Monthly Archives: June 2008

Google Gears: The Browser Is the OS

Google Gears lets web applications store data locally in the browser, making those applications available even when off-line. Almost a key requirement for people afraid to switch to Google Docs fearing they would be stuck to work on documents when on a airplane or when unable to go on-line.

Gears is a set of Javascript APIs to enable developers to write applications that can work off-line. See the demo below in London Developers Day.

TechCrunch wrote a detailed article, Get Ready For A New Platform War. Google Gears Drives Straight At Microsoft’s Profits, highlighting how Gears can be a bigger step in Google strategy to make the Web Browser the Universal Virtual Machine that makes the OS irrelevant. Google is specifying these features as part of HTML5, and meantime implements them as plugins of IE, Firefox or Safari.

The specific features mostly came from the new HTML5 specifications that standards bodies had been spending years working on. Instead of waiting for them to hit production, Google simply implemented them as best they could by extending the browser through a plugin. They would sacrifice standards in the short-term (and essentially ‘figure it out later’) in order to bring their web applications up to a rich next-generation standard from where they could stand up to Flash and Silverlight.

Coolness Vs. Openness

Mac, coolness: the choice of the artist and the MBA. Style, simplicity, less features but works flawlessly, usability on the top, identify with brand, price premium. The right brain decides.

Ubuntu, openness: the choice of the engineer and the geek. Features, features, features, beta versions, open to add more features, open to develop and install applications, works on any HW, lowest cost. The choice of the left brain. Microsoft would fall in this category as well. It is far from being open source, but the independence of HW platform, openness for developers to write applications, easy install and uninstall of applications, and market dominance, make Microsoft a choice for the pragmatic, emotional phobias aside.

When openness meets coolness: Google and Android

Even Mike Arrington and BusinessWeek contribute to the hype of the iPhone 3G, set to beat even the most optimistic expectations. The right brain has made its choice, there is no handset as cool as the iPhone: MultiTouch, great web browsing, email, youtube, an iPod inside and the guarantee to be the envy of your buddies. But the left brain says: wait, what apps will you be able to install except those sold by App Store? at what price? no copy and paste, only h264 video, only syncs with iTunes, no flash memory card slot, no 3G video calls, no keyboard and forced to a two year contract with the operator…

And here is where Google appears. Google flagship is also simplicity, things that just work (even if Beta…), a brand comparable to Apple (for the moment), and a flavor of openness.  Android combines an open platform with the revolutionary concept the iPhone brought, only that you have an army of developers and a variety of handset HW so that you can pick which of the shortcomings of iPhone you want to fix in your Android.

Will you run for the iPhone 3G or wait to see what Android is capable? I admit it, I am an engineer, I will wait.

Femtocells and iPhone 3G

At $199 and with mandatory flat data rates, millions of iPhones 3G will soon boost the data traffic of UMTS networks. Om Malik wonders whether AT&T UMTS network will be up to the task, specially as the interest on video (YouTube) from iPhone users will grow with 3G.  

An UMTS network has two main bottlenecks: 1) the radio interface, limited by the available spectrum, 2) the backhaul of a Node-B/Base Station that covers a certain area (usually limited to 10-15 Mbps). As traffic grows, additional Node-Bs need to be deployed.

Femtocells* are a great fit for iPhone 3G. I am unaware of the details of AT&T plans on Femto, but with the launch of iPhone 3G with flat data rates, Femto is an excellent option for AT&T to avoid iPhones congesting the radio access and backhaul while at home. Not only that, Femto helps fight churn, as if an user has an AT&T femtocell, chances are all the family member will have an AT&T mobile phone too.

For the users Femtocells have also interesting advantages, specially related to FemtoZone features such as: lower tariffs when calling/called at home on the mobile, SMS notifications when your kids enter/leave home or unlimited data at home.

Femto also enable innovative features related to call routing: what about when someone calls your AT&T fixed line, all mobile phones that are physically at home ring, so anyone can answer depending on the Caller ID displayed in the TV via U-verse? or the other way around, if no mobile phone is at home, the call to the fixed line is routed to one of the mobiles? All this can be user configurable from a web admin tool that, by the way, you can also configure from your iPhone.

Not a bad idea if AT&T bundles Femtocells with iPhone 3G family subscriptions.

* Femtocells are 3G base-stations that users install at home (similar to a Wifi router) to provide 3G coverage back-hauled by the broadband line (ADSL, Cable or Fiber)

2018. What Laptop Will You Use in Ten Years?

We have lived enough IT history to know that reality has exceeded Moore’s Law prediction of computers doubling capacity every 18 months. In fact, the period is now close to 12 months.

Following this exponential growth these are the specs for a $1500 Laptop in 2018, and some accessories:

  • Microprocessor number of Cores: 256 Cores 1.9 Teraflops
  • RAM: 500 Gigabytes
  • Solid-State HD: 32 Terabytes
  • Flash memory cards (SD-HC, Compact): 16 Terabytes
  • Wifi: 1 Gbps
  • Broadband: 8 Gbps
  • External NAS: 1 Petabyte
  • iPod 5G: 8TB at $199, 16TB (3.5 million songs) at $299

With the advances in nanotechnology applied to solar photovoltaics cells and more efficient batteries, laptops will be solar powered, and will not need to connect to the power grid with a normal use. The OS user interface will be based in Motion-Sensing Gesture and Speech Recognition.

IBM Supercomputer Roadrunner was recently news for breaking the one Petaflop proccessing power mark.  At the current pace, probably with a microprocessor based in nanostructures and fotonic technology, a laptop in 2028 will have the same processing power.

The question is, what use will we give to such powerful machines?

Reference:  Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns.

Note: Projection for number of cores assumes 18 months to double capacity, since multiple core technology is relatively new. Flash memory, broadband bandwith and iPod projections follow the pace of 12 month experienced in recent years.

 

iPhone 3G, the Revolution Goes On

The iPhone Revolution goes on, only faster.
No more “wait for 3G” effect. Half the price. Going truly global to 70 countries. Built-in Wifi and GPS. Do not be surprised when Apple double their forecast and sell 20 million units in 2008.

Apple wants to achieve full dominance of the mobile phone. Not only they will sell songs through iTunes, Apple will also sell games and applications through the App Store and will offer network applications with MobileMe.

AT&T will be happy to steal from competitors thousands of users enchanted by the allure of iPhone, willing to sign data plans that will boost their ARPU. It is a step forward to the dump pipe model, but in the short time AT&T ARPU will increase, and they might be thinking better cannibalize my own future, than letting competition do it.

What is so revolutionary about iPhone?

Design, Simplicity and Usability. Pure Apple play. Place better experience ahead of more features.

My friend Sachendra posted a great slide-pack on User Experience. See it below and judge iPhone usability for yourself.

Many explanations have been given in the past about the lack of success of Mobile Internet: expensive, opaque data rates, too small screen, etc. But the main failure was on the traditional handset vendors: lack of usability. Nokia, Sony Ericsson or Motorola are amazingly unfriendly compared to iPhone and to some the of the newest Windows Mobile devices. Google are also great in designing usable applications. So chances are Android will follow iPhone’s revolutionary path.

Previous related posts:
iPhone at $199? Why not? June 2nd, 2008
Why should AT&T sell iPhone at $199 April 30th, 2008

iPhone 3G at $199!


Rumors confirmed. Apple announced the iPhone 3G. It will be available in 22 countries on 11 July and more than 70 countries by the end of the year. In US, the 8GB version will cost $199 and the 16GB only $299. Both have built-in GPS.

The entire keynote of Steve Jobs at Apple site. The press release below:

Apple Introduces the New iPhone 3G
Twice as Fast at Half the Price

SAN FRANCISCO, June 9 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Apple(R) today introduced the new iPhone(TM) 3G, combining all the revolutionary features of iPhone with 3G networking that is twice as fast* as the first generation iPhone, built-in GPS for expanded location based mobile services, and iPhone 2.0 software which includes support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and runs the hundreds of third party applications already built with the recently released iPhone SDK. In the US the new iPhone 3G is priced at a stunning $199 for the 8GB model, and just $299 for the 16GB model.** iPhone 3G will be available in more than 70 countries later this year, beginning with customer availability in 22 countries — Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and the US — on July 11.

“Just one year after launching the iPhone, we’re launching the new iPhone 3G that is twice as fast at half the price,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iPhone 3G supports Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync right out of the box, runs the incredible third party apps created with the iPhone SDK, and will be available in more than 70 countries around the world this year.”

iPhone 3G gives users ever faster access to the Internet and email over their cellular network with quad-band GSM and tri-band HSDPA for voice and data connectivity around the world. iPhone 3G supports Wi-Fi, 3G and EDGE
networks and automatically switches between them to ensure the fastest possible download speeds. The new iPhone 3G also makes it easier to multi-task with simultaneous voice and data communications, so with iPhone 3G you can browse the web, get map directions, or check your email while you are on a call.

iPhone 3G includes the new iPhone 2.0 software with both the iPhone SDK and key enterprise features such as support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync to provide over-the-air push email, contact and calendar syncing as well as remote wipe and Cisco IPsec VPN for encrypted access to corporate networks. The iPhone SDK allows developers to create amazing applications that leverage the iPhone’s groundbreaking Multi-Touch(TM) user interface, animation technology, accelerometer and GPS technology on the world’s most advanced mobile platform.

iPhone 3G includes the new App Store, providing iPhone users with native applications in a variety of categories including games, business, news, sports, health, reference and travel. The App Store on iPhone works over cellular networks and Wi-Fi, which means it is accessible from just about anywhere, so you can purchase and download applications wirelessly and start using them instantly. Some applications are even free and the App Store notifies you when application updates are available. The App Store will be available in 62 countries at launch.

Additional features available with the iPhone 2.0 software include the ability to do real-time mapping and track your progress with GPS technology, mass move and delete multiple email messages, search for contacts, access a new scientific calculator, turn on parental control restrictions for specified content, save images directly from a web page or email them to your iPhone and easily transfer them back to your photo library on your Mac(R) or PC. iPhone 3G delivers an amazing 10 hours of talk time on 2G networks and 5 hours using 3G, with up to 5 to 6 hours of web browsing, up to 7 hours for video playback and up to 24 hours for audio playback.

iPhone 3G takes advantage of MobileMe(TM), a new Internet service that pushes email, contacts, and calendars from an online “cloud” to native applications on iPhone, iPod(R) touch, Macs and PCs. With MobileMe email, messages are pushed instantly to iPhone, removing the need to manually check email and wait for downloads, and push keeps contacts and calendars continuously up-to-date so changes made on one device are automatically updated on other devices. With iPhone, you can even snap a photo and post it directly to a MobileMe Gallery to share with friends and family.

iPhone 3G will be available in the US on July 11 for a suggested retail price of $199 (US) for the 8GB model and $299 (US) for the 16GB model in both Apple and AT&T’s retail stores and requires a new two year contract with AT&T for qualifying customers. iPhone 2.0 software will be available on July 11 as a free software update via iTunes(R) 7.7 or later for all iPhone customers. For further information about iPhone 3G pricing and availability in the US and internationally, visit http://www.apple.com/iphone.

* Based on 3G and EDGE testing. Actual speeds vary by site conditions.

** Based on iPhone 3G (8GB) and first generation iPhone (8GB) purchases. Requires new two year AT&T rate plan, sold separately.

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh.
Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its
award-winning computers, OS X operating system and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital media revolution with its iPod portable music and video players and iTunes online store, and has entered the mobile phone market with its revolutionary iPhone.

NOTE TO EDITORS: For additional information visit Apple’s PR website (http://www.apple.com/pr/), or call Apple’s Media Helpline at (408) 974-2042.

(C) 2008 Apple Inc. All rights reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, Mac, Mac OS, Macintosh, iPhone, Multi-Touch, MobileMe, iPod and iTunes are trademarks of Apple. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

IBM Supercomputer Sets Record, or rather not?

With a total of 116,640 processor cores, including AMD Opteron processors as well as 12,960 IBM Cell processors similar to those created for the PlayStation 3, IBM has broken the one petaflop mark with the new Supercomputer commissioned by the American military administration. The $133 million machine*, called Roadrunner, will be used to solve complex issues related to nuclear weapons, and to address problems like the climate change.

While a remarkable achievement, Brough Turner pointed out in his blog a few weeks ago that Google might have surpassed the petaflop mark unnoticed. The Google Cluster is built on the principle of extensive parallelization with fault-tolerance managed by software. The index is partitioned over several servers, so that a single search query is processed in parallel by many processors, minimizing the overall response time for a search. A paper describing Google Cluster Architecture (dated 2003, but worth reading), underlines how Google selects commodity class PCs, as they provide the best performace/cost ratio, without the need of expensive hardware reliability as fault-tolerance is handled by software. Google is estimated to currently have more than 500.000 servers distributed across their data centers. Assuming a performance of 14.7 gigaflops for an AMD Athlon X2 4600 processor (a good performance/cost ratio two years ago), Google platform must be handling today more than 7 petaflops!!** 

At a $500 cost per PC, Google would have spent $250 million. Still cheap comparable to IBM price for one seventh of the capacity.

Whether record or not, IBM has taken 11 years to improve their supercomputer performance a thousandfold. As the performance growth is not linear but exponential, the next thousandfold improvement, taking us to exaflops, should be expected sooner than 8 years from now. Singularity might not be that far after all.

Reference: NYT’s Military Supercomputer Sets Record

* less than $140 million Real Madrid is claimed to be ready to pay for Cristiano Ronaldo

** I have used a less powerful processor than Brough, in the assumption that a Quad Core in end of 2006 were less cost effective than an AMD dual core.