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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Lenovo Betting On Intel vPro

Lenovo has launched a new model of its ThinkCentre desktop, the A61e, which the company says has at least three elements that could spur new desktop sales: a smaller footprint, quieter operation and a low price point.

1. With a form factor about the size of a phone book, Lenovo said the A61e will also be more energy-efficient than earlier desktops and providea $20-per-unit annual energy savings.
2. The A61e will have SKUs with either the AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual core chip, or the Sempron single core..
3 The A61e follows up on remarks by Lenovo CEO William Amelio to CRN earlier this year, when Amelio promised that the company would deliver a desktop that provided a smaller footprint without a higher price.

Last week, Lenovo released the ThinkCentre A61e, an ultra small form factor (USFF) desktop featuring AMD processors. On Tuesday at the Intel Developer Forum, the company will unveil two more desktop PCs in tower, small form factor and USFF -- the ThinkCentre M57 and M57p, the latter built on Intel's vPro platform for remote system management and boot-up below the operating system.
Accompanying the new desktop offering is the Lenovo ThinkVision L220x Wide monitor, which the vendor claims is "the industry's first WUXGA resolution monitor." The monitor will support full high-definition 1080p video, according to Lenovo.

The ThinkCentre M57 and M57p desktops start at approximately $821 and $1,021, according to the company, while the ThinkVision monitor starts at approximately $550. The PCs will be available beginning in October, and the monitors in November, Lenovo said in a statement.

The M57 and M57p are Energy Star 4.0 compliant, and the new small form factor design incorporates better acoustics so the PCs run cooler and quieter, according to the Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based vendor.

Lenovo has recently made Intel's vPro (desktops) and vPro for Centrino (notebooks) a big part of their story in their M-series business-class desktops and ThinkPad notebooks. Intel released the latest version of its vPro board with Active Management Technology in late August. It features beefed-up security and new virtualization capabilities in a package that includes a Core 2 Duo processor, the Q35 Express chipset and the 82566DM gigabit network interface connector.

The chipmaker is expected to discuss new directions for its vPro platform, among other roadmap and product news, at the Intel Developers Forum in San Francisco, which begins Tuesday.

Lenovo also teamed up recently with Intel and software vendor LANDesk to build a software/hardware mix to take advantage of the vPro for Centrino platform. The three vendors have combined efforts on creating a mobile IT environment based on building the vPro for Centrino platform into the Lenovo ThinkPad T61 notebook, with integrated management via Lenovo's ThinkVantage technology and LANDesk's Management Solutions software.

"Intel is driving vPro. We build on top of those features. But we also work with the enterprise management consoles out there, like LANDesk, taking them and identifying the key areas where we can drive cost under the ownership models," said Stephen Balog, Lenovo's WW ThinkVantage Product Manager.

According to LANDesk Executive VP and General Manager Steve Daly, the remote, sub-OS system management made possible through the vPro platforms and a software solution is a necessary evolution in IT but can sometimes be a tough sell.

"The culture in IT is one where being the hero, the firefighter who swoops in to save the day at somebody's cubicle, reigns supreme. But the reality has changed for IT. Some companies might not be ready to go to full-blown service management, but the move to process orientation is an absolute must," Daly said.

Big IT operations like data centers are driving the shift away from reactive, break-fix system administration to process and service orientations, he said. Mid-market and SMB operations are likely to follow along in time.

"Data centers tend to have the process run books in place already. But the channel partners who go in with us on these data center sales usually wind up making desktop sales as well. With technology like vPro, it's a good opportunity for the VAR community to add services to software reselling," Daly said.

Meanwhile, LANDesk on Monday released the latest version of its Service Desk product. LANDesk Service Desk 7.2 is available as a stand-alone service delivery solution, or combined with LANDesk Management Suite and LANDesk Security Suite, the software vendor said in a statement. The new solution includes built-in processes for ITIL service desk, incident management, change management, problem management and service level management

Most intriguing extrasolar planets

The first planets outside our solar system were spotted in 1990, in orbit around a dying, radiation-spewing star very different from our Sun. In the years since, scientists have turned up even stranger worlds.

Starting in 1995 with 51 Pegasi b - the first extrasolar (or exoplanet) discovered around a normal star - planet hunters have found alien worlds that run the gamut in terms of diversity. There are large, gassy giants and small and rocky worlds. Some are two-faced worlds of fire and ice, and some float eerily through space, bound to no star.

In the dozen years since the discovery of 51 Pegasi b, the number of known and suspected exoplanets has climbed to nearly 230. Here are some record holders and oddballs.
The first

The closest

51 Pegasi b was the first planet discovered in orbit around a normal star other than our Sun. The planet, a hot Jupiter, also goes by the moniker Bellerphon, after the Greek hero who tamed winged-horse Pegasus, in reference to the constellation Pegasus where the planet is located.
Epsilon Eridani b orbits an orange Sun-like star only 10.5 light years away from Earth. It is so close to us telescopes might soon be able to photograph it. It orbits too far away from its star to support liquid water or life as we know it, but scientists predict there are other stars in the system that might be good candidates for alien life.

Free floaters

There are known exoplanets that have one, two and even three suns. But one bizarre class of planet-sized objects has no suns at all, and instead floats untethered through space. Called planemos, the objects are similar to, but smaller than, brown dwarfs, failed stars too small to achieve stellar ignition

A zippy planet

SWEEPS-10 orbits its parent star from a distance of only 740,000 miles, so close that one year on the planet happens every 10 hours. The exoplanet belongs to a new class of zippy exoplanets called ultra-short-period planets (USPPs), which have orbits of less than a day.

Triple-Core Chip ADM

The announcement was a surprise, coming just a week after the major launch by AMD of its four-core processor, code-named "Barcelona."

It also goes against the industry tradition of doubling processing power with each new design. Single-brain microprocessors are giving way to dual-core ones, followed by quad-core, with eight cores due next from Intel.

But AMD on Monday quoted industry research that showed quad-core chips had only grabbed two per cent of the market since Intel first introduced them last November. In contrast, dual-core chips took 12 to 15 per cent of the market within the first two quarters of their release.

"We believe triple-core is the right product at the right time to serve a broad swathe of the market," said Bob Brewer, head of marketing and strategy for AMD's PC platforms.

"There's a space for it, it makes sense, it's naturally going to resonate with consumers."

AMD is still planning to introduce its "Phenom" quad-core processor for desktop PCs in December, but it will follow up with a triple-core version in the first quarter of next year.

"If the choice is say $200 for a dual-core [processor] and $400 for a quad-core, then if you can get $300 for a triple-core, it's like free money," said Nathan Brookwood, analyst with the Insight64 research firm.

AMD told reporters that the choice of single, dual, triple and quad-cores would simplify its product lines for consumers, who were confused by comparisons between clock speeds and the size of memory caches on the chips.

Mr Brewer said a triple-core chip would work well for example on a PC where a user was playing a video game such as Bioshock, which utilised two cores, and where an anti-virus programme ran at the same time using the other core.

Advanced Micro Devices on Monday confirmed that rumors of a triple-core desktop chip on its roadmap are true. The chip, which will be part of AMD's new Phenom desktop processor brand, will be released sometime in the first quarter of 2008, according to AMD executives.
It appears that Phenom, the new brand initially believed to be built solely around AMD's first quad-core desktop chip due out in December, will be marketed to enthusiasts, OEMs and the custom system builder channel in both mid-range, triple-core and high-end, quad-core flavors.

"Triple-core is the mid-range product for 2008," said AMD marketing VP Bob Brewer at a press lunch Monday in San Francisco.

Asked if most consumers wouldn't just opt for the full quad-core if they were upgrading from dual-core, Brewer said AMD believes a mid-range multi-core product could attract budget-conscious shoppers. He said that while technologists and industry experts might not grasp the value of a triple-core processor, that "this is something that naturally resonates with consumers."

"They see, quite simply, that 'n-plus-one' is better than just 'n'," Brewer said.

AMD had ample motivation to announce the triple-core Phenom news when it did. Internet rumors began building into a storm over the weekend. And Brewer admitted that the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chipmaker wasn't averse to taking some of the spotlight away from its main rival, Intel, on the eve of the Intel Developers Forum at San Francisco's Moscone Center.

The triple-core announcement seems like a particularly opportunistic stab at the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip leader. Though Intel came out with its quad-core product last December, its current chip architecture makes the production of a triple-core chip impossible. AMD, with its native multi-core design featuring independent power supplies to each individual core on a die, can and apparently will produce one sometime early next year.

MIT-East Meets West

Armed with 4 MIT degrees, Shiva Ayyadurai embarks on new adventureIn the 26 years since he first arrived at MIT as a freshman, V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai has earned four MIT degrees and started two multimillion dollar companies.

This fall, he will use his most recent degree, a Ph.D. in computational systems biology, and a Fulbright Scholarship to explore one of his lifelong interests: the intersection of Eastern and Western medicine.

Ayyadurai's upcoming project is the latest in a series of personal ventures that have spanned fields as diverse as electronic communications, animation and molecular biology. His experience shows what is possible with an MIT education, he says.

"I don't think I could have done this anywhere else," said Ayyadurai, 43. "MIT is a great place to follow your dreams."

Ayyadurai started dreaming as a child in India, where his grandfather was a farmer and his grandmother a shaman, or traditional healer. He became interested in medicine watching his grandmother diagnose and treat patients based on a system of "elements"--Earth, water, fire, metal and wood. That approach may seem strange to Westerners, but "you'd see people actually getting healed," he said.

When Ayyadurai started as a freshman at MIT in 1981, he planned to go to medical school, but later changed his plans. He found Western medicine, with its dependence on looking up symptoms in reference books, very different from his grandmother's practice. "There was always something sterile about Western medicine," he said. "I got turned off by it."

Now, he wants to explore what Eastern and Western medical traditions can learn from each other. Ayyadurai sees the exchange as a two-way street: He plans to apply Western scientific rigor to testing the long-established traditions of the East, and to study how the Eastern "elements" can inform Western medicine.

He points out that the market for alternative therapies based on Eastern medicine is growing every year, even without scientific evidence to support their usefulness.

"Let's look at glucosamine and see if it really works. Let's look at ginkgo and see if it really works," he said.

Ayyadurai departs for India this month to begin his studies, and he also plans to start raising funds to launch an MIT-affiliated center to study Eastern medicine.

Road to success
Ayyadurai's path to the Fulbright Scholarship has been marked by early and frequent successes in a variety of fields.

He moved to New Jersey with his parents, a chemist and a mathematician, at the age of 7. When he was 13, he started to work at Rutgers to develop one of the first e-mail systems ever built, which eventually won him a Westinghouse Science Award.

At MIT, Ayyadurai was founder and editor of a newspaper called The Student and an activist who worked to raise awareness of global and campus issues such as apartheid, U.S. policies overseas, cuts in student aid and sexual harassment on campus.

"My intention was always to make the MIT community aware of our being part of a larger global society, and we as leaders had a duty to fight for those who had less," he said.

After graduating from MIT in 1986 with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science, he was one of the early developers of a graphic software program that was eventually sold to Lotus. He had always been interested in art and design, so after selling his company he went to the MIT Media Lab and got a master's degree in animation, focusing on how to present scientific data visually. He also holds a master's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT.

His next venture was a software program called EchoMail, which companies can use to automatically sort and respond to customer e-mails. EchoMail has been used by major companies including Nike, Citibank, IBM and Proctor & Gamble.

In 2004, Ayyadurai returned to MIT, this time to work on a Ph.D. in systems biology, a relatively new field that integrates biology, engineering and computer science. The goal of systems biology is to figure out how the layers of a biological system, from genes to cells to organs to the whole body, are linked.

Systems biologists start by figuring out how individual cellular pathways work, but deciphering just one pathway can take years. To speed up that process, Ayyadurai developed a computer model that can integrate the activities of all the different pathways in a cell--work that formed the basis of his doctoral thesis.

Professor Dewey Forbes, Ayyadurai's thesis advisor, said the project was conceived as a tool that would help the biological community address the large-scale problem of modeling the complexity of a complete cell.

"In the end, Shiva not only provided the basic system called Cytosolve, but he used it to create a new composite model of the upregulation of interferon following viral infection," said Forbes. "There is a lot of excitement about the several aspects of the thesis, and much of it should be in public journals in the near future."

To Ayyadurai, who defended his thesis last month, the appeal of systems biology is its combination of a range of fields, especially computing and medicine.

"For me, this goes back to everything I wanted to do," he said.

'iCar' a challenge, says iSuppli

Sponsored by ( Careerbuilder and developer)
Speculation about the iCar was spurred by a recent meeting between Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Martin Winterkorn, chief executive of the German car manufacturer.

It is not yet known if they discussed an iCar project, or if it was simply a conversation regarding cross-functional leverage opportunities for each company.

A move into cars presents Apple with a chance to extend the iPod ecosystem, while Volkswagen would benefit from strong sales of such a vehicle, iSuppli explains.

The total automotive infotainment market is set to be worth US$50 billion by 2012, the analysts say, pointing out that vehicle production is rising at a steady 3 percent rate. However, the automotive infotainment market will expand faster, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8 percent between 2006 to 2013.

According to the analysts, a difference in the two firm's corporate culture would present the greatest challenge: "Although the old clichi says 'opposites attract,' the cultural divide between Apple and Volkswagen may be too wide to bridge," said Richard Robinson, principal analyst, automotive electronics, for iSuppli.

Highly innovative

"Apple is a highly innovative and dynamic consumer electronics company that generates significant profits from living off its wits and supplying niche markets with the next big thing in music players, mobile phones and personal computers. VW, on the other hand, is from an entirely different tradition: the more conservative world of automotive, with its solid four-to five-year development cycles, tight margins and production-standard compliance requirements that would bring even the most enthusiastic designer from Cupertino to his knees."

Warranties would also be a problem -- Apple would be required to support the mooted vehicle throughout its usable life.

"While Volkswagen would expect a car manufactured in 2007 to be perfectly serviceable 10 years later, does anyone seriously think the current iPod and iPhone ranges will be anything more than museum relics a decade from now?" the analyst asked.

"Based on standard automotive industry practice, even if Apple and VW press the 'Go' button today, it is highly unlikely that we would see the first iCars until at least 2010 or 2011," Robinson predicted.

Brain's messengers could be regulated, MIT researchers find

Potential for better understanding of schizophrenia
J. Troy Littleton, a professor in the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT, joins biology graduate student Sarah N. Huntwork in the lab. They have created the first genetically-engineered mutant--in this case a fruit fly--that produces no complexins (proteins that play a role in the release of neuro-transmitters) during cell-to-cell signaling

Researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have found that tiny, spontaneous releases of the brain's primary chemical messengers can be regulated, potentially giving scientists unprecedented control over how the brain is wired.

The work, reported in the Sept. 16 early online edition of Nature Neuroscience, could lead to a better understanding of neurological diseases like schizophrenia.

Sputtering electrical activity--like a firecracker's leftover sparks after a big bang--was long considered inconsequential background noise compared with the main cell-to-cell interactions underlying thought and memory.

But lead author J. Troy Littleton, Fred and Carole Middleton Associate Professor of Biology at MIT, and colleagues found that the miniscule events that follow a burst of electrical and chemical activity among neurons are far more important that previously thought. A breakdown in this molecular mechanism could be the culprit in schizophrenia and other neurological diseases, the authors reported.

Neurons communicate with one another through chemical junctions called synapses. Key to the system are complexins. These small proteins play a role in the release of the brain's chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, during synaptic cell-to-cell signaling.

To figure out exactly how complexins work, Littleton created the first genetically engineered mutant--in this case, a fruit fly--that produces no complexins at all.

There are two sides to synaptic transmission--pre-synaptic and post-synaptic. When an electrical nerve impulse zaps the pre-synaptic side, it triggers lightning-fast events that release neurotransmitters. This activates the post-synaptic cell. Mission accomplished: The foundation of a memory is formed.

The neurotransmitters are like racehorses. They champ at the bit until they get the signal to dash toward the finish line. On the pre-synaptic side, small compartments, or vesicles, containing neurotransmitters are the starting block, and complexins are the gatekeepers that prevent the neurotransmitters from releasing prematurely.

After a big burst of electrical activity sends out a flood of neurotransmitters, a few vesicles still produce some neurotransmitter. The MIT work explains the molecular machinery behind these "minis," which can occur for a few minutes after the big event. Without complexin as a gatekeeper, minis occur unchecked, leading to massive rewiring and synaptic growth.

"This spontaneous release in the brain is not only important for signaling, it can trigger synaptic growth," Littleton said. "What's really exciting is that complexin's activity may be regulated. If we can regulate this machinery, we may be able to promote synaptic growth and potentially allow targeted rewiring in areas of the brain affected in various neurological diseases."

Littleton also holds an appointment in MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Biology graduate student Sarah N. Huntwork coauthored the Nature Neuroscience paper.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Packard Foundation for Science and Engineering.

Legatum and MIT announce the creation of academic center dedicated to development and entrepreneurship

New center to provide fellowships for aspiring entrepreneurs from the developing world

Legatum, a private firm that invests in the global financial markets and in initiatives that support sustainable development, announced Sept. 17 a structured gift of $50 million to create a new center at MIT. The establishment of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship will support aspiring entrepreneurs from the developing world who have a strong commitment to development entrepreneurship, helping them to acquire the knowledge and skills required for successful business development and civic leadership around the world.

"The Legatum Center at MIT has been established to provide a launching pad for a new generation of entrepreneurs who want to develop the technologies and skills necessary to operate innovative businesses in a developing market context", said Mark Stoleson, president of Legatum.

The Legatum Center at MIT will help students develop and commercialize new technologies, while exploring the application of practical, enterprise-based solutions to address deep-rooted problems in developing nations. In addition, the center will provide a venue for competitions and prizes, seminars, workshops, debates and forums, engaging visiting scholars and industry leaders on topics relating to entrepreneurship, leadership and business development.

"MIT has a long and distinguished history of technological innovation and entrepreneurship and is therefore the natural home for this initiative. We hope that over time the Legatum Fellows will be considered among the business leaders of the developing world," added Stoleson.

MIT and Legatum share the view that providing students with these skills will give them the knowledge and experience they need to become leaders and contribute towards the leaps in development required to establish prosperity among emerging nations.

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship is now seeking applications for Legatum Fellowships for the 2008-2009 academic year from graduate students at MIT. These fellowships will provide support to students who are motivated by a desire to apply their talents to grassroots commercial solutions in developing nations. The Legatum Fellows, drawn from across the five MIT schools, will engage in a cross-faculty program drawing upon the expertise of all of MIT's programs and laboratories.

"MIT believes that an innovative entrepreneurial approach, practically implemented from the bottom up, provides an effective route to the creation of businesses and jobs, and to meeting essential human needs. MIT has always been committed to making a difference in the world and we believe this new center continues to help us fulfill that mission," said Phillip L. Clay, chancellor of MIT.

"We are excited at the opportunity to work with such a successful emerging markets investor as Legatum, which shares a similar dedication to excellence and a belief in the practical application of knowledge as a means of creating opportunity and prosperity in developing nations," continued Clay.

Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland, director of the Human Dynamics Group at the MIT Media Lab and a pioneer in mobile information systems, health systems, smart environments and technology for developing countries, will act as the faculty director of the center.

Iqbal Quadir will serve as the executive director of the center. He founded GrameenPhone, a profitable venture which provides universal telecommunications access in Bangladesh. Before joining MIT, Quadir taught at Harvard University.

"We seek a balance in the debate on what constitutes effective development, which has traditionally been overwhelmingly out of balance in favor of top-down thinking. By focusing on emerging entrepreneurs, and leveraging technological innovation, the Legatum Center at MIT will spawn a plethora of new business ventures in the developing world," commented Quadir. "Our ambition is to advance the principle that it is entrepreneurs who most effectively drive organic economic growth

Kids' $100 Laptop Jumps in Price to $188

The famous laptop project by the OLPC project will now cost $188 instead of $100. The One Laptop Per Child project has been plagued with problems for some time now. The price has nearly been doubled by the not-for-profit organization to cover losses and fill a void with the inability to book orders.

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has raised the price of its XO laptop to US$188, according to an Associated Press report.

OLPC spokesman George Snell confirmed the price change on Friday, the AP report said. Snell blamed the price hike on "currency fluctuations" and the rising cost of raw materials like nickel and silicon.

OLPC executives in the U.S. were not immediately available for comment. Previously, OLPC said the XO would cost $176.

The reported price hike comes at a critical juncture for OLPC. The XO laptop has gone through four prototype stages, and the design has been locked down for weeks. In August, Quanta Computer Inc. completed a manufacturing run of 300 units to test the production process -- the final step before mass production of the XO begins later this month or in early October.

OLPC customers are counting on a low-cost laptop, and it was not immediately clear what, if any, impact the latest price hike will have on orders for the XO.

OLPC laptop gets minor delay along with price bump
Rumors that the XO laptop still has some refinement in terms of both pricing and configuration were confirmed late last week. A spokesperson for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project told the AP on Friday that the price of the XO laptop has risen to $188 per unit and that the project faces product delays. The cost increase of approximately $12 may not seem like much, but given that initial orders from governments must amount to at least 100,000 units, it all adds up quickly.

The OLPC project designed the XO laptop to be used by students in developing countries. The non-profit organization will sell the laptops to foreign governments to distribute to children through schools. Although the systems were originally intended to sell for $100 each, the price has steadily climbed as a result of additional features and unexpected costs.

The XO laptops, which are being manufactured by Quanta in Taiwan, include innovative hardware features like a dual-mode LCD screen, a pull-string charger, a wide touchpad, and a unique wireless mesh network system. The XO's Linux-based operating system also includes innovative features including a highly unusual user interface.

The OLPC Project now faces competition from Intel's Classmate PC and a new laptop developed by Asus called the Eee PC that is scheduled for release this month.

The OLPC Project reportedly faces delays as well, but the severity of those delays isn't apparent yet. In the latest OLPC community newsletter, which was written last week, OLPC president Walter Bender says "there were Sugar, network, and security reviews this week resulting in the reporting of some new bugs and future features. One outcome was the identification of some last-minute features, so we will not be ready for code freeze on Monday—we are probably off by about a week. Next week, we will have a major push to get all remaining blocking bugs addressed."

Although the XO laptop has fallen short of initial expectations and far exceeded the original anticipated price of $100, the project is still heading towards a strong launch with a product that has lots of potential. The project is still confident that it can reach $100 per unit (if not below) over the next year or two with scale, but achieving that scale is going to be hard in the face of price increases.

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