,” one reseller told ChannelEye.

“I’m not sure about the 20 to 30 percent reductions. At the moment we’re seeing five to 15 percent. But as the date of launch comes closer we’ll probably be forced to slash prices even more.”

However, others claimed the company wasn’t doing itself or the new launch any favours with the reductions.

“Whenever Intel is about to make a new release we see the old models, even if they haven’t been on the shelves for long, slashed in price,” another reseller added.

“While it works for us in terms of not carrying so much surplus stock, for companies it means they are losing potential customers and money with consumers and businesses now taking heed of these sales and waiting until these price cuts happen.

“Once the new products are launched the sales circle starts again.”

Another agreed, telling ChannelEye: “This is nothing new. It’s the way of retail life. But it’s not a good model to follow, especially in this climate where consumers are waiting to pounce on bargains and refusing to pay full price for anything.

“Maybe Intel should concentrate on getting existing lines right before making price cuts and new products that will no doubt be left sitting on the shelf.”

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.
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.
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.