Lenovo on Friday said it would continue selling sub-10-in. Windows tablets in the U.S., backing away from statements it made the day before, when it said it was pulling the ThinkPad 8 from the North American market and had discontinued offering a model of the Miix 2.
“We will continue to bring new Windows devices to market across different screen sizes, including a new 8-inch tablet and 10-inch tablet coming this holiday,” Lenovo said in a press release published on its website Friday.
“Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the U.S., and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media (emphasis in original),” the statement continued.
On Thursday, the IDG News Service — like Computerworld, owned and operated by IDG – reported the withdrawal of the ThinkPad 8 and the 8-in. Miix from the U.S. market. The ThinkPad 8 had debuted in January at prices starting at $449, and the similarly-sized Miix had launched in October 2013.
Lenovo told IDG News that it was diverting remaining stocks of the ThinkPad 8 to other countries, including Brazil, China, and Japan, where demand was stronger for smaller Windows 8.1-powered tablets.
The China-based company, which has made impressive gains in the global market — it was the world’s largest personal computer seller during the second quarter, ahead of Hewlett-Packard and Dell, according to IDC — did not say exactly when it would return with an 8-in. device. If it begins selling the unnamed device in October, typical of OEMs that seed the channel then for the holiday sales season, it will have been absent from the market for two or more months.
The company rolled out a set of tools for software developers on Wednesday that allows businesses to deduct payments directly from a customer’s PayPal account.
The developer kit is the first big push from Braintree since it was bought by eBay for $800 million last year to help PayPal, eBay’s payments division, expand its presence on mobile devices.
Eliminating the need for mobile shoppers to type in their credit card details on their phones should help boost sales, Braintree Chief Executive Bill Ready said in an interview.
This is especially critical as consumers spend more time on their smartphones, a trend that is forcing developers to design a “fundamentally different computing experience” for the smaller screen, Ready added.
Braintree processes payments for businesses including car service Uber and online home-rental marketplace Airbnb.
ARM has announced two programs to assist Android’s ascent into the 64-bit architecture market.
The first of those is Linaro, a port of the Android Open Source Project to the 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture. ARM said the port was done on a development board codenamed “Juno”, which is the second initiative to help Android reach the 64-bit market.
The Juno hardware development platform includes a system on chip (SoC) powered by a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and dual-core ARM Cortex-A57 CPU in an ARM big.little processing configuration.
Juno is said to be an “open, vendor neutral ARMv8 development platform” that will also feature an ARM Mali-T624 graphics processor.
Alongside the news of the 64-bit initiatives, ARM also announced that Actions Semiconductor of China signed a license agreement for the 64-bit ARM Cortex-A50 processor family.
“Actions provides SoC solutions for portable consumer electronics,” ARM said. “With this IP license, Actions will develop 64-bit SoC solutions targeting the tablet and over-the-counter (OTT) set top box markets.”
The announcements from ARM come at an appropriate time, as it was only last week that Google announced the latest version of its Android mobile operating system, Android L, which comes with support for 64-bit processors. ARM’s latest developments mean that Android developers are likely to take advantage of them in the push to take Android to the 64-bit market.
Despite speculation that it would launch as Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google outed its next software iteration on Wednesday last week as simply Android L, touting the oddly-named iteration as “the largest update to the operating system yet”.
Salesforce Inc, one of the first cloud-computing companies, is turning its focus towards healthcare with new software and services aimed at the largest hospitals.
Salesforce has announced a strategic alliance with Amsterdam-based medical technology company Philips, which it envisions as the first of many partnerships. These companies will announce two new medical applications later in the summer, called Philips eCareCoordinator and Philips eCare Companion.
The software is designed to improve health and cut costs. The apps are intended to be used by physicians to monitor chronically ill patients between doctor visits.
Salesforce said the goal is to make it easier for hospitals to collect and analyze data from medical devices, which patients with chronic conditions often use at home.
“In the United States, care providers are facing increasing demands and decreasing reimbursement,” said Michael Peachey, a senior director of solutions and product marketing at Salesforce.
“We want to improve efficiency for physicians by transmitting patient data in real time.”
Peachey said the Salesforce software meets security and privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA.
In the short term, Peachey said Salesforce intends to develop additional apps with other partners to help doctors and nurses monitor patients from the comfort of their homes.
“It’s an open platform,” he said.
Nvidia has released CUDA – its code that lets developers run their code on GPUs – to server vendors in order to get 64-bit ARM cores into the high performance computing (HPC) market.
The firm said today that ARM64 server processors, which are designed for microservers and web servers because of their energy efficiency, can now process HPC workloads when paired with GPU accelerators using the Nvidia CUDA 6.5 parallel programming framework, which supports 64-bit ARM processors.
“Nvidia’s GPUs provide ARM64 server vendors with the muscle to tackle HPC workloads, enabling them to build high-performance systems that maximise the ARM architecture’s power efficiency and system configurability,” the firm said.
The first GPU-accelerated ARM64 software development servers will be available in July from Cirrascale and E4 Computer Engineering, with production systems expected to ship later this year. The Eurotech Group also plans to ship production systems later this year.
Cirrascale’s system will be the RM1905D, a high density two-in-one 1U server with two Tesla K20 GPU accelerators, which the firm claims provides high performance and low total cost of ownership for private cloud, public cloud, HPC and enterprise applications.
E4′s EK003 is a production-ready, low-power 3U dual-motherboard server appliance with two Tesla K20 GPU accelerators designed for seismic, signal and image processing, video analytics, track analysis, web applications and Mapreduce processing.
Eurotech’s system is an “ultra-high density”, energy efficient and modular Aurora HPC server configuration, based on proprietary Brick Technology and featuring direct hot liquid cooling.
Featuring Applied Micro X-Gene ARM64 CPUs and Nvidia Tesla K20 GPU accelerators, the new ARM64 servers will provide customers with an expanded range of efficient, high-performance computing options to drive compute-intensive HPC and enterprise data centre workloads, Nvidia said.
Nvidia added, “Users will immediately be able to take advantage of hundreds of existing CUDA-accelerated scientific and engineering HPC applications by simply recompiling them to ARM64 systems.”
ARM said that it is working with Nvidia to “explore how we can unite GPU acceleration with novel technologies” and drive “new levels of scientific discovery and innovation”.
BlackBerry Ltd has agreed to a licensing deal with Amazon.com Inc that will let the Canadian smartphone maker offer some 240,000 Android applications from Amazon’s app store on its lineup of BlackBerry 10 devices this fall.
The move allows the Waterloo, Ontario-based company to add a vast array of consumer-focused apps to its devices, while at the same time directing its own efforts toward developing enterprise and productivity applications.
Customers who own smartphones powered by its BlackBerry 10 operating system will now be able to access popular Android apps such as Groupon, Netflix, Pinterest, Minecraft and Candy Crush Saga on their BlackBerry devices this fall. Google Inc makes Android, the mobile operating system used in more than a billion phones and tablets.
The apps will become available after the Canadian smartphone maker rolls out the upgraded BlackBerry 10.3 operating system, the company said.
The move is the latest by the smartphone pioneer to streamline its focus as it attempts to reinvent itself under new Chief Executive Officer John Chen as BlackBerry phones have lost ground to Apple Inc’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Galaxy devices.
Analysts saw the move as a step in the right direction, but are not sure whether it will help turn the tide for BlackBerry.
“While this will widen the BB10 app ecosystem, the consumer
smartphone environment still remains challenging,” Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um said in a note to clients.
Um views the announcement as a positive for BlackBerry, but said “whether it stems consumer churn remains to be seen.”
Chen wants to remain a competitor in the smartphone segment, but is focused on making BlackBerry a dominant force in machine-to-machine communications. The company’s QNX software already is a mainstay in the automotive industry, powering electronic and other systems in a wide range of cars.
BlackBerry already works with hundreds of large enterprise clients, including corporations and government agencies, to manage and secure mobile devices on their internal networks.
Chen intends to build on those ties and BlackBerry’s security credentials to let these enterprise clients build and customize in-house corporate and productivity applications for their employees.
Oracle has added systems to its enterprise-class x86 server line featuring elastic computing capabilities that dynamically adapt their configurations in response to workloads.
The Oracle Sun Server X4-4 and Sun Server X4-8 are four-socket and eight-socket systems designed for data centre workloads such as virtualisation, Oracle databases and scale-up enterprise applications.
However, the two servers are fitted with a unique variant of Intel’s Xeon E7 v2 processor family that combines the capabilities of three different Xeon processors into one.
Oracle said it worked with Intel to create this chip, the Xeon E7-8895 v2, which can dynamically switch its core count, clock frequency and power consumption without the need for a system level reboot.
This chip is the heart of the elastic computing capability of the Sun Server X4-4 and Sun Server X4-8, enabling them to adapt to the requirements of different workloads based on its runtime configuration.
It might be configured for transaction processing at a high clock speed for one hour, then switched to higher core counts for the next hour for higher throughput computing, according to Oracle.
“Through close collaboration with Intel, we are the first to announce servers based on the new Xeon E7-8895 v2 processors and the first with unique capabilities that allow customers to dynamically address different workloads in real time,” said Ali Alasti, senior vice president for hardware development at Oracle.
Enhancements have also been made to the system firmware and to Oracle’s Solaris, and Oracle Linux operating systems to support the elastic computing features.
Oracle also said the new systems have a modular design that allows the processors to be upgraded to future Xeon chips, while all the disks are hot-swappable, plus there is hot-pluggable I/O support for industry-standard low-profile PCI Express cards via a dual PCIe card carrier.
The servers also feature a “glueless” architecture that removes the need for a node controller. As node controllers typically change from one processor generation to the next because of modifications to inter-processor communication and coherency protocols, the elimination enables Oracle to offer a future-proof chassis that will support future processor releases from Intel, the firm said.
The Sun Server X4-8 is touted by Oracle as ideal for running its Oracle Database, which has just been updated with an in-memory processing option. It supports 120 processor cores with up to 6TB of memory in its 5U rack-mount chassis, plus up to 9.6TB of hard drive or 3.2TB of solid state drive (SSD) storage.
Meanwhile, the Sun Server X4-4 is said to be well suited for applications requiring large memory footprint virtual machines and running real-time analytics software.
It can be configured with two or four of the Xeon E7-8895 v2 processors, with up to 3TB of memory and 4.8TB of PCIe flash plus 2.4TB of SSDs or 7.2TB of hard drives.
Speaking at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Microsoft’s Nick Parker, who handles the company’s partnerships with device makers, said the new handsets could be out by the end of the year.
Compared to current models, which are in the “fours, fives and sixes,” he said referring to prices between $400 and $699, the new phones would have price points in the “ones, twos and threes.”
Asked to clarify if he was referring to end-market prices without carrier subsidies, Parker said he was.
He didn’t identify the manufacturers that would be bringing the phones to market, but there’s a good chance they are among nine companies Microsoft signed up to its Windows Phone development program earlier this year.
In addition to existing partners Nokia, Samsung, HTC and Huawei, Microsoft added Foxconn, Gionee, Lava (Xolo), Lenovo, LG, Longcheer, JSR, Karbonn and ZTE.
Some of the new partners have significant market share in developing countries where phones generally have lower prices than in developed markets.
Microsoft launched the latest version of its Windows Phone operating system, Windows Phone 8, in late 2012 to critical praise. The operating system was slow to catch on with consumers though, perhaps due to the absence of several popular apps on the platform, but has been slowly increasing its market share.
Windows Phone had a 3 percent share of the smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2013, up from 2.6 percent in the last three months of 2012, according to IDC. In contrast, Google’s Android dominated the smartphone market at the end of 2013 with a 78.1 percent share. Apple’s iOS was in second place at 17.6 percent.
IDC forecasts Windows Phone will continue to increase its market share to hit 7 percent in 2018.
Intel has joined forces with Chinese chip design firm Rockchip to develop next generation processors for the tablet market based on Intel Atom core technology and integrating 3G broadband communications.
Under the terms of the agreement, Intel and Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics (Rockchip) will work together on an Intel branded mobile system on chip (SoC) processor with the intention of enabling a range of entry-level Android tablets.
The chip is expected to ship in the first half of 2015, according to Intel, and will be based on a quad-core Atom processor design integrated with Intel’s 3G modem technology, which the firm gained through its acquisition of Infineon Technologies in 2010.
Rockchip, which is expected to contribute to the integrated graphics technology, will also help Intel bring the product to market faster than might otherwise be the case. The firm is a leading fabless semiconductor design company and already develops mobile SoCs, although its present designs are largely focused around the ARM architecture.
The agreement builds on announcements Intel made at an investor relations day last year, where chief executive Brian Krzanich disclosed the Intel Sofia family, of which the latest chip will form part, and conceded that the chipmaker needed to become more agile in order to gain traction in entry-level markets.
“The strategic agreement with Rockchip is an example of Intel’s commitment to take pragmatic and different approaches to grow our presence in the global mobile market by more quickly delivering a broader portfolio of Intel architecture and communications technology solutions,” Krzanich said.
With this announcement, the Intel Sofia family comprises three products, which are not shipping yet.
A dual-core 3G version is slated for the fourth quarter this year, the quad-core 3G version is due in the first half of 2015, and a version with 4G/LTE communication is also due in the first half of next year.
According to Jon Peddie Research (JPR), shipments of discrete graphics cards were down in the first quarter of the year. This is in line with seasonal trends, as the market cools down after the holiday season.
The sequential drop was 6.7 percent, which was still better than the overall desktop PC market, which slumped 9 percent. However, on a year-to-year basis add-in-board (AIB) shipments were down 0.8 percent. PC sales were down 1.1 percent.
Nvidia still controls two thirds of the market
Total AIB shipments in Q1 were just 14 million units. AMD and Nvidia both saw their shipments decrease 6.6 percent, so their market share did not change much.
Nvidia controls an estimated 65 percent of the market, up from 64.2 percent last year. AMD’s market share in Q1 was 35 percent, down from 35.6 percent a year ago.
The overall volume remains weak and in the long run things could get even worse, as on-die integrated graphics have already taken a big toll on sales of entry level discrete cards. As integrated GPUs become even faster, they are likely to cannibalize the low end market even further.
JPR points out that the AIB market peaked in 1999, with 114 million units shipped. Last year saw only 65 million units and the stagnant trend is likely to continue this year.
It’s not all bad news for AIBs
Although the slump in discrete GPU shipments is hurting AMD and NV hardware partners, JPR offers a rather encouraging outlook.
It points out that graphics cards are one of the most powerful, essential and exciting components in the PC market today. PC gaming is hardly dead, in fact it is going through what can only be described as a small renaissance. PCs will offer 4K/UHD gaming years ahead of consoles and the Steam Machine concept is looking good, too.
The compute market is another driver, as JPR points out:
“The technology is entering into major new markets like supercomputers, remote workstations, and simulators almost on a daily basis. It would be little exaggeration to say that the AIB resembles the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”
The AIB market is quite a bit less colourful and eventful than it was back in the day, but at least AIBs still have a lot on their hands and they are trying to tap new markets.