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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why Android Could Be Headed for the Laundry Room

After a slow start, Google says its Android operating system will appear in as many as 20 cellphones by the end of this year.

It is also destined over the next few years to become a major player in all sorts of other smart devices, including digital washing machines. That has been the clear view of several top executives I’ve talked to recently who are making chips for all manner of electronics.

The most enthusiastic for Android was Sehat Sutardja, the chief executive of the Marvell Technology Group, which makes processor chips for phones as well as other gadgets, including a new $99 computer the size of a cellphone charger.

He argued the world needed a standard, free operating system for all the devices that increasingly have powerful computers inside.

Google appears to be committed to using its resources and prestige to make sure that Android continues to grow. At the same time, Google doesn’t need to charge money for its contribution. Rather, it appears to believe its effort is worthwhile because it will help expand the universe of Internet-connected devices that can be used to connect to Google services. Oh yes, Android also helps destabilize Microsoft, Google’s biggest rival.

The case for Android is that it combines the benefit of open-source software with the benefits of a product of a big, reliable company. By being open, there are potentially many thousands of developers who can contribute code, solving little problems, often for little compensation.

“Open source is great because you have the smartest people in the world working simply because of principle,” Mr. Sutardja said.

There is an argument to be made that the same forces that helped build Microsoft are now aligned behind Android. Microsoft made some good products, was a tough and savvy competitor and benefited disproportionally from its first deal to make the operating system for I.B.M.’s personal computer. But the main reason that Windows become the dominant operating system and Office became the dominant productivity software is that the market wants a standard and will settle on the most plausible alternative.

When it comes to phones and other devices, Microsoft has lost its presumptive argument for being the most plausible choice. Despite a head start with Windows CE and Windows Mobile, it doesn’t have the hearts and minds of the engineers and business executives making decisions about what product to use.

Moreover, its business model simply can’t make operating systems that are free. Google is in what the Pentagon calls an asymmetric war. It wins simply by undercutting Microsoft’s prices. Microsoft essentially can’t offer products that cost less than Google’s already free search and other ad-supported products.

Right now, all this has many big executives making excuses for the bugs and limitations in the current versions of Android.

“Android has problems, bugs and all,” said Eli Harari, chief executive of SanDisk. “But there is so much energy going into Android.” That makes him argue that the operating system will be an important rival to those offered by Apple, Microsoft, Palm and others.

Mr. Sutardja was even more enthusiastic arguing that Android will become much better over the next five years.

“It will become pervasive,” he said. “It will be used in everything from TVs to I.P. phones to digital picture frames to washing machines.”

Washing machines, I asked?

“Why not?” he replied. A washing machine may well be better with a user interface that shows pictures of various types of clothing and stains, he said. In any case, the machines will have microprocessors and graphical interfaces. An appliance company isn’t going to write its own operating system, and a free version of Android will fill the bill.

“A lot of our customers are people who cannot afford to develop their own software,” Mr. Sutardja said. “Android practically is the only option for them.”

Mathew Growney, the chief executive of Isabella Products, a start-up making Internet-enabled digital picture frames, says that for now Android uses too much processing power and simpler versions of Linux are better for simple products.

So I don’t want to say that Android has the market locked up, at this early stage. But there does seem to be a great demand for something very much like Android in any case.

As for smartphones, however, you’ve got to wonder whether the market dynamics are a bit different. For a picture frame or washing machine, everybody is served by an operating system that is good enough and cheap. But isn’t the standard higher for your phone, which you carry with you all day and need to be powerful, responsive and easy at a moment’s notice? Isn’t that where Apple, Research in Motion, Palm and maybe even Microsoft can compete against the free, open source world?

Mr. Sutardja of Marvell agreed that the Apple model will continue to thrive. But the market is so big, he argued, that there needs to be a standard operating system for the companies that make handsets but don’t have the ability to make phone software.

“There could be two billion smartphones,” he said. “The proprietary operating systems could have one billion phones. That means half of the phones will be open source.”

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Retro Android girl

Spotify’s Android App Should Frighten Apple

If I were Steve Jobs, the video to the right would scare me senseless. It shows a Google Android phone running a Spotify app that appears to succeed in porting the full Spotify experience — still not available to most Americans — to a mobile phone.

We’re not alone in thinking that the Sweden-based Spotify is the best desktop music application on the planet, even though its legitimate use is currently restricted to Finland, France, Norway, Sweden, Spain and the UK. On the mobile phone, it becomes a serious threat to the iTunes/iPod ecosystem. Who wants to bother with buying songs track-by-track, when you can work with a customizable library containing millions of tracks, for free (with the occasional ad) or a monthly fee?

Is Spotify on the iPhone the “end game” for mobile music? This Google Android version of the app, demonstrated last night at the Google I/O Developer Conference in San Francisco, boasts a crucial feature we predicted Spotify would add: the caching of playlists for offline listening, which lets you play your music (or playlists other people have created) without a WiFi or 3G connection.

The video shows a user selecting which playlists to cache, listening to them, adding a song to a mobile playlist via laptop, as well as a Jobs-style “one last thing” at the end of the presentation depicting the app’s ability to play any song or album on-demand.

If Apple doesn’t allow a full-fledged version of this app into its App Store, music fans with Spotify access could switch to Android, if the message board on Spotify’s blog is any indication.

The Spotify desktop application runs on a P2P streaming architecture; as you use it to listen, you’re also uploading song data for other users to stream. This architecture doesn’t work as well in a mobile setting, with reduced bandwidth and processor speed, so if Spotify mobile apps become more popular than their desktop counterparts, the system could come under strain. Other than that, it’s hard to see how this Android app won’t be a runaway success — where it’s available, anyway.

Android Developers Challenge 2 announced

Developers will submit their apps to one of 10 specially-designated ADC 2 categories (see below) beginning in August. An application can only be submitted to a single category.

First Round
In late August (final date to be announced), users of Android-powered handsets that can access the Android Market will be able to obtain a special ADC 2 judging application from the Android Market. With this app, they can download, test, and rank applications submitted to the challenge. Users choosing to participate in the review process will download submitted apps randomly and will rate them along a number of criteria, resulting in a final score for each app. The results from this first round will generate the top 20 applications in each of the 10 categories (200 apps total), which will go into the second round.

Second Round
The top 20 applications in each category will proceed to the second round. Android users will then be able to download the final applications and evaluate them in the same manner as during the First Round using the ADC 2 judging app. At the end of the voting period, applications in each category will be ranked, with the community vote constituting 45% of the final judging score.

Along with the public ranking, a team of Google-selected judges will evaluate the applications. Their scores will constitute 55% of the final score.


The ADC 2 contest is open only to applications that have not been published -- whether through Android market, a public web site, or any other means. An application that has already been made available to the public (at the time of judging) is ineligible, regardless whether it is free or sold commercially. Additionally, applications that were entered in the ADC 1 contest are ineligible for the ADC 2 contest, regardless whether they were winning apps. Similarly, updated versions of applications entered in the ADC 1 contest are ineligible for ADC 2.

When you enter an application in the ADC 2, we will make it available to all contest judges for free, exclusively for the purposes of judging. If you intend to sell your application after the conclusion of the contest, you may submit a "trial" version of the application for judging. We recommend that your trial version include full functionality, but with a timed expiration, rather than including limited functionality with no expiration. Judges will evaluate your application based only on the functionality accessible to them, so it makes sense to provide the fullest range of capabilities possible in your contest app.

Teams and business entities may enter applications in the contest, but each team or entity must designate a single developer entity who will be responsible for uploading the application. Should the application be selected as a contest winner, all payments will be sent to the developer entity only. Further division of funds is the responsibility of the team leader or business entity representative.

All submitted applications must run on Android 1.5 and be in English.


  • Education/Reference
  • Games: Casual/Puzzle
  • Games: Arcade/Action
  • Social Networking
  • Lifestyle
  • Productivity/Tools
  • Media
  • Entertainment
  • Travel
  • Misc


Prizes will be distributed as follows; all prizes are in USD:

For each of the 10 categories:

  • 1st prize: $100,000
  • 2nd prize: $50,000
  • 3rd prize: $25,000

Overall (across all categories)

  • 1st prize: $150,000 (meaning the overall winner will receive $250,000)
  • 2nd prize: $50,000 (meaning the 2nd prize winner will receive up to $150,000)
  • 3rd prize: $25,000 (meaning the 3rd prize winner will receive up to $125,000)

In addition, attendees of selected developer events will be provided with devices intended for use in developing submissions for ADC 2.


Note: this timeline is subject to change until the Official Rules are published.

  • May 27 - Google I/O: ADC 2 announced
  • June: Full Terms and Conditions made available
  • Beginning in August: submission site opens, developers submit apps
  • Approximately 2 weeks later: submission site closes; ADC2 client/scoring app goes up on Market; users begin reviewing apps
  • Mid October: first-round judging ends
  • Mid November: final judging ends, winners announced

more details:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Australia: Get ready for next-gen Google phone

htc magic Australia

The second-generation Google phone will go on sale in Australia from the middle of next month, with a sleeker design and updated features aimed squarely at the iPhone's youth market.

The HTC Magic, based on Google's Android platform, is the successor to the HTC Dream, which went on sale in February as the first Google phone for the Australian market.

Vodafone and Three said they would be selling white and black versions of the Magic, respectively, from the middle of June.

Three, the only carrier to reveal pricing plans so far, will offer the device on a range of plans including for free on a $99 a month contract. Adding on 3GB of data for web browsing, the 3G phone can be had for just under $120 a month.

In the new device, the slide-out keyboard of the Dream is replaced by an on-screen virtual keyboard, similar to the iPhone. Its curved design fits the hand better than the Dream's square, angular chassis.

The Magic also contains several new features such as an updated operating system, video recording, longer battery life, better web browser with flash support and updated Bluetooth A2DP connectivity that allows users to stream music to a wireless headset.

As with the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and iPhone platforms, Google phone users can expand the functionality of the device by installing applications from the "Android Market" - similar to the iTunes App Store.

There are 3200 free and paid-for applications to choose from, but so far Australians can only access the free apps. HTC's sales and marketing director, Anthony Petts, said the ability to buy apps would be coming to Australia "soon".

Telsyte mobile analyst Warren Chaisatien said the suite of third-party applications on the Android platform was "amazing" but without the marketing clout and brand presence of Apple the Google phone would have trouble toppling the iPhone.

"I don't think it will take hold rapidly ... it's going to be a niche product," he said.

Conversely, Three's director of sales and marketing, Noel Hamill, said the response to the HTC Magic had been "phenomenal" and hundreds of people had pre-registered to buy the handset.

The phone also comes preloaded with a suite of Google online applications including Gmail, Google search, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Talk and YouTube. YouTube has been redesigned to be speedy and intuitive on a mobile screen, while, with Google Maps Street View, users can pan the view 360 degrees just by moving around with the phone.

The Google Latitude app lets users broadcast their current location to approved friends and family.

Other noteable apps available through the Android market include Wikitude (point the phone at landmarks and it will tell identify them and provide a description), Sky Map (for finding constellations), "near you" (find bars, restaurants, cinemas and cafes around you) and Buddy Runner (monitor exercise and daily calorie intake).

"The typical user is the youth user, the online user ... who wants that simple and integrated access," said Potts.

The Magic's 3.2 megapixel camera lacks a built-in flash, but GPS and Wi-Fi are both included and the 3.2-inch touch screen is similar to the iPhone's 3.5-inch screen.

Cellphones Catapult Rural Africa to 21st Century

YANGUYE, South Africa - On this dry mountaintop, 36-year-old Bekowe Skhakhane does even the simplest tasks the hard way.

Fetching water from the river takes four hours a day. To cook, she gathers sticks and musters a fire. Light comes from candles.

At the Nqala store in rural KwaZulu-Natal, Christina Mulembe, 11, buys an access card for her mother, who lives five miles away. More Photos >

But when Ms. Skhakhane wants to talk to her husband, who works in a steel factory 250 miles away in Johannesburg, she does what many in more developed regions do: she takes out her mobile phone.

People like Ms. Skhakhane have made Africa the world's fastest-growing cellphone market. From 1999 through 2004, the number of mobile subscribers in Africa jumped to 76.8 million, from 7.5 million, an average annual increase of 58 percent. South Africa, the continent's richest nation, accounted for one-fifth of that growth.

Asia, the next fastest-expanding market, grew by an annual average of just 34 percent in that period.

"It is a necessity," said Ms. Skhakhane, pausing from washing laundry in a plastic bucket on the dirt ground to fish her blue Nokia out of the pocket of her flowered apron. "Buying air time is part of my regular grocery list."

She spends the equivalent of $1.90 a month for five minutes of telephone time.

Africa's cellphone boom has taken the industry by surprise. Africans have never been rabid telephone users; even Mongolians have twice as many land lines per person. And with most Africans living on $2 a day or less, they were supposed to be too poor to justify corporate investments in cellular networks far outside the more prosperous cities and towns.

But when African nations began to privatize their telephone monopolies in the mid-1990's, and fiercely competitive operators began to sell air time in smaller, cheaper units, cellphone use exploded.

Used handsets are available for $50 or less in South Africa, an amount even Ms. Skhakhane's husband was able to finance with the little he saves from his factory job.

It turned out that Africans had never been big phone users because nobody had given them the chance.

One in 11 Africans is now a mobile subscriber.

Demand for air time was so strong in Nigeria that from late 2002 to early 2003 operators there were forced to suspend the sale of subscriber identity module cards, or SIM cards, which activate handsets, while they strengthened their networks.

Villagers in the two jungle provinces of Congo are so eager for service that they have built 50-foot-high treehouses to catch signals from distant cellphone towers.

"One man uses it as a public pay phone," said Gilbert Nkuli, deputy managing director of Congo operations for Vodacom Group, one of Africa's biggest mobile operators. Those who want to climb to his platform and use his phone pay him for the privilege.

On a continent where some remote villages still communicate by beating drums, cellphones are a technological revolution akin to television in the 1940's in the United States.

Africa has an average of just one land line for every 33 people, but cellphones are enabling millions of people to skip a technological generation and bound straight from letter-writing to instant messaging.

Although only about 60 percent of Africans are within reach of a signal, the lowest level of penetration in the world, the technology is for many a social and economic godsend.

One pilot program allows about 100 farmers in South Africa's northeast to learn the prevailing prices for produce in major markets, crucial information in negotiations with middlemen.

Health-care workers in the rural southeast summon ambulances to distant clinics via cellphone.

One woman living on the Congo River, unable even to write her last name, tells customers to call her cellphone if they want to buy the fresh fish she sells.

"She doesn't have electricity, she can't put the fish in the freezer," said Mr. Nkuli of Vodacom. "So she keeps them in the river," tethered live on a string, until a call comes in. Then she retrieves them and readies them for sale.

William Pedro, 51, who deals in farm and garden plants, said he tried for eight years to lure customers to his nursery in a ragtag township near George, a resort town on South Africa's southern coast. Only when he got a cellphone two years ago, he said, did his business take off.

"White people are afraid to come here to my place in the township to buy plants," Mr. Pedro, who is of mixed race, said as he stood outside his makeshift greenhouses. "So now they can phone me for orders and I can deliver them the same day."

Hamadoun Touré, development director for the International Telecommunication Union, said the economic blessings of cellphones were magnified in the developing world.

"What is the alternative?" asked Mr. Touré, whose agency was founded in the days of the telegraph and is now part of the United Nations. "Somebody may have to leave work, travel for days, spending much more money" just to pass on a message.

Initially, he said, mobile operators based their predictions of cellphone use on the typical land-line user, someone with a bank account, a job and a fixed address.

"The woman selling vegetables in the market, with the baby and the umbrella, they weren't in the profile of the normal subscriber," Mr. Touré said. "But they use them."

Mobile operators cannot put up towers fast enough, not just in established markets like South Africa, which is already home to about one in four African mobile subscribers, but also in nations that barely have electricity, much less existing cellular networks ready for expansion.

Five years ago, for example, sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) accounted for one of every five mobile subscribers on the continent. That ratio has now doubled.

Executives of the MTN Group, another major African mobile operator, say the company's Nigerian network cost two and a half times as much as its South African network because of lack of infrastructure. But demand is so intense that MTN is adding hundreds of new base stations.

Congo was in the midst of a civil war when Alieu Conteh, a telecommunications entrepreneur, began building a cellular network there in the 1990's. No foreign manufacturer would ship a cellphone tower to the airport with rebels nearby, so Mr. Conteh hired local men to collect scrap and weld a tower together.

Now Vodacom, which formed a joint venture with him in 2001, is grappling with other problems. Its trucks get stuck in the mud. A crane is out of the question; it takes 15 to 20 men to haul each satellite dish into place with ropes. Base stations must be powered by generators. Each morning, executives send instant messages to employees containing the latest rate for the plunging local currency.

Despite all that, Vodacom Congo has 1.1 million subscribers and is adding more than 1,000 daily.

There are no current plans to extend land-line service to the surrounding steep mountains where Ms. Skhakhane lives, government officials here say. But that may not matter: six months ago, Vodacom erected a cellular tower whose signal can be picked up in the hills. Now it logs 10,000 calls a day.

Before the tower went up, Ms. Skhakhane communicated with her husband by letter. She waited weeks for a response. The nearest public telephone, outside a little shop more than 10 miles away, has been broken since March.

Ms. Skhakhane said she considered the $1.90 a month for a phone card to be money well spent. "I don't use the phone very often," she said, "but whenever there is something I really need to discuss, I do."

One problem remains even in the age of cutting-edge cellular technology: How does an African family in a hut lighted by candles charge a mobile phone? A bicycle-driven charger is said to be on the horizon. But that would require a bicycle, a rare possession in much of rural Africa.

In Yanguye, as in other regions, the solution is often a car battery owned by someone who does not have a prayer of acquiring a car. Ntombenhle Nsele keeps one in her home a few miles down the road from Ms. Skhakhane's. She takes it by bus 20 miles to the nearest town to recharge it in a gas station.

For 80 cents each, Ms. Nsele, 25, lets neighbors charge their mobiles from the battery. She gets at least five customers a week.

"Oooh, a lot of people," she said, smiling. "Too many."

Africa's cellphone explosion changes economics & society

Amina Harun, a 45-year-old farmer, used to have to walk for hours looking for a working pay phone on which to call the markets and find the best prices for her fruit. Then cellphones changed her life.

"We can easily link up with customers, brokers and the market," she says, sitting between two piles of watermelons at Wakulima Market in Kenya's capital.

Harun is one of a rapidly swelling army of wired-up Africans — an estimated 100 million of the continent's 906 million people. Another is Omar Abdulla Saidi, phoning in from his sailboat on the Zanzibar coast looking for the port that will give him the biggest profit on his freshly caught red snapper, tuna and shellfish.

Then there are South Africans and Kenyans slinging cellphones round the necks of elephants to track them through bush and jungle. And there's Beatrice Enyonam, a cosmetics vendor in Togo, keeping in touch with her husband by cellphone when he's traveling in the West African interior.

As cell-phone relay towers sprout on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti plain, providers are racing to keep up with their exploding market.

The numbers are staggering.

Cellphones made up 74.6% of all African phone subscriptions last year, says the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union. Cellphone subscriptions jumped 67% south of the Sahara in 2004, compared with 10% in cellphone-saturated Western Europe, according to Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese who chairs Celtel, a leading African provider.

An industry that barely existed 10 years ago is now worth $25 billion, he says. Prepaid air minutes are the preferred means of usage and have created their own $2 billion-a-year industry of small-time vendors, the Celtel chief says. Air minutes have even become a form of currency, transactable from phone to phone by text message, he says.

This is particularly useful in Africa, where transferring small amounts of money through banks is costly.

"We are developing unique ways to use the phone, which has not been done anywhere else," says South African Michael Joseph, chief executive officer of Safaricom, one of two service providers in Kenya. For an impoverished continent, low-cost phones make "a perfect fit."

And cash-strapped governments which have had to give up their monopoly on land lines are looking to reap huge revenues from license fees, customs duties and taxes on calls.

"We all misread the market," Joseph said.

The mistake, providers say, was to make plans based on GDP figures, which ignore the strong informal economy, and to assume that because land line use was low, little demand for phones existed.

The real reason for weak demand was that land lines were expensive, subscribers had to wait for months to get hooked up, and the lines often went down because of poor maintenance, floods and theft of copper cables.

Cellphones slice through all those obstacles and provide African solutions to African problems.

Wildlife researchers in Kenya and South Africa have put no-frills cellphones in weatherproof cases on a collar that goes around an elephant's neck. The phone sends a message every hour, revealing the animal's whereabouts.

It cuts the cost of tracking wildlife by up to 60%, said Professor Wouter van Hoven of the University of Pretoria's Center for Wildlife Management.

"You don't have to walk around the bush searching for the animals," he says. "I have sat around in Europe and was able to monitor animals in the mountains using a cellphone that had access to the Internet."

An elephant is fitted with a collar equipped with a cellphone, GPS system and software that sends data on the pachyderm's location in Kenya's Samburu Game Reserve.

Saidi, the Zanzibar fisherman, can now check beforehand whether prices justify him sailing his catch to the Tanzanian mainland, while Wilson Kuria Macharia, head of the traders' association at the Nairobi market, says he no longer has to spend two to four weeks at a time roaming across Kenya and Tanzania in search of fresh produce.

"A few mobile phone calls take care of what used to be the most grueling part of the business," said Macharia, 61.

Cellphones also make traders more competitive, meaning better prices for farmers, he said.

People who don't own a cellphone can use public telephone centers linked to cellular networks, creating badly needed jobs.

Across the continent, in Nigeria, privately run cellphone services arrived in 2001 and started out charging $150 just to sign up. Nowadays four companies vie for customers by offering free sign-ups and introductory air minutes.

The number of subscribers in the nation of more than 130 million has jumped from about 700,000 to over 10 million, and hawkers make a living selling air time cards to motorists trapped in traffic.

On the downside, however, bus passengers on cross-country journeys have to turn off their cellphones because criminals are known to use them to coordinate highway robberies.

Inevitably, cellphones have become status symbols. "If you do not have one, your friends will laugh at you and say that you are outmoded," says Akpene Rose, a 23-year-old hairdressing student in Togo, a tiny West African country where every sixth person is estimated to have a cellphone.

And just as inevitably, there are those who wish they had never been invented.

Ayi Aime, a 60-year-old Togolese, says both her school-age daughters have cellphones. "I do not know how they got them. I do not mind," she says. "But the persistent noisemaking, constant ringing, has become a nuisance."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Introducing the HTC Lancaster

Meet the HTC Lancaster, which kinda looks like a Magic when closed -- but open, it takes on more of a traditional Touch Pro-ish form factor for a QWERTY slider than the G1 / Dream. It's got triband EDGE and 850 / 1900MHz HSPA, AGPS, a 3 megapixel fixed-focus camera, Bluetooth 2.0, microSD expansion, and a "unique HTC social messaging user interface".

Coming to AT&T in the USA in August?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Waze: The traffic of the crowds

Israeli start-up Waze is at the Where 2.0 conference this week showing off its service for collecting real-time traffic and driving condition data from its users. Currently running on 80,000 smartphones in Israel, Waze shows you traffic flows on highways, and unlike other traffic services, it also shows it on side streets, and it creates routing advice based on that data.

The service allows users to report accidents, speed traps, cops by the side of the road, and other traffic-related items. What's cool is that these items fade automatically over time, and there's also the possibility for the system to ping a driver as he or she passes a previously reported incident to see if it's still there.

Waze on a mobile device shows you nearby traffic and incidents.

CEO Noam Bardin tells me that in Israel, Waze doesn't even use commonly available street maps as its base layer of data. Instead, it tracks users (with their permission), and builds maps from those traces. Then it asks users to name the roads.

In a technology utopia, this product makes beautiful sense. But the real world is messy. You can't roll out a peer-to-peer traffic service and expect it to work perfectly from day one, since it needs a critical mass of users. Realistically, Waze is going to have to roll out its service, in big countries like the U.S., region by region. However, smartphone app stores are national, so there may be unhappy users from under-represented locations. (At least in the U.S., the company will use existing maps as a starting place.)

Then there's the safety question. While the demo I saw, on an Android phone, had simple and big buttons on it like "speed camera," it still represents a distraction, and in our society all it will take is one user causing an accident while reporting another to put the hurt on this feature.

I'll leave privacy and power consumption issues as exercises for the reader.

It's also worth noting that in-car navigator company Dash Navigation launched a product with a similar vision, and it hasn't really worked as business. The company, which originally made navigation hardware, is now just in the software licensing business. The consumer navigation products were never price-competitive with the increasingly higher-powered run-of-the mill navigators from the likes of Garmin and TomTom.

Bardin also belives that Dash's problem was mostly on money side: The unit was too expensive, and furthermore, he says, "If you want to have a community product, you can't charge the members." He points to services like YouTube that take content from, and provide value to, their users, but that have to go to other routes, like advertising, to make money.

Waze, Bardin says, will be a free app for the smartphone users who get it from Waze directly. Revenues will come from selling ads, and from selling the technology other companies (like mobile carriers) to package or re-sell.

When the iPhone 3.0 software comes out, and with it the new terms of service for developers that allow the release of turn-by-turn navigation products, we're going to see several products competitive with standard dedicated dash-top navigators. Waze is different from almost every other navigation product I've seen, but I hope it succeeds, if only because I like the idea of a route navigation system that gets better as more people use it.

Google wants to make your Android phone much smarter with accelerometer and other sensors

The smartphones we carry around today are pretty smart. They can already do a lot of things and usually do exactly what we tell them to do.

And the recent improvements in user interfaces are making the process of telling your smartphone what to do better and better.

So now the R&D labs at major cellphone/OS vendors are dabbling on another frontier. Making your handset understand what you are doing at any moment of time, anticipate what you will do next, and conform to your wishes even before you thought of that.

Some of these efforts, like integration between calendar and the mapping apps, the automatic syncing with the cloud in WebOS Synergy, or automatic broadcasting of your status and location to friends via Google Latitude and Ovi Contacts, are already appearing or will very soon appear in your next smart device.

But it is just a very early start. And today we get a glimpse of how Google plans to turn your Android phone into a really clever handset by using built-in accelerometer and other sensors.

The main idea behind Google’s patent app called “Activating Applications Based on Accelerometer Data” is that by continuously monitoring your accelerometer data, your handset can differentiate between your activities. It’s because the different activities – jogging, walking, driving a car in heavy traffic or highway, riding a train or bike, going up in elevator, sitting at your desk in the office – they all generate different acceleration data profiles.

Combine that data with your location (GPS sensor) and time, and there’s a very good chance for your Android phone to correctly guess what your are doing right now.

Add in a training period of a few days or weeks, where your handset watches what you are doing now and what you are doing with it, and there’s a possibility for it to become really smart, start anticipate your wishes beforehand and act accordingly even before you tell it to:

* Going out for your 6AM jog before heading to work? Your handset launches a music player as soon as you start running
* Driving a car to work? The phone switches to speakerphone mode and launches that podcast your pre-loaded
* Riding a train to your office and like to catch up on the news during the trip? The browser, with local, business and global news pages open, is already running when you take the phone out of your pocket.
* Just got into the office? Put you handset on the table and the messaging app with all your work voicemails and messages is loaded as you boot up your PC and settle into the chair.

If Google ever translates these ideas into an actual product and gets things wrong, such device capabilities might become mighty annoying and intrusive.

But if this approach is implemented well, your handset may become a very smart and personal device. And get smarter the more you use it, as it learns about your habits more and more.

Actually, after a while, it might become very hard to abandon your current handset for a new one, which you will have to train again all along.

Google's Rubin: Android 'a revolution'

Among all the companies fighting to grab a piece of the brightest star in computing--the smartphone--Google seems the least interested in taking the spoils.

Android, Google's mobile operating system, doesn't generate revenue for the company, and likely never will--at least in the direct sense. But Andy Rubin, Google's director of mobile platforms, thinks Google and the world will benefit from any device created with the intent of getting more people onto the Internet, and isn't shy about explaining why the open-source approach chosen for Android holds the most promise of reaching that goal.

Android made its debut in 2007, a few months after another computer with designs on improving the Internet experience on a phone--the iPhone--hit the streets as perhaps the most hyped gadget ever. Buzz has been slower to build around Android, but that could start to change as additional phones arrive that have a bit more pizazz than the G1, the world's first Android phone released last October.

Ahead of next week's Google I/O Developer Conference, where Rubin is expected to discuss future Android phones and goals for the software, he sat down with CNET News to review Google's progress thus far and share his impressions of what makes Android unique.

Q: How do you reconcile the goals of staying open with the need to offer carriers their own experience and the compatibility problems that may come as a part of that?
Rubin: Traditionally what's happened is the burden has been on the (phone makers) to be systems integrators. And what you get is kind of a lowest common denominator of functionality and usability because the software was actually developed by multiple parties, and nobody was really thinking holistically about the user experience.

It's (about) how do people expect these products to perform, and what are the various paces that a consumer will put these products through? No one company was thinking about that.

And so a huge benefit to this open platform is that it's complete, it's basically everything you need to build a phone. Sometimes the reason things fragment is because the platform is incomplete and people need to fill in the pieces. And when you fill in the pieces, you inherently have incompatibility.

It is possible to have a completely different user interface with a completely different look and feel but still be compatible. And that will be demonstrated.

There will be a couple of launches; we've generated a lot of interest in China. The use cases in China are slightly different in the U.S.; typically in China, because of the Asian input, people prefer a pen-based interface rather than a capacitive-touch based interface because they expect a stylus to be able to draw the complex characters. So the use case has completely changed but we have achieved compatibility.

How did the goal of Android evolve after it was brought into Google?
Rubin: The goal was pretty much the same, the business model obviously changed. Google's business model is deep into advertising, and so for Google this is purely a scale of the business, we just want to reach more people, and hopefully they'll use Google and we'll get the upside of the advertising revenue.

By the way, we're confident enough in our advertising business and our ability to help people find information that we don't somehow demand they use Google. If somebody wants to use Android to build a Yahoo phone, great.

Did you ever consider doing a phone? A Google phone?
Rubin: Yeah...I mean, it's funny, if you build one phone...I'd much rather be the guy that does a platform that's capable of running on multiple companies' phones than just focusing on a single product.

A single product is going to have, eventually, limitations. Even if that was two products that's going to have limitations. But if it's a hundred products, now we're getting somewhere, to the scale at which Google thinks people want to access information.

Getting back to business models, Google has a great business model around advertising, and there's a natural connection between open source and the advertising business model. Open source is basically a distribution strategy, it's completely eliminating the barrier to entry for adoption.

When Android was a start-up company, it was always a razor/razor blade business. The razor, the free thing, was the open-source operating system. In Android's original business model, the blades were basically provisioning systems that we sold to wireless carriers that had hooks into the open-source operating system. That was an unproven business model, I would say, and certainly the feedback I got when we were going for venture financing was that it was an unproven business model.

I was willing to give it a go, but then Larry and Sergey and Eric came along and said, "it's much more aligned with Google's core business and Google's business model, and you'll have a much easier time executing within Google." And retroactively, I agree.

Is this a market share play? Is this something where you want to conquer the mobile world?
Rubin: We look at it first from the scale perspective. The mission here is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and relevant. So the accessible part: think of a world in which you are somehow prevented from accessing the information you want. When I go to a hotel room and pay the $19.95 to get on the Internet and they have some firewall that doesn't let me get to my Exchange server, it makes me berserk.

I look at things--and Google looks at things--in (terms of) how could the landscape change in such a way that consumers who want to access Google services can't?

In that honest goal of not having consumers being blocked and allowing them to access information, it helps our competitors as well. What we don't want to do is disadvantage anybody by being the only person; we don't want to create any kind of separate structure where people can only access Google. And this is the definition of openness: it's not just open source, it's the freedom to get the information that you're actually looking for.

Why is this approach better what Apple or Palm is doing where they control the whole device?
Rubin: Controlling the whole device is great, (but) we're talking about 4 billion handsets. When you control the whole device the ability to innovate rapidly is pretty limited when it's coming from a single vendor.

You can have spurts of innovation. You can nail the enterprise, nail certain interface techniques, or you can nail the Web-in-the-handset business, but you can't do everything. You're always going to be in some niche.

What we're talking about is getting out of a niche and giving people access to the Internet in the way they expect the Internet to be accessed. I don't want to create some derivative of the Internet, I don't want to just take a slice of the Internet, I don't want to be in the corner somewhere with some dumbed-down version of the Internet, I want to be on the Internet.

Even if that comes at the cost of compatibility or UI advances? If you're going to be the Everyman phone, you're going to have to make some sacrifices at some point, right?
Rubin: I think that's yet to be seen. I think we've done a pretty good job. Again, we're talking about a clean slate technology that didn't exist a few years ago. So I'm actually thinking this could be a revolution.

Remember people used to trumpet "write once, run everywhere"? Well, I think we're actually there. I think when we start talking about the possibility of exploring things like Netbooks and car navigation systems, you have potentially different processor architecture types. You have Intel, you have ARM, set-top boxes have MIPS.

We have all sorts of different processor architectures, and the guys who are steeped in legacy have trouble addressing those markets with a single solution. I actually think Android is the potential single solution that can address all those markets, and it's new, it's revolutionary. It will change the game.

If this is a revolution, why haven't we seen more of these phones?
Rubin: It takes about 18 months to build a phone from end to end. What we wanted to do for our market entry was make sure that we had one successful showcase product to prove that the product was reliable and robust and ready to go. We chose HTC as our partner for that.

The forthcoming Samsung i7500, based on Google's Android
(Credit: Samsung)

At the moment we open-sourced, November 7 (2007), that's when a lot of these guys got their hands on it. We're still in that 18-month window of building products, and what you'll see coming up is a whole string of products.

What did you learn from Android 1.0 to 1.5?
Rubin: I learned that 1.5 was the product I wished was 1.0. The reason is it's a different business for Google: helping the industry build operating systems for their cell phones.

Because on the Web, you can iterate very quickly, and you can put things out in beta, you can fix bugs literally hourly. On cell phones you're blasting something in a ROM in a device that's in manufacturing where you did just-in-time ordering of all the parts and have inventory risk and everything else. Widgets are literally coming down a factory line, and if software isn't ready by the time they reach the end of the line they're going to drop on the floor and pile up. And that winds up costing a lot of people a lot of money. And if you don't get it right, you're kind of hosed.

What is going to dictate who wins and loses in this market? We all have different things that we may want in a phone. How do you try to be the Everyman phone and try to keep up with what's going on?
Rubin: We're trying to be something really unique, and I don't think anybody else is offering this. We put a very focused spotlight on openness, and openness is the means by which you get the product that you want.

Do people care (about openness)? I mean, the industry might care, the partners in the Open Handset Alliance may care, but do consumers?

It's an enabler. I'm not on some marketing campaign to educate consumers about what openness means. Actually, if you ask anybody on the street, you're going to get 10 different definitions of openness. The Symbian guys are going to be like "I'm open," and the LiMo guys are going to say "I'm open."

There's probably like a royal flush of openness, where you can lay your cards on the table and say (pointing) "open, open, open, open, open," it's the guy with the most open that's going to win.

I think we're that. I think that we have an open ecosystem, we have an open-source platform, we chose the right license, there are no viral aspects, it's absolutely 100 percent free, it's complete, it's everything you need to build a phone. When you add all that stuff up, all those ingredients, potentially--I think the jury's still out--we can make a really successful product.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why the G1 Google phone might end up the most popular game console ever

The Zeebo console for emerging markets isn't strictly a handheld device, although if you look inside the box (see the early prototype photo below), it effectively consists of the chipset from the HTC Dream/G1 Android phone, plus some extra I/O to deal with TV screens, controllers and the like.

It is a significant device, however, in terms of the way basic mobile phone technology, and more particularly the distribution of digital content over 3G connections, is seeping out around the world in strange and wonderful ways.

But first, a quick recap. Set up as a joint venture by US IP company Qualcomm and Brazilian consumer electronics company Tectoy, the plan behind Zeebo (the company and console share the name) is to launch a sub-$200 gaming, entertainment and educational console for the billion-strong middle classes in emerging economies such as Brazil and India.

Launching in Brazil in June, the console should roll out into Mexico by the end of 2009, and India and other parts of Latin America in 2010. Eastern Europe, parts of Africa, Asia and, of course, China are also on the list, although actual deals will depend on hooking up solid distribution partners in each country.

One of the key players behind the company is the director of Qualcomm's gaming group Mike Yuen.

"The key thing is we're using off-the-shelf components," he explains. "We're leveraging standard mobile phone technology and Qualcomm's BREW software development environment, so we avoid the billions of dollars it takes to enter the console business, as well as having an ecosystem most publishers and many developers are familiar with. They submit their games to Qualcomm as they would any other BREW application, and they get paid in the same way."

Put this way, it's a neat opportunity for publishers, and many mobile and console companies have already signed up including EA, Capcom, THQ, Activision, PopCap, Gameloft and Digital Chocolate.

The thinking behind Zeebo is more honed, though. For one thing, the console is priced much lower than the likes of PlayStation. In Brazil, a PlayStation 2 costs $250 and that's before you get it chipped.

And that's another major issue in such territories. Legitimate games are so expensive (up to $100 a pop), that they're beyond the reach of all but the rich, hence pirated copies that sell for around $10 make up the vast majority of sales.

But as John Rizzo, Zeebo's CEO, points out digital distribution solves that problem in a virtuous way. "All of our content is delivered electronically and wirelessly, so we can eliminate piracy, which means publishers can make a profit in their local markets," he says. "This provides them with the motivation to create content that's designed to meet the local language and cultural requirements."

Around 80 independent developers are already approved on Zeebo and the company hopes they will come up with the sort of localised, cultural content that US or European corporations wouldn't understand.

In addition, it's expected in Brazil that Zeebo games will be available for around $12, while general economies of scale mean the price of the console - which ships with five embedded games - should quickly be driven down to around $179 and hopefully $150 by the end of 2009.

"The fact is the consumers in these countries who want and can afford an Xbox, PlayStation or Wii probably already have one," says Rizzo. "For most people though, Zeebo is the first 3D games console they will be able to purchase."

And as Yuen points out, Zeebo doesn't just have to be a games console. "Latin America has a strong gaming culture but in India and China I think we'll have a more educational focus so it will be a broader entertainment device with lifestyle-oriented features," he says.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Samsung Bigfoot & Spico Android smartphones with OS 2.0 “Donut”?

Two new Android smartphones have been tipped, both by Samsung and expected to launch in Q3 2009.

The Samsung Spico (left) and Samsung Bigfoot (right) will both have 3-inch WQVGA touchscreens, while the Bigfoot adds a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and T-Mobile USA 3G support; each will apparently run Android OS 2.0 “Donut”, the follow-up to Cupcake.

Both devices will have roughly identical specifications, with triband HSDPA (T-Mobile USA-friendly only the case of the Bigfoot), WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0 and GPS, as well as a 3-megapixel autofocus camera, accelerometer, digital compass and 100MB of onboard storage.

There’s also a microSD slot and USB 2.0 connection. The Samsung Spico will apparently get a TouchWiz GUI rather than the more familiar Android interface, as in the gallery screenshot below.

The Samsung Bigfoot certainly resembles the device labeled as the T-Mobile G1 v.2 in the carrier’s leaked roadmap from earlier this month. Donut, meanwhile, will bring with it WVGA display support, among other things, but may not be a retrospective update to existing Android handsets.

iPhone, Android Developers Tap Skyhook For Location Data

Location positioning company Skyhook Wireless has a database of more than 100 million access points that enable pinpoint location accuracy, but developers using the company's technology have come up with thousands of applications, many of which Skyhook executives wouldn't have thought of in their wildest dreams.

The more than 2,500 applications -- most for the iPhone -- range from games and social networking activities to location-based weather reports and restaurant locators.

"The most striking thing about the applications is there is no dominant application," said CEO Ted Morgan in an interview. "There's just no single category that dominates, and we get at least 50 applications a day."

Realizing that standard GPS was slow and not accurate enough for most consumers, particularly in urban areas, Morgan's Boston-based company began compiling a database of the world's Wi-Fi access points. The company triangulates Wi-Fi access points with standard GPS technology and cell phone towers. The result is a location-based technology that delivers extremely accurate and fast results for consumers with cell phones. Skyhook's database typically receives 250 million location requests every day.

The applications range widely. Some are utilitarian such as Cellfire Mobile, which digs out retailers' coupons and discounts near a consumer. Android application Shopsavvy scans bar codes for good shopping deals.

Yelp finds and reviews restaurants, and OpenTable assists users in making table reservations. SitorSquat is a wiki that details the location and conditions of more than 50,000 international bathrooms.

Fast drivers will welcome Trapster, which alerts them when they approach police speed traps. There's also an application that tracks ski resorts and gives real-time snow conditions.

On the personal side, Morgan, a recreational runner, uses RunKeeper to keep track of his runs. And Skyhook's director of marketing, Kate Imbach, predicts the social networking overtones of the applications will take off in the future. She likes Foursquare, which locates restaurants and finds other users in the neighborhood.

Skyhook has a partnership with Apple. Developers are also creating applications for Google (NSDQ: GOOG)'s Android phones using Skyhook's database, but the company doesn't have a partnership with Google. Typically a developer will download a software developer's kit from Skyhook's Web site and build an application within a month.

Samsung I7500 phone: Hands On Video

Korean mobile phone maker Samsung announced not too long ago its first handset running under Google's Android operating system, the i7500, which should be launched with O2 later during the ongoing year, while also being expected to head towards T-Mobile's lineup under the name of Samsung Houdini, and which has now surfaced in a new video on the web.

The specifications of the phone should already be familiar to some of you, for it comes with quad-band GSM, tri-band 7.2Mbps HSDPA (900/1700/2100MHz) connectivity, as well as with a 3.2-inch AMOLED touchscreen display that can offer a 320 x 480 pixel resolution, not to mention the WiFi capabilities, GPS receiver, or the 5-megapixel photo snapper.

Other capabilities of the handset include 8GB of internal memory, which is coupled with a microSD memory card slot that can offer users the possibility to add up to 32GB of storage space. What the Samsung i7500 adds new in comparison to the other Android-based mobile phones on the market is a standard 3.5mm jack.

The same as the other two Android phones available at the moment, namely HTC Dream and HTC Magic, the new Samsung device comes with a wide range of Google apps and services enabled, such as Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Google Calendar, and Google Talk, as well as My Location, Google Latitude or Street View.

Take a look at the video below to learn a few more things about the handset, but bear in mind that the device, though it looks quite nice and performs well enough, does not feature the software in its final state. There shouldn't be too long before the actual device is spotted on the shelves, as O2 announced recently that it planned on launching the Samsung i7500 as soon as June, which means that even more detailed info on the phone should become available at that time, so stay tuned to learn the news.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wikitude - Augmented reality on Android

Augmented reality, where real life is annotated with information, has long been the stuff of science fiction, like flying cars and the paperless office. But suddenly, an augmented reality applications is available on Android, Google's cell phone platform.

A small Austrian-based business specializing in software for smartphones, Mobilizy is working on a project called Wikitude AR Travel Guide, which is an augmented reality application for Google Android-based phones. I don't have a lot of information beyond the video at the bottom of this post. My guess is that even though it's available, the application is probably not fully mature and robust.

How it works, no doubt, is that the cell phone's GPS pinpoints the phone's location, then an internal compass tells the phone which direction the phone is pointed. Using that data, whichever of the 350,000 "points of interest" in the global database are visible are identified on-screen.

But I'm certain that augmented reality will one day go mainstream. Imagine a world that is indexed and searchable, and where you can point your cell phone at anything and get the Wikipedia entry on it.

It's also likely that there will be a social element to all this. Like the Wikipedia itself, people will contribute the identification of real-world objects by snapping pictures of them and feeding them into a database somewhere, no doubt owned by Google.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

HTC Hero spotted in the wild..

.. the next Android phone?

Not content to bring out one of the phones of 2009 in the HTC Magic, the Taiwanese company has been showing off the HTC Hero, its next Android offering.

After hinting at such a device in its leaked 2009 line-up, the Hero has finally surfaced in the real world, and looks like it's following the G1 and Magic lineage we're now used to, thanks to the inexplicable lip at the bottom.

But it has one thing the Magic and G1 don't have, and that's a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is something the world has been hankering after in an Android phone for ages (and something Samsung is bringing in a couple of months with the i7500).

It seems to borrowing the angular stylings of the HTC Diamond range from the blurry pics sent in (which you can see more of over at CodeAndroid), but has ditched the trackball we've grown to love on the previous two Android offerings.

This really does look like the real deal, and in many ways makes perfect evolutionary sense, especially as HTC has promised more Android handsets this year. If we were to have a guess, it would be that this phone is equipped with a more powerful processor and better camera, especially as HTC has told TechRadar that's going to be a big focus (excuse the pun) for the future.

Word is that we'll be seeing this little beauty in the next four or five months, which is certainly enough to get excited over, especially as the HTC Magic performed so well in a recent review.

Sending Cell Phones into the Cloud

New technology offloads processing from a mobile device to its cloud-based doppelganger.

Face in the cloud: CloneCloud allows processor-intensive applications, like this prototype face-recognition application, to be offloaded to remote servers.

The problem with mobile phones, says Allan Knies, associate director of Intel Research at Berkeley, is that everyone wants them to perform like a regular computer, despite their relatively paltry hardware. Byung-Gon Chun, a research scientist at Intel Research Berkeley, thinks that he might have the solution to that problem: create a supercharged clone of your smart phone that lives in "the cloud" and let it do all the computational heavy lifting that your phone is too wimpy to handle.

CloneCloud, invented by Chun and his colleague Petros Maniatis, uses a smart phone's high-speed connection to the Internet to communicate with a copy of itself that lives in a cloud-computing environment on remote servers. The prototype runs on Google's Android mobile operating system and seamlessly offloads processor-intensive tasks to its cloud-based double. Details of the project will be revealed at the HotOS XII conference in Switzerland later this month.

It's a trick not unlike the way that many Web-based applications, such as Google Docs, run on remote servers. The difference is that because CloneCloud creates a perfect copy of the phone's software, it can take on literally any processor-intensive task that it calculates it can do faster than the phone itself, after weighing the amount of time and battery life required to transfer the required data.

The big benefit of CloneCloud is battery-life extension, which would naturally follow from lower utilization of the phone's CPU. Chun imagines that this could become a competitive advantage for vendors, like free voice mail or unlimited data plans.

But CloneCloud wouldn't just make smart phones more efficient: it could also make them more capable. A test application developed by Chun performs face recognition on photos. It required 100 seconds of processor time on a standard Android phone, but it finished in only one second when run by a clone of the phone running on a desktop computer. Because the software runs on a cloud-computing platform, it can be scaled in terms of the amount of both memory allocated and processing power, both of which increase performance on computationally intensive tasks.

Security could be an important potential application of CloneCloud. Ya-Yunn Su, a researcher at NEC Laboratories, in New Jersey, who previously developed a prototype system similar to CloneCloud, notes that "as smart phones become mini general-purpose computers, more of the problems we see in desktops, like viruses, will become smart-phone problems." Virus scans, which involve checking the entire file system of a device, are exactly the sort of process that Chun envisions CloneCloud accomplishing in the background, even while the smart phone is off.

On the other hand, like all cloud-based services, CloneCloud could create a whole new class of security vulnerabilities--the sort that arise when all of a user's private data is stored on publicly accessible servers. "Even after you address the technical issues, how can you get users to trust the cloud?" asks Su.

Maniatis, Chun's collaborator on CloneCloud, notes that the team is working on a number of different methods to secure CloneCloud. One approach, known as "private data disclosure detection" or "taint checking," examines all of the variables in a program that could be affected by inputs from outside sources, in order to detect whether these inputs contain data inserted for malicious purposes. Taint checking is extremely processor intensive, which means that CloneCloud could be a unique enabler for it on mobile devices. "We're using execution in the cloud to run e-mail applications in an environment where you can do this emulation without waiting for the heat death of the universe for your smart phone to finish," says Maniatis.

CloneCloud could be bedeviled by another issue that prevented earlier research into offloading computation from mobile devices from being commercialized: network latency and bandwidth limitations. "When they did research on this in the late '90s," says Chun, "their wireless connection was a modem, 28.8 kbps. You can imagine that sending data on this connection could take quite a long time." Smart phones now use much faster wireless technologies: Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth, and, eventually, 4G and WiMax. But the speed of the phone's connection and the power consumption required to transmit data may still limit the kinds of tasks for which CloneCloud can be used.

Chun says that network latency can be masked: the phone could guess what the outcome of a particular process might be and proceed until told otherwise, for example. But it's clear that some applications, like games, would require connections faster than those currently available and might rapidly drain a phone's battery.

Ultimately, Chun envisions that the research behind CloneCloud will help intelligently shuffle tasks to the fastest, or most power-efficient, processor in a data center. This application is especially relevant at Intel, which makes everything from the energy-sipping Atom processors used in netbooks to powerful (and power-hungry) Nehalem processors used in Web servers. "There will be a family of heterogeneous devices, and you would like to move the computing job to the one that makes most sense; from that standpoint, it is a great idea," says Knies.

The same approach could someday allow a computing environment to be unshackled from any one particular device. "You could come home and sit down at a mobile Internet device and have it transfer content and calculations to your desktop PC," says Knies. "You could imagine what that would enable in terms of sharing information between devices in the home and the mobile device you have on you all the time."

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