Intel: Light Peak could succeed, replace USB 3.0 ports in several years

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 14th, 2010, 11:14
Category: News

intellogo.jpg

Representatives from Intel went on record to state that the company’s upcoming Light Peak technology could eventually succeed and replace USB 3.0 in several years. Intel, which announced Light Peak last year, hopes it will be broadly used by devices ranging from PCs to consumer electronics and other gadgets, said Kevin Kahn, an Intel senior fellow, in a speech at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Beijing. Per Macworld, Intel will make the technology available late this year and expects partners to start shipping devices with it next year, Kahn said.

“We view this as a logical future successor to USB 3.0,” Kahn said. “In some sense we’d… like to build the last cable you’ll ever need.”

A trend toward optical instead of electrical links raises the risk that separate optical cables could appear for many protocols, such as USB and serial ATA, said Justin Rattner, the head of Intel Labs, on the sidelines of IDF. Light Peak can run multiple protocols at the same time over one line, so all the data meant for the separate cables could run through one Light Peak cable instead.

Intel insists there is no conflict between Light Peak and USB 3.0 and views the technologies as complementary, as Light Peak enables USB and other protocols to run together on a single, longer cable and at higher speeds in the future, according to a slide in Kahn’s IDF presentation. “We expect both to exist together in the market and perhaps on the same platform at the same time,” the slide said.

A laptop with Light Peak built in was on show during Kahn’s speech. A long, thin Light Peak cable, which linked the laptop to a docking station and a monitor, was used simultaneously to transmit Blu-ray video, a feed from a high-definition camera and a duplication of the notebook’s display onto the other screen. Light Peak can currently transfer data at a speed of 10G bps (bits per second), or fast enough to send a full Blu-Ray movie in less than half a minute, according to Intel. But the technology could be scaled up to 10 times that speed in the next decade according to company representatives.

USB 3.0, the latest version of USB, is far slower than Light Peak with a signalling rate of 5G bps, though it remains much faster than the current version of USB. Still, USB 3.0 is not yet widespread in devices. That is partly because many PC manufacturers will wait on USB 3.0 until support is built directly into the chipsets they buy, which is only expected to happen in late 2011, according to a research note from In-Stat.

Intel, which is a major vendor of PC chipsets, did not immediately reply to a question about whether it will launch chipsets with built-in support for USB 3.0. A spokesman for rival chip maker Advanced Micro Devices said the company will have chipsets with built-in support for USB 3.0 but declined to say when.

When asked if Intel would build Light Peak support into its chipsets, Kahn said the company could do so if Light Peak spreads quickly, but declined to comment further.

Intel expects an industry group promoting Light Peak to launch next year, Kahn said. The company has said it will work with the industry to make Light Peak a standard and speed its adoption.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

MWSF: Microsoft Announces Office for Mac 2011

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, February 11th, 2010, 09:10
Category: Macworld Expo, News

microsoftlogo.jpg

With Macworld Expo underway, representatives from Microsoft announced Microsoft Office for Mac 2011, which should arrive in time for the 2010 holiday season.

Per Macworld, the new version focuses on better compatibility across platforms, improved collaboration tools, and a more refined user interface. Also, as Microsoft announced last August, the suite will include Outlook for Mac, which replaces Entourage as Office’s e-mail client. The new version of Office will also offer renewed support for Visual Basic, which was dropped in the 2008 version of the productivity suite.

“Nowadays, compatibility means more than just file formats,” said Microsoft’s Kurt Schmucker. “It’s also workflow, collaboration, and user interface.”

To that end, the new version of Office will incorporate document-collaboration features that take advantage of Microsoft’s online storage features. With Office for Mac 2011, Mac users will be able to share files and collaborate on documents with other Mac and Windows users via Microsoft’s SharePoint, SkyDrive, and Office Web Apps.

Those online tools will allow users to collaborate on documents with other Windows and Mac Office users in real time, similar to the features found in Google Docs. For example, users could create a document in Word on your laptop, save it to SkyDrive, then share it with others. A pop-up in Word will display who’s working on the document; click on that list, and you’ll be able to send them a message (as long as everyone is using Outlook or Microsoft’s Messenger IM application). The paragraphs your collaborators are working on will be locked out until they’re done. Users will also be able to edit those same documents from any computer, using Office’s Web apps. Mac users will have the same experience in the their versions of Safari and Firefox as Windows users get with their browsers, Schmucker said.

Microsoft also says it’s learned from user feedback about Office 2008 and has tweaked the user interface accordingly in Office 2011.

A new Ribbon at the top of each document window replaces Office 2008’s controversial Elements Gallery, which took some fire from Mac users for its size and inflexibility. This new Ribbon is designed to give users quick access to each program’s most commonly used tools. Unlike the Elements Gallery, the ribbon is customizable and, if you want more screen space, completely collapsible.

The new suite will also feel more Mac-like than Office 2008. For example, the Ribbon is built entirely using Apple’s Cocoa development framework, and takes takes advantage of Apple’s Core Animation system. (As a result, Ribbon tabs will slide smoothly when you rearrange them.) Click on Ribbon tools and they’ll expand smoothly into popovers that don’t obscure the document you’re working on.

Summarizing the interface changes, Microsoft’s Han-Yi Shaw likened Office 2008 to a teenager—“a little quirky”—but said the new edition is Office matured. “This is the version that everyone wanted,” he said.

Shaw added that the Mac team at Microsoft worked hard to adopt Apple technologies while also making sure their product was recognizably Microsoft Office. “We’re at a cross-section of Mac and PC, and because we’re die-hard Mac users, we look at the [Office] technology and try to translate it,” he said. “Following the Apple design philosophy really takes you in the right direction.”

The new Outlook will support PST imports (allowing you to move an Outlook installation, including all your old e-mails, from a Windows PC to a Mac) and will also support Microsoft’s Information Rights Management (IRM), which allows senders to specify what recipients can do with messages (print, forward, and so on). Previously-Windows only, IRM is required in some corporate settings. IRM support in Office 2001 is aimed at Mac users in cross-platform environments, Schmucker said: “It’s been a blocker for some companies because the Mac support was not there.”

The company has also re-engineered the Outlook message database system to be a series of small files, so it’s more easily backed up with Time Machine and searched in Spotlight. “Outlook’s new database is more reliable, faster, and fully supports Time Machine and Spotlight,” Schmucker said.

Finally, power users will be be able to make use of the Visual Basic macro language. Visual Basic was dropped from Office 2008 in part because it was to technically difficult to port it to the Mac’s then-new Intel CPUs. Microsoft says it began work on that port as far back as 2008, before the last Mac Office shipped. That work is now complete and the Mac suite will be using the most up-to-date version of Visual Basic.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Kaufman Bros. Analyst Predicts Apple, Verizon Alliance Less Likely Than Anticipated

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009, 06:27
Category: iPhone, News

3gs.jpg

Even if Apple is striking a deal with Verizon (currently the largest carrier in the U.S.), competitors T-Mobile and Sprint might be more likely to carry the iPhone in 2010, one analyst believes. Per AppleInsider, Verizon is the top prize in terms of the four major U.S. carriers. Apple is currently in an exclusive deal with the No. 2 carrier, AT&T, which has 82 million customers. But that agreement is believed by many to expire in 2010.

In a new note to investors Wednesday morning, analyst Shaw Wu with Kaufman Bros. said although many believe the iPhone will come to Verizon in 2010, it’s likely wishful thinking. The problem, he said, is both Verizon and Apple have found success by focusing on “customer control.” Their similarities are what he believes will keep them apart.

“Apple runs its own App Store and VZ has aspirations to do so,” Wu said. “Apple controls the media experience with iTunes and VZ with its V CAST service. Moreover, Apple gets very favorable economics with an overall iPhone (average selling price) of US$611 and at AT&T, we estimate it is higher at roughly US$700. RIM, who is by far VZ’s largest smart phone supplier, only has an ASP of $340. Palm’s ASP is US$436 and we estimate Motorola’s Droid ASP is roughly US$450.”

Because Apple and Verizon have conflicting interests, Wu said he believes that a deal between the two companies would take longer than many currently expect. That would make a potential 2010 deal unlikely.

Instead, Wu said that Apple could strike deals with both Sprint, which has 48 million wireless subscribers, and T-Mobile, which has 33 million customers. Both companies are more likely to be agreeable with Apple’s practices in order to offer the iPhone.

“While we believe VZ is likely inevitable at some point when 4G technology rolls out in 2012 or so, we believe Sprint and/or T-Mobile are more willing partners for Apple in helping maintain margins and customer controls,” he said. “From a technology perspective, we believe T-Mobile may have an advantage with a similar 3G UMTS/WCDMA network as AT&T.”

This marks the second time this week an analyst has predicted Apple will jump to T-Mobile in 2010. In terms of technology, T-Mobile would be the simplest choice: Though carrier’s high-speed 3G connectivity operates on a unique 1700MHz spectrum that is incompatible with the current iPhone, the addition of that frequency to a future hardware model would be much simpler than adding compatibility with Verizon or Sprint’s CDMA networks.

Recent rumors have suggested Apple is working on an agreement with chip maker Qualcomm to add CDMA connectivity to a new iPhone in 2010. But both Verizon and Sprint use a technology that, unlike the GSM network of AT&T and T-Mobile, is not widely used abroad.

Another possibility noted by Wu is that Apple could extend its contract with AT&T through 2011. The analyst said he believes AT&T’s agreement ends in the summer of 2010, but a last-minute extension remains a possibility. Earlier this year, there were reports that AT&T was working to extend the contract with Apple for one more year.

T-Mobile, Orange May be Arranging to Sell iPhones to UK Marketplace

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, July 14th, 2009, 04:56
Category: News

3gs.jpg

Across the pond, wireless carrier O2′s exclusivity deal within the UK marketplace may be coming to an end within the next few months. According to MacNN, competitor T-Mobile stated that it’s already in negotiation with Apple and could begin carrying the iPhone 3G within a matter of months. The iPhone 3GS has not been mentioned by T-Mobile so far, nor is it said to have been brought up by Orange, also rumored to be pushing for UK sales.

Like the United States, the UK has had only one official iPhone carrier since 2007, in spite of an increasing number of foreign countries hosting multiple carriers. The existence of competitive iPhone providers is thought to be beneficial to both Apple and the public, driving down prices and forcing carriers to bend to Apple’s restrictions. For carriers however the open market can hurt profit margins, and invalidate millions in currency paid to secure exclusive rights.

Multiple US carriers may not arrive until at least 2011, when LTE (4G) networks are slated to go live through AT&T and Verizon.

AT&T to Deploy HSPA 7.2 Network Ahead of Third Generation iPhone Launch

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 28th, 2009, 09:13
Category: 3G Wireless, iPhone, News

3giphone.jpg
Wireless carrier AT&T has formally announced plans to deploy its 7.2 Mbps HSPA 7.2 network this year, the deployment supporting faster iPhone models expected for release this summer.
According to AppleInsider, AT&T has stated that the HSPA 7.2 upgrade will deliver theoretical peak speeds twice that of the company’s current 3G network. The company has stated that installation will continue through 2011 and that AT&T will begin trials of LTE (Long Term Evolution), with deployment of that technology to begin in 2011. LTE plans to eventually reach theoretical peak speeds of 20 Mbps.
Both HSPA and LTE are components of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) family of technologies, which include GSM/EDGE and UMTS, the worldwide “3G” service supported by the iPhone 3G.
Because AT&T’s network is currently based on 3GPP standards, the company can deliver the upgrade to HSPA 7.2 service immediately to support faster smartphones prior to the buildout of LTE, which isn’t expected to become widely available until at least 2011-2012.
AT&T has stated that its current 3G service is available in 350 major US metro areas, with deployment in another 20 planned this year. The company stated that its new HSPA 7.2 technology “will be deployed widely in the network, with the benefits of the network upgrade to be announced on a local basis as the faster speeds are turned up.”
The company also said it will introduce “multiple HSPA 7.2-compatible laptop cards and smartphones beginning later this year.” Apple is expected to release a new iPhone model in June that supports HSPA 7.2 service. In addition to having access to a faster network, the new iPhone model is expected to have a significantly faster processor, enabling it to better handle the data it can receive, resulting in faster overall operation.
Along with the upgrade to HSPA 7.2, AT&T also reported plans to build out other network improvements this year as part of a capital investment plan costing $17-18 billion.
Elements include:

  • Near-Doubling Radio Frequency Capacity: In 2008 and 2009 to date, high-quality 850 MHz spectrum has been deployed in more than half of AT&T’s 3G network footprint to improve overall coverage and in-building reception, with additional markets planned for later in the year.
  • More Bandwidth to Cell Sites: AT&T is adding fiber-optic connectivity and additional capacity to thousands of cell sites across the country this year, expanding the critical connections that deliver traffic from a cell site into the global IP backbone network. These upgrades will support the higher mobile broadband speeds enabled by both HSPA 7.2 and LTE.
  • More Cell Sites: Deployment of about 2,100 new cell sites across the country.
  • Wi-Fi Integration: Many AT&T smartphones will be able to switch seamlessly between 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. AT&T customers with qualifying smartphone and 3G LaptopConnect plans have access to the nation’s largest Wi-Fi network – more than 20,000 hotspots, including locations in all 50 states – at no additional charge. AT&T’s global Wi-Fi footprint covers more than 90,000 hotspots, and AT&T also can create permanent or temporary extended Wi-Fi zones in areas with high 3G network use, like a grouping of hotels or a festival.
  • MicroCells: Customer trials leading toward general availability of AT&T 3G MicroCell offerings, which utilize femtocells to enhance in-building wireless coverage.
  • AT&T Pushing for Exclusive iPhone Rights Through 2011

    Posted by:
    Date: Wednesday, April 15th, 2009, 08:35
    Category: iPhone

    3giphone.jpg
    After three years of holding exclusive rights to the iPhone, AT&T is looking to take one more shot at an exclusive deal for the Apple handset and may keep it away from competitors until 2011.
    According to the Wall Street Journal, “people familiar with the matter” have stated that AT&T has a deal to keep the iPhone in its stable until 2010 and that negotiations are underway to have the device onboard for one more year.
    Though there has been no specific commentary from AT&T regarding this, an Apple spokeswoman would only say that the two companies have a “great relationship.”
    The commentary follows a report from last year that also said AT&T had struck a deal to keep the iPhone until 2010 and may provide insight into current talks. At the time, the cellular carrier reportedly agreed to allow iPhone 3G subsidies in exchange for a one-year extension of the iPhone’s US exclusivity. Although the cost of discounting those phones has been severe — as much as US$1.3 billion to date, according to an estimate — the agreement renewed interest in AT&T and gave it millions of users paying at least US$60 per month (on grandfathered plans) for service.
    Should AT&T be allowed to keep exclusive rights to the iPhone, it would be able to help prevent customers from jumping ship to Verizon or an alternate carrier at a time when the market is saturated and customers are more likely to have switched than sign up for the first time. The company added 1.9 million iPhone users just in the fall 2008 quarter alone.

    (more…)