Apple Television

Despite persistent rumors that Apple will have a television on the market in 2012 it is not clear that they will have built an ecosystem favorable to Apple. We assess that there is a <50% probability that Apple will have a television product in 2012.

Positive Signs of Apple Television

According to the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson the widely quoted “I’ve finally cracked it!” was not about television but about the use of Siri to control the television. Nick Bilton, New York Times, October 27, 2011, assesses the prospect of an Apple television and is more conservative than many observers. He does conclude: “It is coming though. It’s not a matter of if – it’s a matter of when.” Certainly Siri could be the foundation for control of the television but much more is required to achieve the degree of control which is typical of Apple.

Apple has the potential of reaping significant financial rewards. For example: “A recent report issued by Barclays predicted that if Apple made a television set, excluding content deals, Apple could generate an additional $19 billion in revenue a year. This number would not be a stretch either; Barclays said in the report that Apple would only need to capture 5 percent of television buyers to reach this goal.”

It is expected that that in 2012 Samsung and LG will have 55″ OLED televisions on the market. This is much sooner than most had expected. OLED technology would create stunning televisions which is the type of technology which Apple uses to create differentiable products. The first OLED television, the Sony XEL-1, certainly created a stir in the market when introduced and showed that the technology could create excitement. But in early 2010 Sony killed the product in Japan, citing sluggish demand. The $2,000 price tag was well above television pricing then. Lesson Learned: High priced technology may not create a market. Good lesson but not a new one.

iOS, Ax silicon, iTunes, the App Store and iCloud could be the foundation for an entry leveraging the strength of Apple’s infrastructure, consumer brand and depth of developer relations. These assets alone, when applied to the television, are powerful positions from which to enter the market. There is little doubt based on these properties that Apple could create a unique television which would be competitive.Further, Apple, from a consumer value proposition, would be able to provide content to all of its products. A 4 screens and a cloud proposition which builds on Apple’s products and penetration. However, securing television content is another matter.

Apple has already established some positions in this market with Apple TV and AirPlay. These products are consistent with its intent to provide an all Apple solution to the television experience. On the down side Apple TV has had limited success overseas where its content play is less successful.

Negative Signs of Apple Television

Apple was able to change the music business because of the pricing it brought to consumers and distribution via iTunes. There are a number of rumors that Apple is seeking to do the same in television content and being less successful. For example, CBS has turned down an Apple proposal to be on an Apple TV subscription. In the wireless phone business, when the iPhone emerged, the carriers were looking for a product which differentiated them, in part, as a means to lessen churn. Apple offered a solution, which was GSM based, which demanded significant concessions from the carriers, of which AT&T was the launch carrier. It worked and was exportable into worldwide markets. Those unique conditions do not exist in television content. It is highly fragmented based on local channels, cable channels, satellite channels, movies and international content. The content markets and sources worldwide vary widely. This is made all the more complex due to advertising. Bringing Apple’s degree of control to this market is impossible. It will be more narrowly focused.

The television set market is a race to the bottom. The bottom is in terms of price and margins. With large screen televisions reaching saturation in many markets Apple faces another challenge in getting consumers to reject the recent television for a new Apple television at a higher price than they may have paid for the last one. Yes, Apple has a strong draw for its products but will 2X or 4X the price of the lowest set be a block to drawing buyers. Apple has not has such premium price products and, if anything, has been going downscale in pricing. This has been very effective in blocking iPad competition. Pricing in the television market is critical to the accumulation of market share and we have doubts that either Apple will be in a race to the bottom or that a premium priced product will engender long supply line waits. Thus, margins in the television market are a critical issue for Apple.

It is assumed that Apple will use Over The Top (OTT) delivery of television content. It will be an out-of-band delivery source using the Internet on cable or other transport. The problem is that in many countries the infrastructure is insufficient for a real time viewing experience especially one of quality, i.e., HD. As a result, content must either be cached or requested in advance for local storage. This is not really an effective experience where the public has come to expect instant on or DVD like control functionality. Further, some bandwidth providers may block such OTT content delivery. Net Neutrality is at the center of this debate and the United States rules went into effect on November 20, 2011.

Apple must have a worldwide market for its products to have a significant impact on its financial performance. The iPhone rolled out relatively slowly compared to the iPad. Both are now significant worldwide products along with virtually all the other Apple hardware products, the one exception being Apple TV. If the Apple television is to achieve success it must also be a worldwide product. If Apple is only selling a television product this is just a matter of localization but if the television is tied to content delivery making it a worldwide product will take years.

Apple has achieved retail performance which is unparalleled. In the retail industry income per square foot is the measure of success. This table from RetailSails shows that Apples performance is significantly higher on a sales per square foot than Tiffany.

Top 20 US Chains by sales per sq foot

RetailSails Chart: Top 20 U.S. Chains by sales per square foot

As Apple begins to sell televisions its square footage will be more consumed by large footprint products. Given the low margins for televisions and the large space they consume it is likely that Apple’s retail performance will be impacted. Potentially the larger the volume of television sales at retail the greater the impact. It is not clear that Apple will be willing to accept such a financial hit.

Apple Entry Criteria

Apple’s entry into television is much more than technology. Two critical predicates are marketplace control and margins. It is not clear that today or in 2012 it has either in the television market.

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The Future of the Tablet

The tablet computer form factor is finally emerging after years of effort and many failed attempts. This is singularly the result of Apple’s iPad. With the excitement of 40m iPad units sold up to October 2011 there is a gold rush mentality in tablet activity. Yet, emulating Apple’s success has been elusive. Consider:

  • HP TouchPad – lasted only 7 weeks in the market
  • Rim PlayBook–Poor execution in RIMs core business resulted in a $485m write down
  • Adam Tablet – Promises but no delivery
  • Kindle Fire – Numerous execution issues including the User Interface but initial excellent sales
  • Dell Streak 5  Android tablet – Discontinued
  • Motorola Xoom – Poor sales, replaced by Xoom 2 on November 2011
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – Delayed by Patent disputes with Apple

Given the success of Apple why has competition been so elusive? We offer the following:

  • Android has not had a version of the OS which is effective competition against Apple. Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) may be it but it is too early to tell. Just because Android is free does not make it an effective competitor with iOS. The same can be said, with even less confidence of success for WebOS, which HP just made Open Source.
  • There are important UI issues, including consistency across applications, and performance lag. There are indications this latter issue has been improved with ICS but the application fragmentation, in terms of user experience, is a long term issue.
  • Price competition with Apple has proved difficult. Only Kindle Fire has taken on Apple from a pricing perspective. With PCs dropping to $300 price points it makes no sense having a table in the $500+ price bracket.
  • Apple apps are just superior, consistent and continually expanding.
  • There must be a compelling reason NOT to buy an iPad. With some 80% market share the only way the competition will gain share is that there must be market pull for competitive products. Only Fire with Amazon’s ecosystem has come even close. It has created a significant pull by its pricing and reputation. In many respects the greatest content play is what Amazon has to offer in its stores and media. This is not trying to compete with Apple on its own grounds, such as music. Eventually Apple and Amazon may compete against their content offerings.
  • The lack of success of Android as a tablet OS means it has not been able to migrate to enterprises and vertical markets. The iPad is doing just that now and it will become more difficult dislodge Apple from these long term markets. Already Apple has been approved for use in commercial airline cockpits – a critical vertical market.

Our initial impression was that competition for the iPad would emerge at CES 2011. At this show the market was flooded with Android based tablets or soon-to-be tablets. This market has not materialized for many of the reasons cited above. At the center of Apple’s success is the following:

  • Near flawless execution.
  • Management of the supply chain from components parts to the final product.
  • Phobic attention to the total user experience which no other company has matched – the Steve Jobs legacy.
  • Content is as important as the device – be it apps, music or video.
  • Price is a significant competitive advantage – this latter factor is not typical Apple.

For non-iPad tablets to gain market traction they must be more that a “me too” product. Prospective buyers must want a non-Apple tablet and given the bar that Apple has set with the iPad that is one difficult hurdle to cross. The bottom line is that Apple has been successful where all the products before it failed. Its unique strengths and execution are responsible for that success. Just knowing what is successful does not imply that another company will have competitive products which seek to emulate that success. In 2011 the marketplace has learned that difficult and expensive lesson.

What does this mean for the future of tablets? We offer the following:

Competitors should seek niche markets which allow them to compete in ways which Apple is not strong. The first serious attempt to do this is with the Amazon Fire.

Any direct competitor to the iPad must be at least at parity in user utility, interface and pricing which must be less than the iPad. Pricing is an entry position in consumer markets.

Another niche is to have a unique and compelling feature which drives buyers. One may be NFC, for example, but it requires an ecosystem behind it. There are others but these have not been developed in the market.

We seriously doubt that 2012 will be the year of the non-Apple tablet. Effective competition is both a corporate culture issue and about driving in ways which demand consumer attention and money to be spent.

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DisplaySearch FPD 2011

DisplaySearch FPD, San Diego, CA
March 1-2, 2011

DisplaySearch USFPD Conference 2011

DisplaySearch USFPD Conference in San Diego, CA

The first day of the DisplaySearch FPD conference highlighted the important shifts in the FPD display market. This is being driven by the saturation of HD FPD televisions in mature markets, the role of the smart phone and the long term adoption of display technologies such as OLED. At the same time Apple is posed to be the largest customer of Samsung and has made significant investments in LG. Apple is having an impact to FPD supply chain due to its volume and technology needs.

FPD Overview

Growth is returning to the FPD industry but at a slower pace. In 2009 the market contracted significantly from $105B in 2008 to $90B in 2009. In 2010 it rose back up to $115B but growth is expected to be more modest. Today SmartPhones are the growth driver in the market.

In the television market, the growth has shifted to emerging markets but the profile of the buying patterns is quite different. Clearly price is a factor but the screen size is in the 30” to 39” range, which is in the highly commoditized sector.

The PC market is going mobile with the emphasis on the slate form factor. The Netbook market is predicted to be virtually wiped out by the slates by 2014.

The dynamics around the generation of fabs has become more complex. The continual transition to later generation of fabs was not technology, as in semiconductor fabs, but the large glass substrate. Thus earlier fab generations are important but only for smaller size displays. For example, Gen 5.5 fabs are the lines of choice for LTPS and AMOLED fabrication. The slowdown in large screen TV buying due to market saturation has caused the investments in Gen 11 fabs to be delayed.

China is also making an investment in FPD fabs but this is for Gen 8 and some Gen 7. This supports displays in the 32” to 50” form factors and is consistent with its internal market.

The small/medium panel sizes, suitable for phones, is recovering from the recession and projected to grow from $25B in 2010 to $40B in 2015. However, the large panel market will remain static at $91B over that same period.

The introduction of the Apple Retina display has also changed the market. The iPhone has a 320ppi display which has it set apart from all other displays, including those on PCs and monitors. As a result it is driving the use of LTPS process technology, which is again best supported by Gen 5.5 fabs. DisplaySearch estimates that in 2010 80% of the small/medium product is a-Si but this will drop to 70% by 2014 as the transition to LTPS continues.

LED backlighting has now passed over 50% penetration of FPD production.

The use of touch technologies has also caused a shift in the production of panels. AUO, CMI, CPT, HengHao and Cando are planning on over 50% and up to 80% of their production to be with Touch panels.

In terms of technology roadmap all segments of the industry, from TVs to Mobile PC are moving the thinner panels and slim bezels. These same segments are expected to also support 3D and touch.

LG on its P3 and P5 fabs is making LPTS and IPS displays for the iPad. Only a small quantity is being made by Sony for the iPad.

With the acquisition of Chimei Innolux by Foxconn, it has become a major player in the integrated supply chain for CE. It is increasing becoming one stop supply for LCD TV brands, Notebooks, Monitors and mobile phones. It was stated that in this latter category Foxconn is the supplier for Apple, Nokia, Motorola and HTC. It is expected that Foxconn will merge with Hitachi Display and further expand its IP ownership in display technology.

DisplaySearch outlined a shift in the supply chain where the business model is changing to the integration of Backlight, Module and System as a single supplier (BMS). This has been necessitated by the continuing price pressures in the market.

The competition between LG and Samsung is intense with LG ahead and increasing its lead, in terms of unit production. In Q4 of 2010 LG made 16.5m panels while Samsung did 13.5m panels. This was in the TV, Monitor and PC market. LG is making a significant commitment to OLED, where it will go directly to a Gen 8 fab. Both LG and Samsung are making significant investments in 3D technology so that each seeks to have panels which are superior in the market.

In OLED production Samsung is building up the supply base in Korea to lower the costs of the panels, while LG, who has not yet entered production, and it is still reliant on outside suppliers. The cost of organic materials is very high, as much as $300/gram. It is projected that the material market will reach $2.5B by 2015. Samsung is developing a flexible AMOLED production capability with the support of the Korean government. The total investment in OLED is expected to be $18B in the next 5 years.

Corning Predicts the Market

Corning provided its view of the market and its future products.

Trends in handheld devices will be driven by wireless video content along with the need to support emerging markets. PCs, however, will be under pressure to provide touch capability with the increasing importance of emerging markets. Corning predicts the growth being in tablets with only small growth in notebooks, the elimination of netbooks will happen and desktops declining.

In its analysis of emerging markets, a market trip is reached in emerging markets when the ASP of the computers reaches 8% of the GDP per Capita. It was shown that has been reached in Brazil and close behind is China and more distant is Indonesia.

The LCD TV market will struggle with design differentiation and the need to have products of emerging markets.

Corning did an extensive analysis of the replacement trends for televisions. It was stated that the worldwide trend in CRT replacement was 9 years but that LCD replacement, largely driven by the improvement in technology, will be at 6 years.

All of this assessment leads Corning to believe that the glass demand of FTD will grow by 2B sq ft. of glass by 2014.

The technology demands in these markets include: thin, slim bezel and touch. Corning stated that 3.9mm TV would be available for sale this year.

Corning is now supplying .5mm glass. It is sampling for the mobile market .3mm. Corning is also developing a 50 micro glass for flexible and rolled display products.

Increasingly the cover glass on mobile products is playing an important role. Its brand of Gorilla glass, at .7mm thick, has achieved wide usage, in particular on the iPhone.

3M Predicts POE Televisions and USB Powered Monitors

The television industry is under significant pressure to reduce its power consumption. The pace of goals and standards for energy consumption continues to increase. In the US Energy Star Program level 6 will be released in Q3 2011. The financial incentive program is down to 40 watts in January 2011.

3M extrapolated that with continuing declines in power that televisions could be powered in emerging countries with POE. Taking this a step further, PC monitors may be able to be powered over USB.

Touch Screens Market Growth Abounds

DisplaySearch showed that touch screen shipments were at 800m units in 2010 and a market of $4B. This is expected to grow to $11B in 2014. Projective Capacitive is expected to grow to $10.5B by 2014, also. In the cell phone market touch is projected to achieve 50% penetration by 2014.

Financial Analysis of the Retail Market Sector

Matthew Fassier, Goldman Sachs, provided a stark assessment of traditional store retail, which includes office supply, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Borders and others. This category is being decimated by ecommerce and mass marketing, e.g. WalMart and Target. $10B in market cap has been lost by large box retailers as they seek to maintain their position as CE outlets. Amazon has captured more than $40B in market cap in the same time.

Retail outlets have tried a number of means to improve their ability to stimulate sales, which include.

  • In retail the concept of in-store traffic linked to content, such as new movies on Tuesday, is fading.
  • Services provided at retail are a hard play. An example which Matthew questions is the value of Geek Squad. He does not see that it has an economic value to Best Buy company.
  • Big box retail has tried to link television set purchases with upgraded cable or DSL services. However, this is a questionable proposition because the retailers offer nothing that the service providers do already.
  • Best Buy is moving into mobile.

To survive large box retailers need to change the model. For example, Best Buy has retreated from China and Turkey, stopped superstore growth. Other major changes are required. This includes downsizing the retail outlets and adjust the pricing.

2010 was the year of the 3D bust. It remains to be seen if this hole will be filled in 2011, in spite of the strong push at CES.

He shares a concern that connected televisions do not have a unique market position. There are many ways to accomplish a connected TV experience outside of the televisions set – STB is an example. Thus, buying a new television and signing up with the cable company to get the necessary connection at the retail outlet makes little sense. The consumers are well informed about their service provider.

Historically he noted that when penetration of technology, especially televisions, reached 20% the $ growth of the category flattens. That is, there is still unit growth but the $ growth flattens as the prices erode.

Matthew’s assessment is that there will be 35% cannibalization of netbook and notebook sales in 2011 from tablets.

Display Search talks about the PC and Tablet Market

PC are at a crossroads. Tablet PCs and SmartPhones do everything the PCs were originally designed to do. Setting our use expectations about the high end of the PC technology over shoots the consumer need.

DisplaySearch predicts that by 2017, 75% of all the PCs will be mobile. The mobile PC market includes: notebooks, netbooks and tablets and this will be at 286M units in 2011. The share of the market for tablets will rise from 8.6% in 2010 and reach 36.3% in 2015.

The desktop PC market is being driven by emerging markets not in the mature markets. It is their view that one of the reasons that the netbook will fall is the lack of differentiation. Has the PC market found what it is looking for to grow the market– yes – tablets.

DisplaySearch has a view of the tablet market which moves commodization beyond 24 months. They see the wave of low cost tablets which will flood the market in the next 12 months as being transitory. Their estimates are that 70% the first year sales, assumed to be 2011, and 30% in 2012 will come from companies that will fail. The market will be driven by name OEMs and the OS – Android, Apple iOS and WebOS. These companies will bring quality and help establish the market and compete with Apple. Thus, the value of Android to drive significant market expansion leveraging low cost hardware is unlikely, at least in the near term.

Samsung Perspective on Tablets

Samsung began by announcing that it has the # 1 Android tablet with 2 million shipped in 94 countries and 200 mobile carriers. They characterized the tablet as used in three areas: movie video, web and e-books. Now is the time for the tablet to reach out to the mainstream, not just the technically savvy. An advantage of the Samsung tablet is its hub services: the Media Hub and Social Hub. The Media Hub is claimed to bring the best quality content to the devices. Is also claimed that Samsung tablet users generated 25% greater revenue/transaction than video content purchase on a Smartphone.

Samsung took a forward looking position. They predict that the future tablets will leverage Context Aware applications, cloud based solutions and make an entry into the medical marketplace. Currently Samsung is working on pico projectors, video conferencing, telemedicine and table projection for the tablet. Another capability for the tablet is IR vision which will allow for night photos without flash and fun in the dark. Samsung also sees a bright future for NFC, which has been enabled by Android. Another capability they are planning on is wireless charging, as soon as 2010.

DisplaySearch Examines the Television Market

DisplaySearch has a bullish view of the future of television.In spite of steady ASP erosion over the last 3 years, in 2010 the FPD television market showed a rise in units by 32% and revenues by 18%., at the same time the ASP declined 11%. But the situation in North America was worse: 6% rise in units, 3% decline in revenues based on a 8% decline in ASP. Pricing analysis shows that 89% of the television units sold are <$1,000. At the same time, the premium features, such as LED backlighting, no longer command a premium. As the reduction in these premiums happen the adoption rate rises significantly. The same applies to 3D – as the premium declines the buy rate rises.

The table has finally turned on plasma. In Q2 and Q3 plasma televisions were severely discounted and they lost to LCD panels.

In the end DisplaySearch expects that the North American TV market will continue to grow. They predict a rise in units from 43m in 2011 to 52m in 2014.

DisplaySearch is more cautious than most about 3D but its numbers are bullish. They show 3.2m units sold globally in 2010 and growing to 18m units in 2011.

In the SmartTV market DisplaySearch sees a trend of an emerging product category. The problem is that the OEMs are seeking other business models around SmartTVs. DisplaySearch cautions that there are many ways to create SmartTVs and the STB is certainly one.

The connected TV market is estimated to be over 60% of the units shipped in 2014. The WW unit volume is slightly above 120M units in 2014. The emerging market of China and Russia will play an important role in the connected TV market.

The definition of the Smart TV includes:

  • Operates beyond the Walled Garden
  • Can be adapted by the consumer with apps and widgets, at a minimum.
  • Advanced user interface
  • Networked with other devices in the home.

DisplaySearch also sees a fragmented market as basic services become common place and the Smart TV is positioned at the high end. DisplaySearch poses the question: will TVs be subordinate to handsets?

DisplaySearch Speaks on Mobile Display Technology

The Wave Report spoke with DisplaySearch about key mobile technologies.

MEMS based displays may not be able to compete with the high quality displays which consumers have come to expect and use on the SmartPhone. In spite of the power advantages it is expected that, from a consumer perspective, 90% is not good enough.

LG and Samsung have already partnered with each of the two Quantum Dot suppliers, Ocean NanoTech (Samsung) and QD Vision (LG). This is still in the research category. Some Quantum Dot technology has been used for color conversation in OLED but not in the mainstream for display. Samsung has a demonstration example. But there is no indication that Quantum Dots are on any product road map at Samsung. LG plans on announcing a Quantum Dot display in April 2011 with QD Vision. It is highly unlikely that quantum dots were used in the MWC LG exhibition of Black displays. The view of DisplaySearch is that Quantum Dot technology is at least 2 years from mainstream.

LTPS is the technology of choice for edge to edge displays because the drivers are not required at the edge of the display. This accounts for one of the increased investment in LTPS and its rising market share compared to a-Si.

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Mobile World Congress 2011 / 4

Mobile World Congress 2011 Barcelona, Spain

Day 4: 2/17/11

Spirit Telecom Tracks GPS Inside
Location Technology Assessment

Spirit Telecom

This company claims that its software GPS solution will receive GPS signals for location inside when other GPS product do not work. They claim location can be accomplished when the signal level is only at -172 dbm while other chips operate in the range of -140 to 163 dbm. It was claimed that in a normal work environment their technology will acquire GPS 60% to 70% of the time. At MWC the company was seeking to license its technology and claimed it had fruitful discussions.

The technology allows also for location updating from WiFi signals. Cold start TTFF is from 30s to 5 min. In an open environment the cold start TTFF is from 20s to 60s. Power consumption is 100 MIPS during acquisition but it was claimed in update mode it was near Zero MIPS.

Location Technology Assessment

At MWC we found 3 personal navigator platforms from InvenSense, CSR and STMicroelectronics. These platforms are the basis for indoor navigation using MEMS sensors and a compass. InvenSense is the clear leader, They were showing the best demos and have had working products in the market longer than any other company. The performance of the personal navigators is directly tied to the software, which InvenSense calls the Motion Processor, Based on what was seen in demos accuracy of 3 – 5m is achievable and that it does not drift. For best long term performance updating with WiFi location information is a significant benefit. However, InvenSense stated that this need not be precision location but enough information to better predict stride length.

Based on what was seen at MWC one can assume that the personal navigator space is reaching a point, at least in the next year that off the shelf components can be bought which will provide consistent and sustainable 3 – 5m navigation indoors. This is a significant gain from prior DR technologies. With this capability the emphasis clearly shifts to software. It was stated that the software goal is one API which seamlessly enables outdoor and indoor navigation. It is clear Google is well ahead here. They not only see the importance of such technology and most importantly this is consistent with their business model. Location is important in local ad sales. The next major step is indoor mapping. Various disparate technologies surfaced here at MWC also. Due to the massive data base required this will take longer to realize. But again Google appears to be well ahead.

We are at the threshold of a quantum leap in the location marketplace – indoor is at near parity with outdoor, at least in terms of the ability to navigate with components which reside  in a phone and can operate with sufficient power to remain on all the time. But the marketplace will take some time to catch-up with the technology. The same situation existed with outdoor and the role that GPS has played. LBS has yet to really take off. But the work of Apple in the iPhone to achieve a quantum leap in location performance by using SkyHook technologies, and for free on the iPhone, changed the game. Based on what was seen at this MWC that same quantum leap is shaping up but now based on Google’s leadership.

Read MWC Day 3 <–previous article 

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Mobile World Congress 2011 / 3

Mobile World Congress 2011 Barcelona, Spain

Day 3: 2/16/11

Google Pushes NFC Infrastructure
Bluetooth LE Coming to Everything


As NFC enters the baseline for Gingerbread and Honeycomb one can see it as just another interface to the phone. This is the tip of the iceberg. Tucked in the Android exhibit in a small stand with NXP Semiconductor, who made an announcement at WMC to create silicon for NFC tags and solutions which enable payment. In the booth were examples of what the technology could do. Android will have a simple tag reader included but this is only the beginning. The tags can have with them associated actions. Shown in the booth was a tag which caused the phone which had WiFi turned off to turn on. Tags can cause the phone to  go to a website and many other actions. The problem is that there can be as many tag types as potential applications. For example, tags can cause an application to be downloaded which then creates action on the phone. One problem is that this spawns a very fragmented ecosystem. There are efforts at standards but this is a chicken and egg problem. The standards will be pushed along when the infrastructure is created. It is here with Google putting NFC in millions of phones that forces a leap in the NFC ecosystem.

Many scenarios were painted. One example is when an individual comes into a store they pass the phone at the entrance, their preferences are noted. Then the phone highlights items of high interest to that person. When they visit specific items and the NFC tag near the item is used they could be asked – Are you interested? This may create a special for that individual and payment is immediately made using NFC.

Relative to the identity verification issue vis-a-vis purchasing it is surmised that with NFC these would likely be tiered. That is, above a certain level, say $100, a PIN could be required on the phone. Another area TBD.

In booth tags were being passed out which were embedded on a roll of paper stickers. The tags looked like specs of dust. In most cases one would not even know they are present. But those present in the booth asked – I have an NFC application, how can I test it with tags and deploy it. Given the present ecosystem this is a problem, according to the NXP response in the booth. First, given the state of the industry it does not make sense to create small runs of custom NFC tags, let alone those for testing. There is nothing like a FPGA. Second, there is no easy way for small scale concepts to be created and tested. Lastly, the standards are only beginning which will allow classes of applications to be created and thus allow for applications with common attributes to run under one application type – such as web page access.

NFC is at the center of the development of a proximity ecosystem. Google has done much by putting it on Android devices. This will do much to spur the use of the technology but more importantly the value of Android phones in local applications which Google helps foster.


This was the remote control which surfaced at CES 2011 which uses the iPhone as the controller. The actual product is a IR transceiver which sets in the room where devices are to be controlled. The linkage to the iPhone is via Bluetooth and the iPhone runs an app for device control. This app accesses a data base of device control codes which are then customized for the individual’s CE environment.

What was striking is that the device is self-learning. It will discover devices in a room and set up the control profiles. Not all devices support this but those that do it makes the process much simpler for the user. The other learning feature is that the device can be set up to learn codes. For example, some devices such as blind control use an IR controller. One only needs to point the remote to the device and press the button for the control. This is then recognized by the IR controlled and registered on the iPhone app. The app then allows these codes to be linked to a unique operation and labeled.

In the demo we were impressed with the simplicity of the controls and integration with the iPhone and its gestures.

In terms of remote controls this is a game changer. Based on the response to CES it appears the market is doing the same.

Bluetooth LE on the Threshold

Bluegiga makes Bluetooth modules. These are small PCBs with embedded Bluetooth chips. Their market is directed too small to moderate volumes, up to 100,000 units, where the company with the application does not have the expertise to do the application development and the experience with Bluetooth technology. They just want to use what Bluetooth offers.

Their focus is now on Bluetooth LE. They gauge the response to this by the number of inbound requests. In the last 2 months this has sky rocketed. The initial applications will be fitness and sports oriented. ANT + is dead. We saw in another booth a Polar sensor which uses regular Bluetooth and was told the Bluetooth LE is on the way. The leading chip companies are CSR and TI.

Some of the applications being discussed are to self-power the chips based on motion – such as the strike of a golf club would use the energy of the strike. Others use it to embed in devices such as a football to log the inflight profile. Basically any normal object is subject to having Bluetooth LE embedded.

When asked about the “bag of modules” scenario, that is, one could go buy a bag of modules and place them around the home Bluegiga felt that a target, at retail, could be achieved in a few years of $2.95 each. Thus, a bag of 10 modules would be $29.95. This could enable home automation and location services in the home including keeping track of objects.


JPL has created a worldwide differential GPS system. This supports many missions, most of which are government related but it offers capabilities to the commercial sector. As they said, everything is real time. For $100k a year a chip or device company can subscribe to the service. This gives rise to the notion of A-GPS seen on many chips or phones. The focus in most cases is TTFF reduction. This relates to user experience and power consumption. One aspect of A-GPS is that they provide to the device the locations of the satellites in the sky before the FF. This enables much faster TTFF, on the order of 10 sec. When asked if the industry is demanding greater accuracy using their tools the response was no – it is TTFF reduction. From a consumer experience and power reduction standpoint this is understandable.

DxO Talks Camera Imaging

DxO technology is in 40m camera phones and rising to 100m. This is IP which spans the integrated design of the camera from the sensor module to its processing to output as JPEG. There market premise is that the challenges of cell phone cameras demand a system level approach in going from photons to JPEG. Their technology can get incorporated into the camera imaging as RTL. Even though they can support upper levels of the imaging stack, such as face detection, the core expertise is in the imaging and processing of the image.

Consistent with what has been learned before the power consumption is directly related to the number of operations per pixel. This varies based on the complexity of the design – such as the reduction in image noise as a result of the size of the pixel and required image quality.

In the cell phone business increasingly the size of the sensor is fixed due to limited real estate area and the number of pixels also fixed. The mega pixel wars have subsided on the cell phone. The challenge is to reduce the noise and this is the IP which DxO brings. But they also stabilize the images with the processing.

Some of the trends in the industry include the following.

Folded optics are not in favor due to the difficulty and cost of making them.

EDF, Enhanced Depth of Focus, is gaining support due to the reduction of power, better images and the appearance of autofocus.

Back side imaging is gaining favor due to the higher aperture ratio and more efficient imaging.

In general, the main stream camera companies have avoided the cell phone camera markets. The possible exceptions being Fuji and Olympus.

With the tremendous pressure on TTM, many of the OEMs just what the camera in the phone as soon as possible. But what is found is that the image quality is junk and they are forced to reengineer the image chain. This is DxO’s strength.

The market dynamics around the use of the cell phone camera are important. For men, who love the DSLR camera with the big zoom lens it is all about the picture taking. Size matters. But for women it is the picture and the means is largely immaterial. Thus, quality images on the camera, a good screen to see it on and the ability to share are what is important.

Areas of technical emphasis include: 3D, multi sensor imaging, for example Pelican Imaging, and image stabilization. This is the current focus of the industry. They observed that the LG 3D camera does set a new bar in terms of image capture and playback on the phone. This is consistent with the observations on LG in an earlier report.

One area to be explored is the use of GPUs for image processing and the impact this has on battery power.

Taking Imaging to the Next Step with Almalence

This is a startup company with interesting imaging technology. The booth was showing the following.

High quality digital zoom. This is accomplished with multiple exposures and integrating the images. Here camera motion is actually important to create the displacement. The booth image example, was quite good. Superresolution techniques are used to get the final image.

Low light imaging. This again uses multiple exposures. The technique is closely related to the processing the company does to improve dynamic range with HDR.

Shallow focus imaging, This is where the central object of the image is kept in focus and the background is defocused for emphasis.

The company is a startup and seeking customers at MWC.

A New Sensor Class – Breath Detection

Sensirion is showing a humidity and temperature sensor. It is currently implemented in a DoCoMo phone. This sensor detects and can log humidity and temperature. This has health implications and also a user interface application. One shown in the booth is the activation and even dialing of the phone by just blowing on it. Hard to believe but I got a picture.


Google has a booth here for Android, which is tucked away in the back of Hall 8. It is a crazy place like no other at the Congress. Packed with people there are many standup positions around Android figures. The positions are mostly for app developers by category. There is a “train” of devices which use Android and a slide between floors – saw nothing coming down. Smoothies are for free. This will take hours to capture what is happening.

Google Body

Google has put online the complete human body. This can be seen in layers based on function – such as skin or nervous system. Just to watch the demo is impressive. Coding was done in 2 weeks.

Google Goggles

Take a picture of text and it will translate from any language to any other language. Intended for short segments of text. This also has the ability to take a picture of a landmark and automatically recognize it and then do a search on what was recognized. Amazing.


The focus at MWC has been on location and imaging but there is much more. Here are some highlights.

The pace of this industry incredible. Significant changes happen in months. What is a relatively new industry – personal hand carried communications – has been turned upside down by newcomers. Apple and Google, Neither one operate by the normal market rules. This makes it all the more difficult for the establishment to understand. But many of the OEMs get it – Samsung, LG and HTC have adapted to the pace. Nokia and RIM have not. Motorola is trying.

As we have discussed many times the impact is well beyond what is carried in the pocket but extends throughout CE. Bluetooth LE is an example of a technology which extends the mobile network to virtually anything. The smartphone is the hub of this ecosystem. These are changes unfolding now. NFC is another game changer. This is all about proximity and is following right in the heels of location. As seen in this report the ecosystem has not formed here but again Google is shaping this future by making it omnipresent within Android. By every indication Apple is not far behind.

At the system level we have seen many of the design issues. Should GPS processing be in software or in an AP? TTFF is a critical variable in determining power consumption and there are many ways to minimize this. Battery consumption in imaging, be it a camera or video, is based on the operations per pixel. The inclusion of GPUs changes this game by offering pixel level processing and an impact on power consumption. We have only touched on the system level design issues which surfaced in a short time here. There is one axiom – these are all being developed by the major OEMs as they seek a competitive advantage in the rapidly changing market. The walk thru of the Samsung, LG and HTC booths provide satisfaction on the results of the very competitive environment but also how much the bar has risen with each new version of the OS, in this case Android, and the phones which leverage it.

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Mobile World Congress 2011 / 2

MWC 2011 Barcelona, Spain
Day 2: 2/15/11

ARM Speaks about the Industry
Is Proximity the Next New Phone Feature, App and Service?


HTC does have a tablet, flyer, which was announced along with 6 new products. The tablet is unique in that it supports a stylist and finger touch which is capacitive based. A 1.4 GHz processor is within the product along with 32GB of storage on a 7″ screen. Under glass only. The product is due to ship at the end of Q1. The booth was just packed and hard to even see the unit which was buried in the case.

ARM Describes the Market Dynamics

An extended conversation was had with an EVP at ARM. The following was discussed.

ARM shipped 6.1B licensed products in 2010, of which 1.4B were in cell phones.

There are only 2,000 employees at ARM. It is a pure IP company.

CES 2011 was a major event that ARM had been preparing for over the last 6 years. That is, the coming of ARM in CE as a major player.

Time to Market is a major issue around ARM licensed cores. These companies complete aggressively to be the first to market and as a result fosters innovation and rapid developments. The OEMs for devices are driving the innovation into products, not the operators. The app developers pick up quickly on the opportunities.

An excellent example of this is the rapid adoption of the Dual Core A9 Cortex in phones. Another is the rapid acceptance of the Mali GPUs. This is being driven by the drive for high quality video output from smart phones and tablets. 1080p is where it is going. Tablets are playing a major role in the market as a source of video to the television but cell phones are also at this high end.

Game play on portable devices is rising to parallel the PC and consoles. The processing power is 50X in a pixel basis to output 1080p. In mobile devices the design has to be different due to the need to keep battery power down. ARM uses tile based architecture and tight integration with the CPU to achieve low power but this is still demanding. It is possible to manage power on a frame by frame basis with the ARM GPU cores. The mini-HDMI connector is the output of choice but some are working dongles to allow for wireless connection to the television.

To support HTML 5 ARM has been reviewing the code. It both improves how this is processed internally and it also suggests to software companies, such as Adobe, and its OEMs how to optimize designs for best performance.

Tablets are changing the market because they have a larger form factor, can support larger batteries and fit into the home environment. These are becoming a source of content at the same quality level expected in the home. The market has shifted away for the PC and even some traditional CE devices.

These observations are consistent with what was seen at CES. It is no longer about isolated devices be it a cell phone, a PC or a tablet. These are being integrated into how an individual uses, plays and interacts with content either delivered to or created by them. We used these observations by ARM as a trigger point to look at the media support on the devices on the floor. The ARM executive was right on.


Shown in the corner of the booth was a 1080p display with 5.1 sound driven by a Nokia N8 phone. The phone has come a long ways.


We have been skeptical of 3D. In the LG booth is the Optimus 3D smartphone. This has a 3D camera and the ability to play back 3D on the phone which is autosteroscopic. The playback, even in real time, on a large screen television requires glasses. Given the form factor we were surprised at the quality level. In part, this was related to how one could hold the device to observe the 3D on the small screen. Further, the phone is a full 1080p platform for 2D movies and uses the Cortex Dual Core A9 processor for 2X 1GHz.

The tablet is the G-Slate. We were impressed with the mapping quality and responsiveness. This is also a 1080p player. It also has a 3D camera built in.

In another corner of the booth was Personal Cloud Storage. This is a NAS device which is accessible over the network to any client – the phone, the tablet and the PC. The premise is that the most valuable cloud content is that which you have. A problem is that most of these devices, the phone and tablet, do not have a file system so that only content has much meaning.

CSR Talks Location

Shown in the booth was SiRF City a software application for phones which use the SiRF technology. The purpose of this product is to apply context awareness when driving in dense urban canyons to approve the geolocation accuracy. Basically the application stores map data in the area being driven. This is used to interpolate the likely position based on movement and the fact that one is driving on a road. This is what I described as probabilistic prediction of the path – CSR agreed. The objective is to significantly reduce multi path effect by understanding context. The software will use compass or gyro inputs if available. Note that the architecture is based on client server with the phone being the client.

CSR confirmed the earlier assessments of GPS in the phone. Their points include the following.

  • The value of A-GPS is reduced TTFF. This takes the time down to 10-15 seconds. A cold start is where the power consumption happens – typically 65ma. It was claimed that WAAS SBAS would not improve the TTFF.  As such, WAAS would not improve the power consumption.
  • SiRF chips are increasing their presence in smart phones. RIM uses them, for example. Most of the Tier 1s are using SiRF, but no details were given.
  • A side comment was made – they are seeing less emphasis on the OEMs about power minimization. No reason given.

In the booth it was called Walk SiRF. Demos were being shown of navigation on the show floor and traces on a map. A small screen device was the demo platform. It was implied that the planned product uses some of the MEMS technology of InvenSense. The unit has the same suite of sensors: accelerometers, gyros, compass and barometer. This latter was unique in inclusion of those seen at MWC. CRS recognizes that software is key to the performance of the unit and is continuing to work on this. The issues of self-calibration and noisy compass sensing are known. The product is due later in 2011.

In booth discussions it was stated that a combined SiRF GPS chip and Bluetooth dual mode is on the roadmap. This would provide a one chip state of the art sensing and Bluetooth product. But CSR did state that there are continuing internal debates if such a chip marriage is a good path. One of the arguments is that the maturation of the technologies is different. This results in chip updating which is more difficult to accomplish. That is, as Bluetooth LE evolves it is early to update a single Bluetooth chip than one which has the two technologies integrated.

Does Proximity Follow Location?

Tucked away in the CSR booth is LocalSocial a recent startup which is based on proximity association. Proximity between devices or locations can happen in many ways: WiFi, Bluetooth, or NFC. Bluetooth has the advantage of auto discovery while WiFi does not have this but it has much greater range. NFC requires a physical act but there is a direct association with a device. LocalSocial is building an infrastructure to support proximity which relates to retail and social networks. This is all about scale and for a startup this is acknowledged. Thus, they are seeking early test cases. One has been done in Dublin where a phone is placed in the establishment. This device just logs the devices which enter the store based on detection of Bluetooth. One store had 8000 entries; these could then be broken down into the same customer and frequency of visits. Just the tip of what proximity could enable. It was stated that proximity is at the market where location was 5 years ago. Location got a major boost when Apple included it in the iPhone and location was for free. That same spur is needed for proximity.

This could be happening with the inclusion of NFC in phones and in particular the next Android phones. An effort recently started by Google was described. They have sent kits out to retailers in Portland. This is assumed to be those which already participate in the local search services and advertising. These kits include an NFC tag which the merchant can place in the store. When an individual enters with a NFC equipped device they only need to pass it by the NFC tag. This opens potentially significant opportunities for coupons and the relationship between the buyer, store and Google.HotPot.

One other concept surfaced which was interesting. That is, what are the opportunities enabled by selling Bluetooth LE buttons. What if one could buy a package of 10 buttons in say WalMart for just a few dollars and these could run for 3 years on a button battery? The premise is that one could place these all over the house and with an app log them in to the location. Now the opportunities could be immense. Objects could be logged as they passed by a button. There are many more opportunities.

Low Cost Gesture Technology

Extreme Reality was showing gesture technology in the TI booth which is quite simple, only a VGA camera is used to detect the gestures. The 2D image is then converted to a 3D representation. Then the actions of the individual are interpreted. It was claimed this could provide full television control and the ability to control all apps on a smart phone. Two demos were being shown – short range on a cell phone and long range for the television. The technology seemed to work well but this was a difficult venue to evaluate the performance.


The HP tablet has compass, gyro and accelerometers embedded. A game was being shown which uses navigation based on the position of the tablet.

STMicroelectronics Shows Integrated Inertial Sensor Platform

STMicroelectronics highlighted the iNEMO Engine which is a 9 axis sensor platform. This included: 3 axis gyroscope, 6 axis compass, 3 axis accelerometer. There is also a pressure sensor. In the booth was a game demo which controls a bird in flight using these sensors. It was not as smooth as what was seen in the InvenSense booth.

We asked multiple times – what does the developer have access to on these chips and the API. STMicroelectronics was evasive. In the end they said we will work with the customer.

Olaworks Shows Camera Processing Technology

Focused on bringing the same technology associated with point and shoot cameras Olaworks was showing its technology for making picture taking more intelligent. They have a software engine which detects faces, detects smiles, does panoramas, does head tracking, face recognition, 3D face modeling and object tracking. Face tracking takes about 200MHz of processing on an ARM 9 core. They are supported already in phones from HTC, LG and Samsung.

The company also has ScanSearch technology which is machine vision to recognize objects. This is basically image matching. It consumes 600MHz of processing power in an ARM 9 processor.


At CES observations were made about the role that mobile devices are playing in the home CE environment. Here at MWC this has only been reinforced. ARM outlined this transition and it is obvious on the floor. Here are some business implications of this.

The tablet is an essential part of any mobile strategy. This was clear at CES and strongly reinforced here. A booth with mobile phones is incomplete without a tablet. It can also be said that the next important CE item is the television and that is already in many of the booths.

Targeting today’s phones as where the market will be in 18 months is a fallacy. The pace of GPU adoption, CPU performance and display quality continues to surprise. Even in the motion platform discussion here a full set of motion sensors is already assumed. The question is not if but where will it be in 18 months. With full motion support in Gingerbread this capability is already a given. We are at a threshold in significant applications built around location. Apple started this with built-in location and we are at the next threshold of much improved navigation which will first be seen in games.

Much is made about the fragmentation in the Android model. This is a fallacy. Assume fragmentation = differentiation. Given the common use of ARM CPUs and potentially GPUs the OEMs differentiate on time to market, UI refinements and applications which use their platform. ARM has captured the pressures in the market.

As was stated in the CES report the future is about how these devices are linked and operate together. At the keynote by Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, he painted a picture of linked devices via the cloud. This is getting close to personalized devices which migrate between devices based on use.

Proximity could be another new function and application frontier. NFC in phones is one enabler. Already Google in out in front here. Thus, any mobile strategy must look at proximity as just another capability in future phones. Google has made NFC a must.

The future business case is about strategy first and execution next. A strategic context of what is to be the competitive edge over a sustained period is critical. it is not just about making the phones which are seen here on the floor. This is not a platform strategy but an ecosystem strategy. Google clearly sees this and anything less will be non-competitive.

Eric Schmidt commented on how often his forecasts on technology and the pace of change are wrong. He continually underestimates. To undershoot the market pace and not build products which lead the market is the same as failure.

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Mobile World Congress 2011 / 1

MWC 2011 Barcelona, Spain
Day 1: 2/14/11

Samsung Sets the Performance Standard for Phones & Tablets
InvenSense Shows Compelling Motion Platform
Fujitsu Struggles with Dual Screen Phone

Mobile World Congress 2011

Mobile World Congress 2011 Barcelona, Spain

MWC Impressions

This is a massive event which struggles with its size. One is reminded of CeBIT. MWC is an ecosystem conference focused mostly on the devices and operators. Apps are included but nowhere to the level which one would expect given the impact on smart phones. Just like CES it suffers from those who are missing, especially Apple, and also Nokia and Sony Ericsson. There were comments today about creating a 3 ecosystem, based on the Nokia and Microsoft alliance, but there is a huge void in the show floor, when Apple is not present here.

There are 3 conferences:

  • First are the main exhibitors in 5 halls. These are disjointed which makes coverage the same. There are massive exhibits such as Samsung and then those which are aggregates of companies from countries or regions.
  • Second are the many private booths. This is hardly an exhibition in that they are not showing products to the visitors. It is disappointing when companies such as Broadcom have a closed booth.
  • Third are the sessions. These cover a wide range of topics including health and apps.

Just sampling the phones one would think that only smart phones are the market. The low end high volume phone hardly seems of interest. On the other hand tablets are in many places. These are not a carrier-only play but the impact they are having on the overall market has them in many booths. One area of disappointment is the overall lack of the component technologies in the phone. In part, the chip companies are in closed booths. There is nothing we could find about the architecture of the phone, for example.

This is hardly a tablet conference but there was a sharp contrast between the booths that had them and those who did not. In the Samsung, LG and Motorola booths the tablet was just an extension of the mobile platform. The common OS made it all the more compelling as just another device. But when it is missing from the platform offerings there is an obvious hole.

The success of this venue is driven by one market dynamic – the world standard of GSM. All other standards, that is, CDMA, pale in comparison. As a result the success is what has created a 5 billion unit installed base. This then creates MWC which is European in its foundation.


Our first hall entrance landed in the massive Samsung booth. We tried the Galaxy S II phone and the Galaxy Tab. Other devices seen or tested included LG, Motorola, RIM, HP (no touching), HTC and found the Samsung compelling in terms of performance. The experience was fluid as we sailed through the experience. In the case of the Galaxy S II, which is 4.3” AMOLED and dual core processor, this phone stood out in terms of image quality and overall performance.

The Honeycomb-based Galaxy Tab sets the bar for performance also. After just sailing through the interface one really appreciated how well the OS, user experience and hardware were integrated.

We evaluated the Motorola Xoom and found it good but not to the level as this Samsung Galaxy Tab. The user experience seemed the same. It is here where Google has made significant effort that is paying off.

The Nexus S is the first phone with Gingerbread which is available on T-Mobile in the US now. The phone has a built in gyro, full support for VoIP services and 3D games. It uses an AMOLED display. The interface is smooth.


At the other end of the spectrum we evaluated the dual-screen smart phone in their large dedicated building/booth. Actually two designs were shown of a dual screen phone. The first was based on Symbian and it was polished and working. The integration of both the mechanical design and the UI was very good. One could flick content from one screen to another. There is no keyboard and all interaction is on the screen. The second was a concept demonstration based on Android. It was, based on the demo, only an example of what could be done. It showed only two screens in landscape mode on top of each other.

When asked when to market the responses seemed to reflect the current market dynamics. First, Fujitsu is waiting carrier responses to the concept of a dual-screen phone. Having the only working device in Symbian seems to be a poor starting point. However, the response to the Android version was – this will take a LOT of effort to tailor Android for dual screen and to do the mechanical design. We will only do this if we find an operator to sell it to.

We were left with the impression – good technical work but the device was overtaken by market events. This includes the OS in favor, the appeal of dual screens in a large screen smart phone, for example, the Samsung Galaxy S II, and the emergence of tablets. The time for a dual screen phone has passed.


Increasingly navigation on the smart phone is playing an important role. At CES, CEA stated that smart phone navigators are in the process of devastating the personal navigation market. Navigon stated to us that personal navigation is playing an increasing role in the market as individuals are using smart phones for walking navigation.


GMV has taken a software-only approach to GPS signal processing in the product called SRX-10. Basically they are saying that having GPS in a phone is only 200MIPS of processing power. This makes GPS available as a mass market feature on phones. It has been made operational on the XScale PXA270 and the ARM9 Samsung 2440. The TTFF is claimed to be <1min and the best case positional accuracy is <3m. This latter figure is subject to many restrictions that it would seldom be realized in use. They claim in a deep urban environment <10m with 50% and <25m at 90%. Coding to another processor is estimated to take a few months.


They are touting the “World’s Smallest GPS Module” at 7 x 7 x 1.4mm. Up to now the product has been focused on small GPS units such as those to attach to pets. Here at MWC they are seeking an entry into the mobile device market. The key attributes of the technology include: low noise processing, wafer-scale integration of the SiRFstarIV module and low power. Their module supports WAAS but the SBAS equivalent in Europe works poorly in limited areas. Thus, SBAS is only for the US. WAAS has no impact on power consumption.

The significant power consumption in GPS comes during TTFF which can go to 35ma. Once established the baseline current reduces to 5ma. Updates take about 1 sec. Thus, it is important to keep the module fixed all the time. This is one area where the low noise design of OriginGPS has an advantage. WAAS accuracy can get to 2.5m. Cold start to acquire a fix is about 30 sec.


Bordering on the edge of using the more accurate GPS solutions was Telemap. They provide location based services focused on both retail and social. In the booth they were showing what is called Ultra Local Experience. This is information and services down to a street level when an individual is present. When asked if they support Foursquare check in this was dismissed and it is assessed that Facebook will eventually own that market.


InvenSense has the most complete indoors navigation solution seen. Basically it is a strap-down navigation platform on a chip. This includes a 3 axis accelerometer, 3 axis MEMS gyroscope and 3 axis compass. The key to the success of this platform is three fold:

  1. Low noise processing of the signals from the sensors,
  2. Years of experience in the software which does the motion processing from the sensor inputs and
  3. Their own MEMS design.

The total package is only .9mm thick in a vacuum sealed unit. Current draw is 5ma.

The typical problem with a strap-down navigator is drift. This is worse in the lower cost units. Thus, over time, in an indoor setting, the accuracy declines until there is another update. InvenSense addresses this with the inclusion of a compass which will not drift. The problem with this sensor is the noisy sensing of the gravity field. It is here where the gyro plays an important role to damp the estimation of the location. Another limitation of the platform is an accurate estimate of stride length – an important factor when walking. If it is possible to pick up a WiFi signal, even limited information, will allow for a much more precise estimate of stride. As a result the location prediction improves significantly.

It was stated that a miniature laser gyro would improve the position accuracy but InvenSense still believes that the overall performance is based on the software which defines the Motion Processing Platform.

A demo was given on a phone while we walked the show floor. An initial fix was set based on the map of the show floor and the tracking was a very good. Some jumps in position were seen. While on the walk a Quake demo was shown playing the game in real time during the walk – gaming augmented reality.

Initially the company entered the market with its technology to provide motion compensation for camera movement in cell phones. This is the most difficult problem due to the high frequency of the movement of the camera – the cell phone not being a very stable platform. This requirement was stated to need very low noise detection of the motion and a high frequency response. A booth demo illustrated impressive results with a camera module from HYSONIC.

Another demo was shown of a window into a world on the screen of a tablet-like device. There was seamless motion between the device and apparent window. Again, InvenSense credited this with the role of the gyro.

When the market was discussed it was stated that for the last few years it was difficult to convince OEMs and operators the value of a gyro in the phone. This has changed. Currently the InvenSense technology is in some LG phones and many more in the future.

A startup is also in the process of creating a database of inside building maps:

InvenSense has been working with Google to help it with the inside building mapping API. It was stated that Google is well ahead of the industry in this critical database area.

When asked of the market there was no doubt that initially it will be gaming. A motion enabled phone is a new game experience. Eventually this technology will lead to a whole new class of products and services based on accurate indoor navigation.

More information on the platform can be found on YouTube video of a talk given at Google Headquarters by David Sachs of InvenSense.

> Sensor Fusion on Android Devices by David Sachs (Google TechTalk)

Here is an overview of the InvenSense technology.

  • Motion processing is much more than sensors. We learned this over 7 years.
  • The processing rate to create real time smooth output is 200Hz. This creates significant burden on the CPU. Our motion AP takes this burden and the application only needs to sample the location at a rate it needs.
  • Chip integration is essential. There are 4 chips with STMicroelectronics product but ours is one integrated package. Both the gyro and accelerometers must be in a vacuum seal. A single package is best in terms of cost and size.
  • The key is the software in the application processor – what we call the motion processor. We have support from Google but it is very cautious about showing preference to any one company. Our product is supported from Gingerbread on.
  • There are many issues to be addressed in getting a motion platform to work. One is calibration of the sensors. In conventional internal platforms this is a significant effort but in CE such activities cannot be tolerated from a cost standpoint. For example, every motion platform needs to be calibrated based on the chassis they are in because this influences the magnetic field around the compass. Out platform is self-calibrating.
  • There are many subtleties in the support of an inertial platform in a phone, for example. One is body placement. Two good places are the pocket or the shoe but, in large part, these are impractical. The reason is the motion is predictable do to body motion. BUT the worst place is the hand because the hand is decoupled from the rest of the body motion. However, given there are some constraints, such as readability, this provides clues which we use to determine location.

InvenSense has thought much about making location work on a device in closed physical environments.

Next article –> Read MWC 2011 Day 2

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The Ups and Downs of Replacing a Notebook with an iPad

As I set off on a two week trip to Europe and the Caucuses, the reality of traveling without a notebook hit me in the Washington DC Dulles Airport when I checked my rather light carry-on. My notebook had been left behind in the rush to leave! Having traveled with a computer since the original Compaq luggable, I knew the trip was going to require some planning. Getting my computer, as a last minute effort, was out of the question so something else would need to be done.

The options I had were few:

  • Buy a new computer when I arrived
  • Get an iPad
  • Do nothing

The first one was ruled out quickly for two reasons: I have no need for another notebook at the office. In addition, the value of a computer is not so much for itself but the applications loaded on it. Trying to load applications while consumed with work efforts on the road was both impractical and impossible because some were only available in the office. The last option was rejected – something was needed. That left getting another iPad as I already have one.

I arrived in Barcelona for a conference a day in advance which allowed time to get an iPad and set it up. On arrival it was off to an Apple store and one was found in a large shopping mall. Apple store employees were helpful in resolving two issues: getting the iPad to register when I had no USB drive on a computer and setting up the iPad to work in English.

The Apple hardware was the same as one would get in the US except for the keyboard. When the iPad was setup for US English the keyboard mapped into this configuration but of course the printing on the keys remained that of the Spanish keyboard. There is one drawback of the Apple keyboard – it is poorly suited for travel as there is no way to protect the keys from the rigors of getting crushed in the luggage. This is the advantage of the Zaggmate keyboard which combines a case and keyboard.

Back in the hotel room I was left with making the iPad an acceptable solution. The most important function was writing and sending out a daily report. Apple’s Pages was selected. Google docs was considered but rejected do to its inability to work off-line on the iPad. Pages is just a simple touch based word processor. It has several drawbacks:

  • Rearward single character delete (backspace) is not supported
  • Doing corrections suffers from not being able to do precise text pointing like a mouse. Getting to the specific location can be difficult with large finger tips. Precision requires screen magnification which must then go back to normal to type again. Further, touch granularity is only to the word level. Yes, there is a magnify glass which provides some flexibility but this does not correct the issue above
  • The onscreen keyboard has no single space forward and back keys
  • Help is only available online
  • Some functions are not available, such as offsetting a block of text to the right, only tab

From an efficiency standpoint a keyboard is essential for writing. Given the limitations outlined above I consider Pages a 70% solution for my writing style. However, given my situation this was good enough.

iPad lacks an exposed file system. From a user’s perspective the device has no files but the one you are currently working on in that app. When it comes to file storage using the cloud, which is embedded in many apps, this suffers from the lack of a consistent interface and file architecture. In my exploration this is a marginal solution. There are apps, such as EverNote, which exploit its partial cloud solution for free, and provide a paid premium subscription to get more features. One should not have to pay for a file system, be it a cloud or not.

Given that my PC was still in the office getting access to it was critical. The virtual desktop application Jump was selected based on its ratings. Once set up this worked well. The one problem is that one must have a gmail account to use it. Jump also has screen size limitations that restricted what it would allow the iPad to display on the screen, yet one computer has a 2560 X 1600 display. Overall, putting a PC screen on the iPad allowed many tasks to be done that would have been impossible. The speed of the operations on the remote machine was directly related to the connectivity and frequently this was annoying due to the poor WiFi. However, since there was no alternative it worked.

On travel many pictures are taken and these can be downloaded to the iPad. A shortfall is that they cannot be organized into folders which then again should be moved to another device. There is an app for this called Photo-Sort but it was not tried in the short time available.

Connectivity is normally taken for granted. With the WiFi version of the iPad this is the only way to connect. On this trip, four hotels that I stayed at only provided wired connections in the rooms. Normally this is greeted with glee as WiFi is invariably less reliable than wired. The iPad is very much a cloud client. As a standalone device, for my needs, it suffers significantly.

It is hardly a negative for the iPad, but my experience during this trip was that the quality of the WiFi connection was good to terrible. Most notably the lack of a consistent connection was frustrating when the connectivity would drop in and out. In most cases it was not a signal level issue but either an outbound network or local saturation issue.

Frequently there was the need to capture this screen. In particular this applied to getting information from the browser. We only found one application which did this and the user reviews were poor. What is needed is a screen capture app that will work anytime, that is, with any application. The iOS may not permit this given the way its multitasking is structured.

In addition to writing reports while on travel, presentations are frequently created. This is clearly an area outside of the current domain of the iPad.

One task which the iPad did not do well on, is fax creation and transmission. On the PC I use RapidFax and it bridges the Internet to fax well. But nothing as effective was seen as an iPad application. This is another example where communicating between multiple applications with a file system is taken for granted, but the iPad fails.

Much has been made about the consumption productivity divide on tablet devices. The logic goes that the tablet form factor is a consumption device and only can a full PC, be it Microsoft Windows or Apple, can be a productivity device. This short experiment has shown that the tablet, in the iPad, is more than just for consumption. I was able to accomplish many of the normal PC operations I do while on travel. But the iPad does fall short. The critical issue is the lack an exposed file system. There are likely good reasons not to do this and platform security is a major one. But the tablet form factor needs the ability for applications to communicate together more than simple messages and that means the exchange of files. A cloud-based file system has promise but today’s implementation across many apps we looked at suffers.

I was frankly surprised at the lack of useful solutions in the app store. Having 300,000 applications means nothing when looking for a quality and robust screen capture app or a fax app.

Given the crisis I was in, the iPad saved the day. It also has important advantages over a PC. These include:

  • Superb form factor
  • Long operating life
  • It can do functions not suited to the PC such as eBooks

The iPad will travel with me in the future. However, there is no attachment to the device only what it can do. If better tablets emerge they could displace it. This is just the pace of technology. There is little doubt that the tablet will erode the position of the notebook as a mobility device. This crisis demonstrated that I could make do with a product which has been in the market less than a year, a significant accomplishment.

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CES 2011: New Products

In 3 days of walking the floor we saw lots of interesting and exciting products. As discussed throughout these reports the buzz was on 3D and tablets but there was much more. We highlight products which were innovative or different.

Personal Camcorders

Wearable camcorders brought the YouTube opportunity to new levels.

CAM Sports has a line of HD camcorders. One includes a high power LED flashlight for night video in HD. These products are being pitched for “extreme sports.”

Midland Radio Corporation was showing its XTC Series of camcorders which include image stabilization. Other features include:

  • •Mounts – Helmet, Helmet Strap, Handlebar and Goggles
  • •640 x 480 Standard Definition @30FPS
  • •Micro SD Card
  • •140˚ Wide Angle Lens
  • •2 AAA Batteries
  • •4:3 Aspect Ratio
Wearable Camcorder

Liquid Image's wearable camcorder

Liquid Image sports camcorders are integrated into goggles (see image at right). It has goggles for:

  • Skiing
  • Scuba diving
  • Swimming

We were impressed with the design.

Murl International had a HD Personal Cam which can be mounted in many ways. It is light enough to be mounted in hats. The back of the camera has a 2” display for review of the video.

One of the most unique personal camcorders was by Looxcie. This is a video camcorder which is attached to a Bluetooth ear piece. The imaging camera comes out in front of the ear piece as it rests on the top of the ear piece. This seems awkward but the demo went very well. Well integrated with the iPhone.

Motion Stabilization for the iPhone

Steadicam has a small hand held camera stabilization platform. Shown mounted as the video camera was an iPhone to allow it to make high quality shake-free videos.


Intel had an early version of a product tentatively called WiDJ. This sends audio streams from the PC to speakers over WiFi. The software in the PC works like simulating a dual NIC card for WiFi with the second one for audio. There is a small box in front of the speakers which receives the WiFi. Shown in the booth was one from Logitech, Intel’s launch partner. The cost is $30.

Ozaki was showing an extensive line of watches based on the iPod nano.

Gesture Interfaces

Asus announced a developer program for the XtionPRO motion and body movement tracking system. This is to allow developers to create their own applications using the Asus platform.

Pico Projectors

Butterfly was shown a range of projector projects. One of the more interesting is the J02 their Pico-Projector.

Cinemin had an iPad or iPhone docking unit which allowed either to project its image onto a screen with a pico projector. Well integrated.

Phone as a Hub

Gear4 was had the UnityRemote which turns any iPhone or iPad into a universal remote. Can control multiple devices with on screen gestures, there is a separate communicator which does the IR linkage to devices over 360 deg, the App on the device can be personally customized. Pricing is $99.

Moomote showed its VooMote universal remote controller which operates with the iPhone. Claimed to offer 98% coverage of IR controlled devices. No PC is required to configure.

Morphie is offering marketplace a magnetic strip reader for the iPhone 4. This works with the intuit GoPayment app for merchant services.

Keyboard and Mouse

Zagg has the Zaggmate which doubles as a case for the iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard. It was not only at the show but we saw it in use in the press room by many writers. The fit and finish is excellent. Price $99.

ID8Mobile was claiming with its MoGoMouse TM1 to have the world’s thinnest mouse. Use is for with tablets. Supports Bluetooth and it has 3 button control. Size of a credit card. Price $59.99.

Four Door Media had a table full of its Road Mice. These are high quality models of automobiles of many types. The bottom of the car is an optical sensor for the mouse. The hood of the car has a scroll wheel. Cost $40 wireless and $30 wired.

LG showed a scanner mouse which was scanning a map and stitching the images together.

User Interaction

Just Mobile brings a stylist interface to the iPad. It allows painting, for example, to be done on the iPad. Stated to be compatible with most iPad and iPhone applications.

Yifang Digital was promoting its Smart Pen for the Smart Phone. The XN301i clips onto any writing surface which one wants to track the movements of a compatible pen. The pen stores its movements which are later downloaded but real time tracking is also supported via Bluetooth. It was also showing a handwriting tablet using Android.

Ambient Design Ltd had a painting easel set up with an iPad. An artist was using it to paint a portrait. The product is called ArtRage3.


Acer was showing its Iconia dual screen computer. The form factor is that same as a notebook. The second screen is where the keyboard would normally be. When needed, a virtual keyboard pops up on the screen. We were left wondering is this the worst of both worlds?


Achos had one of the largest product lines in tablets with 6 units. They have screen sizes of 2.8”, 3.2”, 4.3”, 7” and 10” all running Android.  The Archos 28 tablet sells for under $100.

NEC was showcasing its LT-W dual screen Android Cloud Communicator. This looks like a book in form factor. This can be used as a book reader, education and internet browsing. Support for WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G option. It is due to be released in Japan in 2011 and no decision has been made on other countries.

Aluratek had a product line of tablets and eBook readers. There are 3 models of the eBook readers and 1 tablet. The tablet is called Cinepad, is 10.1” and runs currently Android 2.2. There is no GPS and it communicates via WiFi. The price is $299. They described the evolution of Android for tablets as a work in progress. Hopefully Honeycomb, version 3.0 for tablets, would be available in 2011 Q2 but deadlines are a work in progress just like the software.

Creative Labs is promoting its ZiiO tablet (Android). This is focused on its core competency of audio first. There are 7” and 10” versions. The ZiiO will stream to speakers. One can also watch HD TV on the 10’ version.

iTablet was showing its version of the tablet. This company was stressing the role that Windows will play in the market but also concerned about the apparent delays in getting an OS which is fully tablet supportive.

Marvell was showing an extensive line of tablets of companies that use its chips.

Motorola Xoon was being shown in both the Verizon and the Motorola booth. It was not clear this had real software on it. One demonstrator said that it was running a flash demo. Without hands-on evaluation this was vaporware.

Viewsonic had multiple tablets in the booth which included: ViewPad 4 and ViewPad 10. Both Android and Windows 7 supported.

The Blackberry PlayBook demos seemed always packed. Hands-on was possible. Screen seemed small.

Samsung had in the booth, but not accessible to the public, its 7 Series tablets which combine Windows 7 notebook with a tablet. Has a unique keyboard and display implementation.


Recon Instruments has taken navigation to a new level with its ReconReady sports goggles. Integrated into the goggles is a HMD that allows for the continuous viewing of information on the display. The operating system is Android and this device will allow for wireless linkage to an Android phone. Apps will be available to support the goggles. The goggles have GPS built in. This allows for navigation and buddy tracking. Video is also supported via the smartphone. Impressive and quality design. Pricing is $299 and $399.


The Samsung Nexus S was tried. This is the first Gingerbread phone. It took several units to try before one worked. We found the navigation clunky – but it may have been the lack of experience with the device. Surprisingly the OLED display did not seem to be much different than the high quality TFT-LCD displays in use on other phones.


Certainly one of the more unusual products was TV Hat. This looks like a long billed baseball cap. Its pricing is only $29.95. The iPhone, which is the source of the video, is placed in the front of the bill and the lens which does the imaging to the eye. This is called a Personal Theater. Innovative. SKM Industries.

4iiii Visual Intution was showing its Sport-iiiis heads up display for virtually any glasses or sports eyeware. The visual indication is a series of LED light points. Audio output is also provided. The interface is ANT + so that the Sport-iiis interfaces with many of the fitness equipment. It is also compatible with Training Peaks software.

3D displays using LDC TFT panels were everywhere but only Innovision had a display where the objects appeared lifelike. This was described as holographic like and it provided 180 deg viewing. The product is called a holographic messenger. A problem is that the viewing area is confined to a glass enclosure. The image quality was good and can be created from any 3D object file. Show pricing was $3,950 and it normally costs $4,990.

LG had a large display of Touch television displays. This uses a soft tipped pen to interact. For the first time, we have seen such a display as being promoted for the home. Where the software comes is not clear. In the demos the interaction was smooth.

MultiTouch from Finland had a booth with many of its MultiTouch Cells which are based on TFT-LCDs. The advantage of the cell approach is that many cells can be stacked for a large interactive wall. The tracking is claimed to operate up to 120Hz. Well done.

Pioneer was showing a heads up display using a combiner glass for use in automobiles.

Sharp had one of the most compelling displays called iWall. This is a 5 sided room made up of large LCD panels which one could walk into – the demo did not allow one to walk on the panels. The images were such that it looked just like the environment one was entering. Well done.

MobileMonitor Technologies was showing its Monitor2 Go. This is a 15.4” display which costs $279 and interfaces via USB using DisplayLink’s Virtual Display technology.


JVC had what they claimed was the first consumer 3D camcorder GS-TD1. The 3D quality was surprisingly good.

Connected TVs

Yahoo had a large booth promoting its connected TV initiative. It was always busy.

AzureWave was showing its Androit TV solution.

LG offered its Smart TV Upgrader which was a small box which makes its televisions internet capable. It is DLNA compatible.

Sony was showing its Internet Powered TV which is powered by Google TV.


Pageonce was showing its app which compiles personal financial information on Android, iPhone and Windows Mobile. The depth of the product was amazing.

Unusual had many copies of its MakerBot product. This is a consumer 3D printer which costs $1,225. The printer is about the 12” X 12” X 14”. Plastic costs $10/lb. There were many models in the booth as output examples. This brings new product creation to another level.

Orbotix was showing Sphero which is a rolling ball game. An app runs on the iPhone or iPad which controls a 2” diameter sphere on the floor. The ball can be directed to roll and any direction.

Accessory Workshop had an iPad case attached to a pillow. It seemed to attract a lot of attention.

StoKyo had a product the shape of a miniature VW bus. This is the combination of the vinyl record playing head and audio amplifier. The VW bus runs along the top of the record in circles. From this motion it plays the record. I found it hard to believe but it seemed to work.


iSkin was showing a fashion line which blended products for carrying iPhones and iPads into one look and feel. This takes fashion and integrates it with what you carry and wear.

BingMyThing was showing fashion iPhone cases. Some include cut-glass from Swarovski and others diamonds.

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CES 2011: CEA Market Assessment

CEA put its forecasting hat on and presented interesting data on the market and trends around smartphones and tablets. Here is a summary of some of the points made by CEA in its evaluation of the market for smartphones and tablets.

  • The fastest growing category is eReaders at 212%, then tablets at 71% and smartphones at 31%.
  • Smartphones have reached 39% penetration in the US and this compares with 31% of portable game machines. Cellphones are at 91% penetration. The significant news is that in only one year Tablets have achieved 8% – an unusual accomplishment.
  • CEA has begun to watch for early market trends by watching chatter in blogs and the social networking sites. These methods can provide an early indication of trends.
  • CEA forecasts phone sales being relatively flat from 2011 to 2014 rising from 152m unit to 165m units. Meanwhile smartphones will climb from 72m units to 100m.
  • The % of very satisfied consumers for smartphones is 79% and only exceeded by Laptops, Blu-ray and motion sensing game controllers.
  • The highest rated activities on smartphones are taking pictures and email followed by news.
  • In the category of likely to very likely future activities on mobile web is pay bills/ ecommerce (62%) and streaming video (50%). It is interesting that getting access to files on the home computer network was at 47%.
  • One user perspective stood out – When asked “Is a mobile internet connection more useful when the device has GPS or location services?” the response was 64%.
  • In a vehicle, the most used feature on the smartphone is navigation at 40% and well above email at 26%.
  • Tablet sales forecast for the US, by CEA, begins at 10.3m in 2010, rises to 20.5m in 2012 and then levels to 21.8m and 22.1m in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
  • 82% of tablet owners have a laptop/notebook.
  • 52% of the tablet owners felt the touchscreen made the tablet easy to use. 31% stated that the tablet would become their primary computer.
  • 94% of the tablet users used the tablet to browse the internet.
  • 44% of the tablet owners have 30+ apps on the tablet.
  • 96% of the tablets are connected to the Internet over WiFi at home and 82% connected the same way out of the home. Only 26% use tablets with a carrier.
  • CEA stated that a game changing assessment by consumers was that when asked – Do apps remove the need to buy separate CE devices? 26% said Yes.
  • The eReader market is expected to peak about 15m units a year in 2013. In 2010 6.6m units were sold.

During the talk CEA speculated that there is likely to be competition between the carriers on broadband data plans, even including competition on pricing.


We question if the Tablet forecast, where the market peaks out in 2013, reflects the likely market dynamics. As discussed in earlier reports some of these factors include:

Increasing emphasis on application specific tablets. The eReader is just one we see today but there will be many more. This will trigger the purchase of multiple tablets per household. Today some households have both an eReader and a tablet and this proliferation will accelerate as the tablet variations grow.

Continuing erosion in price. We estimate that a quality tablet will be on the market for <$100 at the end of 2011. The tablet market is likely to be highly elastic, at least in the early years and the analysis does not seem to reflect this.

Rapid obsolesce of tablet generations. The market pace will be such that last year’s tablet is seen as dead weight. The innovations will be in software, application specific tablets and price. Tablet innovation velocity will not be bounded by Moore’s Law. The biggest innovation area, in terms of cost and performance, will be in the screen.

A major uncertainty in the tablet market is the role of the carriers. The more tablets which are sold by them the greater the likely barrier in the market for rapid growth. Using artificial pricing, contract lock-ins, controlled platforms and preloaded junk the carriers could be a force which retards an open market. CEA’s speculation on competition for data plans between the carriers is good news, if it happens. However, the carriers have shown negative innovation on the pricing and marketing of data plans.

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