Tag: Chrome OS

Chromebit hits the shops

dsc04016Google and ASUS’s $85 computer in a stick is officially in the shops.

Chromebit is a full Chrome OS-based computer on an HDMI stick all you need to do is find a TV with an HDMI port to plug it into.

It comes with 16GB of onboard storage (in the form of relatively cheap and slow eMMC storage and 2GB of RAM.

It has a dedicated charger, but unlike the Chromecast, it also features a USB port. The Rockchip-based Chromebit comes in “Cacao Black” and “Tangerine Orange”.

You can connect to it to a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard although the USB port allows you to plug in wired peripherals too.

As a full Chrome OS machine, you can pretty much run any web app on it. So that means movies and TV shows from Google Play, Netflix or Hulu. But its main use is as a computer which only uses web apps. It could also turn any modern screen into a single-app kiosk in a hotel or store, for example.

Of course it is not the fastest but the quad-core Rockchip SoC is perfectly usable.

Chromebook sales set to soar

windows-10-start-menu-customised-live-tilesWho needs a Windows notebook? That must be a question that is rattling Microsoft as it gears up to the introduction of Windows 10.

And a report from Gartner underlines that uncomfortable fact for Microsoft, because it seems that worldwide Chromebook sales will hit 7.3 million units this year.

While education is the main market for Chromebooks and accounted for 72 percent of sales in 2014, it looks like other people are voting with their wallets.

While Isabelle Durand, a principal analyst at Gartner, said sals of Chromebooks are low, although small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are buying the kit, it’s likely that enterprises will prick up their ears in the future.

Durand said that Google is looking hard at the business segment, particularly with its Chromebook for Work office applications.

Durand said: “Chromebooks will become a valid device choice for employees as enterprises seek to provide simple, secure, low cost and easy to manage access to new web applications and legacy systems, unless a specific application forces a Windows decision.”

She said most Chromebook people are “tech savvy” and they buy one as a companion device to their existing PC. But, increasingly, people are buying Chromebooks as a low cost PC alternative.

She said that most Chromebooks were sold in the USA last year – an 84 percent share.

Vendors doing well are Acer, and Samsung was in second place. HP, a late entrant, is in number three position.

Intel hopes for a netbook zombie apocalypse

Five years ago the market was abuzz with talk of cheap netbooks based on Intel’s Atom processors and AMD’s upcoming low-end APUs. Then Steve Jobs took to the stage with the first iPad in tow and the rest is history – netbooks died out faster than any PC form factor in recent history.

However, the basic concept never really went away. Although Intel lost interest in doing cheap netbooks and ultraportables (if it ever had any interest to begin with), AMD stepped up with a couple of cheap APUs. Intel netbooks were killed off, but slightly bigger 11.6-designs are still around, based on AMD and Intel silicon. Google also joined the fun with Chromebooks and they are taking off slowly. 

Netbooks weren’t a bad idea, but neither Intel nor Microsoft seemed too interested in actually coming up with good platforms. There were too many hardware limitations and netbooks never offered anything really new or revolutionary – they were just small, underpowered notebooks. 

Now we’re seeing an interesting trend. Redmond botched the Windows RT rollout and Windows 8 never caught on as a tablet OS. Intel on the other hand is rolling out new Bay Trail chips, with a lot more muscle than Atoms of yesteryear, but with much higher efficiency. Intel is now talking up 2-in-1 designs and other form factors that practically look like the natural extension of netbook evolution.

Asus recently launched a Windows 8.1 tablet with a keyboard dock for just $349. It’s the first such machine – a Windows 8.1 tablet on the cheap, with a proper keyboard to boot, but it’s by no means the last one. New designs from big PC players are on the way and they are bound to be cheap. Several companies have already rolled out 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablets and $299 seems to be the sweet spot, so these hybrid designs should end up priced anywhere from $349 to $449 – cheaper than an iPad, but more expensive than cheap Android tablets. 

Chromebooks are an interesting development, too. Although they lack the x86 legacy appeal of cheap Bay Trail gear, they appear to be selling quite well. Acer, HP and Samsung already have a few designs each and they are going for $249 to $399 – somewhat cheaper than what a full size Bay Trail tablet should cost. Lenovo recently launched the IdeaPad 10, a cheap Android netbook, although we’re not sure it has much mainstream appeal. Gateway launched a 10.1-inch Windows 8 netbook for $329 and the new Asus F102 is also a 10-inch netbook with a €299 price tag, with an AMD APU running the show.

So what’s going on here? 

Well, touchscreens are dirt cheap and so are 10-inch panels, yet Windows 8.1 is becoming a viable OS for cheap ultraportables and tablets, thanks to Intel’s Bay Trail and AMD Jaguar parts. Although netbooks are dead, quasi-netbooks are starting to make sense again, especially for players who did not roll out Chromebooks of their own. Convertible tablets like the Asus T100TA seem to offer the best of both worlds – an ultraportable Windows 8.1 notebook that’s also a tablet on the cheap. It all makes us wonder what would have been had Intel and Microsoft taken netbooks seriously five years ago.

Intel announces Bay Trail tablet CPU, part two

[Part one is here]

Kirk Skaugen, senior VP General Manager PC Client Group at Intel took over in the second half of Wednesday’s IDF Keynote presentation. He began talking about the “2 in 1” computing platform. That raises the question: Have Ultrabooks slipped off Intel’s road map just when HP is announcing its HP ZBook 14 Ultra Workstation?

Kirk Skaugen


Perhaps they are simply not selling in the volume predicted at a couple past IDFs when Ultrabooks were announced? Skaugen put it this way: “Now we’ve stopped counting [OEM designs], and assumed that the entire world has gone thin”. He added that more than 40 percent of all Core notebooks have been designed with touch. Seventy percent of today’s Ultrabooks are touch-enabled, on the way to 100 percent touch later this year.

Skaugen said by this year’s holidays, the 2-in-1 form factor will be selling in the $999 down to $349 price range. He said that by the year’s end, there will be 60 2-in-1 devices in that future marketplace. Examples he showed were the Sony Duo 13-inch slider, the Dell XP 11, the Sony detachable – which only weighs 780 grams and handles both wired and wireless, and the Dell XP 12, which is a flip screen. An application from CyberLink will be provided on Haswell machines by the end of the year to energise content creation.

Skaugen handed over to Tami Reeler, Microsoft VP who discussed the Windows 8.1 released to developers. There was the usual sales story about how wonderful Windows 8 is.

In August, Windows 8 had the highest demand and sales, which was probably prompted by the back to school movement. She discussed Windows XP and its end of support in April 2014. She also claimed that “three quarters of the corporate users have moved to a modern Windows from Windows XP” – but she didn’t specify whether they were using Windows 7 or Windows 8.x.

Tami Reeler talks Windows 8 with Kirk Skaugen

Intel says that it has the business community handled with fourth generation core CPUs, SST Pro 1500 SSD, location-based security in the enterprise, and its new Pro-WiDI plus password free VPN connections – which got a round of applause from the audience.

Mario Müller, VP of IT Infrastructure at BMW, was next to join Kirk Skaugen on stage. There was some banter about a new BMW for everybody in the audience. Müller said that 55,000 of its 120,000 employees will be getting core i5 computers, but none of the audience will be receiving a BMW, unfortunately.

Mario Müller and Kirk Skaugen discussing new BMW i8 Plug-In Hybrid Sports Car 

Skaugen returned to topic saying that Bay Trail has 140 design wins and it runs all operating systems faster – Android, iOS, Chrome, and Linux. He talked about the Cinnabar benchmark using the fourth generation Broadwell 14 nm CPU. The chips will include AVX 3.2, DDR4 and PCI Express 4.0 support among their improved feature set.

Bay Trail SoCs are aimed at tablets and convertibles with screen sizes priced at $599 or below and will ship in tablets running Windows 8 and Android, ranging down to below $100 in price. When Chinese tablet OEMs start selling $100 price point 7-inch tablets with Bay Trail inside, then Intel will have to be taken very seriously by the ARM and MIPS partners.

Sony Duo slider as a tablet 

The discussions turned towards 3D. By Q2 2014, Intel predicts there will be collaboration over a 3D camera specification that will be implemented into Ultrabooks. We were told that Intel has had high numbers of downloads for its 3D SDK. It has the $100,000,000 Experience  and the Perceptual Computing Fund to work with.

Skaugen showed a 2D/3D camera that fits into the bezel of an Ultrabook. He gave an example of 3D functionality with a video showing children playing with an Ultrabook which had a 3D camera installed. Their expressions were of surprised joy.

3D developers should be glad to know that Project Anarchy is a free 3D game production engine and is ready to be downloaded and used.

Gonzague de Vallois, VP Sales and Marketing for Gameloft, showed off the company’s latest Android 3D auto racing game, referred to as Asphalt 8: Airborne, which takes advantage of Bay Trail and 3D graphics. At $4.99 it’s pretty affordable.

Gameloft’s Asphalt 8, for Android

Sundar Pichai, Senior VP Android Chrome & Apps at Google talked about the just-introduced Haswell CPU Chromebook and its stunning performance, extended battery life, and 3D capabilities. He also presented Doug Fisher from Intel’s Software and Services Group with an official Google Beanie cap – what a new hire at Google wears for their first days. After Pichai left the stage, Fisher said something about ‘that is a give away’.

Sundar Pichai gives Doug Fisher a Google Beanie

Over 1,000 Intel engineers are working on Google Android and Chrome.

Research firm NPD says Chromebooks represent 20-25 percent of the $300-or-less computer segment. Clearly, Intel has embraced Google’s Android and Chrome operating systems as a target market to put a lot of “Intel Inside”. 

Intel announces Bay Trail tablet CPU: Part One

Wednesday’s IDF Keynote started by asking the audience to stand for a moment of silence in remembrance of lives lost on 9-11 in 2001. From there, it was business as usual with product hype and promises of future success.

Intel seems to be spotlighting health. It opened with a feel-good video of Jack Andraka, child prodigy and biology whiz. Andraka is a high school sophomore who won the youth achievement Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in December 2012 for inventing a new method to detect a lethal form of pancreatic cancer.

From there, Intel moved into its theme of “The Internet of Things.” One thing that aroused curiosity was a dull white plastic wristband on every seat. It became an attention-getter later in the programme. In the meantime, everyone got a shot at the podium to talk about their pet project.

Doug Fisher, VP General Manager Software and Services Group, gave a few brief remarks, then introduced Dr. Herman Eul, VP General Manager Mobile and Communications Group. He started off with a video about MTV and Intel getting together to improve the audience’s experience because they do not really understand how wireless works, and what are its limitations.

Eul said the goal is to make the mobile platform smarter, the CPU more powerful, and the imaging performance better. He did a brief introduction of “Bay Trail,” the next-generation Atom Z3000 ,  focusing on it being used as a gaming platform. He showed that it is capable of running Windows – which is called heavy legacy software – or running Android OS, Apple OS, Chrome OS, or Linux OS. Bay Trail is a 64-bit processor, built using Intel’s Silvermont 22nm micro-architecture. There will be six variants of the chip available – with dual and quad-core configurations. Clock speeds will range from 1.8GHz to 2.4GHz.

Bay Trail’s Hardware and Software supports:  

  • Windows (32/64-bit) and/or Android and/or Chrome
  • Displays resolutions up to 2500 x 1600 (Retina display)
  • Dual independent displays
  • Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) technology
  • Up to 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM
  • USB 3, HDMI, Displayport, SD card, NFC, 4G, Wi-Fi, GPS
  • X 11, Open GL 3.0 graphics
  • Up to 13MP camera on the rear with Zero shutter lag, burst mode, digital video stabilization, 1080p recording at 60FPS and up to 2MP on the front.

Eul then brought Victoria Molina on stage, a fashion industry consultant and former executive for Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, and the Gap, who explained her virtual shopping experience application. They developed it using the Intel Android SDK in about a week  – but gave no information on the experience level of their programmers.

Molina said the most important part of this application is the fit map, an important factor in making the apparel attractive on the wearer, to attain a “cool” outcome. The application uses an avatar based around the person’s measurements, height and weight, and a facial photograph. The shopper goes out to the web site where they want to shop and chooses the clothing to virtually try on before purchasing. Next, the website pulls up sample clothing from their product lines.

After you build your ensemble of clothing, then you can adjust the clothing so the fit is tight, medium, or loose. After deciding on your look, you go through the “Cat Walk” show-n-tell process. That means the avatar is dressed with each one of the outfits in the size and drape you want and it looks like you are a model on a fashion show runway. Molina said, “This will revolutionise the online shopping experience. Because of the huge “cool factor”.

Next, Intel focused on a Bay Trail small-form-factor tablet running and editing videos. Eul invited Jerry Shen, chief executive of Asus, to introduce its T100, a 2-in-1 Bay Trail notebook with over ten hours of battery life. “We are very excited about the Bay Trail quad-core promise,” Shen said.

Asus is more optimistic than Intel regarding battery longevity. Intel claims Bay Trail tablets could weigh as little 14.1 ounces and offer more than eight hours of battery life when the users are watching high-definition video.

Neil Hand, Dell’s VP of Tablets, showed its  Venue 8-inch, Windows 8.1, Bay Trail tablet that is going to be shipping soon. He said it has 4G LTE.
Eul talked briefly about upcoming Merryfield, a 22nm SoC which is build on the Silvermont architecture specifically for smartphones. We were told that Airmont, a 14nm process engineering SoC with all the features of Bay Trail for tablets, is on schedule for Q3 2014 release.

Finally, Eul satisfied our curiosity by showing his audio DJ idea which activated those dull white plastic bracelets that were sitting on each chair. A video was projected onto the giant screens in the auditorium showing the Keynote audience and the wristbands lighting up in synch with Eul’s music.

The presentation took another turn with Kirk Skaugen, Senior VP General Manager PC Client Group at Intel which will be covered in part two.

AMD takes another look at Android, Chrome

With the lukewarm reception of Windows 8, chipmakers are starting to elsewhere and even ultra-conservative AMD wants to keep its options open. The company is looking into Android and Chrome OS, more specifically into tablets and low-end clamshells. 

AMD made it clear that it is interested in Android months ago. Intel is already starting to get the first high-profile design wins in the Android space and Nvidia has created an all-new business around the Tegra SoC. Unlike Nvidia, it doesn’t seem like AMD will design consumer application processor based on the ARM architecture, at least for now. 

In a chat with PC World, AMD senior VP and general manager of global business units said AMD is “expanding its OS options” as it designs new x86 and ARM chips. The first crop of AMD’s ARM chips will be aimed at microservers rather than consumer products. In addition, AMD is expanding its custom chip business, which could benefit from the flexibility of Android and Chrome.

“We are very committed to Windows 8; we think it’s a great operating system, but we also see a market for Android and Chrome developing as well,” Su told PC World.

One of the first chips that comes to mind is Temash, AMD’s tablet centric implementation of the new Jaguar core. The first products based on the new SoC were showcased at Computex, but it is still unclear how many design wins AMD can score in the already overcrowded SoC market.

For the time being, vendors seem to be focused on Windows 8 tablets based on Temash, not Chrome or Android gear. However, that could change in a heartbeat. 

Google's cloud is wide open

While Google is touting that its cloud-based services are more secure than any other computer method, security experts are saying that’s rubbish.

Matt Johansen, a researcher with WhiteHat Security, found a flaw in a Chrome OS note-taking application and used it to take control of a Google email account. He reported it to Google, which fixed the problem and gave him a $1000 reward for pointing it out, but Johanson said that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

He claims that there will be a whole new field of malware developed to mine web-centric software.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, he said that the secret to hacking Chrome OS is to capture data as it travels between the Chrome browser and the cloud. Until now hackers have targeted data that sits on a machine’s hard drive.

He said that if hackers can get at your online banking or your Facebook profile, or your email as it is being loaded in the browser, they could not care less what’s on the hard drive.

Johansen found the same bug that he had told Google about on several other applications and they will be telling the world about them at the Black Hat conference.

Mostly they are “extensions”, which users download from the Google Chrome Web Store and run inside browsers

Chrome OS extensions are written by independent software developers. The Google Chrome OS gives extensions sweeping rights to access data stored on the cloud.

He said that Chrome trusted extensions more than it would be trusting just another website.

It means that Google has to clamp down on extensions and test them before clearing them for the Chrome Web Store. 

Google goes nuts about Chrome OS laptops

Google has given us a look at its new Chrome OS laptop, with the company’s head honcho describing it as the Network Computer devices that he was pitching while chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems 13 years ago.

According to Google the new laptops will use the operating-system software that is based largely on Google’s Chrome Web browser and are designed primarily to run Web-based applications. This, it seems, is because Google hopes to shift software development away from applications that use Windows.

And Eric Schmidt is confident that the idea will take off, claiming that the Web-based development tools used to build programs for Chrome OS have had had years to mature. “Our instincts were right… but we didn’t have the tools,” he said of the computer industry’s failure to make lightweight computers that could compete with Microsoft Windows in the enterprise.

He said he was also confident that businesses will now buy computers that can’t run programs such as Word or Excel.

According to Digitimes, Inventec has already confirmed that it has shipped about 60,000 Chrome OS-based netbooks to Google, which are expected to be used for testing.

Acer, which is tipped along with Samsung to be the first to manufacturer the laptops,  has cooperated with Quanta Computer to develop a 10.1-inch Atom N550-based Chrome OS netbook, featuring both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules.

In a blog post  Linus Upson, VP Engineering and Sundar Pichai, VP Product Management described how the laptop would work.  

“The test notebooks exist only to test the software—they are black, have no branding, no logos, no stickers, nothing,” they wrote.

“They do have 12.1 inch screens, full-sized keyboards and touch pads, integrated 3G from Verizon, eight hours of battery life and eight days of standby time. Chrome notebooks are designed to reach the web instantly, are easy to share among friends and family, and simply by logging in, all of your apps, bookmarks and other browser settings are there. Setting up a new machine takes less than a minute. And even at this early stage, we feel there is no consumer or business operating system that is more secure.”

It has also been designed to run software over the network. Java has also been replaced and developers can use the same Web development tools they’ve been working with for years.

Dell to adopt Chrome OS on laptops

Dell is to deepen its growing relationship with Google by adopting the latter’s Chrome OS on a new range of Dell laptops, reports Pocket-lint.

Google is planning to release its web-based operating system some time in Autumn this year and Dell is in negotiations with the giant to be one of the first laptop manufacturers to house what some are touting as the new rival to Windows.

In an interview with Reuters, Amit Midha, president of Greater China and South Asia at Dell, said: “We have to have a point of view on the industry and technology direction two years, three years down the road, so we continuously work with Google on this.”

Dell has already partnered up with Google by offering the Android OS on its Streak tablet, its competitor to Apple’s highly successful iPad. There are growing rumours that it may be dropping its partnership with Microsoft for Google, but while Chrome will see success, it seems more likely to us that Dell will offer both platforms and look for more profitable deals with either party as the competition grows stronger.

“There are going to be unique innovations coming up in the marketplace in two, three years, with a new form of computing, we want to be on that forefront,” Midha waffled. “So with Chrome or Android or anything like that we want to be one of the leaders.”

HP to buy Phoenix's Linux OS for $12 million

Hewlett-Packard is to buy a Linux-based operating system from Pheonix Technologies for $12 million.

The quick-boot Linux OS, called HyperSpace, is similar to Google’s upcoming Chrome OS, as it has shaved off all the excess to deliver a fast boot speed so users can immediately jump on the web. HyperSpace can load within a couple of seconds, compared to between 30 seconds and several minutes for a Windows operating system.

HP is also set to buy assets relating to HyperCore, an embedded hypervisor that allows the Linux-based OS to run limited core services alongside Windows, reports TechWorld.

HP already has a large Linux portfolio, including Palm’s Linux-based WebOS, which HP grabbed by buying out Palm for $1.2 billion, an announcement that came in April of this year.

HP also already has a quick-boot OS called QuickWeb on a number of its netbooks and laptops, which allows users to hit a button on their device to get on the web within 20 seconds. HP is keeping tight-lipped on what it’s planning to use HyperSpace for, but potentially it could be a speedier replacement for QuickWeb.

This may cause problems for the uneasy relationship between HP and Microsoft. The latter may not be too happy with HP’s increasing portfolio of operating systems, which could be seen as a direct challenge to Microsoft’s Windows franchise. While HP is unlikely to topple the Vole any time soon the demand for speedy access to the net may see people ditching Windows on their netbooks for Chrome OS or HP’s new HyperCore.

The deal should close by the end of the month.