Category: Hardware Manufacturers

Intel to build up semiconductor manufacturing in US and Europe


Intel Corporation is introducing the 8th Gen Intel Core processor with Radeon RX Vega M Graphics in January 2018. It is packed with features and performance crafted for gamers, content creators and fans of virtual and mixed reality. (Credit: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation)

Intel to have factories capable of working as semiconductor foundries for other manufacturers

Intel to spend US$20 billion on US chip plants – Hardware – iTnews

Intel announces massive shift in processor strategy, including making chips for other companies | Windows Central

My Comments

Intel is intending to increase its semiconductor manufacturing capacity within the United States as part of their latest vision speech they held at their American headquarters.

One of the goals behind this push is to challenge Asian dominance in microelectronics manufacturing. This is of concern since most of the silicon used in today’s electronics is being manufactured in Taiwan. Here, if political tensions between China and Taiwan escalate, it could lead to disaster for IT and allied industries including the automotive, aerospace and defence sector thanks to continued concentration of microelectronics manufacture there.

Range Rover Sport

This will be important also for vehicle manufacturers and the like as well as computer and consumer-electronics manufacturers

It also has been underscored by the recent shortage of advanced microelectronics components. This is impacting the manufacture of finished computer hardware products but also is impacting the manufacturer of other products like cars that effectively have their own computers. For example some vehicle builders were even keeping finished cars at their factories until certain silicon chips are available before they could release them to the dealerships.

Intel intends to set up and open two new semiconductor factories in Arizona and mot just use them for Intel’s own microelectronics products. Here, they will be capable of working as semiconductor foundries who manufacture silicon chips for other vendors who are typically “fabless” semiconductor manufacturers like Qualcomm or Apple who outsource their actual manufacturing.

Intel will undertake further work to open up factories within the USA and Europe with the goal of tipping the scales in favour of these areas when it comes to manufacturing advanced silicon. It will underscore these countries’ sovereignty when it comes to advanced microelectronics manufacture allowing them to make their own cutting-edge technology from the drawing board to the finished product themselves.

Another direction that Intel sees for their silicon design and manufacture is for them to license out Intel’s intellectual property to third parties to add value to or turn in to finished product. It will also mean that Intel’s factories will end up making silicon based on RISC-based microarchitectures like the open-source RISC-V technology or the established ARM technology.

If Intel gets this idea up off the ground, it could be a chance for semiconductor foundries capable of advanced microelectronics manufacturer to appear within USA, Canada, Europe and Australasia. This will help these countries with industries dependent on this kind of technology like green tech, consumer electronics or transport.

HP to split in to 2 companies


Hewlett-Packard to Split Into Two Companies: Report | NBC News

Hewlett-Packard to split in 2 | The Australian

Partners: HP Split Could Unlock Value Of Both PC-Printer And Enterprise Businesses | Computer Reseller News

My Comments

IMG_0907 HP Envy 4 Touchsmart at Intercontinental Melbourne at Rialto - Windows 8

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart notebook computer

Recent news is that Hewlett-Packard is to split in to two entities with one covering PCs and printers and another covering Tech services which is encompassing the enterprise computing sector. This is to offset the losses caused by the reduced demand for regular personal computers and printers due to mobile computing devices (smartphones and tablets) being the preferred way to go.

HP OfficeJet 6700 Premium multifunction printer

HP OfficeJet 6700 multifunction inkjet printer

By splitting the entities, there is the ability for HP to have the companies focus on the expertise and value that each of them will provide without one of them affecting the other negatively. This was in contrast to HP previously acquiring Compaq who had bought out DEC who were known for the PDP-11 and VAX mainframe computers with their associated terminals and peripherals. In this case, HP’s PCs and printers company could place more effort on winning back the “personal computing and printing” market for both business and home users as well as increasing that effort that they started on printing for mobile devices that they started with their ePrint initiative.

HP Elitebook 2560p at Intercontinental at Relto, Melbourne

HP Elitebook 2560P business notebook computer

The questions that can be raised here are what of the branding for the separate entities as in how each of these entities will be known. As well how will this affect HP’s footing in to the commercial printing sector such as the digital presses and photo printing systems – whether this will be part of the “Tech services” company or the “PCs and printers” company. Yet another question that can be raised is how research and development that HP has been known for will be affected, especially if one of the companies puts forward an innovation that is of benefit to the other company’s products.

This will remind me a bit of the way IBM divested themselves of their hardware businesses over the years, with the printing and typewriter business going to Lexmark, the personal computing business going to Lenovo and the data storage business going to Hitachi. It was in order for them to focus on the enterprise data services sector rather than running a monolith that has other loss-making functions.

Now it’s firm – Steve Jobs to resign from chief executive at Apple


Steve Jobs resigns as Apple Chief Executive |

Steve Jobs steps down from Apple | CNet

Steve Jobs quits as Apple CEO | The Age (Australia)

My comments

There has been a lot of press about Steve Jobs intending to resign from Apple’s chief-executive position due to ill health. Now it had to happen that he is resigning. He is still able to maintain his position in Apple’s board of directors, both as a director and as the chairman of the board.

I see it as something that had to happen for another of personal-computing’s “old dogs”. These are the people who had founded companies that had been very instrumental to the development and marketing of commercially-viable personal computers. A few years ago, Bill Gates had resigned from Microsoft which he had founded.

This is more about a “change of the guard” at the top of these “pillar companies” as the technology behind these computers leads to highly-capable equipment for the home and business. This includes affordable mobile tablet computers that are operated by one’s touch and the smartphone which becomes a “jack of all trades”, working as a phone, personal stereo, handheld email terminal, handheld Web browser and more.

It is so easy to cast doubt over a company once a figurehead relinquishes the reins but I have seem may companies keep their same spirit alive and continue demonstrating their prowess at their core competencies.

As well, even though people may criticise him for how he manages the iTunes App Store and the Apple platforms, as in keeping them closed, Steve Jobs and Apple are in essence milestones to the connected lifestyle.

Another laptop snaps at Apple’s design credentials


Acer’s Aspire 3951 leaks with MacBook Air-like specs, available in October? | Engadget

Shots Leak Of Acer’s New Ultrabook, The Aspire 3951 | TechCrunch

My Comments

The Apple MacBook Air 13” ultraportable computer range is now facing aggressive competition from Acer. Here, Acer are working on an ultraportable that is styled in a very similar way to the MacBook Air but selling it for under US$1000 for the fully-equipped package.

It will be a Sandy Bridge processor-powered unit with a hard disk of an undisclosed capacity or a 160Gb solid-state drive for the main system disk. There was reckoning that the computer, which will support Bluetooth 4, will be housed in that aluminium “wedge” case and, like the MacBook Air, it won’t have an integrated optical disk.

Acer had projected an approximate availability date for around October this year but this may be hampered by the availability of milled aluminium as well as projected availability of next-generation Intel chipsets.

But what I fear is that manufacturers like Dell and Acer will try to copy the Apple look for their portable computers in order to make themselves look cool in the Wi-Fi-equipped trendy cafe. Oh yeah, the grey or black finish will end up being consigned to the “corporate” end of the market and the coloured computers like the Dell Inspiron 15r will just appeal to the home user.

It is very similar to the two preferred directions that vehicle builders went for through the 1960s and 1970s, with a black dashboard and chrome-accented dials and controls for the “sports-car” look or the woodgrain dashboard for the “luxury” look.

At least HP, Sony and other brands have worked on their other designs for their consumer laptops rather than trying to ape Apple. This could allow them to work on designs that could upstage Apple.

Dell XPS 15z–a Sandy Bridge laptop that snaps at the heels of the MacBook Pro


Dell XPS 15z available in Australia and Asia, fits Sandy Bridge in under an inch of thickness – Engadget

Dell XPS 15z review – Engadget

Le XPS 15z de Dell officialisé (MAJ) – Le Journal du Geek (France – French language)

My Comments

Previously, I had written an article about Windows-platform laptops approaching Apple’s “Super Cool” position on the laptop-computer equivalent of Top Gear’s “Cool Wall”.

Now Dell have come up with a 15” “thin-and-light” laptop which has a very similar look and styling to Apple’s ultra-cool MacBook Pro series of laptops. The XPS 15z, which is driven by an Intel Core i5 processor and Sandy-Bridge chipset is finished in an aluminium housing with a satin-chrome-finished magnesium alloy keyboard keyboard bezel. The keyboard has the same “chiclet” style and finish as the MacBook Pro but is illuminated and flanked by the system’s speakers in that same way.

The side of the machine is very similar to the MacBook Pro, with a slot-load optical drive and audio input/output jacks on the right-hand side and the data and display sockets on the left-hand side. You might think that this computer may end up with an illuminated Dell logo on the lid but it doesn’t.

Of course, from the Engadget review, it competes in price and power to the Apple unit but it still needs to work better on the battery runtime.

Here, it is starting to show that the aluminium or “satin-silver” metal finishes and silver-finish plastics could become a part of laptop styling, especially with “thin-and-light” designs. This is more so as manufacturers try to imitate the looks of the Apple MacBook family and see their laptops appear in the “Super Cool” section of computing’s “Cool Wall”.

Of course, it will be interesting to see whether other industrial-design cues will be implemented in designing that “ultra-cool” laptop computer that is to be noticed in the Wi-Fi-equipped coffee lounge. On the other hand, I hope that this class of computer still is useable, performs powerfully and can work for longer periods on the battery while maintaining the looks and making use of industry-standard connections.

Another step towards the return of the iconic Commodore computer brand

News articles

The Commodore name licensed again for a line of keyboard PCs – Engadget

Commodore Is Back – Le Journal Du Geek (France – French language)

My comments

What was this legendary brand?

Think of watching these films: “Fame”, “Flashdance”, “Back To The Future” or “Ruthless People” at the cinema or on the VHS video recorder. Or think of these songs “Fame”, “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”, “Caribbean Queen”, “The Power Of Love” or “Ruthless People” playing out of that ghetto-blaster.  The thing that is common with all of this was that it was part of life of the mid 1980s, in which a certain brand became part of personal and educational computing life. 

This brand was “Commodore” who got their claws in to the personal-computing market with the “VIC-20” home computer in 1982. This machine had the processing power installed in the same chassis as the keyboard and was able to be connected to a regular TV set whereupon it provided a display capable of rendering in 8 colours as well as basic musical audio output through the TV’s speaker. You were able to load software from ROM cartridges, audio cassettes (with an optional cassette drive) or 5.25” floppy disks (with an optional disk drive).

Then, in 1984, they launched the Commodore 64 which had improved memory, graphics and sound capability but could use any peripherals that worked with the VIC-20. But this computer had a large collection of software, especially games, written for it and had attracted a larger legion of computer hobbyist followers with it.

The VIC-20 and the Commodore 64 used a compact chassis that was just as big as the keyboard itself both of them had set a standard for highly-capable “keyboard computer” designs. Most earlier “keyboard computers”, especially those that offered sophisticated display or sound capabilities, typically were deeper than the keyboard itself due to the extra electronics and inefficient circuit design that existed at that time. As well, Commodore released the Executive-64 series of transportable computers which were simply a Commodore 64 with a disk drive, small display, speaker and power supply in a “sewing-machine” case with the keyboard being the system’s lid. Compared to machines of its type, this unit offered a lot more capability, especially in the form of colour display and sound capability.

By the late 80s, Commodore had released the Amiga which had greater processing ability, a WIMP-based user interface and the basic unit used 3.5” disks as secondary storage. This unit became popular with video produces as a machine for editing video or inserting graphics in to a video production. But it was also released at a time close to the “acid-house” craze and these computers were used by hobbyists to create many “demos” which were animated graphic display loops that were accompanied by an “acid-house” music soundtrack generated by the computer. Some of these were shown off at competitions or used as part of the “acid-house” parties of the day.

But this brand disappeared in the early 90s when they tried ideas that the market wasn’t ready for, such as selling a games console and a “lounge-room” PC based on the Amiga platform; as well as releasing in to a crowded market, regular desktop computers based on the MS-DOS platform.

The revival of the Commodore brand

There have been “placeholder companies” who are protecting the Commodore brand with its “chickenhead logo” in order to make sure it only ends up on suitable computer and consumer-electronics products. They also are reviving the classic games that were available for the Commodore 64 by porting them to mobile phones, Java-based online play and other current platforms. Through this decade, they are releasing contract-built products in a way as to revive the nostalgia associated with this brand and its market position in its heyday of the ‘80s. One of these companies released a series of customisable tower-style “gaming-rig” PCs in 2008 to evoke memories of the Commodore 64 and the Amiga being considered “games machines of all time”.

Now this company is releasing a “keyboard PC” which has a similar footprint to any of these Commodore classic machines but is slimmer than them. It also has secondary storage built in to it like the Amiga 500, but it is in the form of a large-capacity hard disk, an optical drive and a multi-format card reader. The idea behind this machine was to evoke the nostalgia associated with these machines.

The main question with Commodore resurfacing is whether there will be broad takeup of any of these products. The people who will value this brand more will be those of us who lived through the 1980s where the brand was considered to be significant, but others may just consider it insignificant in a crowded home or small-business IT market.

Also, could this story of Commodore be like a lot of other classic brands who previously produced iconic products then closed up shop or left the market due to differing conditions in their market, only to be used as a marketing tool by other firms as a way of selling “ho-hum” products to the generations that remember these brands?

Another threat to Apple being the king of “all things cool”

 Acer developing ‘ace in the hole’ ultrathin, putting MacBook Air on notice — Engadget

My comments on this topic

When Windows 7 was launched, I wrote an article on this blog about an intent by Windows-based PC manufacturers, especially laptop manufacturers to upstage the Apple Macintosh platform in the beauty, reliability and performance stakes. This was also ran in conjunction with HP launching their Envy laptop series which reminded me of the Apple Macbook Pro laptops. Later on, I had blogged about an ASUS laptop that would appeal to people who love the design masterpieces that are the Bang & Olufsen TVs and music systems.

In the earlier article, there had been some mention about Acer designing a multi-touch all-in-one PC. They had also come good on an ultra-thin Windows 7 laptop that is intended to upstage the Apple Macbook Air series of laptops. This Intel Core-powered unit will be designed with a thickness goal of 1.9cm (0.7 inches) and, of course, will be relatively light. Acer have an intention to release the machine sometime “this year” but I would place its availability sometime before the end of the next financial year.

This certainly shows that since Apple Snow Leopard and Microsoft Windows 7 were launched, the competition for computer hardware that pleases most everyday users has become more intense.

The Apple iPad Tablet computer is now real

Apple unveils the iPad | The Age (Australia)

Apple’s iPad: It’s Real, and It’s $499 |

iPad d’Apple : magique et révolutionnaire ? | DegroupNews (France – French Language)

From the horse’s mouth

Apple’s iPad Website

My comments about the Apple iPad and Apple’s current direction

Over the past few months, there was a lot of talk about Apple releasing a “slate” computer. This was both in the computer press and amongst computer enthusiasts, including Apple Macintosh users. Most of the suspicions included tight hardware and software integration, including where you can purchase the software from as well as the form factor. Apple was positioning the iPad as an intermediary computing device between their iPhone / iPod Touch platform and the Macintosh computers, especially the MacBook Pro laptops. One Apple enthusiast that I know of was considering deploying it as a “simple computing device” for his mother to use when writing e-mails and doing similar activities,

Now that the Apple iPad is on the scene, I have noticed that most of these suspicions are real. For example, the computer is a larger version of the iPhone or iPod Touch and operates in the same manner as these devices. Like most Apple products, it will only work with a limited Apple-approved ecosystem of accessories like an “iPad desk stand” and an “iPad keyboard stand”. As well, the user won’t be able to replace anything in the computer, which will lead to the computer having to go to an Apple-approved repairer if the battery habitually fails to keep its charge for example.

As for software, you will need to go to the Apple iTunes empire to buy apps, music, video or “iBooks” which are Apple’s e-books. I was skimming through the CNET liveblog and they reckoned that there were many credit cards associated with the iTunes empire due to the many iPods and iPhones out in circulation. Apple had even ported their “iWork” productivity suite to this platform and made the individual pieces – the Keynote presentation program, the Pages word-processing program and the Numbers spreadsheet program – available as individual apps or as a package through the App Store. The plethora of existing iPhone apps – an app for every part of your life – can work “out of the box” with this device, but Apple had revised the SDK to allow App Store developers to design the app to work in a “best-case” manner with either the iPad or the iPhone. This may happen more so if the developer revises the app as part of upgrading it.

These facts about the hardware and software availability have had a few Apple enthusiasts that I know of worried that Apple was becoming a “dark emplre” – a monopolistic monolith of a company —  in a similar manner to what Microsoft was accused of becoming with the Windows platform. Some of these enthusiasts were even considering moving to other platforms like Windows or Linux. No mater what, there will still be the Apple enthusiasts who will prefer that their iT solution in their life has that Apple logo on it.

I also reckon that government bodies like the European Commission and the US Department Of Justice weren’t seeing the recent iTunes-iPod-iPhone-driven anticompetitive behaviour that Apple was showing in an “anti-trust” light, yet they see Microsoft as being anticompetitive with its integration of Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player in to the Windows platform.

The iPad works on an A4 processor which is optimised for this kind of computing and uses the same touch-screen and accelerometer-driven input as the iPhone. It uses a larger QWERTY software keypad for text entry but you will have to use the aforementioned keyboard stand which has a “chiclet” keyboard if you want to use a hardware keyboard/

There will be two levels of connectivity available for the computer – one with 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth and one with 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G wireless broadband. The latter version will most likely be available through the iPhone dealers. most likely as a subsidised device that is part of a 3G wireless-broadband contract. In the US, this would be with AT&T as they are Apple’s US partner. Each level of connectivity will have the standard memory levels that are available with the iPod Touch – 16Gb, 32Gb and 64Gb.

This unit will integrate in to a home network in a similar manner to how the iPhone and iPod Touch integrated in to such networks. This means that it will work with any 802.11g or 802.11n segment, but may not offer native support for UPnP Internet Gateway Device management. The iTunes software will be optimised to work with other Apple devices, but you can use iPhone apps like PlugPlayer to integrate this unit with a DLNA-based home media network.

Whatever way, I reckon that the iPad may build up a class of “internet tablet” devices from the main platforms and make basic computing and Internet-access tasks easier for most people.

Gateway back in Australia

From the late 80s through to now, Gateway 2000 Computers, one of the early “PC clone” manufacturers had existed alongside Dell as a mail-order “reseller” outfit. They had a major stronghold in this early market primarily by selling “build-to-order” computers in a similar vein to Dell, and had used the “cow” theme in most of their advertising. They even took out “themed” multi-page advertisements in the computer press, with such themes as 1950s USA, Wild West, soap operas and the like. Since 2000, they renamed themselves simply as Gateway Computers, but still maintained the “cow” theme.

They had sold some of their products to markets like Australia, both through direct order and, later on, through “bricks and mortar” shops. But economic conditions such as the bursting of the “dotcom bubble” had taken a toll on the company and they pulled out of overseas markets and moved towards just being an Acer-controlled computer wholesaler who sells through major online and “bricks-and-mortar” shops.

Now, they have reappeared in Australia through “Geek Central” who is a small computer dealer with two shops, one of which is in the CBD (downtown) area, and an online-order business. Here, they are focusing more on notebook computers “across the board”, including netbooks.

I had noticed this today when Geek Central had a display of Gateway notebooks with a sign that “Gateway’s back” at the Digital Lifestyle Expo in Melbourne. It certainly shows that some brands may live on in other forms.