Acer and Lenovo Rumored to be Working on Intel Powered Windows 8 Tablets

Windows-8Digitimes has learned from its sources that Acer and Lenovo are preparing to launch Windows 8 tablets in the third quarter of 2012. Windows 8 will hit public beta in February, and is widely expected to reach RTM stage by May. With Windows 8, Microsoft is hoping to finally have a platform capable of taking on iOS in the tablet segment. Windows 8 merges the classical Windows desktop with a full-screen, touch optimized Metro UI, and will power everything from tablets and laptops to traditional desktop PCs.

Although Windows 8 is capable of running on the ARM platform, Acer and Lenovo plan on using Intel’s next generation Clover Trail platform for their tablets. As of now, Intel is getting clobbered in the mobile computing segment by ARM, which offers superior performance and power saving. Intel is expected to mount its first serious challenge with Medfield and Clover Trail, which will probably be out by Q3 of 2011. Intel will be demoing smartphones and tablets powered by its new mobile processors at CES 2012.

While the combination of Intel and Windows 8 is expected to offer previously unseen levels of performance and flexibility, the real test for Intel will be power efficiency. Even as mobile computing technology has continued to improve in leaps and bounds, the battery technology has remained practically stagnant. As a result, most mobile devices struggle to cope up with the demands of high speed 3G and 4G data networks and dual-core CPUs.

Acer Working on Budget Ultrabook Priced at $699

According to a new report by Digitimes, Acer is working on a new 15 inch ultrabook, which will be priced at around $699. Taiwan based Pegatron Technoloy will manufacture the new budget ultrabook for Acer.

Ultrabooks are slim, light, yet powerful notebooks which offer much greater battery life than traditional notebooks. They are modeled after the Apple Macbook Air, and come with SSD storage and no optical drive.

Recently, there has been a relative slowdown in notebook shipments due to the growing popularity of tablets. Intel is spearheading the ultrabook effort partly to make notebooks cool again, and also because of the resounding success of the Macbook Air.

Acer, Asus and Toshiba recently launched their ultrabooks, but almost all of them have been priced higher than $1000, which is much higher than the average notebook.

Intel is reportedly offering a marketing subsidy to each ultrabook manufacturer to bring ultrabook prices down to $600 and spur sales.

With the launch of Windows 8 in 2012, ultrabooks could see a surge in sales. Rumors suggest that all major notebook manufacturers are working on touchscreen ultrabooks, which could act as a tablet, and would be perfectly suited for Windows 8 with the Metro UI.

If Acer is able to launch a $699 ultrabook soon, it could get a significant headstart over its competitors, unless they are working on budget ultrabooks too. In any case, the customer wins.

Intel’s Future Depends on the Success of Ultrabooks

Intel, which has been unable to crack the mobile processor market yet, has been betting on ultrabooks, to revive notebook sales which have been slowing down, and also steal the limelight away from tablets, which have seen sales explode in the past year. In August, its venture capital arm, Intel Capital started the $300 million Ultrabook Fund to encourage manufacturers to invest in the research and development of ultrabooks.

UltrabookIts efforts seem to have bore fruit. Most major notebook manufacturers have either launched ultrabooks, or are working on them. Lenovo, HP, Dell are reportedly planning to launch ultrabooks soon. Samsung has announced its intentions to ditch the netbook business, and focus on ultrabooks completely.

Acer, Asus and Toshiba recently launched their ultrabooks, but none of them have been able to make much of an impact, as they don’t offer any significant price advantage over the MacBook Air.

For ultrabooks to go mass-market, they must first become much cheaper than they currently are. Most manufacturers are trying to bring down costs to below $1000, which is proving to be difficult due to the high cost of processors and SSDs.

A report by Digitimes says that ultrabook prices may drop by 5-10% in Q1 2012. Intel is reportedly offering a $100 marketing subsidy for every ultrabook to some manufacturers llike Acer, Asus and Toshiba, and also helping them with their marketing efforts in a bid to make ultrabooks popular.

Analysts expect ultrabooks to be available for $600-$800 in 2012. The launch of Windows 8 in mid-2012 could also lead to a boost in ultrabook sales.

With the smartphone and tablet market being almost completely dominated by ARM, and the PC market shrinking, the ultrabook market seems to be the only source of hope for Intel’s topline growth.

How Apple’s iPad Disrupted an Entire Industry

“The Enlarged iPod Touch”

When Apple unveiled the iPad in January 2010, the first reaction from most of us was one of ridicule. “It’s only a bigger iPhone / iPod Touch” is what I first thought. In a way, I was right, but the iPad was much more for most of its target user base.

It was a huge hit; Apple has sold more than 40 million iPads to date, generating more than $25 billion in revenue from its tablet business. It revived the almost dead tablet industry, which many had tried and failed to do before. Scores of Android tablets have been launched since the iPad’s launch, but most of them have failed miserably. Android for tablets – Honeycomb – was a major disappointment. Other tablet platforms did even worse. HP was forced to discontinue webOS as no one wanted to buy the HP TouchPad, not at the price it was originally launched at. Even the Blackberry Playbook by RIM has been a failure.

With the iPad, Apple has offered the best tablet experience, at a surprisingly (by Apple standards) low price. For an entire year, no one was able to beat Apple on price, which enabled Apple to capture a majority market share in the exploding tablet market with virtually no serious competition.

The Winners and the Losers

Apple has been the obvious winner, ringing up billions of dollars in sales, thanks to the iPad.

ARM has been another major winner. With the iPhone in 2007, and the iPad in 2010, Apple redefined two industries – smartphones and tablets. Even the standard smartphones and tablets available these days are much more powerful than the average computer was a decade ago. We now have quad-core tablets and dual-core smartphones, all of which have one common factor – ARM.

Most desktop and notebook processors are based on the X86 architecture, and are made by Intel. However, Intel’s chips have traditionally been power guzzlers, which is something you absolutely don’t want in any mobile device.

Almost every mobile chip is based on ARM’s reference designs, and manufactured by Qualcomm, Nvidia or Texas Instruments. Intel hasn’t yet been able to crack the mobile processor market. Its Atom processors failed miserably when it came to efficient power consumption and performance. It’s working on a new set of processors for tablets, and is trying to push the Ultrabook onto consumers, as an alternative to tablets. It even launched a $300 million fund to encourage manufacturers to build ultrabooks.

Apple iPad

Microsoft has been another casualty of the tablet revolution. It was late to the smartphone party with Windows Phone, and won’t be launching Windows 8 until mid-2012, leaving the market open for Apple and Google to conquer.

It has also been affected indirectly by the growing popularity of tablets. Desktop sales in the last couple years have almost plateaued, and even notebook sales have slowed down considerably.

As Windows sales account for a major portion of Microsoft’s revenues, and are directly linked to global desktop and notebook sales, Microsoft has seen a slump in its revenue growth in the past few quarters, which is expected to continue until the launch of Windows 8, which will run on tablets as well as computers.

According to a recent report by Bloomberg, even DRAM manufacturers have been facing losses as sales have decreased in lockstep with notebook sales.

On the other hand, flash memory manufacturers like Samsung have seen a jump in revenue, as flash memory is being increasingly used in tablets, smartphones and notebooks (thanks to the popularity of the MacBook Air, many notebook manufacturers have starting using SSDs).

Tablets may very well be the future of computing. Desktops are almost dead, and notebooks are becoming more and more like tablets – increasingly slim, portable and fast with flash storage and excellent battery life.

Winners: Apple, Samsung & ARM
Losers: Intel & Microsoft

Apple to Launch 15-inch MacBook Air in Q1 2012

According to a report by our favorite Chinese rumor mill Digitimes, Apple will launch a new MacBook Air series with 11.6-inch, 13.3-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air notebooks in Q1 2012. The MacBook Air range is ripe for a refresh, and the addition of a 15-inch MacBook Air to the mix is great news for most of us. Currently, Apple makes only 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air notebooks. A 15-inch MacBook Air should attract many more customers who find the existing sizes a tad small to work with. The MacBook Air, which has been overshadowed by the success of the iPhone and the iPad, is a massive success in its own right. It has helped Apple capture a significant slice of the notebook market since its launch.

Reportedly, “related upstream players have already started pilot production of the MacBook Air models and will add a 15-inch model into the product line to expand its reach in the ultra-thin notebook market.”

Apple MacBook Air

The ultrathin notebook market is expected to see a lot of competition in 2012, as more than 50 new ultrabooks by various manufacturers are expected to be showcased at CES 2012. Intel is pushing manufacturers to develop ultrabooks, which will compete directly with the MacBook Air, using a $300 million Ultrabook fund by Intel Capital.

Acer, Asus and Toshiba recently launched the first ultrabooks, but they have failed to impress reviewers and consumers alike.

I’m dying to buy a moderately priced ultrabook with a touchscreen display, and Windows 8 installed. I’m guessing they will soon be available by the end of 2012.

Samsung Quitting Netbook Business in 2012; Focusing on Ultrabooks

Samsung is apparently planning to quit its netbook business, and concentrate completely on ultrabooks in the coming years. Ever since the tablet market exploded, netbook sales have been on a steady decline. There have been a lot of netbooks available in the market, with very little differentiation, and really thin margins.

Here’s what the official statement by Samsung said, in French (translated):

“Following the introduction of our new strategy in 2012, we will discontinue our 10.1-inch (netbook) product range in Q1 2012, in favor of ultraportables (11.6 and 12 inches) and ultrabooks to be launched in 2012.”

Intel is working to get ultrabook prices in the $600 to $800 range, at which point ultrabooks should go mass market. With the launch of Windows 8, ultrabooks may get an additional boost, especially the touchscreen ones. With the $300 million Ultrabook Fund, Intel is trying to stay relevant in the processor market, by bringing the battle back to its home turf – notebooks. Most tablets today are powered by ARM processors, while notebooks are powered by Intel processors.

It’s probably good that Samsung is getting out of this race to the bottom. It may affect its revenues a bit, but will help its profit margins significantly. Hopefully, with Samsung’s focus on them, we will see some great ultrabooks in the market by mid 2012.

Is WinComm Going to be the New WinTel?

A recent report by Bloomberg states that Microsoft is working with Qualcomm to produce smartphone chipsets in order to drive prices down for Windows Phone devices, so that it can capture a bigger share of the smartphone market.

Currently the cost of producing a Windows Phone device is close to $400, but Microsoft is working with component suppliers to bring it down to $200, so that manufacturers can bring Windows Phone device prices down.

Andy Lees, head of the Windows Phone division said:

“Microsoft works exclusively with Qualcomm to develop chips that power handsets using its system, allowing it to specify technical details to ensure devices run more smoothly. There is currently no plan to work with other semiconductor makers for Windows Phone 7 devices.”

WinTel (Windows + Intel) –> WinComm (Windows + Qualcomm) ?

The first thing that came to my mind when I read this statement, was the WinTel alliance of the last decade. Microsoft and Intel completely dominated the market using monopolistic actions that led to antitrust lawsuits against both of them. Both had near 90% market share in their respective markets at their peak, with negligible competition.

However, the WinTel domination broke off in the early 2000s due to various factors. More recently, Microsoft announced that it would make Windows 8 compatible with both X86 and ARM processors, which further soured the relationship between Microsoft and Intel.

If Windows Phone does take off, we could see it happen again in the form of WinComm (Windows + Qualcomm).

However, it seems unlikely, given the growing popularity of Android and iOS which are already dominating the smartphone landscape, and are unlikely to cede ground any time soon.

Croma Partners with Intel to Launch Laptop Theft Protection Service in India

Croma, the mega-store chain from Tata Sons, has partnered with Intel to introduce anti-theft service for laptop users in India. Using Intel Anti-Theft Technology built into Sandy Bridge (2nd Generation Intel Core) processors, laptops can automatically disable themselves if they are lost or stolen.

Mobile PC usage in India is on the rise and we expect to further accelerate it with the new Ultrabook devices. Protecting users’ sensitive information as well as laptops themselves is paramount,said R. Sivakumar, Managing Director, Sales & Marketing Group, Intel South Asia. We are thrilled to see Croma offering Intel Anti-Theft Service for Indian laptop users.

A stolen laptop can be locked down by sending a signal over the internet, or by using intelligent hardware timers. Locking down a laptop essentially makes it unbootable and unusable. Intel also provides a secure vault in the hard disk that is cryptographically protected. If a laptop is locked, then the data in the secure vault can’t be read even by connecting the hard disk to a different computer. Even reformatting the hard drive, installing a new hard drive, or changing the boot order won’t help in circumventing the lock. However, Intel and Croma didn’t make it clear if laptop tracking with the help of GPS module will be available or not.


We are proud to be the first retailer to introduce Anti-Theft service for all the laptop users at Croma. With the launch of this Anti-Theft service, our consumers will now enjoy peace of mind while securing their laptops and their digital lives.said Mr. Ajit Joshi, CEO & Managing Director, Infiniti Retail Ltd. Croma is delighted to partner with Intel for this exceptional service that will provide our customers an opportunity to safeguard their laptops. This initiative evidently affirms the Company’s resolution of bringing world-class shopping experience to its customers.

The theft protection service will be bundled with select laptops sold from Croma. For other laptops sold through Croma, it will be as an optional feature starting at Rs. 199 for a period of 2 years.

Tizen Rises from the Ashes of MeeGo; Backed by Intel and Samsung

The smartphone landscape has seen a lot of disruption ever since Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. Most of the existing platforms, like Symbian, Blackberry, Windows Mobile etc., have either been killed or have been rendered useless. Google launched Android and went from a zero market share to being the market leader in a couple of years. Microsoft seems to have adapted well and launched Windows Phone 7, the successor of Windows Mobile.

Nokia’s Maemo and Intel’s Moblin, which were hardly seeing any traction, combined to form MeeGo, backed by both the companies. When Nokia embraced Windows Phone 7 in a bid to revive itself, Intel tried to save MeeGo. However, there wasn’t much it could have done to save it from its eventual fate – being dead-pooled.

Today, Intel has merged MeeGo (which was almost in a zombie state) with LiMo, another dying platform, to form Tizen. LiMo will host the project and Intel will support its development along with Samsung. If you’re wondering what the hell Samsung is doing with Tizen, when it has Bada to look after, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Everyone is wondering the same thing.

Reports indicate that Tizen will be launched in Q1 2012, with some devices by Intel and Samsung hitting the market by Q2 2012. I doubt Tizen will be able to attract any developers at all. Who would want to develop apps for such a whimsical platform that could be merged with some other platform after a few months, or even die?

Here’s the official announcement: Welcome to Tizen!

Today we are happy to welcome you to Tizen, a new open source project that is the home of the Tizen software platform, a mobile and device operating system based on Linux and other popular upstream projects. Tizen will support multiple device categories, such as smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, netbooks, and in-vehicle infotainment devices. The Linux Foundation will host the project, where Tizen development will be completely open and led by a technical steering team composed of Intel and Samsung.

The Tizen application programming interfaces are based on HTML5 and other web standards, and we anticipate that the vast majority of Tizen application development will be based on these emerging standards. These APIs will cover various platform capabilities, such as messaging, multimedia, camera, network, and social media. For those who use native code in their applications, the Tizen SDK will include a native development kit. We will open the entire Tizen software stack, from the core OS up through the core applications and polished user interfaces.

We expect the first release of Tizen and its SDK in the first quarter of 2012.

Apple MacBook Air Getting a Refresh Soon ?

According to a new ¬†rumor ¬†from DigiTimes, MacBook Air’s production will run in full gearbeginning in July. If true, this report suggests that new MacBook Air could be launched after the release, or more likely alongside with the release of Mac OS X Lion, which is scheduled to be released this July.

Apple MacBook Air

Digitime says, Apple is expected to take deliveries of over eight million MacBook Airs in the third quarter, nearly doubling from the previous quarter, the sources in the supply chain estimated. This is in line with a previous rumor from Taiwan’s Economic Daily newspaper that Apple will ship 380,000 new MacBook Air units within the next month.

Shipments of parts and components for MacBook lineups totaled an equivalent of 2.2-2.4 million MacBooks in June, and orders for July are likely to top 2.7-2.8 million units, said the sources, noting that the increase is in line with Apple’s previous strategy to ramp up deliveries prior to the launch of new products.

Last time Apple refreshed the MacBook Air range, they added a new size(11.6), upgraded processor to Core 2 Duo, and used SSD for storage. This time we are expecting Thunderbolt ports, either Core i5 or Core i7 chips, or maybe Intel’s new ULV processor. Few rumors suggesting option of a black color have also surfaced.