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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ballmer and Gates bid farewell with tears

On his final full day at Microsoft Corp., Bill Gates went on stage to reminisce with his longtime friend Steve Ballmer, and neither man could hold back tears as Ballmer handed Gates a large scrapbook as a farewell present.

Gates, who is stepping back to focus on his philanthropy, sat with CEO Ballmer in a Microsoft conference room and meandered through moments in Microsoft's history. They stopped to get in a few good digs at IBM Corp., whose first personal computers were loaded with Microsoft's DOS operating system before IBM adopted its own operating software and their relations strained.

The day Bill Gates didn’t call me a communist
This one is for Bill Gates.
He was 27 when I first met him. It was 1983 and he was in New York hustling a new laptop (the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100) that came with Microsoft software in ROM. I remember him rocking back and forth, as if to contain his impatience, when asked if there was an UNDO key.

In those days, before Microsoft became a software colossus, he or Steve Ballmer would stop by my office every once in a while to talk about their plans for the company. Later I would see another side of him through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But the Bill Gates I remember best is the one I spent two uncomfortable hours with in 1995, in the early days of his antitrust problems. We were in his Redmond office with Dave Jackson, then Time Magazine’s San Francisco bureau chief, conducting what was supposed to be the final interview for a Time cover story (Master of the Universe).

It was not going well. And it reached a low point when, in my memory, the chairman of Microsoft called me a communist. Later, reading the transcript, I realized he didn’t really say that — although he was pretty feisty. To my editors’ credit, they printed the juiciest parts of the interview — including a brief mention of Apple (AAPL) — as a sidebar to the cover.

In honor of Gates’ last days at Microsoft (MSFT), it’s pasted below:


Bill Gates displayed his well-known combativeness last month when TIME questioned him about Microsoft’s controversial business practices. These are excerpts from a two-hour interview with TIME technology editor Philip Elmer-DeWitt and San Francisco bureau chief David S. Jackson

TIME: Are you betting the company on Windows 95?

Gates: I don’t know what “bet the company” means. We’re a company with $4 billion in the bank. I don’t think we’ll disappear. We’re not like Time Warner, with $15 billion in debt. But if you had to take one thing in the next year and say what will our biggest impact on the PC industry be, it would clearly be Windows 95. Windows 95 is a very, very big deal.

TIME: Have you won over all the easy computer customers? Is it going to be harder now to convert the nonusers?

Gates: Well, 20 years ago, when we started, we talked about a computer on every desk and in every home. Now, if you take that to its extreme and say 100% of the people, clearly we’ll never get there. There’ll always be some people who choose not to participate, just like some people don’t use the phone or watch TV.

I see it as a continuum. That is, as more multimedia titles come out, as more information is online, as we make these things easier to use, we start to draw in more and more people. Now, once you get in for one application, the hurdle to learn a second one is fairly low. My dad wanted to do his taxes automatically. Then I got him doing word processing and now electronic mail because everybody in our family is connected.

TIME: Do you spend much time on the Internet?

Gates: Well, I spend a few hours a week just seeing the new stuff that’s out there. If you count E-mail, I’m on the Internet all day, every day.

TIME: We’d like to ask you about some of the charges that have come out in court.

Gates: This is old, old stuff.

TIME: We’d like to have it on the record, if you wouldn’t mind.

Gates: Are you, like, a historical publication or a newsmagazine?

TIME: Just last January, according to Apple, you threatened to stop developing for the Macintosh. Is this true?

Gates: We at no time, in any way, have ever threatened to stop developing for the Macintosh. I don’t even understand what it would mean. It’s the most bizarre thing in the world. What would we get out of that? It’s a big revenue source. It’s a profitable business.

TIME: Borland [another Microsoft competitor] charges that you used vaporware [the preannouncement of a nonexistent product] to screw up the development of Turbo BASIC. Which you did, right?

Gates: No! If you’re accusing me of competition, then yes. You have to decide. Are we optimized to help competitors, or are we optimized to help customers? Should we be open about our plans?

Do you understand what is being said here? The question is, are you allowed to tell people what your products are in advance?

TIME: Isn’t the point that if you’re a small player and you pre-announce a product, it has no effect, but that when a large player preannounces, it can freeze out the competition?

Gates: I’d say that’s pretty nonsensical. Let’s say you take a market, like the cigarette market, and you ban advertising. Who benefits?

TIME: The manufacturer with the largest installed base.

Gates: Installed market share, totally. So let’s have an absolute ban. You may never talk about new products in advance. But people do talk about their plans. You know, it’s this damn free-speech thing. It’s well established that communications is valuable for the efficiency of marketplaces. That’s all procompetitive stuff. This assumes that you like capitalism.

TIME: We don’t live under free, unfettered capitalism. Isn’t that why we have antitrust laws?

Gates: When did antitrust come up in the discussion? Antitrust is the way that the government promotes markets when there are market failures. It has nothing to do with the idea of free information.

TIME: I guess in Judge [Stanley] Sporkin’s mind it does. He’s saying vaporware is an issue.

Gates: You have to laugh. I mean, this is a judge who goes off and intentionally reads a book [a biography critical of Gates called Hard Drive] in advance and asks about some of it. It’s minor. I mean, you’re either here to talk to me about Microsoft or talk to me about that stuff. This lawsuit has nothing to do with Microsoft. Nothing.

TIME: Are we supposed to ignore the fact that there is a complaint that has Microsoft’s name on it?

Gates: There are probably 60 cases with Microsoft’s name on them. There will be at all times. Period.

TIME: Have you given much thought to succession?

Gates: I have a will written that, you know, talks about how the company should be run and who should vote my shares. There’s nobody designated as my successor.

TIME: How long do you plan to run Microsoft?

Gates: Well, I’m 39, and my response to that question has always been that for the next decade I plan on playing pretty much the role I am today.

TIME: You always answer one decade?

Gates: Yeah, that’s as far ahead as I can see.


Ballmer: And Then There Was One
As Bill Gates leaves Microsoft behind, Steve Ballmer and the team he has put in place have plenty of challenges to overcome.

This is Bill Gates' last official day as a Microsoft employee, though as the company's largest shareholder, he remains the company's chairman. To underline his exit, Gates gave an emotional goodbye speech to employees Friday morning that was Webcast across the globe.

However, his departure leaves more than one burning question.

Despite all of the years of careful planning for this day and what comes after, can the management team that's left to run the company keep it moving forwards – and some would say, continue innovating -- instead of drifting into oblivion the way so many other tech firms have failed after the founder has left?

Don't forget that, after both companies foundered, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) had to recall their founders in order to save the companies they'd built.

That puts the focus on CEO Steve Ballmer and the team of executives he's assembled.

It won't be easy, but several Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) observers think both Ballmer and the company's other key leaders are up to the job.

"Ballmer has been managing this era already … Gates stepped out of the day-to-day [running of the company] at the turn of the century," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told

Ballmer, after all, Enderle pointed out, has been CEO for the last eight years. Many of the major decisions that have impacted the company, its partners and customers since 2000 have emanated from his office.

During that time, the company's revenues grew from $23 billion per year to an expected $60 billion in fiscal 2008, which ends Monday. The company has also grown in size until today Microsoft employs nearly 80,000 people worldwide.

Like Gates, Ballmer is 52. They met during their sophomore year at Harvard. Gates dropped out to start Microsoft, while Ballmer graduated and started on an MBA at Stanford before Gates hired him in 1980.

Since then, Ballmer has held a wide range of executive positions -- including vice president of operating systems -- many of them with a marketing focus, although they also required a technical understanding of the company's products,

"Ballmer may not be a technologist, the way Gates is, but he understands the product set," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told

Still, largely because Gates has been so visible throughout the company's history, many people have the impression that Gates' vision drives Microsoft and Ballmer is merely the company's chief salesman.

While there might be some truth to that argument – Ballmer is a consummate salesman -- analysts this week repeatedly said that attitude doesn't properly give credit where it's due. Ballmer, during his 28 years with Microsoft, has been closely involved with the company's technologies and the decisions around them, even if he hasn't done code reviews the way Gates has.

Additionally, Gates has said that he will continue to work as much as a day a week for the company as special projects for Ballmer, although he hasn't named any so far.

"I think it would be really wrong to say that Gates' oversight will not be there," Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, told "Bill and Steve have worked together for so long that Steve knows Bill's thinking," he added.

Besides that, Gates was smart enough to appoint Ray Ozzie, the creator of Lotus Notes, to replace him as the company's visionary and chief software architect.

"By hiring people like Ozzie, I think they have the technology [visionary] side covered," King said.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Open source competition ;NOKIA fighting Android

Open source competition ;NOKIA fighting Android
Nokia announced plans today to transform the Symbian mobile phone operating system into an open source platform. Nokia, which already owns roughly half of all shares of Symbian, is in the process of obtaining the other half from various holders for €264 million. The company has partnered with several other major handset makers to launch the new nonprofit Symbian Foundation, which will facilitate the liberation of the platform.

Several core Symbian Foundation members are contributing their own Symbian-based technologies so that the best third-party enhancements can be converged into a single unified stack. This will include Nokia's own S60 platform, the UIQ graphical user interface layer which is jointly owned by Sony Ericsson and Motorola, and NTT DoCoMo's MOAP. These components will be available soon under a royalty-free license to all members of the foundation. Within two years, the platform will be completely open source and will be distributed under the Eclipse Public License (EPL), a moderately permissive license that requires downstream patent grants.

"Establishing the Foundation is one of the biggest contributions to an open community ever made," said Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo in a statement. "Nokia is a strong supporter of open platforms and technologies as they give the freedom to build, maintain and evolve applications and services across device segments and offer by far the largest ecosystem, enabling rapid innovation. Today's announcement is a major milestone in our devices software strategy."

Symbian is currently the most widely-used smartphone platform, but its popularity and relevance have been declining as handset makers moved towards other platforms, including Windows Mobile and Apple's iPhone, as well as Linux and other open source alternatives that reduce licensing costs and offer more flexibility. The Symbian's business model and development strategy were far out of step with the direction in which the industry was collectively moving. Nokia's efforts to completely open the platform will change that and make Symbian a much stronger contender in the next-generation mobile space.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

White Patches in Mars Trench Are


A new trench called Snow White, dug by the Phoenix Mars lander. Some white patches in the soil have shrunk.
“Follow the water!” in its exploration of Mars, NASA can finally say that one of its s.pacecraft has reached out, touched water ice and scooped it up.

Now, scientists will be able to tackle the main question they hope to answer: Did the ice ever melt and turn Mars into a habitable place?

In a photograph released Thursday evening of a trench that the Phoenix Mars lander has dug into the Martian soil, some white patches that were seen earlier in the week have shrunk, and eight small chunks have disappeared. Until now, scientists were not sure if the white material was ice or some kind of salt.

When exposed to air, water ice can change into water vapor, a process known as sublimation. Salt, on the other hand, is not capable of such a vanishing act.

“It must be ice,” said Dr. Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, the mission’s principal investigator. “The whole science team thinks this. I think we feel this is definite proof that these are little chunks of icy material.”

Water ice on the surface of Mars is not a new discovery. Scientists have known that the permanent ice cap at Mars’s north pole is made of ice. In 2002, measurements by the orbiting Mars Odyssey spacecraft found evidence for vastly larger quantities of ice not far beneath the surface.

In light of the Odyssey findings, the Phoenix mission was designed to land in the northern arctic plains and dig trenches in the soil into the ice layer, believed to be a few inches under the surface. Still, to actually see the ice was “tremendously exciting,” Dr. Smith said. “One of the biggest fears I’ve had on the mission is that we’d dig and dig and never find anything.”

Liquid water transforms minerals, so impurities in the ice could tell much about the climate history. While Mars is too cold for liquid water, in the past, if its axis occasionally tipped over, the polar regions might have warmed above freezing during the summer.

Liquid water is an essential ingredient for life, and this area may have been, at least intermittently, a habitable environment in Mars’s geologically recent past, in the past 10 million years or so.

One of the experiments on the Phoenix consists of tiny ovens to heat samples of the soil and analyze the vapors released. Data from the first run of the experiment, conducted over the past week, is to be downloaded from the spacecraft on Friday.

The Phoenix dug the trench on Sunday, dislodging the eight chunks, and it took another photograph of the trench on Thursday.

Meanwhile, digging in a different trench on Thursday, the scoop at the end of the Phoenix’s robotic arm hit a hard surface — possibly a hard icy layer — that did not yield after three efforts. The hard layer is at the same depth as the white material in the first trench.

The robotic arm has a scraper and, if necessary, a small drill to break off pieces of the hard material for analysis in one of the ovens, which would determine the chemical composition.

The eventful findings on Thursday follow a day when no science work was performed, because of a glitch with the Phoenix’s computer software.

On Tuesday, the spacecraft’s computer memory filled up with thousands of copies of housekeeping data, which prevented science data like photographs from being saved overnight, and the photographs were lost. Engineers spent Wednesday diagnosing the problem.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Yahoo Adds Two New E-mail Domain Choices

Yahoo!’s free online email service is to grow new tentacles with the company planning to add two domains alongside its existing “” addresses.
The struggling internet firm said it is to introduce “” and “” to give people who use its service a better choice of Yahoo! email address options.
According to industry stats, the company has about 266 million peeps across the globe with a Yahoo! email address, making it the most popular web-based email in the world, ahead of Microsoft’s Hotmail and Google’s Gmail.
"We recognise that people want an email address that reflects who they are," Yahoo! Mail vice president John Kremer told Agence France-Presse.
"We have a lot of user IDs out there and it is pretty crowded. We want to remedy that and make sure users get the ID they want."
Free web-based mail addresses are typically dished out on a first-come, first-served basis, so the likelihood of the John Smiths of this world getting their first choice from the likes of Yahoo! or Hotmail is, well, unlikely.
"This adds millions and millions of new Yahoo accounts out there for users," Kremer said. "Effectively, we are tripling the size of the Yahoo name space."
Yahoo!’s decision to offer up alternative domain names in what is a clear grab for more users of its email service comes in a week when the firm’s CEO Jerry Yang has been attempting to steer his company through choppy waters.
Sliding revenues, a public spat with rebel investor Carl Icahn and the termination of takeover talks with rival Microsoft has proved too much for some Yahoo! execs in what has proved a testing week for Yang as well as the company’s shareholders.
Kremer, however, didn’t mention Yahoo!’s bottom line and instead preferred a little bit of navel gazing when describing the logic behind adding the new domains.
"A happy user is one that stays around and is a Yahoo user for life," he said.


Yahoo Solves E-Mail Name Crisis With Two New Domains

According to Yahoo, we are facing an e-mail account crisis: there are too many similar accounts. In other words, Yahoo considers that there are too many IDs and the newcomers won’t be able to create an e-mail account according to their personality or name.
Also, because there are 260 million users on Yahoo mail (which we have to admit is an impressive number), the new users should register more and more complicated IDs.
The consequence? Instead of having a simple e-mail address, such as, many Yahoo mail users end up with strange combinations such as or
So Yahoo decided to extend the possible combinations, by launching two new e-mail domains, rocketmail and ymail.
Through this move, Yahoo has practically tripled its available names and until its service will reach 800 million users, one does not have to bother about the name of the e-mail account.
In fact, saying that Yahoo has introduced two new e-mail domains is not entirely accurate, because rocketmail has been around since the early ages of the era. Rocketmail was acquired in 1997 when Yahoo decided that offering a free, web-based e-mail would be a nice addition to its services.
However, I think that not too many users will be thrilled by the new name, because it is longer than Imagine how an e-mail like will sound.
The other domain, is just perfect, but is kind of similar with another e-mail service. Yep! You’re right! I’m thinking about Gmail. Imagine the following conversation: “What is your e-mail address, honey?” “, you know, like in gmail, but with an Y."
OK, maybe I’m just a little bit harsh, but maybe Yahoo could have thought about better names.
Besides the name, the e-mail account from rocketmail and ymail will resemble perfectly the “true” Yahoo mail: same interface, same features, unlimited storage for free.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Gmail Labs Unveils 13 New Beta Features

Google's experimental Gmail toys

In a first, Google is opening up its testing process by calling on tens of millions of Gmail users to put new features of the service through their paces.
Gmail Labs has launched 13 settings for users to play around with and tell engineers directly what they think of them.

The new developments, which are only available in the UK and the US, show up as a red tab at the top of the page.
Gmail product manager Keith Coleman says: "This marks a big change in the way the company does product development."
Generally speaking products are tested internally on Google staff for weeks if not for months and then refined before being released to the public.
Never before has the firm opened up the testing process and brought in outsiders on such a large scale. Smaller scaled usability tests have been done with invited visitors.
Mr Coleman says: "We want to take the next step and let Gmail users help us do that refinement."
Old Snakey
The new settings include things like 'Pictures in Chat' which puts portraits in chat sessions, 'Superstars' which lets you put different icons on mail, 'Old Snakey' lets you play the classic game in Gmail, and 'Email Addict' forces you to take a screen break by locking you out of the Gmail for 15 minutes.
Mr Coleman says the features are "Really rough and have gone through no filtering in terms of product analysis or design analysis. They have just gone through a general code review process to make sure they are safe to run."
"They have also gone through less testing than a typical feature would. But what this is is a way to take our ideas and get them out to the public."
After testing, users will get the chance to directly tell the developers what they think of them. The most popular are likely to become a regular part of the Gmail product.

20% time
The service was unveiled to a small group of journalists, including the BBC, who had been invited in to Building 47 at the Googolplex for a rare view of the team at work.

Normally such spaces are off-limits to people outside of the company.
As well as being shown the new service ahead of release, we were also walked through the offices where engineers take 20% of their time to come up with ideas and work on them. The 20% time is part of Google's core ethos.
"The idea behind Labs is that any engineer can go to lunch, come up with a cool idea, code it up, and ship it as a Labs feature to tens of millions of users," explains Mr Coleman.
Staff write suggestions on a white board to keep track of everything being played around with and who is working on what.
Another display shows how many bugs an upcoming application needs to get fixed and which engineer is working on it.
Spam Tsar
The whole workspace is divided into areas covering various aspects of Gmail from the calendar to documents and from the reader to spam.

The guys fighting to keep spam out of the Gmail inbox are tucked away in a dark corner of the office. Brad Taylor is known as the 'Spam Tsar', a title he quite enjoys.
He has been working on Gmail since its public launch back in 2004 and says he has seen a real growth in the amount of unsolicited email flooding into the system.
"Originally when we launched 25% of email was spam. We caught a lot of that. Over time its grown and grown and currently around 75% of all email is spam and so our job has got a lot harder."
Top secret
In the heart of this open space is the so called 'war room'.
Here around a half a dozen engineers are huddled into a cramped office to work on top secret projects. Everyone there was tight lipped about what the next big thing coming out of the room would be but helpfully quipped that it was a new colour.

Todd Jackson, another Gmail product manager, was more serious when he said that what goes on here is kept under wraps and that the engineers don't come out until they have either solved a particular problem or fully developed a new feature.
Situated next to the office cafe is the Usability Lab where Gmail invites small groups of six to eight people to test new applications to see how they will fare with the general public.
Nika Smith, who helps run the Lab, says instead of having a two-way mirror to watch participants and how they interact with a product, they are a little more high tech.
"We have this little hidden camera next to some flowers and one in the corner of the room. We just want to know how they use Gmail and see from the users perspective what their experience is like."
"Then we just watch how they interact with the product and work out what improvements are needed."

Perhaps one of the coolest areas in the Gmail Lab is the site reliability room, which is just past a sign that says "Hippies Use Backdoor".

Decked out with a slew of monitors and computers, there is also a selection of intoxicating drinks, a drum kit and a couple of guitars. On the wall hangs a whiteboard with a wish-list of things like 'surround sound, a WII Fit machine and a bigger TV'.
Mr Coleman says even though the place was empty during our tour, everyone is on a pager and gets an alert when something goes amiss with the site.
The overall Lab space is like any other nondescript office, albeit with a few fun quirks here and there such as naming every printer and copier after TV shows of the 80's like The A-Team and All in the Family.


GMail Labs application was launched by Google, in the company’s attempt to identify some of the preferences of its service’s users.
Gmail Labs consists of a series of experimental features out of which users only choose to keep those that they like. In the end, the most popular ones are to be implemented in Google’s core products.
This is the first time the company has used such a large scale testing process; up to this point, all tests have been oriented towards the feedback received from a small number of invited visitors.
Out of the 13 new features made available this week, some are a bit more interesting than the others.
The one called Superstars provides users with a set of customizable icons that can be used for the differentiated marking of messages, depending on their subject, nature or sender. The yellow star is alone no more, as colored stars, exclamation points and question marks have been added to the list of options.
GMail Labs also comes with a feature called Email Addict, that adds a "Take a break" link in the upper right corner of the explorer. The name is quite graphical, as this is exactly what the link does, it lets users take a break. Once the button is clicked on, the Gmail page turns gray and the chat status is automatically set to invisible. Everything is blocked for the next 15 minutes, time that should be used for anything else but computer-related actions. Of course, if something very important should happen, a simple reload of the page will make the message disappear. Take your time and examine the entire lot and help Google improve its service.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Nvidia Tegra All-in-One Mobile Processors Aim to Nuke Intel's Atom ...

The NVIDIA Tegra 650 processor is the second product in the Tegra line, the first being the NVIDIA Tegra APX 2500 processor, which is enabling the next generation of Windows Mobile smartphones. “With the growing market demand for mobile Internet access, NVIDIA launched the APX 2500 computer-on-a-chip targeted at smartphones and handsets earlier this year. Recognizing that mobile Internet access usages will occur not just on smartphones and handsets but on compute devices as well, NVIDIA announced today their Tegra product line. Representing the first products to be targeted at the MID and portable device space, it is anticipated to bring integrated capabilities similar to the APX 2500 with NVIDIA’s graphics expertise, an ARM core, HD video,and advanced power management,” said Ian Lao, senior analyst at In-Stat.

This new processor features an optimized combination of an ultra-low power GeForce® GPU and an 800 MHz embedded ARM CPU, Due to their highly integrated design, NVIDIA Tegra processors achieve up to 10 times the power efficiency of existing products in battery-operated computer systems running compelling visual computing applications.

The company plans to demostrate this Tegra development platform at Computex.
Intel Corp. has been heavily promoting a new breed of pocket-size portable devices as a future market for its chips. Its competitors now hope to reap the benefits.

Chip suppliers for cellphones are moving aggressively to make products for the gadgets, dubbed MIDs, for mobile Internet devices. The contenders include Qualcomm Inc., Texas Instruments Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. and others who license technology from ARM Holdings PLC that is a mainstay in cellphones. And there is a new entry: Nvidia Corp., Intel's crosstown rival in Santa Clara, Calif.

Nvidia, known for chips that manage graphics in computers, on Monday plans to announce its first chips for MIDs. The company already sells graphics chips for cellphones and recently began combining that technology with components that include an ARM application processor, which provides calculating functions akin to those of Intel's microprocessors.

Nvidia describes its new Tegra chip for MIDs as a "computer on a chip" that will be particularly good for tasks such as watching videos and playing games. Mike Rayfield, general manager of the company's mobile unit, estimates a device built around his company's new chip can play 26 hours of high-definition video on a single battery charge, compared with four hours using a new Intel chip called Atom.

Nvidia's announcement is pegged for a conference this week in Taiwan called Computex, at which Intel and its customers plan to show off machines built on the company's technology. Anand Chandrasekher , the Intel senior vice president in charge of its ultramobility group, estimates the Atom chip has been selected for "30-plus" devices that will start hitting the market by the end of this month.

He puts typical battery life of Atom-based products at four to six hours, which he says is fine for many users. Intel plans to deliver a successor chip by 2010 that will draw one-tenth the power and offer more usage per battery charge.

"It's not surprising that our competitors would enter the fray," Mr. Chandrasekher said. "We think the pie will be big enough that there will be room for multiple people."

Users of ARM's technology say they've been slicing off big chunks of the emerging market already. Sanjay Jha, Qualcomm's chief operating officer, estimates that 15 MIDs are being developed using its chips.

Seshu Madhavapeddy , general manager of a new Texas Instruments business unit targeting the MID market, says its latest chip has been selected for 40 devices including MIDs and smartphones. He said he can't provide a precise count for MIDs, since customers don't always provide details of their plans.

MIDs are a loosely defined category. The term is generally applied to devices that are smaller than a laptop and larger than a cellphone that connect to the Internet wirelessly using either Wi-Fi or cellular data technologies.

Apple Computer Inc.'s iPhone and iPod touch are considered early examples, as is Nokia Corp.'s recently introduced N810 device. Other devices are expected to evolve from existing product categories, such as portable gaming or navigation devices, says Richard Yeh, a director of strategic marketing for Samsung's semiconductor unit.

Besides battery life, perhaps the biggest point of contention among chip makers is whether the x86 chip design Intel popularized in personal computers has advantages over its ARM-based competitors. Mr. Chandrasekher argues that most new Web-based software was developed for PCs long before it was adapted for ARM chips, giving portables based on that technology a second-rate Internet experience.

That is changing quickly, says Tudor Brown, ARM's chief operating officer. In one major development, Adobe Systems Inc. -- whose Flash software technology is used in such popular sites as Google Inc.'s YouTube -- recently announced an effort called the Open Screen Project to bring users consistent experiences with the company's software across PCs, cellphones, MIDs and other devices. "That has really leveled the playing field," Mr. Brown said.


Nvidia's mobile ambitions adding MIDs to the list
Nvidia is doubling down on its budding processor business for the next generation of mobile computers.

This week at Computex, Nvidia plans to show off its new Tegra brand for mobile application processors. Earlier this year, the company unveiled its first processor for smartphones, the APX 2500. It's now adding two processors to its Tegra brand, with plans to target the emerging Mobile Internet Device category, according to Mike Rayfield, general manager of the company's mobile business.

Nvidia is best known for its graphics processors, of course, but has been taking steps toward a mobile future since its purchase of PortalPlayer in 2006. The company is a member of the ARM universe, with an ARM11 processor core at the heart of the Tegra processors.

The ARM community, companies like Texas Instruments, Samsung, and Marvell, dominates the market for smartphone processors. But they are formulating plans for challenging Intel in the MID category, which by Nvidia's reckoning is loosely defined as everything from a 4-inch minitablet to a subnotebook like the Eee PC.

Intel has huge plans for this market with its Atom lineup of processors, but Nvidia thinks it can carve out a niche by promoting the power consumption of its Tegra processors, Rayfield said. Nvidia says the Tegra 600 series processors won't consume more than a watt of power running at either 600MHz or 800MHz, while Atom is capable of exceeding that limit.

The difference, according to Rayfield, is that Nvidia's design spreads the work out over several different hardware accelerators, rather than just one main processor like Atom. Texas Instruments made a similar argument earlier this year regarding its ability to move up from smartphones into more powerful computers.

One interesting part of Nvidia's strategy, however, is that the company's products are designed to work exclusively with Microsoft's Windows Mobile software. Unlike the PC world, there are several operating system options for mobile computers, and that number will continue to grow with the release of Google's Android and Palm's Nova over the next year and a half.

Rayfield acknowledges that Windows Mobile users of the past haven't had the best experience with their smartphones, but thinks that the most recent version of the operating system, and the forthcoming Windows Mobile 7, give device makers much more freedom to put catchy user interfaces on top of Windows Mobile. Microsoft's software also gives Nvidia's customers a fast route to the marketplace at an affordable price, he said.

Rayfield expects devices using the Tegra processors to arrive by the fourth-quarter holiday season. Nvidia has created its own reference design for a MID using the chips that it will show off at Computex this week.

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