Thursday 01 October 2009

Apple and Intel develop 10 Gbps optical data technology -

 MaTiCa    01 Oct : 11:30
 None    Hardware



Apple’s intends to offer an interoperable connectivity standard, that handles all major input/output on a single port

At the Intel Developer Forum held last week, a hot topic was Intel’s unveiling of the Light Speed optical cable technology. The thin optical cable can transfer data at speeds of 10Gb/s, and Intel claims it will deliver speeds of 100Gb/s within 10 years. The data can be transferred over a cable of up to 100 meters in length.

Aside from the technology unveiling, those attending the event couldn’t help but notice that Intel was demonstrating the product on a “hackintosh??? – an unbranded PC running a patched Mac OS.

Thanks to Engadget it emerged over the weekend that there was an explanation for this. Apple had approached Intel back in 2007 to create a single interoperable standard which would “replace the multitudinous connector types with a single connector (FireWire, USB, Display interface).???

Apple plans to introduce Light Peak as a new standard for its systems around the American fall of 2010 (South African spring). There are plans to follow up with a low-power variation in 2011, aimed at handhelds and cell phones. A single universal port would be extremely useful in small devices, such as the anticipated Mac tablet PC.

If the timing for the introduction of Light Peak holds true, it would be in direct competition with USB 3.0. The ability to offer a superior 10Gb/s over USB 3.0, which operates at 3.2Gb/s, raises the question as to whether Apple will simply skip USB 3.0 in favour of Light Peak.

[Submitted by Enigma_2k4]

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Thursday 10 September 2009

Apple Slashes iPod Prices

 MaTiCa    10 Sep : 12:02
 None    Hardware

At the much awaited Rock and Roll event, Apple refreshed its existing iPod line up with slew of changes.

At the much awaited Rock and Roll event, Apple refreshed its existing iPod line up with slew of changes. Few old models were quietly dropped and new ones with more storage replaced them. In the new iPod Touch lineup, the legendary iPod Classic gets highest capacity and iPod Shuffle gets more colorful.
Also, there's a price cut as always since September is meant to be Apple's annual product life cycle for iPods.

New Faster iPod Touch

Two new third generation iPod Touch models in 32GB and 64GB capacities join in the iPod Touch lineup and the 16GB iPod Touch model quietly slips out. Both new iPod Touch models support OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics for accelerated 3D graphics and are boasted to be 50 percent faster. Hence, it s believed that both new iPod Touch models have the same 600MHz Samsung S5PC100 mobile application CPU based on ARM's CORTEX A8's design.

If iPod Touch carries the same PowerVR SGX chip as in the iPhone 3GS, it is still capable of running 720p HD video natively. Also, the OpenGL ES 2.0 support will allow game developers for iPhone Platform to make games with better graphics.

Big bully iPod Touch 64GB can store up to 14,000 songs, 90,000 photos or 80 hours of video. That's seriously a massive storage for a handheld touchscreen device. Apart from storage bump, the new third generation iPod Touch models have new Genius Mixes feature that is capable of making up to 12 playlists automatically, based on the existing tracks on the device.

Third generation iPod Touch also has voice control. So, earphones from Apple or any third party earphones with remote can be used for Voice Control on Music playback. A slew of new features would be added with the iPhone OS 3.1 software update that is available for download from the official Apple site.

Apple sells the new 64GB iPod Touch for $399 (Rs. 19,200 approx.) which is the old price 32GB second generation iPod Touch model. While the new 32GB third generation iPod Touch is now priced at $299 (Rs. 14,400 approx.). Price of 8GB second generation iPod Touch model is slashed by $30 (Rs. 1,440 approx) to $199 (Rs. 9,600 approx.) from $229 (Rs. 11,000 approx.).

Unfortunately, rumors that the third generation iPod Touch will get a camera did not materialize and it's like that recent reports of camera module failure might just be true. So, it's likely that the images of iPod Touch with camera that surfaced last month might be of the fourth generation iPod Touch model.

[Submitted by MaTiCa]

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Wednesday 09 September 2009

Twilight of the iPods

 Christo [PCD]    09 Sep : 19:02
 None    Hardware

On Wednesday evening, UK time, Apple is expected to release an upgrade to its iPod line.

On Wednesday evening, UK time, Apple is expected to release an upgrade to its iPod line. But amid the inevitable hype surrounding its careful marketing and intentional secrecy about the content of the launch, a different truth is emerging: that we are seeing the twilight of the stand-alone digital music player (DMP), a product category only just over 10 years old.

That does not mean that digital music players will vanish. Quite the opposite: the sector is still growing. Increasingly, though, the products have some sort of connectivity – whether Wi-Fi, mobile phone, Bluetooth or all three.

But if you look closely enough, the signs that the stand-alone player is in decline are all around. The first, and most obvious, was Apple's announcement in its latest quarterly results that iPod sales fell year-on-year for the first time since the product's launch in October 2001. As the iPod dominates the market for DMPs, any drop in its sales indicates a fall in the market.

Next is the news that in the last week of August, Sony's Walkman DMPs outsold the iPod in Japan for the first time in four years . But that was against a background where sales of DMPs fell by 13.5% for the fifth month in a row; and Sony forecast that it would sell 6.7m units in the year to March 2010 – compared to 7m sold the previous year. The conclusion? The market for those DMPs is falling. By contrast, in July the launch of the new iPhone 3GS at the same time the iPhone was the most popular phone in Japan.

Then there is Microsoft's decision to drop older versions of its Zune music player, which despite having Wi-Fi connectivity (unlike all iPods, except the iPod Touch) has failed to make an impact on the North American market, the only place it is sold. The Zune has been close to an embarrassment to Microsoft, losing money and never living up to expectations, with sales dropping 42% in the last quarter – though the company hopes for better from its next, touchscreen Zune HD.

And finally, there is the forecast by In-Stat, a consumer-analysis company, which suggests that the market for stand-alone DMPs peaked in value last year at $21.8bn and "will slow considerably over the next five years". It reckons that the market's growth fell below 10% at the end of 2008 for the first time since the Saehan "MPMan" player, able to store 32MB of data, went on sale in 1998. Soon after Diamond Multimedia started selling the Rio PMP300.

Download downturn

That in turn carries serious risks for the music industry, which for some time has surfed along on the iPod sales boom, warns Mark Mulligan, vice-president of the global media practice at the analysis company Forrester Research. Digital music downloads have been driven by DMP sales growth. But what happens when that growth slows? Logically, digital music sales – which the music industry had hoped would replace CD sales – slow down too.

"There's a really, really important point that we have been trying to hammer home to the record labels for some months, which is: what happens to music sales as device sales start to slow? Apple is 75%-80% of the music download market. Its fortunes are explicitly tied to iPod sales. And even before the last quarter, if you do a simple calculation – assuming a two-year replacement cycle for each iPod, and calculate the installed base – then you discover that the installed base of iPods stopped growing in 2007." Mulligan puts the total installed base at roughly 110m at the end of 2008.

He explains that 2005 was the "liftoff" year for iPod sales, and for the installed base to grow beyond that would require a "massive" sales surge – which is not happening. Instead, people are turning to the iPod Touch and iPhone; and those people are not buying as many tracks as iPod-only buyers.

But the music industry has had a troubled relationship with DMPs through their lives. In 1998 the first reaction of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), representing US record labels, to the Rio was to sue Diamond Multimedia because it could be used to play illicit copies of music. (A judge dismissed the case in October 1998.) The next was to ignore it: in 1998 Nick Raymonde, then the A&R (artists and repertoire) director at BMG Music, one of the biggest music companies, said in an interview that MP3 "is not a particularly good format technically" and "I don't really see a lot of kids walking around with MP3 players yet". He's probably seeing it now. And MP3 has remained the dominant format for storing music, with Amazon and other online retailers adopting it – forced principally by Apple's blanket refusal to use the Windows Media Audio format.

The iPod's arrival, with its click-wheel access to huge numbers of songs (5,000 on the first 5GB hard drive model), galvanised the market, which began to take off. By July 2006, a study by Digital Life America and Canada-based Fast Forward found 28% of Americans aged 12 and over had a DMP – up from 12% the previous year – with sales growing fastest among women. The iPod had a 68% US market share, up from 53% in 2005, with Creative Labs a distant second with 6%; dozens of other manufacturers with shares no larger than 3% made up the other 26%.

But now that market has matured – or become saturated. It is no longer enough simply to play music (or, as non-iPod devices often can, have an FM tuner and voice recorder). Connectivity is now the key.

There's wealth in wireless

According to Stephanie Ethier, a consumer devices analyst at In-Stat, the slowdown in the stand-alone market is caused by "market maturity, a weak economy and competition from other multimedia handhelds – primarily mobile phones". She believes the total market for personal media players (a category that includes Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as the iPod Touch, Zune and Sony's new X-series Walkman) will grow from 200m in 2007 to 245m in 2012 – but of that, 21%, or 52m, will have Wi-Fi. That means 193m sold without, a fall compared to 2007. And the value of those 193m will be below that in 2007, as storage gets cheaper and the market commoditises.

Apple, again, clearly recognised that with its launch in September 2007 of the iPod Touch – essentially, the iPhone with the phone and Bluetooth systems taken out, but Wi-Fi left in. Since its launch, the iPod Touch has sold 18.6m units worldwide – compared to 26.4m units of the iPhone, launched three months earlier.

That connectivity though means that the complexities of the device – and the need for good user interface design – are suddenly much higher. Wi-Fi means email and web browsing become possible, if not obligatory, and the idea that you might be able to do even more with the device – as the iPhone and iPod Touch have demonstrated through Apple's online App Store, selling 65,000 different applications – raises the bar for those in the market. As Michael Gartenberg, a consumer analyst at the research company Interpret, says: "Let's face it. app stores are table stakes for mobile platforms today. If you don't have one, you're not even in the game."

Building up interest

It's easier for mobile phone companies to consider building an app store, because they know how their handsets work. But they have the challenge of working out how to make any revenue from them, and designing them so that people want to use them to download applications. RIM, with the BlackBerry platform, Palm, Nokia (with the Ovi store) and of course Apple.

But Mulligan warns that for the record industry, this brings all sorts of dangers which won't help sell more songs. "The iPhone, iPod Touch, devices like that, are basically vanilla products where the owner adds apps to customise it." Then they can use it for navigation and games, not necessarily songs. Hence the necessity for the record industry to push schemes such as Nokia's Comes With Music, where handset buyers get free music for a year, or Universal's download deal with Virgin Media.

"I don't think Comes With Music would have been licensed three years ago," says Mulligan. "But the record labels understand that [digital sales to iPods] isn't enough. There's no hockey-stick upturn in digital downloads. They're pretty much having to go with anything that the market comes to them with – Spotify, whatever. And they have a clear need to be forcing product innovation. The album format was devised in 1909. It hasn't changed since."

The product rumoured before Wednesday night was the "iTablet" – a tablet computer being developed by Apple with record labels. "I've learnt never to second-guess Apple," Mulligan says. "But if you had things like interviews and apps and music on a touchscreen netbook – that would be an ideal format. That's just what the music industry needs."

With the iPod – increasingly key to Apple's growth – now glimpsing its end, there will be pressure on Apple too to revitalise its offerings. But will Wednesday night's launches have been enough?
[Submitted by MaTiCa]

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