Category: Hardware

TDK is confident of Apple deal

lucas-cranach-the-elder-eve-offering-the-apple-to-adam-in-the-garden-of-eden-c-1520-25-oil-on-wood-detail-of-407328Japanese smartphone bits maker TDK has hinted that it will win some major orders from Apple next year.

Apple likes to keep the names of its manufacturers secret perhaps to keep the illusion that everything was built by Apple.

Company chief executive Takehiro Kamigama said: “Expectations for the next year are high” which seems to suggest that the iPhone will carry more of its high-frequency filters per handset.

There is little new here. Apple is widely believed to be a major client of TDK, although the company has never publicly named it.

TDK has revamped itself into a key smartphone parts supplier, with main products including rechargeable batteries, high-frequency filters that sort out radio signals, and tiny parts called capacitors that control the flow of electricity.

TDK forecasts sales of smartphone-related components to grow to $2.44 billion in the next fiscal year, Kamigama said.

He dismissed concerns that smartphone shipments in China, the world’s largest market, may continue to slow down. “We are confident on increasing our share in rechargeable batteries, because winners in the Chinese handset market are saying they want our batteries,” he said.

Kamigama is betting TDK’s magnetic sensors, which measure the angle in the electric power steering systems and other devices in cars, will draw strong demand.

“We are currently in talks with 40 major automakers and parts suppliers,” he said.

Surface Pro is a sell out

Microsoft-Surface-Pro-42The latest version of Microsoft’s Surface Pro has sold out in five days after it was listed for pre-orders on Vole’s online store.

The new device will be launched in the US on 26 October. Microsoft thinks that initial stocks were sold out because of “strong demand” but the Tame Apple Press insists that they did not make enough in the first place.

Microsoft never revealed the number of units that were available for pre-ordering.

A company spokesman said it will have limited quantities of Surface Books available in store on October 26 and will be updating online availability with new product ship dates soon.

The new Pro is an interesting product because Apple cloned the old model leaving Microsoft free to produce something that cleaned its clock.

The Surface is a hybrid device that works as a tablet and a laptop and has a starting price of $1,499. It runs on the newly-released Windows 10.

In comparison to the latest MacBook Pro lineup, the Surface Book has a 13.5in display with 3000×2000 resolution and comes preloaded with the PixelSense touchscreen technology.

It comes with a Surface Pen and battery life of up to 12 hours. Also, there are features such as facial recognition through Windows Hello and Cortana integration.

Microsoft releases shed-loads of Windows 10 stuff

SurfaceSoftware King of the World Microsoft has shown off a  laptop, a line of Lumia smartphones, a new Surface Pro tablet Microsoft Band, all running on Windows 10.

Microsoft needs Windows 10, launched in July, to help it win a bigger share of the market for tablets and smartphones.

The Surface Book, will start at $1,499 and is twice as fast as Apple’s MacBook Pro. It will be available from October 26, with preorders starting on Wednesday.

The laptop has a 13.5-inch display with 267 pixels per inch and features a track-pad made of gorilla glass.

The company unveiled three phones at an event in New York. The Lumia 950 with a starting price of $549 and the 950XL which will sell for  $649  when they hit the shops in November,. The Lumia 550 will cost $139 when it becomes available in December.

The Lumia 950 includes a 5.2-inch display and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor with hexacore CPUs. The Lumia 950 XL has a 5.7-inch display and a Snapdragon 810 processor with octa-core CPUs. The 550 has a 4.7-inch HD display and runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 210 processor.

The new Surface Pro 4 tablet – a larger but thinner and lighter version of the Surface Pro 3 – is priced at $899 and will be available from Oct. 26 with pre-orders starting on Wednesday.

Launched nearly a year and a half after its predecessor, the Surface Pro 4 features a 12.3-inch screen with 267 pixels per inch. It runs on 6th-generation Intel Core processor and has 16GB of RAM and 1TB storage.

Surface Pro 4 is 50 percent faster than Apple’s MacBook Air, Panos Panay, the corporate vice president for Surface Computing at Microsoft, said at the event.

Top Vole Satya Nadella said:  “We’re moving people from needing to choosing to loving Windows, and these devices promise to fuel even more enthusiasm and opportunity for the entire Windows ecosystem.”

Microsoft suffered its biggest-ever quarterly net loss in the three months ended June 30 after taking a $7.6 billion writedown on its Nokia handset business.

The company had said savings from the restructuring of the business would be pumped into its new flagship operating system, its fast-growing cloud business and its hardware division, which includes Xbox gaming consoles.

Microsoft also said its new tablet and smartphones will come with Windows Hello, an automatic biometric sign-in option introduced earlier this year.

The feature allows users to scan their face, iris or fingerprints to verify their identity and give them access to Windows phones, laptops and personal computers.

Microsoft introduced a Surface Pen, which has year-long battery life, 1,024 pressure points and comes in five colors with inter-changeable pen tips.

The 950 and 950XL handsets feature a 20-megapixel rear camera, have up to 32GB of storage, 4K video and use liquid cooling technology. Microsoft said storage on the phones could be extended to up to 2 terabytes using a memory card.

The Microsoft Band 2, which allows users to monitor their fitness and exercise regime, will be priced at $249 when it becomes available on October 30.

Unlike its predecessor, Microsoft’s entry product in the wearable technology market a year ago, the new Band has a curved display, which uses the Corning Gorilla glass 3, and has a barometer sensor to track elevation.

Microsoft said it was taking applications for a development kit for HoloLens, the holographic lens device that allows users to see 3D renderings of computer-generated images. The kit will be available in the first quarter of 2016 for $3,000.

HoloLens gives Microsoft a stake in the emerging market for virtual and augmented reality, which is also being targeted by Facebook’s Oculus.

 

Heat sinks and fans could go the way of the Dodo

dodo The current method of cooling computers is about to get a rethink.

The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is supporting new research to provide on-chip liquid cooling in field-programmable gate array (FPGA) devices and it looks like the technology could be easily adapted for CPUs and GPUs.

This has the potential to reduce the size of devices, allow for chip stacking, dispense with heat sinks and fans and significantly extend the life-span of chips.

Speaking at the IEEE Custom Integrated Circuits Conference, Thomas Sarvey, from Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) presented the paper with the catchy title “Embedded Cooling Technologies for Densely Integrated Electronic Systems.”

What they managed to do was get rid of the heat sink atop the silicon die by moving liquid cooling just a few hundred microns away from the transistors.

The technique involves cutting microfluidic channels into the die of FPGA devices, which were chosen for the research and trials because of their flexible configuration and extensive use in the military.

This locates the cooling just microns from the problem, and even allows for the possibility of chip-stacking, which very few devices currently have the room or efficiency to achieve, given the necessity to dissipate heat from a central locus of adjacent chips.

The group successfully developed a standard demonstration test, including one for DARPA officials, in which a converted FPGA with bespoke Altera-supplied architecture operated, with no other cooling, at less than 24 degrees Celsius, and was compared to an analogous air-cooled device operating at 60 degrees Celsius.

On-chip liquid cooling also opens up the possibility for a new level of compactness in device design, which frequently has to use available surface space for dissipation purposes.

 

Samsung cuts 10 percent of staff

Looking-for-a-JobKorea’s Economic Daily reported Tuesday that Samsung Electronics Company is preparing to thin staff at their Suwon, South Korea Headquarters by 10 percent. The company reportedly employed 98,999 as of June 30 making the reduction in staff at 10,000 people in round numbers. The layoffs will target human resource, public relations and finance departments – additional expense reductions will continue on into 2016.

Samsung has suffered serious setbacks in its effort to attain market supremacy with their new high-end Galaxy smartphones to the tune of $40 billion in the company’s market value over the last five months. Samsung’s share of global smartphone shipments fell by more than three percent in Q2 and is no longer the top seller in China, the world’s biggest market for mobile phones.

TechEye Take

Samsung has been bleeding on all fronts except the semiconductor division’s memory products. The glut of unsold TV’s backing up in warehouses and now “unmovable” smartphones adding to the woes has forced the company into cutting “non-essential” employees from headquarters staff. The coming Christmas season is expected to give some relief though market conditions in China, Samsung’s biggest market, continue to deteriorate.

Apples annual product announcements tomorrow in San Francisco will most likely add to the company’s list of worries.

Viking Technology and Sony in ReRAM memory mashup

Viking-+-Sony-LogoViking Technology, a Sanmina Company, announced that it  is  collaborating with Sony Corporation to bring ReRAM Storage Class Memory to the NVDIMM market.

“Viking has a strong legacy developing Non-Volatile DIMM (NVDIMM) products over several generations from DDR2 to DDR4,” said Hamid Shokrgozar, President, Viking Technology. “This partnership with Sony solidifies a long term roadmap for our NVDIMM products by utilizing next generation ReRAM Storage Class Memory from Sony. This product roadmap is also very important for our customers, who are deploying this key technology in their next generation computing and storage products. It also sets the stage for future Persistent Memory module solutions not only for Viking but for the enterprise storage and server markets.”

According to the company’s announcement, “The collaboration between the companies launches a significant advance in Storage Class Memory system product development, designed specifically for enterprise computing customers. Sony ReRAM Storage Class Memory delivers performance and endurance that greatly exceeds NAND flash, while simultaneously providing the data non-volatility and module memory capacity desired for persistent applications”.

“We are excited and looking forward to the co-development with Viking Technology on the next generation of NVDIMM products,” said Terushi Shimizu, Senior Vice President and Deputy President of Device Solutions Business Group, Sony Corporation. “At this stage in ReRAM development, we are looking ahead to the implementation of this technology accelerating real-world cloud datacenter applications such as In-Memory Databases and Real Time Analytics. This will prove to be an exciting new chapter in the decade long development of our ReRAM memory technology.”

Non-Volatile DIMMs, often termed NVDIMMs, are designed to deliver high performance, endurance and reliability to next generation servers that are NVDIMM enabled. Traditionally, enterprise applications could not depend on main memory (DRAM) alone because it is volatile (loss of data upon power failure). Therefore, batteries, Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS’s) and techniques such as check-pointing have been used to ensure data durability, but at the cost of performance. NVDIMMs now enable server and storage arrays to utilize persistent memory that delivers both the highest performance and 100 percent data integrity.

The Coming out of ReRAM; a Resistive Memory Family Member

The real eye opener is the strange bedfellows that are making a sudden appearance in what can only be called the “Resistive Memory Rush”. Most in the analyst community expected such a forward thinking announcement to be coming from companies like Samsung, Toshiba and SK Hynix. That it came from Viking and Sony only makes sense if you’ve been immersed in the ruminations of the resistive universe for the last 15 years.

In discussions with Viking over the past several years I’ve asked about how they expected to position the company with the coming advent of In-Memory Database computing – this is their answer.

Of all the companies that have gone from memory modules to SSDs Viking is to date the only company to make the tie-up with a semiconductor supplier of resistive memory with the potential IMDB marketplace. Viking has set their strategy on supplying the IMDB marketplace with what might be called “Storage Class DIMMs” that support legacy DRAM with DDR4 stacked DRAMs coupled with Persistent Storage provided by Sony ReRAMs.

TechEye Take

This announcement, in no small way, adds further credence to the validation of resistive RAM as a key element in systems that will be announced in the next several days and should quiet the naysaying into obscurity.

The downside is the lack of numbers. Intel/Micron hasn’t provided any except comparison numbers but none that could be plugged into an Excel spreadsheet. Stay tuned…,

Flash memory summit 2015 thanks us for the memories

FMS15The tenth annual Flash Memory Summit 2015 opens tomorrow at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. This year’s gathering promises to not only overflow on attendance (up 33% from last year) but also on discovery of Intel/Micron’s recent announcement of 3D XPoint non-volatile memory.

Micron will be holding a special, invitation only, session on the terrace at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara on Wednesday the 12th from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. From what we’ve been able to uncover it appears that the next two weeks are going to be some of the most intense weeks in the company’s history. On Friday the 14th Micron will be convening their Summer Analyst Conference at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel beginning at the crisp hour of 8:00 AM. The company had to squeeze in their Summer Analyst Conference before more breaking news fulminating from Intel’s Developer Forum 2015 being held the following week at San Francisco’s Moscone Center West. Intel/Micron plan to further expose the world to a number of new ground breaking developments resulting from the two companies continued technology partnership – Intel Micron Flash Technology (IMFT).

There’s also this persistent rumor that an important tech company has rented the Buena Vista Center for the Performing Arts for a major announcement. Who it is and what they plan to announce has become the sport of speculators. Some are leaning toward Apple while others are laying odds on Microsoft. Will this rumor live up to anything valid? Stay tuned.

3D XPoint (3D Crosspoint Memory)

Intel/Micron’s announcement two weeks ago caused a major stir even though the event has been on Micron’s technology roadmap for the last several years. Both Samsung and SK Hynix were taken aback when they learned that the product will be in production in the fourth quarter of this year. They didn’t expect production of Storage Class Memory (SCM) also known as Persistent Memory (especially if you work the Intel side of the equation) to begin until 2017 at the earliest.

3D XPoint memory is 1,000 times faster, has 1,000 times more endurance than NAND and is 10 times denser than DRAM. It is the first new class of non-volatile memory to enter the market in 25 years. This is upsetting a goodly amount of status quo.

3D XPoint technology, though clearly indicated on Micron’s corporate roadmap, remained a well-kept secret by Intel/Micron. For those that follow such things this was illustrated by the fact that neither company participated in any of the usual technology forums reporting on the subject. Adding to the mystery, researchers associated with IMEC, the foremost semiconductor research center in Europe suddenly shifted investigations over to ReRAM and RRAM beginning in February of this Year. Collectively these events are seen as signatory markers indicating an undisclosed agreement among researchers that the technology path has now become perfectly clear.

Intel/Micron also stated that they have no plan to license the technology. The two companies will build more factories if the demand merits it. The news that they weren’t planning to play the commodity game with their new technology produced some pretty interesting reactions. The Korean producers, who have been literally caught with their pants down, are in a mad scramble to recover. This is not to say a company like Samsung doesn’t have the ability to cover this, it’s just that Intel/Micron may have just gotten lucky – they repeated that the technology concerns a “bulk change of the material” which has the entire research community outside of Intel/Micron spiked in conversation over it. One interesting tidbit is that Micron has been filing patent wrappers referring to the memory element as a “Programmable Conductive RAM”, which confused many as phase-change which it isn’t.

Confused yet? Don’t worry – everybody else is too.

Intel, on their 3D Xpoint page makes the following statements;

“This new class of non-volatile memory is a revolutionary technology that allows for quick access to enormous data sets and enables entirely new applications.”

And

 “For example, retailers may use 3D XPoint technology to more quickly identify fraud detection patterns in financial transactions; healthcare researchers could process and analyze larger data sets in real time, accelerating complex tasks such as genetic analysis and disease tracking”.

Both indicate the new memory is directed toward In-Memory Database applications expanding the memory capacity of Xeon class servers to ~64 Terabytes of accessible memory shared between DDR4 DRAM and 3D XPoint. According to one source “these statements make it clear that Intel’s intentions are solving the “Big Data” problem in the “In-Memory Database server segment with the new technology. All that’s left is for the hardware to roll out along with glowing endorsements from the usual list of suspects”.

TechEye Take

The Intel/Micron 3D XPoint announcement was somewhat rushed indicating that all the right things fell in place just in time to enable the two companies to pre-announce prior to the Flash Memory Summit and the Intel Developer Forum.

That the technology happens to fit nicely into the IMDB solution set is not happenstance – this is the result of a long and arduous planning process coupled with what appears to have been a long period of research and development to obtain a ‘Goldilocks” formulaic – just right to enable the 3D XPoint technology.

Intel captures a solid Tier1 order book for their high margin devices and both companies will be providing XPoint memory enabled DIMMs to fill up those 64 Terabyte servers. This is what their competition is really upset over, the loss of technological face in full view of the customer.

Of course there is much, much more but that’s the top of the headlines list – and the line-up of shows begins this week at the Flash Memory Summit.

Intel-Micron announce 3D XPoint SCM technology

What-is-3D-XPointIntel and Micron announced their jointly developed 3D XPoint technology at an analyst meeting today in Santa Clara, California.

Rob Crooke, Senior VP & GM of the Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) Solutions Group, Intel Corporation and Mark Durcan, CEO Micron Technology took the stage to present the jointly developed 3D XPoint memory technology. The 300 mm wafer shown in the presentation was produced at Micron’s Lehi, Utah fab. The new devices are debuting as 128Gb, 2 Layer, Byte Addressable devices that use “bulk material property change” process – availability is limited to what’s “in (joint) production facility today” though 2016 was stated by Durcan.

The 3D XPoint technology is 1,000 times faster than Flash, 1,000 times the duration of Flash and 10 times the density of DRAM.

The new technology has been widely circulating as “Persistent Memory” and “Storage Class Memory” until now and has been widely speculated upon. One interesting quote, “no other competitors have the technology” indicates that Intel-Micron has scooped their competition in the cloud access storage marketplace.


3D XPoint Innovations

Cross Point Array Structure
Perpendicular conductors connect 128 billion densely packed memory cells. Each memory cell stores a single bit of data. This compact structure results in high performance and high density.

Stackable
The initial technology stores 128Gb per die across two stacked memory layers. Future generations of this technology can increase the number of memory layers and/or use traditional lithographic pitch scaling to increase die capacity.

Selector
Memory cells are accessed and written or read by varying the amount of voltage sent to each selector. This eliminates the need for transistors, increasing capacity and reducing cost.

Fast Switching Cell
With a small cell size, fast switching selector, low-latency cross point array, and fast write algorithm, the cell is able to switch states faster than any existing nonvolatile memory technologies today.

Fast Switching Cell
With a small cell size, fast switching selector, low-latency cross point array, and fast write algorithm, the cell is able to switch states faster than any existing nonvolatile memory technologies today.

Byte Addressable Data
3D Xpoint technology allows data to be directly addressed at the byte level. Access to DRAM and 3D Xpoint memory uses the same addressing model greatly simplifying the CPU interface to data and enables Near Data Processing within an In-Memory Database system.

TechEye Take

This announcement was evidently rushed in order to beat the pre Flash Memory Summit press announcements next week – and they “blew the socks off the competition” according to one analyst source. Over 100 engineers have been involved in these well camouflaged developments which indicate the companies have spent in the billions of dollars on this program. Oh, and 3D Xpoint use Micron’s planar process indicating that the technology is near term to production. There is no mention made of TSV stacking but from all indications this technology will enter the market as stacked devices. From what we can ascertain this technology is in “rollout” – we expect production volumes ramping much sooner than might usually be expected. 

The “bulk material property change” provides no indication about process details. Connecting the memory elements with their bit-lines remains unclear – whether it’s a diode switching element or an Ovonic Switch remains to be revealed. In fact all the good questions remain unanswered – more fodder for later.

Samsung SSD TRIMs data

Samsung-SSD-ActivatedSamsung may have inadvertently trimmed their sales. A story on StorageServers yesterday suggests that Samsung’s SSDs “could be wiping data” due to the SSD Controller’s improper functioning of the TRIM command.

The TRIM command allows the Operating System to inform a Solid State Drive which blocks of data are no longer considered in use and can be erased. The Trim command was introduced soon after SSDs started to become an affordable alternative to traditional hard disks.

Because low-level operation of SSDs differs significantly from hard drives, the typical way in which operating systems handle operations like deletes and formats resulted in unanticipated progressive performance degradation of write operations on SSDs.
Trimming enables the SSD to handle garbage collection overhead, which would otherwise significantly slow down future write operations.

According to StorageServers, an engineer with Algolia claimed to have discovered the bug in the way in which the drive reallocates blocks of data. Instead of zeroing areas which contain previously deleted data as they are supposed to, the drives appear to be deleting 512 byte blocks in “random locations on the drive” resulting in corruption of large file systems and near total erasure of small files. Hope of recovering the data was reported as “a tedious task” at best.

Samsung SSD models confirmed with the problem are:

  • Samsung MZ7WD480HCGM-00003(SM843TN)
  • Samsung MZ7GE480HMHP-00003(PM853T)
  • Samsung MZ7GE240HMGR-00003(PM853T)
  • Samsung SSD 840 PRO Series
  • Samsung SSD 850 PRO 512GB

Samsung recently issued a firmware update to fix problems with the 840 EVO SSD which exhibited slow read speeds. A new team has been assigned to look into the TRIM data erasure/corruption problem and will be issuing an update shortly.

TechEye Take

Samsung does not like stains like this and will break out the reserves to not only fix the problem but also ensure that it does not re-occur.

We are trying to find out whether any of the affected drives contain any of Samsung’s 3D NAND-Flash devices.  They are not indicated as having any part in the reported problem.

It will be interesting to see whether this will have a positive effect on their competitors ‘share price on Monday’s market open…,

Huawei makes bid for internet of things

William Xu, HuaweiTelecomms giant Huawei has decided to enter the internet of things (IoT) game and has announced an operating system it believes can unite the world of disparate devices.

Huawei showed off the Agile IoT plan, whih includes an OS called LiteOS. William Xu, chief strategy officer at Huawei (pictured) kicked off the concept at a Huawei conference in Beijing.

There are no standards for the internet of things as TechEye has repeatedly pointed out, and big players such as IBM, Apple, Intel and others believe they can dominate the connection game.

But Huawei says its operating system will be a free and open standard and that will help push vendors to create devices that can communicate with each other.

Huawei believes that in 10 years time a 100 billion connections will be generated with two million new sensors deployed every hour.

The Agile platform contains not just LiteOS, but an IoT gateway and a controller.

LiteOS only takes up 10KB of memory, and supports zero configuration, auto discovery and auto networking.

Huawei will have to convince other vendors in the chain to adopt LiteOS to have any chance of becoming the global standard. But Lu Shaowei, president of switch and enterprise products at the company said it’s already been talking to other industry players.