Opinion – Like many of those interested in technology, I have been
following Cisco’s integrated blade server announcement today. And there
is no doubt that it is an enticing new approach that plays into current
cost savings and sustainability trends. But it is unclear whether
technology is enough to make Cisco’s UCS the iPhone of datacenters, a
product that is so revolutionary that it will change the way we think
about datacenters. So let’s calm down and give the Unified Computing
System (UCS) idea some time – and rivals to catch up.
Marvell announced today a new type of computer. It's about the size of an AC to DC converting wall outlet plug, but is really a full SoC with a 1200 MHz CPU, built-in 512 MB Flash, 512 MB DRAM, Gigabit Ethernet and USB 2.0 support. It runs small versions of Linux, consumes about 5 watts max while allowing remote users (presumably those authorized by the owner) to access data stored on the device from remote locations including local intranets or over the Internet. The $99 device opens up a wide array of extremely low-power, low-volume, always on applications.
Opinion - An Intel employee and well-known overclocker contacted TG Daily to point out that AMD actually never did hold the 3DMark record. FutureMark's website shows the 45474 3DMark AMD machine result was submitted on January 12, 2009. However, results from an earlier Intel Core i7 powered machine came on January 4, 2009 (8 days prior) and show a score of 46644, a full 1090 3Dmarks higher.
Opinion - Companies like Intel and Microsoft often impose what are called "soft limitations" on products. These limitations aren't due to limits of hardware or design, but rather are employed only to make sure a particular product stays within a given "niche market" or price point. I believe these limitations are stifling to innovation and keep powerful products away from end consumers, and it's time for these practices to stop.
Imagine a world where you could go down to the local cell phone store and choose the components you want inside your new phone. First you buy a sturdy frame with the right size and shape to support the options you want. Add your favorite resolution and type of screen. Next, buy the cell phone engine itself, one which works on any network you choose (cell phone networks are just services then). Do you need 3G? 4G? Maybe extra long battery life? What about special features that aren’t offered in traditional phones? WiFi? HD broadcast abilities? Router abilities? Maybe you want the ability to plug it into a USB port and have it also store up to 1GB of data? Modularity would make it all possible through innovation. Plus, it would bring prices down on the total cost of ownership.
Analyst Opinion - Earlier this month, Windows dropped below 90% market
share for the first time in over a decade and the beneficiary was the
Mac, which has enjoyed a strong resurgence. This resurgence was driven
by a number of factors - the success of the iPod and iPhone, a
continued focus on customer satisfaction (Apple has the strongest NPS
scores of any PC vendor), and some compelling products like the Macbook
Air. But the biggest accelerator could be a charismatic U.S. President
who has, as his personal choice, a Mac.
Analyst Opinion – This November has certainly a big month for
technology and shifting trends. One of the most interesting news bits
was a quiet change from Windows to Apple boxes in some of the largest
and most powerful technology companies. Then we had the Intel launch of
Core I7 and the launch of AMD's Shanghai platform, both of which
exceeded expectations. I exited last week receiving a smoking
triple-card Nvidia-based system running Core I7 and while I missed the
flash drives I was blown away by all of the performance. But is
technology really all about performance?
Opinion - I have been very surprised reading the commentary from other websites regarding Core i7. Many of those authors believe Intel fell short with this Tock cycle, essentially stating they did not deliver a commensurate successor as with Core architecture. I honestly have to ask the question, are those reviewers looking at the same chip I am? Do they not recognize what Intel has done with this iteration? I for one am most impressed with Intel's design and goals. In fact, I believe Intel has delivered exactly what the industry's needed - a high performing platform to steer the course between here and the next big thing.
Opinion – AMD’s 2008 Financial Analyst Day, held yesterday, saw a much
more upbeat AMD than last year. The first 45 nm CPU is out of the gate,
there is a fantastic graphics chip lineup, a new and compelling stream
computing agenda and a thoroughly updated roadmap that had only one
major gap – netbook processors. No doubt, AMD has gained strength and
confidence, but there was a strangely inconsistent message about the
migration to 32 nm. That was preceded by executives stressing that the
Shanghai CPU was released early, which was not entirely correct. I
would not care when AMD transitions to another process technology, but
AMD seems to be making a big deal out of nanometers these days. Three
executives talked about the 32 nm migration yesterday and gave three
different time frames within three hours. Now I wonder: Should we
care? EXTRA: SLIDESHOW, ROADMAP
Analyst Opinion - Barcelona, which had been positioned as the product
that would obliterate Intel in the server and workstation markets, went
from a Weapon of Mass Destruction to Weapon of Self Destruction and
came close to knocking out AMD for good.
Analyst Opinion - A lot hinges on Shanghai, AMD's replacement for
Barcelona. It is the first major announcement since AMD decided to go
fabless and the first real indicator of whether the company is back in
the game or will be remain a player behind Intel for the rest of the
year in the server and workstation space.
Analyst Opinion - I am at an annual conference Phoenix Technology puts
on to discuss the future of the PC called Strategy 2009. This
conference is relatively unique in the segment, because the general
topics that are covered are less about products that exist and largely
focused on what will exist about two to three years out. One of the
wake up presentations was from one of HP’s CTOs, who showcased that the
most powerful country in the world in 1900 was Great Britain and the
most powerful country in the world is now becoming China, which will
have the largest English speaking population shortly, and is already
graduating students from colleges at 3x the speed of the U.S. (and, on
this metric, India is a close second). Join me for some visions for the
future PC landscape.
Analyst Opinion - AMD was in significant trouble: Up against a vastly
larger and better funded competitor, the company was increasingly
outmatched in recent months. This is because it has simply become too
expensive to keep up the technology race. Sony, Texas Instruments, and
Freescale had to exit the microprocessor segment, because the costs of
staying in remained too great. This massive drop in competitors put AMD
on a very ugly list and created a situation where it seemed that only
one vendor could be driving the market in future and limit the amount
innovation in a quickly changing, critical market.
Analyst Opinion - I just came back from a trip to Budapest and a deep
dive with Acer, which has about the same market share in the U.S. as
Apple, but is substantially larger world wide. However, Apple is
substantially more profitable and, particularly under the current
market conditions, I’d put profitability and valuation ahead of market
share as a way to measure the success of a company. Others clearly
don’t and given these two firms are actually very close to each in
market share, I believe it is interesting to compare them with a closer
Opinion - Last week, Intel announced the third generation of its vPro Technology
for PCs. Comprised of CPU, motherboard and networking components, vPro
is essentially a set of technologies which enable remote monitoring,
maintenance and management in a PC. Intel bills these as tools useful
for IT professionals, which they are. But shouldn't we be looking
deeper into the potential threat of such technologies?
Opinion – The days of the hard drive are numbered. I recently chatted
with Samsung on their opinion of the state solid state disk drive (SSD)
market and while Samsung seems to be very careful comparing their SSDs
and their ability to replace traditional hard drives, it is now clear
to me that there is no way out for the hard drive. Over the next few
years, the hard drive may keep the edge in capacity and price, but it
inevitably will be driven into shrinking niches. While the advantages
of the technology are visibly melting away, it is obvious that the hard
drive may not just die because of its inferior performance or higher
power consumption – but simply because of its form factor.
Analyst Opinion - Intel has IDF and NVIDIA has NVISION. Both shows have
some similar goals, but the two couldn’t be more different. Intel’s
show is button down and professional while NVIDIA’s is a little crazy.
Intel dominates the PC hardware space and, as it often was in the
Olympics last week, the real competition is for number 2, or Silver and
Nvidia clearly wants that spot. AMD plays very conservatively
generally leveraging partners like Microsoft who often have their own
agendas. Nvidia is taking a much more aggressive path and while the
press room I’m writing this in is sponsored by Microsoft, there is no
sense at all that this is anything but an Nvidia event.
Opinion – IDF is just around the corner and Intel will provide a flood
of new information about its upcoming Nehalem (Core i7) processor as
well as its 32 nm and 22 nm successors, new architectures such as
Larrabee, the ready-to-launch WiMax mobile platform, CE processors such
as Tolapai and new partners such as Dreamworks. IDF’s marketing machine
typically buries anything from AMD, but this year, AMD is reverting to
a strategy from the past: AMD is setting up its camp in a hotel nearby
in an effort to balance Intel’s messages. A first briefing discounting
Intel’s current product line was given to journalists earlier today.
And if the tone of this briefing is any indication, then Nehalem feels
like Core 2 Duo all over again.
Analyst Opinion - This week I have been spending some time with AMD
listening to an update of their workstation and server roadmap. AMD’s
message: We are healthy and we are executing once again. However,
they admitted that their misses in 2007 hurt the company a great deal
in revenue, profitability and - even more importantly - credibility.
Analyst Opinion - Part of what makes this year somewhat different in
graphics is that Intel has indicated that is now serious about
graphics. There is a technology called Larrabee on the horizon that is
promised to surpass the best that both AMD/ATI and Nvidia will have on
the market in two years. Having been down this path before, describing
my feelings as a little skeptical would be an understatement. But Intel
is a very capable company and they are executing very well at the
moment. However, the first reviews of Intel’s new integrated part are
available and, unfortunately, reality isn’t in line with expectations.