Editor's Note: With the imminent launch of Intel’s next-generation Core processors at the International Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 5, we thought it would be interesting to hear a perspective from the person who has been leading the chip design teams responsible for Intel’s latest flagship product. Ron Friedman is vice president and general manager of Intel’s Microprocessor and Chipset Development group responsible for microprocessor design teams in California and Israel, including Intel’s new “Sandy Bridge” architecture.


Previously, Friedman was design manager for the original Pentium M processor, He was also involved in the design of the next-generation mobile processor code named “Merom” — which would become the first mobile variant of the new Intel “Core” architecture, sold as the Intel Core 2 Duo.


As you and your teams worked on the new microprocessor architecture, what unexpected challenges did you run into?
Sandy Bridge was new to us in many ways. It was the first time at Intel that we were doing real integration of graphics and the IA core in the same die. And we were trying, at the same time, to prepare up-front for multiple permutations of the product — to allow the best optimization of cost and performance.



And finally, the team had to work with groups we hadn’t interfaced with before — but it was essential to establish good working relationships and close cooperation. Those were the main challenges in bringing Sandy Bridge to product release qualification.


Can you give an example of one of the unexpected technical challenges that arose?
As we integrated the graphics and the Intel Architecture on the same die, we had to figure out ways to validate the interactions between the compute core and the graphics — interactions that didn’t exist before, because they had been on two separate dies.


Debugging got much more complex, too. That’s because when you have functions on multiple dies, you have more interfaces exposed outside the silicon, which makes it easier to debug. When you are integrating everything on one die, you improve the cost and power envelopes — but the debug gets harder because there are fewer places to test.


If it was hard bringing the silicon together, how difficult was it to bring together teams from Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere? How do you handle cultural differences?
Absolutely, I think that there are differences between, let's say, American culture and Israeli culture. For example, in Israel, we are very accustomed to have heated discussions on everything.


Here in Israel, people interpret this as, “We care, and therefore we express our opinion openly.” And when we debate, it’s not because we want to offend anybody but simply because we care.


But in the U.S., sometimes it can be interpreted by people as “arguing for the sake of arguing.” So you have to educate the people both in Israel as well as the U.S. that, yes, they may witness different behaviors, and they need to interpret it correctly. And people need to be sensitive to the fact that interpretation may be different.


Are there ways U.S. team members might be misinterpreted?
For example, in the U.S., when they tell someone, "Hey, you may want to consider looking at X, Y, Z," it actually means, "You need look at this because maybe there is a problem there.”


But in Israel, they will hear that to mean it as simply a suggestion, like "Hey, I’ll think about it if I have time."


So how do you manage these differences?

Some of the people, of course, are experienced in working across cultures. But for those that are new to it we have cross-culture education classes. And we make sure that people that are in those interfaces are going through these classes and are aware of the cultural differences so they don't run into them unprepared.


How would you characterize your management style?
I talk to a lot of people in one-on-ones, in corridors trying to see how they feel, what problems they face, and how we can help them. I also believe that managers need to be technical at all levels. Our first-line managers, second-line managers, project managers, and even at my level, they need to be technical enough so they ask the right questions, make the right tradeoffs and identify problematic trends.


I believe in a learning organization. That is why in my groups, people view post-mortems and after-action reviews as a way of life, not as something that is threatening. It is simply a way to get group learning and continuous improvement.




Where did your management philosophy come from — did you have a mentor or did it come through all the experiences you’ve had?
I’ve worked with multiple managers — I learned different things from different managers, so I cannot say it was a single manager who defined my management style.


But I would mention two events in my career that really had a deep influence on me and the way I manage products.


The first was when I was a junior manager, working on the Pentium with MMX technology.


We were trying to adopt some new methodologies, which were supposed to be revolutionary and buy a lot of productivity. For various reasons the methodology didn't really lead to any improvements. But for a very long period of time, we kept blindly believing that the methodology would eventually pan out. And we weren't really looking at the mirror, comparing our progress to other similar projects and figuring out that we were really late.


At the end of the day, we were late with the project by six months. Pentium MMX did turn out be very successful in the market. But I did learn that you can’t simply, blindly believe something without doing benchmarking, comparing to other projects.


The second was when I was working on a project called Timna. I was responsible for the design of the second half of the project. We were ready to bring these products to market — but it turned out the marketing team didn’t really know how to sell it. So we brought the product to market — it was already in production — but it got cancelled.


That was a really traumatic experience. And what I learned from this experience is that our job as a project manager or engineering manager is not just to design the product, but to be involved in the goodness of the product and the way that it will be marketed and sold. Because if you don't do that, you may end up with a product that is great engineering-wise, but that the marketing team doesn’t really know how to sell.


How do you keep a balanced life?
I can't say that there is a simple recipe. I'm traveling to the U.S. and to other geographies every month where I have teams.


It certainly takes a toll. I think you need to define the boundaries. You need to say, “OK, I'm willing to have meetings in these hours and not in other hours. I'm willing to have a two-hour meeting during my weekend and not more than that. I'm willing to travel to the U.S. once a month and not once every three weeks.”


You really need to set the boundaries — because there is always more work and more meetings to attend. And of course when you have a family that is supportive, it's of course very helpful.


What do you and your family like to do when you do have down time?
We like to travel, even though I fly a lot and I hate airports. We like to do a lot of sports together — water sports, playing tennis together, doing active vacations.


Maintaining that balance was tougher when we had smaller kids. My children have already finished their high school. So today, it’s easier.


To be open, I am probably addicted to work. I always travel with my laptop. So down time is when the mail server is down.

Politics makes strange bedfellows as the saying goes, but when it comes to naming microprocessors, politics can sometimes change the course of codename history.


When Intel’s 2nd Generation Core microprocessors are launched at the International Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 5, the codename “Sandy Bridge” will officially be retired. Ever since the early 1990s Intel has used existing geographical, non-trademarked places in the United States or Canada that can be located on a map for codenames. This is thanks, in part, to Frank Zappa, or at least, his estate. More on that in a minute.


Sandy Bridge sounds like a place found on a map that can’t be trademarked and hence satisfies Intel’s trademark and brand lawyers who have final say on such matters. Despite sharing its name with a bridge in Singapore and a historic town in West Tennessee, Sandy Bridge isn’t named for an actual place. Instead, it’s a result of a switch, and a suggestion from upper management following a meeting with analysts.


The original internal logo for “Sandy Bridge,” formerly codenamed “Gesher.”


Originally the project was called "Gesher," which in Hebrew means “bridge,” explained project manager Shlomit Weiss from Intel’s Israel Development Center in Haifa where the new chip architecture was designed. “During a meeting with analysts, Sean Maloney was asked, ‘How come you have a project named Gesher? Do you want it to be unsuccessful like the former Gesher [political] party in Israel?’”


Shortly after the meeting, Maloney, Intel executive vice president, asked the legal department to change the project name, wanting nothing to do with a failed breakaway political party that eventually dissolved. And so was born, in short order, the codename “Sandy Bridge.”


"Bridge” being part of the name makes sense with the translation of “gesher,” but where does the “sandy” part derive from? That silicon comes from common beach sand perhaps? Well, not according to Intel legend.


"The reason I heard is the ‘bridge’ signifies that we’re bridging the chasm to the next big thing,” said Nathan Smith, a CPU strategic planning manager based in Hillsboro, Ore. “That’s a bit of a reach, but that’s the story.”


Inherent with their jobs, Smith and his report, Russ Sampsten, are regular players of the product name game.


"It’s the most thankless job you ever do,” Hampsten said. “You’ll never make everyone happy. People always crap over the name.”


The Next Generation


Take “Haswell” for example. The road to naming the next processor microarchitecture after Sandy Bridge felt more like a trek for Smith and Hampsten.


"Russ has poured his heart and soul into Haswell for the past several years,” Smith said, adding that over 100 names were submitted for the project before Trademarks & Brands gave the thumbs up."


Ironically, one name among the long list actually got the green light from the legal department, but Hampsten reconsidered, nixing it based on personal criteria.


"When it comes to codenames, I want something simple to pronounce and spell,” Hampsten said. “So when I saw we got ‘Molalla,’ a town in Oregon, I started looking for a better name. I wasn’t going to go there.”


His boss agreed. “When you’re picking out a name, you’re thinking, ‘Will the team be able to stomach saying that 100 times a day for the next several years?'”


Sandy Bridge Wafer


Declaring his team a “Molalla-free zone,” Hampsten looked up names by zip code starting with the Western states. His quest yielded a list he submitted to Intel’s nomenclature gods and Haswell, a town claiming the country’s smallest jail, got the nod.


"I had to go all the way to Eastern Colorado and a town of under 100 in population to get a tolerable name not taken or trademarked,” Hampsten said.


"By the time the project ramps up more people will be working on Haswell than living in Haswell,” Smith laughed. “But one thing is certain, Haswell is a lot easier to say than that unpronounceable town in Oregon.”


Poor Molalla is still up for grabs, as are many other names -- obviously of varying degrees of acceptance -- that meet Trademarks & Brand’s first proviso: codenames must be names of existing geographical, non-trademarked places in the United States or Canada that can be located on a map.


Exceptions exist, mostly because they were named before this top-line condition was enforced or, in the case of Sandy Bridge, there’s heat from above. Before Trademarks & Brands became the naming sheriff in the early 1990s, engineers picked handles that encouraged fun and team-building. One group worked on projects named “Bart” and “Lisa” to pay homage to TV’s “The Simpsons,” while another team was busy on a “Dead Rock Star” series of motherboards. You had “The Joplin” and “The Morrison,” but it was the success of  an Intel Advanced/ZP motherboard codenamed “The Zappa” that contributed to the policy change to geographic names. The internal naming party ended soon after the very external Frank Zappa estate got wind of an “Intel Zappa” that was written about by media covering the now-defunct Comdex tradeshow. The estate, according to reports, wasn’t too pleased, prompting Intel’s legal department to step in.


So gone is the day when Intel platforms were named after Disney movies (“Aladdin”), solid state drives after biblical figures (“Ephraim”) and chassis after explorers (“Magellan,” “Balboa”). And, of course, there was “The Picard” because what decent company with a geeky workforce would be without at least one project named for a “Star Trek” character?


"There’ve been all sorts of names,” Hampsten said. “We used planets, moons, cartoon characters -- we even had a dinosaur series of codenames around the time ‘Jurassic Park’ came out. My all-time favorite was probably ‘The Raptor.’ It was interesting, fun and it sounded mean.”

Analysis from two recent research reports show what many of us already know – that people are spending less time with offline media such as radio, newspapers and magazines. But a side-by-side comparison of these surveys reveal conflicting results about where people are spending more of their precious time: in front of the TV or engaging with the Internet.


According to a study released last week by Forrester, North Americans are spending 13 hours a week online and the same amount of time watching TV, while eMarketer reports that the average adult is spending 30 hours per week watching TV compared to an average of 18 hours per week.


“While consumer usage of digital platforms is growing at a rapid pace, television is still consumers’ most-used media channel,” said Haixia Wang, forecasting director at eMarketer, in a blog post found on her company’s blog.


Both reports show the growth of Internet popularity rising faster than that of TV’s, indicating that people are spending more time in front of computer and mobile device screens than ever before.


IFP TV_1595.jpg

One recent study said people are now spending an equal amount of time surfing the Internet and watching TV, another seemed to say TV was still king.


eMarketer estimates that time spent online grew 6 percent this year, compared to a 1 percent decline in time spent watching TV. Forrester discovered dramatically different results; time spent watching TV has climbed 5 percent while time engaged online shot up 120 percent since 2005.


Just over 6 hours a week are spent offline tuned into radio, which has declined by 15 percent since 2005, according to Forrester. Less than 3 hours are spent reading newspapers, down 26 percent in the past 5 years.  And time spent reading print magazines is now at 2 hours per week, a decline of 18 percent since 2005.


According to another eMarketer report published in The Wall Street Journal this week, this is the first year that advertisers will spend more money on Internet ads than on print newspaper ads, reaching an estimated $25.8 billion online versus $22.8 billion on print in the U.S.


As more people sign up for broadband connections at home and wireless Internet service in their laptops, it would appear that PCs and mobile device could soon become the screens of choice for staying current with the world and with what’s important in people’s lives, especially if researchers factored in on-the-job time spent connecting to the Internet.


Forrester’s report showed that the top activity for most people online is shopping, while Facebook has become one of the fastest-growing attractions online.


Another growth area bringing more people to the Internet is mobile technology. According to eMarketer, time spent on such mobile devices as smartphones and tablets grew 28 percent in 2010 to reach an average of 50 minutes per day. Meanwhile, time spent reading print magazines and newspapers decreased 9 percent in 2010.

In our quest to find new computer intelligence, we turn to the UK, home of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Orange Amplifier Company, long time maker of guitar amplifiers used by legends like Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and modern hit makers Black Eyed Peas.


This year, Orange created the nifty OPC, a full-functioning amplifier fitted with full-blown computer.  Some might think of fusing a computer with an amp some kind of a Frankenstein contraption, people who are creating homemade digitally recorded and mixed music see this as a match made somewhere along the stairway to heaven.




Intel Free Press spotted one in action, connected to a guitar and a large flat screen, during a tech demo preparation for the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show.  The built-in software allowed the guitar player to change the sound from classical to grunge guitar on the fly, or record and edit multiple tracks of music.


This looks like any portable Orange amplifier until you turn it around and see the neatly integrated computer tucked in behind the front speaker.


Orange claims this is “the first computer of its kind that you can connect yourself and your music to the digital world simply by plugging in your instrument,” according to the company’s Website.


By first, Orange says it means that the OPC is the first computer of its kind to have a built-in high powered speaker delivering full-range, hi-fi quality sounds as well as vintage guitar sounds, which can be changed around with a click of a mouse.  Orange says it’s the first computer to have a universal input jack for a multitude of musical instruments, like guitars or keyboards, and jacks for peripherals such as the iPod, MP3 players and microphones.


Updates are expected to be released at CES, but current OPCs is priced at $1,499 and run Windows 7 x64 home premium, an Intel Core i3 processor, with on-board graphics, 4GB of DDR2 RAM, a 500GB Hard Drive, eight USB2.0 ports, built-in Wi-Fi, and HDMI and DVI outputs for plugged into HD monitors.

Si Luu

Zuckerberg, Grove, and the PC

Posted by Si Luu Dec 20, 2010

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was just named Time's 2010 Person of the Year, reviving a decades-long theme that the magazine itself appropriately recognized way back in 1982. It was that year when Time named not a person, but the personal computer as a precedent-setting "Machine of the Year."

Time 1997 "Man of the Year" Andy Grove (Flickr image)


"The 'information revolution' that futurists have long predicted has arrived, bringing with it the promise of dramatic changes in the way people live and work … perhaps even in the way they think," said the 1982 cover story. "America will never be the same."


Since that time, ironically, only two people from Silicon Valley have been chosen to grace the venerable year-end cover as person of the year: Zuckerberg and Intel's Andy Grove in 1997. Indeed Zuckerberg, Grove, and the PC are inextricably linked. All three have made a mark and truly influenced the way people live, work and play.


Zuckerberg, 26, launched Facebook in 2004 and some estimate that his thriving social networking site is worth $35 billion. In under seven years, according to Time, Facebook has connected a twelfth of humanity into a single network, creating a social entity almost twice as large as the United States. Time concludes that if Facebook were a country it would be the third largest, behind only China and India.


When Time named Grove "Man of the Year," the story began by pointing out that the "digital revolution" was officially born inside Bell Labs in 1947 when what would later be called a transistor first switched on and off. Fifty years later, microprocessors from Grove's company packed with millions of fast--switching transistors had become the "dynamo of the new economy."


In 1997, Time said that this new "digital economy" had several features: It was global, networked, based on information, decentralized power, rewarded openness and specialized to meet particular needs. The high-tech industry, which accounted for less than 10 percent of America's growth in 1990, made up about 30 percent in 1997. Today, in many respects, it is the legacy of Grove's vision of billions of connected PCs that serves as the foundation for companies such as Facebook that are truly connecting the world in new and different ways.


And as Grove told Time back in 1997, "Technology is not inherently good or evil. It is only a tool for reflecting our values." Decades and billions of PCs and connected conversations later, Zuckerberg talks about using technology "to make the world a more open place."



Other quotes from Time’s “Machine of the Year” issue in 1982 and “Man of the Year” issue in 1997:

  • “The most visible aspect of the computer revolution, the video game, is its least significant. But even if the buzz and clang of the arcades are largely a teen-age fad, doomed to go the way of Rubik's Cube and the Hula Hoop, it is nonetheless a remarkable phenomenon.” - Time, 1982 Machine of the Year issue

  • “Marvin Minsky, one of M.I.T.'s computer experts, believes the key significance of the personal computer is not the establishment of an intellectual ruling class, as some fear, but rather a kind of democratization the new technology. Says he, "The desktop revolution has brought the tools that only professionals have had into the hands of the public. God knows what will happen now." - Time, 1982 Machine of the Year issue

  • “Andy thinks faster than most people, certainly than me.” - Arthur Rock, an early investor in Intel in 1968, 1997 Time Man of the Year issue

  • “I’m not sure I could get a job here (at Intel) today.” - Gordon Moore, Intel co-founder, 1997 Time Man of the Year issue.

On his Thursday broadcast of CNBC's “Mad Money,” host Jim Cramer named Intel and EBay as the “two best overlooked cyber-security stocks.” Although security makes up only a small portion of these global giants, Cramer didn’t hide his bullish stance. He said that Intel’s pending acquisition of McAfee will enable the company to charge a higher price once it makes chips with built-in security software. As for EBay, its PayPal division, which generates 5 percent of the parent company’s revenue, could account for 20 percent of all online payments globally by 2015, according to Cramer, adding, “I would buy either one of these stocks.”

With 2,700 companies about to vie for the attention of 126,000 people across 1.5 million square feet of meeting space, all at the same time over four frenetic days, next month's International Consumer Electronics Show promises to be a gizmo dog-and-pony circus worthy of being held in the so-called Entertainment Capital of the World.


From Jan. 6-9 in Las Vegas, hot models and even hotter A-list celebrities will share the show floor with branded tchotchkes and convention totes to carry them in, all to attract attendees to a company's booth, meeting room, or special event.


CES has proven that with the right product and marketing strategy, it's not how much space you take up, but what you do with it. Asked to cite a company last year that made a splash despite modest physical show presence, Tara Dunion, senior director of communications for the show-hosting Consumer Electronics Association, named Parrot, a wireless device company that debuted its iPhone-controlled A.R. Drone quadricopter at the CES Unveiled press event.



Intel’s booth at the 2010 CES featured a large display with 576 cubes hooked up to 20,000 info sources, including 20 live video feeds – all running on a single Intel® Core™ i7 processor. It was one of the most popular features at the booth.


"The buzz they generated at that one event put them on the map," Dunion said. "They got a tremendous amount of play and the buzz brought hordes of people to their booth."


On the opposite side of the spectrum were Panasonic and Monster that spent big bucks beyond having elaborate booths on appearances by pop sensation Lady Gaga. Rumors are flying that Lady Gaga will show up again, and Monster has in fact booked Earth, Wind & Fire to headline its annual Monster Retailer Awards and Concert.


What companies going to such great and expensive lengths are hoping for, obviously, is that people stick around and get informed.


The companies that do it right grab them with a compelling draw and keep them to actually hear the business message," Dunion said.


Intel will be among the 2011 CES exhibitors, occupying 12,000 square feet of prime real estate in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center where Intel will unveil and showcase its 2nd Generation Intel Core processor family. Adding to the cost will be a celebrity appearance at a special event if negotiations are successful. Although Intel has dipped into the celebrity world's talent pool over the years to make a bigger splash at CES keynotes and parties, the company will focus its spotlight this year on Booth #7153.


"We want our products and people to be the celebrity," said Victor Torregroza, Intel's program manager for a 10th straight CES. "We don't want to be yet another company giving out a lanyard, a pen, a squeeze ball. There are a lot of tire kickers who attend who just want a gift. They don't want your product, your message or you."


Celebrities at the booth? "Not necessary," he said. Food? "It makes a mess."


For Intel, it's about having products at CES that are relevant and being innovative in how they are staged.


"You need to cater to significant types of people," Torregroza said. "You have people who want to talk to the engineer or product marketing person. You also have people who want more of an experience. And you have to offer something that resonates with press, social media and other influencers.


Torregroza said the Intel booth is designed to "surprise and delight, engage and inform." With those four words, he said, an emotional connection with key attendees is likely.


The CEA is expecting attendance to be flat to slightly higher from last year's 126,000 figure.


"The show is looking extremely strong," Dunion said. "We came back to health attendance-wise last year, but we're not yet at the level of 2006 when we had 152,000 and 1.69 million square feet."


View showing digital cloud.jpg

Intel’s booth at the 2011 CES will include a “Visibly Smart” Interactive Zone where the company will showcase its latest Core processors.


Record attendance or not next month, that's still a lot of people to woo.


"If you want the most grandiose display you can get that, and some that can't afford to do a compellingly visual booth will get just a meeting room, Dunion said.


Intel and other companies spend millions for a presence at CES, and are anxious to show off their best products in a way that attracts the most visitors.


"The average CES attendee attends only two or three other trade shows a year," Torregroza said. "Whatever new product, benefit or technology we want to show, we have to go the extra mile.


Make that the "extra extra mile," he added, noting that with Intel being an ingredient brand, meaning it doesn't sell its products directly to consumers, a greater challenge exists to pique the interest of an attendee who might only give the booth one ear or one eye.


Among those successfully piqued over the years include Bill Gates and Jeffrey Katzenberg from the CEO world, Morgan Freeman, Tom Cruise and wife Katie Holmes from Hollywood, comedians Sinbad and Tom Arnold, and recording artists MC Hammer and Steven Tyler.


Famous and otherwise, an estimated 68,000 people visited Intel's booth last CES. The space was 25 percent smaller than previous years, and yet still took top honors in its category by Event Marketer Magazine. For the upcoming CES, Intel is going back to its more customary 12,000-square-foot space.


Besides showcasing the visual experiences of its newest Intel Core processors, to be announced at the show January 5th, Intel will display Atom processor-powered devices, including smart TV products, home automation devices, netbooks and tablets from leading manufacturers.


"What works best is when you involve people," Torregroza said, citing as a prime example a dance booth in 2007 where participants "multiplied their groove" by making a multi-camera commercial for the then-new Intel Core 2 Duo processor. More recently, a demo run on a single Intel Core i7 processor had two 7-foot screens displaying 576 cubes hooked up to 20,000 information sources, including 20 live video feeds. When a cube was touched an infobox displaying that content opened up. "Many said it was the most spectacular demo at the 2010 CES," Torregroza said, hopeful that 2011 CES will also be met with rave reviews.



Intel’s Joe English showing off Intel’s 2010 CES booth that drew in almost 70,000 visitors and was cited as tops in its category by Event Marketer Magazine

Intel, Cisco and Verizon have teamed up on a joint research project aimed at how to deal with the rapid growth of video on mobile devices and the expected flood traffic that could grind mobile networks to a halt.


While today's 3G and 4G wireless networks are bringing voice, data and rich media to souped-up smartphones, the companies are trying to look ahead and prepare for what could be a meteoric rise in mobile video demand. If it continues as it is trending today, smartphone owners may be looking as significant network traffic jams in the near future.


The multi-year research project, called Video Aware Wireless Networks (VAWN), also includes projects at several leading universities.


"We're hoping to develop innovations that give networks new abilities to understand and adapt to the quality requirements of various devices," said Jeffery Foerster, a principal engineer at Intel Labs. "We want to maximize both total capacity and an individual's quality of experience, whether it's live video entertainment, video conferencing, video sharing or live streaming on location."


In addition to financial backing from Verizon on the overall effort, Cisco and Intel are each funding $1.5 million worth of related academic research over three years at the following universities:


  • Cornell University will focus on video coding for heterogeneous networks, predictive video streaming and quality-aware routing.
  • Moscow State University will explore 2-D/3-D video-quality restoration.
  • University of California, San Diego will research 2-D/3-D video coding and error concealment, fast mobile adaptations and network resource management.
  • University of Southern California will look at novel device-to-device video network architectures.
  • University of Texas, Austin will work on automatic video-quality monitoring, wireless video interference management, video network adaptations.



Research by Cisco and ABI show that video and social media will dramatically increase traffic on wireless networks in the near future.


Cisco and other researchers say demand for mobile TV and social media video is spiking the overall growth of mobile video traffic. According to Cisco's annual Visual Networking Index Forecast, overall Internet traffic is expected to grow four-fold by 2014, with mobile video growing at over 15 times this rate. Add in Morgan Stanley's recent prediction that says more than 620 million smartphones will be shipped by 2013, outpacing PC shipments, and you have the potential for mobile network meltdown.


With wireless networks already constrained by the onslaught of new iPhone- and Android-based smartphones, researchers behind VAWN are convinced that infusing video-smart technologies into the wireless networks and phones may be the answer to fast and stutter-free video.


"The demand of over-the-top video is growing explosively and it is imperative that the industry be able to find technical solutions to manage this video effectively," said Brian Joe, senior planner of content distribution at Verizon Communications in an October statement to Cornell University.


Today, data from the Internet often needs to be broken up and sent down circuitous routes to reach our mobile phones. Flying through these wireless airwaves may be more like chugging through a metropolis grid of stop-and-go streetlights instead of zooming past intelligently timed traffic lights that account for a smooth, efficient ride that saves time, fuel and frustration.


Switching from 3G to 4G might not provide nearly enough capabilities to accommodate the expected rise in traffic as millions of more people keep piling on to the Internet with their mobile phones, Intel's Foerster says. And smartphones aren't the only devices causing traffic jams on wireless networks. iPads, tablets and more sophisticated mobile computing devices such as laptops and netbooks are all pulling data through wireless networks.


The researchers are also trying to figure out how the mobile Internet needs to change to address the traffic and the number of devices coming in the next 5 to 10 years. After faster networks, the research may lead to the need for "smarter," more efficient networks, Foerster says.


Plans call for research teams to answer such questions as: "What gains are possible and practical by optimizing the end-to-end mobile Internet specifically for video content?" and "What new technologies need to be created in order to realize these gains?"


According to Salman Avestimehr, Cornell University assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), the past 2 decades of research in this area have focused on the art of coding to transport bits more efficiently and reliably over networks. But times are changing.


"In contrast, we aim to understand how awareness from the content and users' perception of those 'bits' can revolutionize our networks," Avestimehr said upon announcing the Cornell grant last fall.


Cisco, Intel and Verizon are exploring how to build video intelligence into wireless networks and mobile devices to help handle the wave of video traffic that could overload today's 3G and 4G networks.


Aaron Wagner, an assistant professor at Cornell, also said there is a lot of room for improvement when the grant was announced. "There are many opportunities for efficiency improvements in current networks," Wagner said. "For instance, two people watching the same video on their cell phones currently receive separate copies of the video. It is very inefficient."


Researchers are aiming to make video play smoothly and clearly on mobile network connected devices by building intelligence into the delivery and playback of video. Rather than just focus on speeding up data transmission frequencies, researchers want to embed processing intelligence into the wireless network and design software that can help devices detect video quality as seen by the human eye. These video-smart mobile devices and networks would work together, continuously optimizing how data is received and played.


Video aware networks could also talk to the smartphone and constantly adapt to send the right amount of video data to meet the device owner's needs. The smart device and smart network combination could also be tuned for efficiencies that either help the wireless carrier to lighten the traffic load, or help the subscriber lower the amount of data consumed.


Foerster also explained that having intelligence built into mobile devices and wireless networks allow them to "see" and "know" more precisely how best to send the highest-quality video to the most individuals while using the least possible network bandwidth.


In addition, software on mobile devices can allow the device to take as little video data as possible and restore, correct or enhance the video so it can be viewed in the best quality even in the worst of connection circumstances, like when you're driving through a tunnel and receiving low network signal.


If the VAWN research bears fruit, Foerster believes everyone who has a smartphone or has a business that runs on wireless networks will benefit.


"Consumers would get a better experience," he said. "Carriers could increase the number of video applications it can support at one time. And content owners could benefit from providing better customer experience and would gain access to more users."

Intel has confirmed the formation of a new netbook and tablet computing group and shifted Doug Davis, Intel vice president and general manager of the Embedded and Communications Group, over to lead the effort. The move happened several weeks ago, but was only confirmed officially today by an Intel spokesman in a New York Times story. Ton Steenman, currently vice president and general manager of the Low-power Embedded Products Division, will become the new general manager for the Embedded Computing Group. Intel President and CEO also said today the company was tracking 35 tablet design wins and said he expected more news at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January, see related Intel Free Press story.



Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini defended the PC market today and said the company is still on track to have the "best year ever" amid the rapid growth of tablets and smartphones where Intel is currently behind competitors.



Speaking to investors at a Barclays Capital event in San Francisco, he said demand for the company's latest Core microprocessor line, codenamed "Sandy Bridge," is "very very strong" and is shaping up to the "best product we've ever built."


"It's fashionable to write off the PC but it just keeps going," Otellini said, invoking a term former Intel CEO Andy Grove once used, calling the PC a "Darwinian device." In terms of sheer scale, PCs are also shipping in the millions per day, compared to a several million per quarter for the iPad.


Otellini said what is driving PC growth, in addition to a strong corporate refresh cycle buoyed by sales of Microsoft's Windows 7, is the trend toward higher incomes and multiple PCs per household even outside the United States. He showed data that indicated the cost of buying a PC over the past several years has gone from about 5 weeks of income to less than half a week of income in the United States, and from 30 weeks to 7 weeks in China. He said the company is seeing similar trends in Eastern Europe and Brazil, Latin's America's biggest market.


"Going forward the PC will get more affordable not because the price is coming down but because incomes are going up," Otellini said.


Similarly, the trend toward multiple PCs per household, already above one per home domestically, was trending the same way in Eastern Europe and other geographies.


He was bullish on the company's upcoming Sandy Bridge launch.


"This is the best product we've ever built, demand is very, very strong, and our customers are excited," he said. "It has better energy efficiency, better floating point performance and better visual performance. This is the first time we've used our leading-edge manufacturing technology to build the graphics directly onto the silicon die. "


Otellini said the result of integrated graphics, leading-edge manufacturing and built-in accelerators meant Sandy Bridge graphics would now outperform low-end discreet graphics cards and result in lower cost for Intel's customers. He also hinted at additional features the company would disclose at the official product launch next month at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.


"We are very excited about this product and we are shipping for revenue as we speak," he said, foreseeing high volumes but stopping short of offering specific numbers as the company is in its traditional quiet period and the product hasn't launched yet. "This will be our fastest ramp ever; the product is very healthy."


He also addressed some of the tension around tablets and smartphones, where Intel is behind other competitors and has yet to make significant progress in terms of volumes and design wins.


"On tablets, our strategy is very simple: We're going to offer best-in-class hardware and support all the viable operating systems," he said, predicting a series of demos and announcements from customers at CES. He said the company is tracking 35 design wins and listed a few devices currently shipping with Intel processors, including the Cisco Cius for business. But he said the real shift to Intel architecture in terms of consumer devices would come next year and for now, the iPad isn't hampering sales of notebooks as some have suggested.


"I don't think tablets are cannibalizing noteboooks, but they are a competitor for discretionary income," he said. "On the other hand, I have not seen a kid who takes a tablet to school versus a laptop. So I see [the iPad] as a fun device that is additive to the market."


On phones, Otellini reiterated statements made to investors earlier in the year that the company is viewing the challenge in terms of a marathon and not a sprint, yet still promising smart phones with Intel silicon by the second half of 2011. He went on to talk about important chip architecture transitions over the years, and predicted Intel would eventually gain a competitive advantage. This comes amid growing criticism from ARM and its licensees that Intel won't be able to get power down far enough to compete in smartphones.


Dr. Herman Hauser, a co-founder of ARM, even suggested that Intel's business model might be flawed in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal. "The reason why ARM is going to kill the microprocessor is not because Intel will not eventually produce an Atom [Intel's low-power microprocessor] that might be as good as an ARM, but because Intel has the wrong business model," Hauser said.


"Typically, these architecture transitions take a decade, "Otellini said. "But we have the best silicon technology, a persistent and consistent architecture, a large ecosystem of customers, and global scale. We can do it big, we can do it over the long term and we can do it on a big scale. No other company has this capability and that's what makes us unique."


Otellini was asked whether there was anything that Wall Street misunderstood about Intel and its strategies, given the sluggish growth in its stock amid record revenues and financial performance.


"To make this much money and have the stock where it is is disappointing," he acknowledged. "We said we'd have double-digit growth over the next several years and we've never done that. So you can wait until the stock goes up or you can buy it now."


And speaking of buying stock, Otellini said the company had resumed buy-backs of its stock after more than a year.









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