Smartbooks: The New Netbook?


British chip designer ARM said on Monday four to five PC makers will introduce a total of 6 new netbook models using its processors this year. The company claims its ARM-based netbooks will make up 20-30 percent share of the netbook market next year.

Intel’s Atom processors, running Windows XP, currently dominate the netbook market. Chip makers Broadcom, Qualcomm, Nvidia and even Sandisk hope to re-write the rule book at Computex in Taiwan this week with close to a dozen netbook announcements.

Computex announcements include an Asus netbook which runs on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM chipset with the Google Android OS. Pegatron, the former contract manufacturing arm of Asustek Computer, has a 10-inch touchscreen display and runs on chips from Freescale Semiconductor with ARM processing cores. Acer is the first company to show an Android-based netbook with an Intel Atom. Other companies have Android running on ARM processing cores.

Freescale, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm make ARM processor chips while Nvidia’s Tegra-based handheld devices are expected to begin shipping in the second half of 2009.

ASUS, Compal, Foxconn, HTC, Inventec, Toshiba, Wistron and others are among the ODMs showing off wares at the Computex. Acer, Asustek, Toshiba, LG and Samsung plan devices based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon. The Snapdragon’s 1GHz Arm processor core will increase to 1.3GHz next year.

Tegra includes an 800-MHz ARM CPU, a high-definition video processor, an imaging processor, an audio processor and an ultralow-power GeForce GPU in a single package. It will compete not only with Intel’s Atom, but also Qualcomm’s Snapdragon and Via’s Nano.

Google’s Android software runs on ARM processors, as does Ubuntu Linux and Microsoft Windows Mobile. ARM-based smartbooks should cost less and run longer on batteries, says the NY Times. ARM-based systems will sell for as little as $200 compared to $300-$500 for Atom-based netbooks.

But devices based on the ARM processor don’t run Windows XP, Windows 7 or Vista, unlike netbooks based on Intel’s Atom processor. Meanwhile, Freescale is showing customers a prototype app store for Linux that aggregates as many as 6,000 Linux applications and tools. The company expects OEMs will develop their own online app stories for smartbooks just as Apple has done for the iPhone.

European streaming music service Spotify demonstrated an Android app, which features free, on-demand streaming as well as an offline synchronization and caching, playing tunes whether the phone is connected to a data network or not.

Computers based on the Intel Atom and Nvidia Ion combination outperform Intel’s CULV SU3500 processor with integrated graphics on 3D graphics benchmarks and transcoding video, said Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang.

Gigabyte’s TouchNote T1028 netbook sports an Intel 270/280 with a 10.1-inch touchscreen that swivels to transform into a tablet. It will cost US$599 and could be on the market globally as early as July or August. Gigabyte’s M1305 laptop will use an Intel CULV (consumer ultra-low voltage) microprocessor and sports a 13.3-inch screen. They hope to launch in September or October armed with Windows 7.

Intel is launching its new lineup of consumer ultra-low-voltage (CULV) processors for thin, inexpensive laptops at Computex (pdf). Intel also unveiled the Mobile Intel GS40 Express Chipset for ULV laptops which supports HD playback, Windows Vista Premium and native support for integrated HDMI output. The 1.3GHz SU2700 uses an 800MHz front-side bus, 2MB of L2 cache and has a thermal design power (TDP) of 10W, or around a third of the TDP for most current notebook processors. “Pine Trail” is their next generation Atom processor that can be combined with communications networks such as WiMAX.

The global netbook market will reach 25-30 million units in 2009, and 40-45 million units in 2010, according to Scott Lin, president of Acer Taiwan. Annual shipments of MIDs and UMPCs will reach 19 million units in 2013, according to In-Stat, while the total market for UMDs (handsets) will approach 656 million units in the same year. According to DisplaySearch, netbooks accounted for nearly 20 percent of all worldwide laptop sales last year.

SkyPilot Bought by Trilliant for Smart Meters



Smart meter developer Trilliant has announced today that it is buying SkyPilot, the Santa, Clara, Calif.-based wireless mesh network company used by defunct municipal WiFi company MetroFi. Trilliant plans to use SkyPilot’s municipal access points as aggregation points for smart meters.

Trilliant has used cellular data in the past for their smart meter technology, but Wi-Fi mesh, enabled by firms like SkyPilot, may provide an inexpensive alternative, enabling Trilliant to package an end-to-end, turnkey network solution for utilities.

Trilliant can afford it, says Katie Fehrenbacher of GigaOm, having recently raised at least $40 million from an affiliate of MissionPoint Capital Partners and Zouk Ventures. Trilliant merged operations with OZZ Energy Services in 2007, and built its company on the acquisition of Nertec, an automated metering veteran founded in 1985.

Trilliant’s senior vice president of solutions, Eric Miller, told GigOM’s Katie Fehrenbacher that he thinks utilities are increasingly looking for private, dedicated networks for smart grid backhaul that can be owned and more easily controlled by the utility.

If a utility is using a network like cellular for backhaul, there’s always the concern that other users could clog the network and impact a critical signal, says Trilliant.

SkyPilot’s wireless gear offers a larger amount of bandwidth and SkyPilot’s 5 GHz wireless network backhaul option is cheaper than cellular or WiMAX.

Skypilot uses plain old vanilla 802.11b/g wifi to connect to homes, but their backhaul technology incorporates a proprietary polling protocol that works much like Karlnet (now WORP). Wireless Outdoor Router Protocol allocates network capacity by assigning brief time slots to all the users who want to send and receive data and giving each a turn to use the bandwidth. WiMAX uses a similar technique.

The SkyPilot 5 GHz bandhaul section can automatically switch between multiple 18db internal antennas inside the top dome. That gave SkyPilot a boost in 5 GHz backhaul range for mesh networking, lowering backhaul costs. SkyPilot also cut costs by eliminating battery backup. Companies like MetroFi persuaded investors that the SkyPilot solution could deliver reliable service using only around 25 of the $1,800 access points per square mile.

It was not enough. The noise floor of unlicensed 2.4 GHz grew with the popularity of personal hotspots. It soon required something like 40 municipal nodes per square mile for reliable Wi-Fi access. The “free” ad-supported business model was killed off as costs ballooned over $65,000 per sq mi.

Tim Smith, who handles PR for Trilliant, tells Dailywireless that the original cost per square mile that MetroFi assumed actually works out for utility applications, since it doesn’t need to provide coverage to every square foot of ground. He said that difference is why SkyPilot makes sense in the utility market and why it’s cheaper than WiMAX or other Wi-Fi options.

The combination of Smart Wi-Fi technology, 802.11n and wireless meshing enables enterprises to deploy pervasive wireless LAN in half the time, at half the cost and three times the performance, claims Ruckus Wireless. Meraki can play that game, too.

Mobile WiMAX is another option.

Grid Net is focused on WiMAX-enabled smart meters. Their smart meter, built by GE, uses an Intel WiMAX chip and Grid Net software with open-standards. GE’s digital meter doubles as a WiMax wireless router.

Space Data, a provider of wireless services via weather balloons, recently announced the rollout of its 930 MHz licensed spectrum for smart grid communications in collaboration with Full Spectrum’s Broadband Wireless System – FullMAX. FullMAX is the first Sub 1 GHz, end- to-end, wireless system.

It’s based on Mobile WiMAX and enables real time remote command and control of electric utility smart grid devices. Narrowband PCS (NPCS) is part of the licensed 900 MHz band and Space Data is the licensee of nearly 2 MHz of the 3 MHz allocated to NPCS by the FCC.

Perhaps municipal wireless networks will be reborn with the help of power companies.

Unlicensed WiMAX — in the 5 GHz band — might supply more reliable backhaul, while unlicensed 700 MHz “white spaces”, might provide an alternate route home. Twenty five, $2000 nodes per mile pencils out to $50K per square mile.

White spaces in the unused tv band might be the secret sauce.

Cisco Systems recently announced its grid communications and networking solutions for smart metering. Cisco’s Smart Grid solutions consists of four parts: T&D automation, security, smart meter and endpoint communication, and business and home energy management. Cisco’s smart grid solutions take advantage of a secure, standards-based IP-infrastructure for energy providers and consumers.

President Obama has called for the installation of 40 million smart meters and 3,000 miles of transmission lines. Two-way connected smart meters installed in homes will utilize wireless sensor networks to see how much and where energy is being consumed. Homeowners will be able to see how much energy they’ve consumed and adjust their consumption habits accordingly. The smart grid market is set to grow by more than 20 percent — to a $17 billion U.S. market and a $171 billion global market — in the next five years, say industry analysts.

The U.S. market for Smart Grid “enabling technologies” was $17.3B in 2008 and is expected to be $40B by 2014 says BCC Research. According to the Cleantech Group, smart grid startups brought in a record $202 million in the third quarter of 2008, which included $120 million for Gridpoint, $40 million for Trilliant, $23 million for BPL Global, and $18.5 million for Eka Systems. Southern California Edison will spend $1.7 billion over the next four years to equip 5.3 million homes with smart meters made largely by Itron.

Related smart meter articles on Dailywireless include; Cellular-enabled SCADA, The Smart Grid: Licensed or Unlicensed Spectrum, Smart Grid: Dumb or What?, Smart Grid: It’s Alive!, Lompoc MuniWiFi: Working, MuniFi Roundup, Earthlink to Municipal WiFi: WereOuttaHere, City Fiber Networks, Wavion: Beamforming at 5.8/2.4 GHz, Wavion Beamforms Backhaul, NextWave Kills Go Networks, SkyPilot: Synchronous Mesh to End Users, SkyPilot: New Sounds, Cisco Buying Navini, Cisco To Buy Navini?, Arraycomm + Freescale Chips = Beamforming, Arraycomm + Alvarion = Smart Beaming, Go Networks Beamforms Champaign, India Gets Navini Beamforming, Navini Beamforms WiMAX, Metro Beamforming: Wavion & More, Navini Beamforms Voice, Battle for “4G”, Sprint WiMAXing NYC, Sprint WiMAX: It’s Called “Xohm”, Sprint’s WiMAX Cities, Clearwire & Sprint Agree on WiMAX Roaming, NextWave Announces Mobile WiMAX Chips.

Android: 18 Phones this Year



Google’s Android mobile operating system could be running on 18 to 20 devices by the end of 2009, according to Andy Rubin, Google’s senior director for mobile platforms. The Android OS is also expected to be on netbooks, soon, reports E-Week.

Speaking at the Google I/O Developer Conference in San Francisco, Rubin said eight or nine manufacturers will be involved in the creation of the Android-equipped phones. HTC is currently preparing Google Android smartphones for the Chinese and Canadian markets for a June rollout.

Motorola has changed Operating Systems mid-stream. Originally slated to run Windows Mobile, a Motorola Android phone will be released by the third quarter this year.

Android will continue to be open-source. Manufacturers have the option of installing Android “obligation-free” onto their devices or sign a distribution agreement with Google will allow them to pre-install Google Apps onto their devices. A third option, called the “Google Experience,” opens up the manufacturer’s devices to Google Apps and the Android Market.

ARM-based devices — both Netbooks and handhelds — lack a Windows operating system and can’t run PC applications. Freescale and others are looking to Google’s Android OS to counter the marquee draw that Windows has for Netbooks.

Strategy Analytics forecast global Android smartphone shipments to grow 900 percent annually during 2009. Analysts have previously suggested that Android, which originally rolled out in August 2008, will be running on about 12 percent of global smartphones by 2012.

Palm Pre: Exclusively at Sprint?


This week, both Verizon and AT&T said they would offer the Pre in the future. Sprint doesn’t have a breakout phone like AT&T’s iPhone or Verizon’s Blackberry. Right now, Research In Motion, the company behind the BlackBerry, is easily commanding the enterprise space while the iPhone dominates the consumer space.

The confirmation from Sprint came on Thursday afternoon from Sprint spokesman James Fisher who simply said, “We have the Pre through 2009.” The length of the exclusive isn’t really much of a surprise given Sprint’s track record of exclusives in the past, which usually last six to nine months, and it falls within Verizon’s timeline.

The Pre gains iTunes compatibility by telling the desktop app that it is an iPhone that doesn’t understand Apple’s copy-protection. This allows the Pre to download content that isn’t copy protected, including iTunes Plus and music that users have uploaded themselves.

Sprints Palm Pre goes on sale nationwide June 6 for $199.99 with a two-year contract.

E-ink — With Color


Pixel Qi says their new new color LCD displays combine the best of B&W e-ink with color and use far less energy than typical LCD screens.

The screens offer two different modes, a backlit mode with full color saturation, and an ePaper mode that doesn’t require a backlight. The ePaper mode is much easier to read outdoors than most computer displays and uses less energy.

The picture above shows a 10″ screen that’s been hacked to fit onto an Acer Aspire One laptop in ePaper mode outdoors. The screens will cost a little more than conventional LCD screens at first, but costs will go down as production volume picks up, said Mary Lou Jepsen, CEO.

It will show off engineering samples of its first screen product at Computex Taipei 2009 and may appear in low cost ultraportable computers like the OLPC XO Laptop. The screens could be in netbooks and on store shelves by the end of this year, says Pixel.

But don’t look for them on a Kindle. A color Kindle is years away, says Jeff Bezos.

Ford Sync Dials 911



10lincolnmkz_46Ford has GM’s OnStar service in their sights after introducing a software upgrade to the Ford-Microsoft Sync system that automatically calls 911 in the event of a crash, reports Wired.

Dubbed 911 Assist, the program was first announced in 2008 but is now appearing on brand new Ford vehicles equipped with Sync. The program uses a Bluetooth-enabled phone to automatically dial 911 after an airbag deployment or fuel shutoff. Should the driver be unable to communicate, 911 Assist automatically plays a recorded message that tells the emergency operator a crash has occured.

While it sounds like an efficient system, it’s missing a few key ingredients of OnStar such as GPS location and advanced crash recognition. We also doubt the commercials could be as dramatic as OnStar’s, whose crash-scene replays are the stuff of nightmares.

Ford is positioning 911 Assist as a direct competitor to OnStar and similar systems. It’s not a bad option for those who would rather a Lincoln than a Cadillac, don’t want to pay the $18.95 monthly fee for OnStar service, or are afraid of potential privacy intrusions.

If your phone doesn’t have built-in GPS, emergency responders will have to rely on the not-always-accurate strategy of cell phone signal triangulation to locate your Mercury Milan and the tree it’s wrapped around. With 911 Assist, you’re also out of luck if the airbags don’t go off or if the fuel shutoff doesn’t work. OnStar’s Advanced Automatic Crash Response, for example, can tell when any crash has occured.

All 2010 Ford vehicles will offer Sync as an option, but not all existing Sync-equipped Fords have 911 Assist. Ford says that owners of any 2008 or early-2009 vehicle without the 911 Assist should be eligible for an upgrade, though installation fees may apply.

Telematics Update has the latest bling:

Related DailyWireless stories on transit connectivity include; In-Vehicle Infotainment: Death Race, CradlePoint: Mobile WiFi/WiMAX Hot Spots, Mercedes myCOMAND, BMW iDrive Gets Makeover, Handheld Intelligent Transportation, Chrysler Offers Internet Access , Chrysler Rolls Out U-connect , Ford Sync, Google Transit Maps + WiFi, Chrysler: Wi-Fi Car This Year, The Connected Bus, Hotspot for Bedouins, Chrysler Getting WiMAXed, Verizon Traffic Mapping , PePWave Mobility: Connectivity for Vehicles, Civic Booster and Microsoft Vrs OnStar.