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Why compare, ape or even try to ‘kill’ iPhone?

August 8, 2008 Comments off

The Apple iPhone and now, the iPhone 3G, has caught everyone’s imagination. You come across reports such as top alternatives to the iPhone. Or, about companies launching new mobile phones and those inadvertently getting compared to the Apple iPhone! Or even, reports of how newer mobile phones could ‘kill’ the iPhone!

Quite hilarious and nothing new here! It has happened quite a few times in the past!

Nothing will “kill” the Apple iPhone, and at least, not so fast! Nor is any iPhone killer anywhere close in sight!!

Public memory is indeed short!!

Quite a few years back, Apple launched the very colorful iMacs! All of a sudden, there was a slew of similar PCs with color or ‘color monitor covers’. Back then, Apple had rewritten the rules of the PC industry in some manner, besides re-invigorating the Apple brand itself.

Next came the iPod, and later, colorful iPods. It led to a surge in media players, MP3/MP4 players, etc., from other several players as well. Not to speak of the iPod giving birth to a whole new range of Mac accessories! The iPod continues to be in the news, and successfully so!

A similar thing has happened this time!

With the advent of the iPhone, and now iPhone 3G, we sometimes see reports of how the iPhone could influence the memory market! Or, how the impact of Apple’s iPhone 3G has been minimal on the chip market. Or, how it’s just one item in a very large and complex mix of products.

Or, how the Apple Safari works so very well on the iPhone. Or, how the Accelerometer allows viewing pictures in any way you wish. Or, how you can do wireless social networking! Or, how the mobile OS battle has heated up! Or, how the App Store has so many wonderful applications for the iPhone!

Has creativity gone out of the window?

My question is: Who has stopped the others from doing things differently? No one!

Public memory is indeed short! So many were quick to run down the Apple Newton, which was clearly ahead of its time. However, it led to the advent of a host of PDAs, though many may disagree with me on this thought, and so be it.

The first mistake that people commit are either comparing their products or the phone they buy with the iPhone! Why are you even comparing?

Apple has been very creative, so why is that so difficult to accept? Try and do better than Apple, if possible.

Perhaps, it would be better to concentrate on developing newer and better phones and other devices with even better features, rather than either comparing with or aping the iPhone, or even trying to beat it or ‘kill it’! Where’s the need?

Remember that Nokia phone model with changeable covers in 2000? Or, the Sony Ericssion T68? Likewise, each product is unique, has its deserved place in the sun, and also has its own shelf life.

The iPhone is a wonderful benchmark, for now. Do remember that the mobile phone design bar has constantly and consistently been raised.

Am sure, it would be no different this time!

No one told you that should NOT buy any other mobile phone. Did Apple ask you to buy the iPhone? It’s your choice! I don’t even have one!!

Alongside, we are also seeing a whole range of mobile phones, which are said to be good alternatives to the iPhone! Maybe they are.

Till then, Apple and iPhone deserve their place in the sun, make no mistake! Isn’t everyone trying to “ride” the iPhone wave anyway? That’s proof of life!

iPhone 3G launched! What users say

July 11, 2008 Comments off

Right then! The D-day is today… the much awaited Apple iPhone 3G has been launched!

Buyers in New Zealand and Japan were among the earliest to get their hands on the new iPhone. Evidently, the Apple lovers are over the moon and can’t stop gushing about the great features that the new phone has!

All that’s fine!

How can the Apple iPhone 3G help boost data usage? How can it help operators raise the ARPUs? Or, will a high-end phone still be used for voice and data? Will it change the fortunes of the memory market? What impact will it have on the semiconductor market as a whole? We will have the answers to most of these questions by the end of this year, and in some cases, over the next year or two.

Will there be a shift in brand loyalty — for example, from say, Nokia to Apple — even that remains to be seen. Surely, the likes of Nokia, Samsung, SonyEricsson and LG would not be sitting quietly and see the thunder being stolen from them!

Will there be a surge of touchscreen phones all over the world? Probably yes. I’ve had a touchscreen MP4 player with camera since late 2005, but I never really liked that touchscreen, as it always dirties the nice little LCD. Anyhow!

Coming back to the iPhone 3G, I’ve had some interesting conversations with several of my friends across the globe, specifically, Asia.

From Hong Kong, a friend told me that the demand there can be reflected by the fact that there are over 60,000 registrations for buying the iPhone, with today being the official launch day!

However, another friend’s response, who’s actually not an admirer of Apple, simply said that he doesn’t even feel the slightest inclination to even check it out!

From Taipei, Taiwan, a good friend shared the thought that compared to the previous model, the 3G iPhone seems to be cheaper. However, people have been saying that the case is made of plastic and does not feel that good than the previous metal material.

Another friend is thinking of buying the iPhone HTC Diamond or 3G, as the iPhone will not be available in Taiwan till 3Q-08. However, this friend added that some Apple fans plan to buy it via bid Web sites.

A friend from the Philippines, who’s now relocated to Hong Kong, sent me a list of URLs where there are long discussions about the Apple iPhone. The comment — People are going nuts though… the demand is of 60,000 and only 500 units are available!

Yet another, who moved to Hong Kong from China, adds that iPhone 3G has been launched in Hong Kong bundled with ‘expensive’ mobile phone packages. Maybe, the fever is a bit lesser, for Apple fans.

Next, from Auckland, New Zealand, Romy Udanga, my friend and an ex-colleague from Global Sources, very kindly sent me a link titled: Who bought the World’s first iPhone 3G! Apparently, that honor goes to 24-year old Jonny Gladwell, who, at exactly one minute past midnight, walked into the Vodafone store on Queen Street in Auckland and bought the world’s first iPhone 3G, after spending over 50 hours on the street!

Wow! Talk about building up some demand!! It’s really good to see this global craze regarding a consumer electronics product! The buzz is surely back, for now!

Categories: 3G, Apple, iPhone 3G, Taiwan, voice Tags: , , ,

Can Apple lead rebound in NAND fortunes?

July 6, 2008 Comments off

There is an interesting piece of news on Digitimes, Taiwan, which says that Samsung has recently told its downstream customers that it will start reducing supply of NAND flash chips from July as Apple, Samsung’s key customer, has placed a large batch of orders.

Will this move do anything to the NAND flash market? In the earlier blog, I had highlighted what Future Horizon’s Malcolm Penn had mentioned — that the impact of the Apple iPhone has been minimal so far on the chip market. “It’s just one item in a very large and complex mix of products. The overall iPhone volume is miniscule,” he says. I would probably go with that statement.

Even Semico, in its recent report, has said that the NAND market has not experienced the ‘Apple effect’ as has been seen in previous years, so far in 2008, despite the upcoming 3G iPhone (with up to 16GB of storage) and the SSD option for the MacBook Air.

With a majority of the analyst community yet to give the green signal about an industry revival of sorts, everything depends largely on how the new iPhone will do! However, even if it does do well, it just may not be enough!

The consumer confidence is still quite low, and rising oil prices are not really helping. Will these factors have any effect on the consumer electronics segment in the long run? Too early to say though, and do bear in mind that one product or one brand can find it a tough ask to turn around, rather, lead the memory market, and the consumer electronics industry to huge growths.

All of us in the semiconductor/chip industry keep hoping that a strong rebound does happen, and that the industry remains on course of a strong growth in 2008. However, it is not right to pin faith on one product or one brand to lead a revival.

We are probably either to hung up about numbers or about technologies. Especially, whenever a new product or technology comes around, we start banking on that product or technology to revive the industry’s fortunes. Great technologies do not essentially lead to market revivals. We have seen that happen umpteen number of times.

Perhaps, it’d be wiser to let the industry have a ‘free fall’ or ‘free growth’, if you may, for some time, and let corrections happen over time, rather than bank on something or the other to carry the industry’s fortunes forward.

Apple shocks industry with PA Semi buy!

April 24, 2008 Comments off

According to The Unofficial Apple Web Blog (TUAW), Apple has stunned the industry by acquiring P.A. Semi, a Santa Clara based chip company founded by Dan Dobberpuhl, the former lead designer of the DEC Alpha and StrongARM processors, for US $278 million.

The Computerworld Blog reported that Apple had ‘shocked’ everyone with this move. P.A. Semi is a fabless chip designer that specializes in super low power PowerPC processors.

This move surely raises questions about Apple’s future association with Intel, which has been courting Apple since long to adopt its Atom low-power processor family. It also remains to be seen whether Apple will use these super low power PowerPC processors in embedded devices, such as high end iPhones, iPods, etc.

Interestingly, the PA Semi Web site is displaying a message: This account has surpassed its bandwidth allocation at the present time. You may reach the account administrator. Maybe, too many folks are trying to access the site to find out more about this company.

The Apple buyout of PA Semi was possibly first reported by Forbes. Since then a whole lot of articles have appeared on the Web.

According to the site, Apple spokesman Steve Dowling reportedly said, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not comment on our purposes and plans.” He is also said to have declined to comment on the value of the deal, which a person familiar with the deal suggested was done for $278 million in cash.

Apple later announced its quarterly earnings Wednesday. As per Apple’s financial results for fiscal 2008 second quarter ended March 29, 2008, the company posted $7.51 billion revenue and net quarterly profit of $1.05 billion, or $1.16 per diluted share.

These results compare to revenue of $5.26 billion and net quarterly profit of $770 million, or $.87 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 32.9 percent, down from 35.1 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 44 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

Apple shipped 2,289,000 Macintosh computers during the quarter, representing 51 percent unit growth and 54 percent revenue growth over the year-ago quarter. It sold 10,644,000 iPods during the quarter, representing 1 percent unit growth and 8 percent revenue growth over the year-ago quarter. Quarterly iPhone sales were 1,703,000.

As per another Forbes reports, Apple has promised to sell 10 million iPhones in 2008 on a call with analysts Wednesday. Watch this space, as Apple is surely going to be in news for most of this year.

Can we expect exciting times in 2008?

January 1, 2008 Comments off

Welcome 2008! May I wish all my readers a very happy and prosperous 2008. Another year’s gone past. We have a habit of looking back to see at what happened and what could have been.

A lot has been written already about 2007 and what to expect in 2008. So let’s just touch upon some of the events from 2007 and some expectations from 2008.

For India, 2007 was a great year for the semiconductor industry — first, the Indian government announced the semiconductor policy, followed some months later by the fab policy. Both were tremendous firsts in India’s science and technology, and not IT, history. Everyone hopes that the Indian semiconductor industry will take off this year. Eyes are focused on the embedded segment, what with the global semiconductor industry reportedly facing ‘an embedded dilemma.’

An issue hitting the EDA industry is that, the cost of designing or developing the embededded software for an SoC actually passed the cost of desgining the SoC itself in 2007. The world needs to avoid this software crisis, and India is well placed to take full advantage and play a major role, given its strength in embedded.

In IT, it’s been a mixed sort of a year for Apple, which hit big time with the iPhone, seemed not to make waves with either the Safari browser or the Leopard OS. Microsoft had the Vista OS, but then, Vista didn’t exactly warm the hearts of users or those who wished to upgrade their OS, including yours truly. Maybe, 2008 would ring in better times for Vista.

While on browsers, Firefox has gained lot of ground. However, by the end of 2007 came the news that the Netscape Web browser — which started it all — would soon be confined to history.

Netscape Navigator was the world’s first commercial Web browser and launch pad of the Internet boom. It will be taken off on February 1, 2008, after a 13-year run. Time Warner’s AOL, its current owner, has reportedly decided to kill further development and technical support to focus on growing the company as an advertising business. The first version of Netscape had come out in late 1994.

In gaming, there are admirers of Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360, and will remain the same. Which one of these gaming consoles will reign supreme, eventually, is difficult to predict.

In consumer electronics, lines are surely blurring between portable media players (PMPs) and portable navigation devices. Also, it would be interesting to see how digital photo frames survive 2008. A reported tight supply, especially for seven-inch models, has led to some makers in Asia either postponing mass production or extending lead times. Surely, makers cannot add more entertainment functions in smaller screen models, to keep costs down.

In the security products market, IP cameras and video servers should have a better year, with more emphasis now on video surveillance. In fact, some friends have been querying me as well regarding their potential.

On components, we can hope to see more growth for solid polymer capacitors in 2008, and among PCBs some fabricators should start manufacturing high-density interconnect (HDI) PCBs this year.

In wireless, we should witness TD-SCDMA in operation prior to the Beijing Olympic Games. Backers would like to see TD-SCDMA succeed, given the effort Datang-Siemens has made on the technology, as also the Chinese government, which issued spectrum for TD-SCDMA nearly five years ago!

Let’s all welcome 2008 and look forward to more exciting things happening.

Will Z-RAM lead DRAM rebound?

August 17, 2007 Comments off

Most of us have and use swanky mobile phones with enough memory to store videos, songs, clips, images, etc. And we certainly love playing with those wonderful devices. However, have we ever wondered where is all that memory coming from? There’s DRAM, and then, there’s Z-RAM.

Another news! It was reported recently that record sales of NAND-based iPhones and iPods were using up serious flash memory. Apple’s two biggest hits are likely to consume 25 percent of the global flash output! This could drive up prices of memory in the not too distant future. Now this is good news for memory makers.

Now let’s start with DRAM, which just got over a very difficult first half of the year. Evidence now suggests that the market, and free-falling ASPs, turned the corner in July and will begin an upward climb resulting in increases in quarterly growth through the balance of 2007, according to IC Insights. It reports that second-half optimism can be linked to the typical back-to-school and seasonal holiday demand, but other specific reasons include:

PC shipments are forecast to increase 12 percent in 2007, with the average PC forecast to contain 1.4GB of DRAM, an increase of 75 percent over 2006, when memory per PC averaged 800MB. The average system memory per PC is expected to grow from 1.3GB in 2Q07, to 1.4GB in 3Q07 and 1.6GB in 4Q07. Some DRAM vendors believe as many as 45 percent of PCs shipped in 4Q07 will contain 2GB of DRAM, the amount required for optimal performance using the Vista OS.

Strong specialty DRAM demand driven by handsets and game consoles will also help boost DRAM demand in H2-07. The Xbox 360 (512MB GDDR3 DRAM), PlayStation 3 (256MB XDR DRAM), and the Nintendo Wii (64MB GDDR3 DRAM) — require significant amount of memory. Meanwhile, increased DRAM content in new-generation handsets and other personal mobile products will generate more growth opportunities for DRAM suppliers. IC Insights forecasts an average 28MB of DRAM per cellular phone handset in 2007.

On the other side, a significant piece of news hit headlines recently. Hynix Semiconductor Inc. agreed to license Innovative Silicon Inc.’s (ISi), Z-RAM high-density memory intellectual property (IP) for use in its DRAM chips.

According to a release, Z-RAM-based DRAMs will use a singletransistor bitcell — rather than a combination of transistors and capacitor elements — representing the first fundamental DRAM bitcell change since the invention of the DRAM in the early 1970s. Hynix has received the first-mover opportunity to bring Z-RAM to the DRAM market. To ensure this advantage,the two companies have committed considerable engineering resources to work side-by-side on the program.

Z-RAM was initially developed as the world’s lowest-cost embedded memory technology for logic-based ICs such as mobile chipsets, microprocessors, networking and other consumer applications The technology was first licensed, in December 2005, by AMD for upcoming microprocessor designs. Now, the engagement with Hynix positions Z-RAM to become the lowest-cost memory technology in the greater than $30bn memory market. This is surely good news for the memory segment.

So, is supply-demand balance appears to be returning to the DRAM market in the second half of the year? And will Z-RAM lead a rebound? Time will tell!

End note: Recently, there was this power outage in Seoul, Korea, which knocked off quite a few chip production lines at Samsung. As I press this blog, I’ve come across the news that Samsung will likely deliver only 85 percent of promised NAND flash to its major customers. Is the pain going to extend?

Top 10 influential tech products of last 25 years

August 11, 2007 Comments off

It is becoming a season to talk about top things, ain’t it? About a fortnight back, Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), announced its Top 10 list of the most influential technology products of the past 25 years.

According to CompTIA, a total of 471 individuals participated in the CompTIA survey, which was conducted in May and June. Products developed by Microsoft claimed four of the top five spots in the poll of information technology (IT) industry professionals, conducted in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of CompTIA. Apple’s iPod is the only non-Microsoft product to break into the top 5.

As per CompTIA, the top 10 most influential technology (or computing) products of the past 25 years are:

1. Internet Explorer (selected by 66 percent those surveyed)
2. MS Word (selected by 56 percent of survey respondents)
3. Windows 95 (selected by 50 percent of survey respondents)
4. Apple’s iPod and MS Excel (tied at 49 percent each)
6. Blackberry (selected by 39 percent of survey respondents)
7. Adobe Photoshop (selected by 35 percent of survey respondents)
8. McAfee VirusScan (selected by 32 percent of survey respondents)
9. Netscape Navigator and Palm’s PalmPilot (tied at 31 percent each)

While there will be differences of opinion about this list, and also the fact that components of MS Office have been broken up into separate components, it’s quite evident yet again that Microsoft rules the computing world, and will continue to do so for a long time. Well done to the great team at Microsoft!

Now, I have my own comments regarding these selections. First, I have always believed Mac OS to be better than Windows. So, I’d put Mac OS in place of Windows 95.

I won’t have MS Office there, or any components of MS Office, as I felt back in early 2000 that StarOffice and now, Open Office are equally good.

I’d replace IE with Opera, which is a lighter and much better browser, even back when it was first launched.

Yes, Apple’s iPod has revolutionized digital music, but don’t forget Real Player! The first time we all probably started watching videos and listen to music over the Web was by using the Real Player! For most, it was the first experience of streaming video and audio!

I agree Palm’s done very well and changed the way people looked at mobile computing. However, it was the short-lived Apple’s Newton, which first promised all of this. By the way, I must have the iMac on my list too.

My list would have another Adobe product, the Pagemaker, which revolutionized desktop publishing. Don’t know whether people remember Quark Express! I am tempted to add Unix, or well, Linux, as it really brought open source into the great, wide open!

Lot of people are enamored by the Blackberry today. However, it was way back in 2000 when I was using my Siemens GSM phone in Hong Kong and elsewhere to send and receive emails, and also use it to search for hotels and other establishments over GPRS. In fact, at a conference in Singapore in 2002, during a survey done among the participants, I was among the three people using the GSM phone to send and receive emails! So, shouldn’t mobile phones be the first on everyone’s list?

Finally, I’ll definitely add Tally to my list. Tally, as all Indians know, is the most widely used accounting software, starting way back in 1986. The mumbers achieved by this single accounting software is simply mind-boggling!

My Top 10
Therefore, friends, my list of the top 10 technology (or computing) products of the last 25 years would be:

1. Mobile phones (GSM phones, especially) — all down the years
2. Tied between Apple’s Mac OS and the iMac
3. Linux
4. McAfee’s VirusScan
5. Real Player
6. Tied between Quark Express and Adobe Pagemaker
7. Netscape Navigator
8. Tally
9. Tied between StarOffice and Open Office
10. Tied between Opera browser and Apple’s Newton

I am sure that most people will not agree with my selection/choices or even find my list appealing. That’s fine! It’s my own individual selection and I’m not canvassing for anyone in particular! These are purely my observations over the last two decades.

I am delighted at having had the privilege, like most of you, perhaps, to have had the honor of using all of these great technologies and products. Hats off to all the technologists of the world!

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