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Praveen Vishakantaiah, president, Intel India discusses technology trends and the company’s key initiatives in the country.

With nearly 1.2 billion people, India represents a vast and multi-faceted challenge for Intel, as well as one of the company's most important growth markets. Praveen Vishakantaiah, an Intel veteran of 17 years, oversees the company's activities in India. He leads more than 2,600 employees, with most working in software and hardware design and sales and marketing. The sprawling 40-acre campus in Bangalore alone is Intel's largest non-manufacturing site outside the United States.

 

Vishakantaiah joined the Intel India team in 2003 as it was in the middle of a 3-year period when the company grew from 150 employees to more than 2,000. He took on his current role in 2007 and has helped build an R&D powerhouse in the country. Vishakantaiah grew up in India, then moved to Austin to gain his master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of Texas. After receiving his doctorate he joined Intel and has been with the company ever since. His hobbies include gardening and cooking, which he claims helps him to relieve stress – except when preparing a meal for others.

 

We caught up with Vishakantaiah on a recent trip to the United States. What follows are his thoughts on tech trends in India, Intel's efforts to meet specific needs in India and the company's WiMAX activities.

 

 

 

IFP: What are some of the trends you're seeing in the marketplace in India?
Vishakantaiah: From an India perspective the interesting trend is, of course, people look to technology as a way to change their lives, change their livelihood, change and have an impact on how they can live – elevate their standard of living. Whenever they see technology helping to move them in that manner, they move quickly to adopt it. That's the big focus that most companies that are trying to drive technology adoption in India are trying to pay attention to.

 

The most commonly told story is the mobile phone story. If you look at cell phones, India is very comparable [with other countries]. Now contrast that with PCs where it's very low – it's just about a 5 percent penetration of India's population. How's the PC going to change the life of an average consumer in India? That's a trend we need to figure out how to tap into.

 

IFP: What is it about technology that's specific to India that makes people look to technology to improve their lives?
Vishakantaiah: I don't think it's very different than other emerging markets, but compared to mature markets it's fairly straightforward. The average consumer in a mature market like the U.S. and in Europe will look to technology to also address entertainment and convenience and that doesn't necessarily apply in the emerging markets. That's because in emerging markets people are first and foremost thinking about how to improve their lives. So their requirements from a technology perspective are to help them do better in life first.

 

IFP: What is driving PC growth in India?
Vishakantaiah: The thing that is driving PC growth is netbooks, nettops -- and the mobile form factor definitely helps. It's very interesting, particularly if you look at entry-level desktops, they still rely on continuous power. And, as most people realize, continuous power in India is not a given, so clearly something like a laptop is very interesting to people because it gives them battery backup and they can use it even when they don't have power. The new [mobile] form factors that Intel is helping to enable in the PC space are definitely causing people to be more interested in PC products.

 

IFP: What about tablets?
Vishakantaiah: There are three elements affecting tablet adoption in India. Ease of use is a plus. Using a tablet is less intimidating than using a PC in many cases. The touch interface and simple icons make tablets more accessible. Also working in favor of tablets is the role of content consumption. If I just want to consume information the tablet does everything I need it to do. As we've seen with phones in India, that is often good enough. However, the third element is cost and cost is a key factor. If tablets remain in the $600-$800 range it will limit adoption. If the cost doesn't come down it becomes more of a luxury item.

 

IFP: In the past, we heard a lot from Intel about WiMAX, particularly in India. What's happening with WiMAX and LTE in India?
Vishakantaiah: So, just to set the Intel context, WiMAX has been the technology that's been more ready from a 4G connectivity perspective. Given that Intel was saying [WiMAX] was something that really needed to happen in many countries, the same thing was true in India. The technology has been more mature than any other 4G data connectivity technology and we're driving that. Now that we potentially have LTE coming onto the horizon our stance is: wireless technology of choice. Whichever one is able to be rolled out fast enough, we'll support it. So we're taking an approach where we're agnostic in terms of technology. However, it made sense in the past few years to focus on WiMAX because that was the only technology that was available.

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A bustling street in a village outside of India's capitol city of New Delhi.

 

IFP: What is the Universal Handheld Device Project you've been working on?
Vishakantaiah: There's a big thrust on rural banking and what's called "financial inclusion" [by the government] in India. If you look at the breadth of India, a large portion of the population, almost two-thirds, doesn't have access to banking services. So there's an initiative by the government to promote financial inclusion. This makes sense because as the economy is improving and developing in India we want to make sure we're not leaving people behind. The idea is to take banking to the doorstep of every villager and every farmer. So Intel has developed a device that runs the same applications that people would see when they walk into a bank in India. We developed the Universal Handheld Device, an Atom-based embedded device. It's similar to what you'd see when you return a rental car and the attendant helps you transact your rental return. The device has a printer, it's got biometric capability, it's got a smartcard reader, it's got a GPRS – it's pretty much got everything integrated into it. And, customers can pick and choose the functions they want to include. This is now being piloted by the government to help implement financial inclusion.

 

IFP: What is Intel's role in developing the Universal Handheld Device?
Vishakantaiah: All the development has been done by Intel. We've developed what's called a reference design and have struck a partnership with a Taiwanese ODM. We've licensed the design to them and so for every one that's sold we receive a royalty. It's a new business model for us. In the past we would provide the reference designs to customers but in this case we license an ODM to build the device.

 

IFP: What are some of the biggest challenges Intel faces in India?
Vishakantaiah: One is how do we tap into the significant market potential that India represents with almost 1.2 billion people? How do we turn technology adoption interest into market opportunities for Intel? We have to think of new types of products and new methods of product development to serve the market. We also want to help Intel with its growth initiatives in new areas, so being at the forefront of that effort is important as well.

 

 

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Intel’s embedded chopper now rests in a custom-designed display case in Chandler, Arizona

When Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper meet an untimely end on a deserted rural road in the classic 1960s film "Easy Rider," one of their motorcycles is engulfed in flames as the camera pans skyward. It's a good thing the Intel Chopper never met the same fate. Unlike the Harley Davidson Hydra-Glides in the film, this one never even saw the road.

 

It turns out the four motorcycles used in "Easy Rider" were former police bikes purchased at an auction for about $500 in the late '60s. Having four bikes ensured backups so that shooting for the movie could continue in case one of them failed or was wrecked. One, the famous "Captain America" emblazoned with the American flag paint job, was demolished in the final scene, while the other three were stolen and likely sold off for parts before their significance in movie history was known.

 

In a bold but also somewhat offbeat move to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Intel's embedded business in 2007, Intel built a custom-chopper that would make the original "Easy Rider" bikes look like kids' stuff. After three decades of silicon innovation, the company wanted to celebrate by building a super-bike filled with all the latest innovations. It was sleek, flashy, filled with gadgets, and not very rider-friendly.

 

The Intel bike featured dual V-Twin motors (four-cylinders to celebrate the company's first quad core embedded processor) with a total of 250 horsepower. It also had GPS, a rear-view camera, fingerprint recognition start, a motorized kick-stand, and a low-power dual core (Core Duo) tablet that served as a virtual dashboard and control center. The tablet had a screen that was viewable in sunlight with digital speedometer, tachometer, voltage meter, and battery gauges. It also had WiFi and could be used to access the Internet.

 

But like many other custom bikes built by Paul Teutul Sr. and his team at Orange County Choppers in Orange County, N.Y., this one was clearly more show than ride. According to sources at Intel, the bike never saw anything more than a stage. Others said you wouldn't have wanted to ride it, as the size of the engine made it difficult to get your legs around and balance properly.

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The Intel embedded custom motorcycle built in 2007.

 

It was fired up several times, and served mostly as a photo-prop at trade shows. Various Intel executives were seen posing around it but never took it out for a joyride as far as we could tell. But it surely drew attention. It had an 18-month run at trade shows and various events around the United States, including the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco in September 2007. Even the semi-truck that ferried it around from venue to venue was flashy. According to one person we talked to, the truck was once pulled over by the California Highway Patrol. The officer informed the driver that the boldly painted trailer carrying the motorcycle, which featured a large image of the motorcycle itself and giant graphics, was too distracting for other drivers and the paint job needed to be toned down.

 

So after a handful of very short drives up and down stages at trade shows, the Intel bike has come to its final resting place -- not engulfed in flames thankfully, but encased in glass collecting dust. Today, the Intel bike is on display in an unremarkable entrance to an Intel building at one of the company's buildings in Chandler, Ariz. where it is visible only to Intel employees and occasional visitors.

 

The lead characters in "Easy Rider" sought freedom on the road and died a quick and brutal death. The Intel chopper was built as a monument to "mobile" embedded innovation but today rests in a glass display case, aging slowly and anonymously – an easy rider no more.

Call her a mother of two, but don't call her "Mother of the Internet."

 

Engineer, author, inventor and, since March, Intel's director of Network and Security Technology, Radia Perlman never cottoned to the label despite its use nearly every time she speaks at a technical conference or is written about in a story (including this one, her first interview since leaving Sun Microsystems).

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"'Mother of the Internet.' I did not come up with that," Perlman said. "I was interviewed for some thingy or other, and the writer came up with that. I didn't see the article in advance, and it kinda stuck. One reason they thought they could get away with it is because several people claim being the 'Father of the Internet,' and 'Mother of the Internet' wasn't already staked out."

 

The reason Perlman winces at the label is "it's a title that one has no clear way of getting, unlike, for example, a Ph.D.," said Perlman, who earned hers in computer science from MIT in 1988. "It's overreaching because I don't think any single individual deserves credit for inventing the Internet. Many people had large roles, including, actually, Al Gore, and in a sense it was something that was inevitable. Also, being called 'Mother of the Internet' is a little strange in that it emphasizes gender. I mostly don't even think about gender."

 

Coined by a publication whose name she forgets – hence, "thingy" – the cringe-worthy nickname is probably something she's stuck with. Not helping her cause is a Wikipedia entry that references the maternal moniker in the opening sentence. But also noted are her myriad accomplishments and honors: SIGCOMM lifetime achievement award and similar honor from the advanced computing systems association USENIX … lauded as one of the 20 most influential people in the tech industry by Data Communications magazine … named Silicon Valley Inventor of the Year by an intellectual property law association … an honorary doctorate from the Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden … one of three recipients of the inaugural Women of Vision Award from the Anita Borg Institute. That's only the short list for the daughter of engineering-grounded parents.

 

The achievement that has made Perlman a household name in certain cerebral circles is the spanning tree algorithm, which she invented in 1985 while working for the now-defunct Digital Equipment Corporation. Her protocol transformed Ethernet from a technology that could only work with a few nodes over a limited distance, into something that could create fairly large networks. Her protocol, as the name suggests, creates a spanning tree within a mesh network of connected layer-2 bridges, which are typically Ethernet switches, then disables the links that are not part of that tree.

 

"The protocol is really very simple," Perlman said. "I can summarize it in a poem!"

 

Poem? Yep, the woman who has made large contributions to many areas of network design and standardization is also a poet. Her ode to the spanning tree algorithm, titled "Algorhyme," is a geek favorite and has even been set to music, thanks to her son, Ray. Perlman's daughter, Dawn, an amateur opera singer, even performed it at a recital. The proud mom accompanied on piano.

 

The poem, Perlman's first, could serve as a "Spanning Tree for Dummies," and was the abstract of the paper in which Perlman published the spanning tree algorithm:

 

"Algorhyme"

 

I think that I shall never see

a graph more lovely than a tree.

A tree whose crucial property

is loop-free connectivity.

A tree that must be sure to span

so packets can reach every LAN.

First, the root must be selected.

By ID, it is elected.

Least-cost paths from root are traced.

In the tree, these paths are placed.

A mesh is made by folks like me,

then bridges find a spanning tree.

 

Perlman said she is a bit surprised that the spanning tree is what she's most known for given that "I always thought it was a bad idea to forward Ethernet packets" and that it took her less than a week to invent the algorithm, write the specification and, of course, pen the poem. Other networking contributions include inventing concepts that made a particular type of routing protocol, called "link state routing," stable, scalable and easy to manage. The protocol she designed for DECnet got adopted by the International Organization for Standardization and renamed IS-IS, and is the routing protocol of choice in most ISPs today. Recently she's been working on standardizing TRILL (TRansparent Interconnection of Lots of Links), a concept she introduced to the industry that allows forwarding Ethernet packets using IS-IS instead of spanning tree. ("My apology to the world for introducing spanning tree," she mused.) Perlman also has done important work in security, including the ability to make data expire and become unreachable, even though backups of the data still exist.

 

When Perlman isn't inventing or dabbling in poetry, she's writing books. While their titles suggest dry reading that only a computer scientist would relish – "Interconnections: Bridges, Routers, Switches and Internetworking Protocols" and "Network Security: Private Communication in a Public World" – Perlman said one mustn't judge her books by their covers.

 

"They're not just technical books," she said. "They're actually very funny."

 

When talking about the lighter side of Radia Perlman, one must include her stab at stand-up comedy. Yes, stand-up comedy. While on a cruise to Novosibirsk, Russia to see a solar eclipse in full glory, Perlman signed up to perform in a passenger talent show.

 

"To play piano," she recalled. "On the day of the show, Charlie [Perlman's significant other] and I walked around the ship and it dawned on us that we hadn't seen a piano. When we were told there wasn't one, I decided to try stand-up comedy. It's something I always wanted to do.

 

"That night at the talent show, the audience was pretty drunk and I couldn't possibly have been as funny as they were acting like I was. They were rolling! The next day we kept hearing other passengers talking about my performance and retelling some of the stories."

 

Creative writing skills and a penchant for comedy are desirable attributes, but not why Intel hired Perlman, who turns 60 in December. Based out of Redmond, Wash., she joined the company in early March as an Intel Fellow, one of the highest levels of technical achievement within the company. Now after a couple of months on the job, Perlman, who was at Sun for 13 years, and also previously worked for Novell and Digital, finds herself at a company that was never on her radar as a place of employment.

 

"I never thought about working at Intel," Perlman said. "I always figured they did all these mysterious chip things. I am in awe of it, but never thought about working here because I have no expertise in things like doubling the number of transistors every 2 years just because Moore's Law says you can, or how to make a room really, really, really clean. I never thought there would be anything interesting for me to do and they wouldn't be interested in me."

 

Jesse Walker, a principal engineer at Intel Labs, recommended Perlman to Intel Labs Vice President Wen-Hann Wang, and the recruitment effort obviously panned out. It didn't hurt that Perlman's daughter had babysat Walker's kid.

 

"I've always been pretty happy where I've worked, but so far I'm the happiest here," she said. "People tend to be intellectually curious and invite participation and advice from those who have fresh eyes and fresh expertise. They have passionate discussions as nerds do, but people do listen to each other."

Could the spread of touchscreen computing devices such as smartphones and tablets be turning today's digital natives into even younger touch-savvy tikes?

 

A new generation of children being reared by digitally connected parents are not only comfortable using touchscreen computers, they are intuitively touching screens and flipping through apps with ease. And no wonder; it's not uncommon to see a mother or father handing a smartphone to young kids these days, even infants, as a replacement for rattles and pacifiers -- not to mention the impact of mimicking their parents who are addicted to the devices themselves.

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Some parents view tablets and smartphone computers as developmental tools, especially when sharing the experience and providing a healthy balance between entertainment, education and physical activity.

 

"Digital native" was a term coined by author Marc Prensky in 2001 in his book "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants." It refers to anyone who was born after the transition from analog to digital and who generally has a greater understanding of the digital technologies from an early age. But that is now evolving into a generation raised on touch and like everything else, it seems to be the proliferation of smartphones that is driving it.

 

A recent study by BabyCenter, a leading website for pregnancy and parenting information, surveyed more than 5,000 mothers in the United States and found that adoption of smartphones among mothers rose 64 percent in the past 2 years. More than half of mothers surveyed said they purchased a smartphone as a direct result of becoming a parent. While mothers said the camera had become the most important function of the phone, apps to help keep life organized and their kids entertained had evolved from being unnecessary to essential.

 

Looking at several parenting blogs and child development websites, and talking to new mothers, the debate over what role technology should play in a child's life is still raging. It's also not going away anytime soon.

 

"I have spent a lot of time talking to my son's pediatrician and doing research on the merits and downsides of screen time," said Mia Kim, a mother of a toddler and editor-in-chief of Popgadget, a blog about personal tech and innovative lifestyles for women. "I'm honestly a little bit of a skeptic about the dangers," she said.

 

Kim exemplifies the type of parent who sees mobile phones, video games, portable music players, television and computers as developmental tools for children, especially when parents share these experiences and provide a healthy balance among entertainment, education and physical activity.

 

"It seems like there's a lack of information about this new territory with tablets being scary by default," said Kim. "What it comes down to is that it's bad to leave your child on his own to do nothing but stare at a screen, but that's pretty much common sense, isn't it?"

 

Even though many parents like Kim share concerns about potentially damaging impact of technology on children who are getting too much screen time, there seems to be growing acceptance of exposing infants and toddlers to Internet computing devices.

 

"My son recently turned 1 and he can say his ABCs -- OK, well sort of, just the letters he likes -- but I owe that to the books we read together, and lots of them we read on the iPad," said Kim.

 

Mike Wilson is a musician and father of a 2-year-old boy who can swiftly and precisely flip through his favorite applications on his very own iPad.

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18-month old Sawyer Aakre is already a natural on the iPad and his mother’s iPad.

 

In the YouTube video description for Baby Works iPad Perfectly. Amazing Must Watch!, Wilson says his son's speech, understanding and word recognition has improved dramatically as a result of playing with the iPad. "Even hand eye coordination has improved within just a short while. I am so amazed and thankful for this amazing learning tool … I want to say thanks to Apple and all those that have given my child such a head start in life with this amazing instrument."

 

"At 18 months old, my son already knows how to do the iPhone swipe," said Intel employee Kari Aakre. "Luckily he doesn't know my password to unlock my phone just yet. I've downloaded a few apps and games for him, and he really has fun with it, even though he isn't really old enough to know what he's doing. He just sees Mom and Dad on these phones all the time, so he wants to play, too."

 

If numbers are an indicator, there will be a giant leap in the population of babies born to touchscreen mobile devices. Consider the iPad, which sold 7 million units just in the past 3 months of 2010, according to Apple. If Gartner research estimates pan out, there will be 55-70 million tablets shipped by the end of 2011.

 

Add to that the meteoric rise in sales of smartphones, which increased 72 percent between 2009 and 2010, according to research firm Gartner Inc. About 101 million smartphones were shipped in just the past 3 months of 2010, according to IDC.

 

And yet, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) still recommends that parents of young children should limit any screen time, including television and computer devices, to no more than 2 hours a day.

 

Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, a pediatrician and member of the AAP, recently told the New York Times that smartphones should be no exception. "At the moment, we seem to feel it's the same as TV," she said.

 

According to Kim, her pediatrician told her "no TV" until her boy was at least 2.When asked about reading books on computers, Kim's doctor replied, "If it's a screen, it's no good until he's at least 2. Put your little guy in front of an iPad and he won't be talking even when he's in kindergarten," she recalled the doctor saying.

 

Child development experts such as O'Keeffe say that parents of infants and toddlers should emphasize eye contact, conversation, whole-body movement and dexterity with a variety of objects versus spending time on a single device, touchscreen or not. But some psychologists are beginning to acknowledge that it's important for parents to stay involved in their child's digital life, without giving up control and getting rid of all screens.

 

Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D. and Tristan Gorrindo, M.D., in their Psychology Today blog Digital Family, recently advised that "during preschool years, children are mimicking the behaviors of adults, so parents should be particularly mindful of their own technology use during family time (dinners, playing outside, etc.). Imaginative play is to digital play as fruits and vegetables are to dessert. A child's diet should have a healthy serving of nutrient rich play."

 

Fishel and Gorrindo encourage parents spend screen time socially or collaboratively whenever possible rather than turning to tech as a digital babysitter.

 

"I'm a little surprised at the vehement no-tech, no screen stance," said Kim. "The world is simply changing and we have to adapt. I don't think it's all good or all bad."

Kim said she listens to her pediatrician and follows all the important rules, but she also trusts her instincts.

 

"Know if your child is enjoying and benefiting from computer time," she said. "If your child isn't interested, don't push it, and if they are, and are clearly engaged and learning things (my baby knows some "selections" from the ABC song from an alphabet app), then practice moderation and make sure your toddler gets plenty of non-screen time, too."

Ton Steenman is an Intel vice president and general manager of the company's Embedded and Communications Group. While only recently taking over as head of the business after Doug Davis went off to run the newly established Netbook and Tablet Group, Steenman has been instrumental in establishing Intel's position as an embedded supplier to the communications, automotive, retail and industrial control markets.

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Ton Steenman, VP and GM of Intel’s Embedded and Communications Group

 

Intel has had a successful embedded business for many years, but with the advent of a new low-power Atom architecture over the past few years, the prospects are growing as more and more devices connect to the Internet and communicate, from digital signs and ATM machines to retail kiosks and cars, plus beyond.

 

In a recent interview with ZDNet UK, Steenman said he was tracking over 4,500 design engagements and over 1,500 design wins with Atom SoCs (system on chip), 60 percent of which are with customers who have never used Intel architecture before. We sat down to discuss some of this with Steenman on the eve of his Intel Developer Forum keynote speech in Beijing.

 

Q: You already have a successful business with over $1 billion in revenue. What is your vision and where do you go from here?

Steenman: We are connecting embedded devices, delivering great experiences and enabling productivity, and these are bringing benefits to society. There is a group of embedded applications that offer a very rich experience for consumers. This is really a transition that has happened over the past 3 years as the expectation of consumers has shifted to much more interactivity with embedded devices, and all of these embedded devices have become connected. There are applications like self check-out at retail stores, ticket kiosks at airports or digital signs that you find in the mall. These are all embedded applications and consumers are exposed to everyday. You might not even notice it, but computers are all around you nowadays. What we're trying to do is make those experiences very rich.

 

We're also delivering productivity benefits to industries. Platforms that we deliver in industrial control really help factories become more efficient. We bring higher- performance capabilities to machines that are building things, and these machines can become faster and more accurate. Speed and accuracy are the two dimensions that will improve productivity of a factory.

 

We also need to provide highly scalable networks. Keep in mind that there's going to be billions of connected devices soon, and you need a highly scalable network infrastructure to connect all of these things so that the network can be managed and continue to connect to devices and reliably deliver services. We are helping equipment manufacturers and service providers build scalable intelligence and performance into their networks.

 

Q: How do you differentiate yourself in the embedded business?

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Embedded logo

 

Steenman: Nobody in the industry today is looking at this opportunity the way we do, which is from the perspective of "how do we really connect all of these devices together and deliver a rich experience?"

 

We're showing how technology can have a real positive impact on society in the form of great experiences for people and in the form of productivity for businesses and service providers. Productivity eventually drives increases in the standard of living for everybody. At a real technology level, we are looking at security, manageability and connectivity as the three tenants we have to put in place so that the platform can deliver rich experiences, productivity and scalable networks.

 

Q: Where are your biggest opportunities for growth?

Steenman: There's a big opportunity in China because they are building out a lot of infrastructure to improve the standard of living for so many people. A large amount of infrastructure has to be put into place to enable this, including smart grid technology so everyone has electricity and health care. So that even people in rural villages can have access to health care treatment, better communication networks and transportation, with smart roads and railway systems that leverage the Internet. Most of these projects have a tremendous amount of embedded technology in it. The high-speed railway system just put in a system of Atom-based smart cameras.

 

China is on a tear. They're doing things fast, and time to market for these technologies is a very important element for them. They like the Intel architecture platform because of its standardization and that there are so many developers out there who understand Intel architecture.

 

Q: In many cases you're reaching out to customers outside of Intel's core business. What are they asking for?

Steenman: The biggest demand is that we help them with technology and support so they can focus on their applications, and integrating and deploying their system -- like ticketing kiosks that need to be integrated into the overall capabilities of their high-speed rail build out. They're asking us to help them integrate our specific technology into their application.

 

Q: Why are customers choosing Atom, and what are they converting from if new to Intel?

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Interactive embedded retail kiosk is an example of some of the new kinds of devices Intel is enabling with its Atom processor.

Steenman: There are some designs that we're winning from ARM, but there is also just a lot of new applications being developed. Atom is particularly important to our customers because it allows them to build applications in small form factors and have low-power consumption. Atom is giving them a good balance between power consumption and performance.

 

In China, Geely Auto and Shenzhen Hazen Auto Electronics are two companies building on Atom for the auto industry. In their older models they had ARM processors in there. They're now using Atom because they really want to build a connected vehicle. They need enough performance to add things to the vehicle over time, so they want a highly scalable platform.

 

Q: How do you leverage other parts of the company?

Steenman: We have good collaboration with Intel Labs, and we're doing a number of research programs with them. For the more immediate designs and opportunities, we collaborate with our Software and Services Group (SSG). Clearly software becomes more and more important, so SSG plays a very critical role with us enabling many of those software stacks and applications on our platform. We do a lot of work with Wind River Systems, the software company Intel purchased a few years ago that builds software stacks on top of Intel architecture for the automotive and communications industries. They are tremendously helpful as we build out our solutions.

 

Q: What about security, what are you doing there?

Steenman: We're engaging with McAfee now that the acquisition is complete. Just as security is important for computing in general, it is just as important for embedded devices. Almost every company I talk to says that as their applications become connected, and as their applications connect to the Internet, security we can provide at the device level will become a major attribute of differentiation. It's going to be something that more people really worry about, so the collaboration with McAfee is going to be very important for us to enable security in certain dimensions on these connected embedded devices.

We expect a lot out of smartphones today, but some technology and human behavior scientists believe that mobile computing devices can do even more if only they knew more about their owners.

 

Tinkering with cameras, microphones, software and other features inside today's smartphones, a team of researchers inside Intel Labs is exploring ways to improve the Intelligence Quotient of future smartphones so they're not just more efficient, but more intuitive about their owner. This was the topic of a recent Future Labs podcast interview.

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Lama Nachman, a senior researcher at Intel Labs, is finding ways to raise the IQ of future smartphones using context aware computing technologies.

 

"We're making systems much more aware of the user and what they're trying to do," said Lama Nachman, a senior researcher at Intel Labs in the podcast. "And then essentially facilitate, act on their behalf, and make recommendations. So devices become much more personalized to us and our needs."

 

The driving concept behind this context-aware research is to develop artificial intelligence by enabling mobile devices to grow wiser as they build and tap into a database of specific information about owner behavior, movement and even mood.

 

Researchers such as Nachman say that people would have to train their phone by capturing and identifying sound patterns and images in the owner's world. If a phone owner was at home riding a stationary bike, researchers say, the phone could discern that the rider was indoors, and screen calls accordingly. Simultaneously, it could track how long the user was on the bike and feed that information to an exercise application on the owner's phone.

 

Nachman said being able to track one's own activities like commuting, watching TV or chatting with work colleagues might help people better optimize the way they use their time in the same way that financial software lets us manage our personal finances. Applications could even use data to help the owner by reminding him or her to "take the stairs" or "there's time between meetings, take a 5-minute walk."

 

These background-sensing technologies raise questions about privacy. Today, commercially developed applications require people to accept terms and conditions before they can be used. Since wiretapping is illegal in the United States, cell phones can't automatically turn themselves on and start recording conversations.

 

Andrew Campbell, a professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College, said users need to be kept in the loop in this area of "active computer learning," and developers must find ways to ensure that users keep control of their personal data.

 

"This issue of privacy is an Achilles heel when you're looking to advance science," said Campbell. "These sensors are an extraordinary opportunity and there has to be good solutions to preserve people's privacy. We must allow them [device owners] to own their data. It's a double-edged sword because we want to innovate at the same time."

 

 

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When one thinks of comebacks, a struggling athlete back on his game or a has-been celebrity returning to the spotlight often comes to mind. But a computer? This comeback won’t likely make the cover of Sports Illustrated or People, but among technology circles, the just-announced return of the Commodore 64 is a pretty big deal. The computer once called the "breadbox" and "bullnose" due to its shape and color is back. Due out this summer is a new version of what was originally an 8-bit home computer that sold about 15 million units between 1982 and 1994. The 2011 edition could be considered retro with its beige color and keyboard-dominated body – even the $595 price for the base unit harkens back to 1982 – but inside it’s an entirely different animal. For one of the five models, we’re talking an 1.8ghz dual-core Intel Atom D525 processor, Nvidia Ion 2 graphics chipset, 2 GB of DDR3 memory, HDMI outputs to connect to a HDTV and your choice of a DVD or Blu-ray drive. If you wind up buying one, enhance your unboxing experience by dusting off your Sony Walkman if you’ve got one and play "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. That song was No.1 when the C64 debuted.

With the NBA regular season winding down, Miami Heat star LeBron James has a decent chance to threepeat as the league's MVP. But even if he doesn't gain ground on current favorite Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, James will at least break ground with his latest off-court venture – something unique among pro athletes.

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"The LeBrons" is a new Web-based animated series starting April 6.

 

It's a Web-based animated series called "The LeBrons," and when the program debuts on April 6 the superstar forward will no doubt be hoping to put on good shows for both the home fans at American Airlines Arena and visitors to "The LeBrons" YouTube channel. With a game against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks and the premiere episode of "The LeBrons," performances of a completely different nature are what that day will bring on and off the court for James.

 

"The idea for the creation of the show began with a series of Nike television commercials introducing four characters that represented four different sides of my personality: Kid, Wise, Business and Athlete," James said in an interview over email.

 

"I decided to create the new series loosely based on these characters, told through the point of view of Kid, that would take place in Akron, Ohio, my hometown," said James, who lends the voice of the cool and confident Business in this, his foray into digital entertainment.

 

Each episode will convey positive, youth-targeted messages for a generation whose parents might have grown up watching another show of like genre.

 

"'The LeBrons' has a style a little bit similar to 'Fat Albert,' and will be done in a fun, edgy way that youth can relate to," James said, referring to "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" that ran on Saturday morning television in the 1970s and '80s. "The main thing is that we're going to have a message behind every episode – like how important school is, being trustworthy and families learning how to stick together through hard times."

 

Bill Cosby, the driving force behind "Fat Albert," relied on CBS to spread his family-friendly morals before syndication and home video came along. For James, who's inarguably among the most popular active athletes in the world, he's starting out with practically the entire Internet-accessible world as his potential audience.

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Miami Heat star LeBron James voices the character of Business in his new animated Web series.

 

"I hope to use technology to change the rules of creating a show," said James, whose own company Spring Hill Productions and Believe Entertainment Group created the series. "Launching 'The LeBrons' online, I'll be able to really appeal to young people in an innovative, new way and reach everyone who follows me on the Internet, especially [on] LeBronJames.com, Twitter and Facebook," James said.

 

To watch the show, kids first need to have access to computers, and James is aware that not everyone has one at their technology-hungry fingertips. Doing something about this, James teamed up with the show's lead technology sponsors, Intel and HP, to see to it that "The LeBrons" not only teaches youths lessons in altruism through story, but by action. A portion of the proceeds from the series will be used to purchase HP computers powered by Intel Core processors and donated to Boys & Girls Clubs of America in support of its education initiatives.

 

"The real opportunity with 'The LeBrons' is to give back to today's youth, and through the show we're continuing our work with Boys & Girls Clubs of America to help make an impact," James said. "It shows how big a difference we think technology can make in the lives of today's youth."

 

James realizes that in his profession the "net" is something to shoot through and not log onto, and guarding power forwards is a more valued skill than knowing PowerPoint. But not everyone can grow up and get a college basketball scholarship or play in the pros as James has done, which is another reason he believes exposure to technology is important at a young age.

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Each webisode of “The LeBrons” includes positive messages geared to youth.

 

"Today's youth are so much more advanced because of computers," said James, who said he had "some" technology while growing up in the projects of Akron, but having more could have opened doors to opportunity, growth and development.

 

Growing up as an inner-city kid, you don't have a lot of options, he said. "I believe it's about being well-rounded and always trying to be your best no matter what your pursuit is. Young people today are growing up with all different kinds of talents and abilities, whether it's basketball or something else, and there are so many influences like family, friends, education and technology that affect their future and opportunities."

 

Some of those themes will be addressed in the 10-episode first season of "The LeBrons."

 

"Like showing youths of all ages how to be a good person, no matter what their circumstances are," James said.

 

Being a positive influence to youth is the driving force behind the series for James, whose LeBron James Family Foundation has benefited his hometown of Akron, the Boys & Girls Club of America and other causes.

 

"I never imagined we'd be doing this show," James said, "but like most young people, I always wanted to be a hero growing up, and the show should inspire young people to always try to be their best, to learn the importance of helping others, and to go after their dreams."

 

Exclusive sneak peek at the new LeBron James aninmated series, The LeBrons.

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