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As says tech enthusiasts will be like "a kid in a candy shop" when they see all this new tech

It's invaluable to get the chance to network with a company and get a chance to witness their vision first hand.  When that company happens to be the world's largest maker of CPUs for traditional personal computers and servers, that opportunity goes from good to great.

At the 2011 Intel Developer Forum we've attended scores of Intel Corp. (INTC) keynotes, technical "deep-dive" sessions and other events, and we're excited at what we've seen.  Here's some of the highlights:

Ivy Bridge

Ivy Bridge is Intel's 22 nm processor, which is set to debut in the first half of next year.  A lot is already known about the chip.  It will be first to use Intel's tri-gate (3D) transistor (aka "FinFET") technology, which we detailed on Tuesday.

But one interesting thing Intel emphasized in its keynote was that while Ivy Bridge was a "tick" (die shrink) from an architectural perspective, the on-die GPU is a "tock".  The GPU has undergone a significant architectural design and appears to pack a lot more power.  In a demo Intel showed the GPU processing and displaying 20 high-definition video streams.

For gamers, a big improvement will be the inclusion of DirectX 11.  With Sandy Bridge, DX11 was largely pointless, as it lacked the processing might to put features like tessellation to good use.  Ivy Bridge's  GPU is quite a different story.

Ivy Bridge was shown off playing Tom Clancy's Hawx 2.  Of course this was a carefully prepared demo, but framerates looked smooth.  This leads us to believe that Intel has at least closed the gaps between Sandy Bridge (which can't even play DirectX 11 content) and rival Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.'s (AMD) top end A-Series of Fusion advanced processing units, which does pretty decent in HAWX 2 as well.

One thing Intel was plugging a lot was "hybrid" tablets, à la ASUSTEK Computer Inc.'s (TPE:2357) Eee Pad Transformer.  The basic idea here is to have a tablet, which can double as a laptop via a tailored keyboard (which may or may not be detachable.  This isn't exactly a new class of devices, but it has yet to see as significant sales as traditional tablets.

However, with Apple, Inc. (AAPL) having been granted sole ownership of "minimalist" tablets in Germany, and with other regions pending rulings, intellectual property may be one key obstacle to this class of devices.  Apple has made it clear that it will sue any tablet maker who "copies its design" (translation: any tablet maker who sees significant sales).

While this hybrid doesn't look much like an iPad, it does have a minimalist tablet face, a multi-touch screen, and a black bezel.  So don't be surprised if these designs see similar lawsuits and sales bans if they do well -- or unless the majority of world courts disallow Apple's litigious crusade.

A small but interesting side note, Intel insisted that Thunderbolt was on its way for Windows.  Thus far Apple has enjoyed exclusive access to the ultra-fast communications standard, which is an early implementation of Intel's LightPeak.

Upsides to Thunderbolt are that it is significantly faster than USB 3.0.  Downsides are that it relies on specialized multi-chip cables that cost $50 USD.

In the realm of future hard drives, SATA is going to be faded out and replaced with connections over PCIe.  Intel is currently going the Advanced Host Controller Interface -- a hardware abstraction layer to manage connections to PCIe hard drives.  Peripheral models employing this tech are coming soon.  They will work with standard eSata cables, but will connect using PCIe lanes.

Obviously this is a inferior solution in the long term.  In that realm Intel is looking to deploy a drivers technology called NVMe.  The tech should offer much more efficient file I/O with hard drives on PCIe connections.  A reference driver is currently complete for Linux which supports 2X PCIe lane transfers.  Intel's engineers say that they are currently working on a similar reference driver for Windows 7, though it isn't complete. 

In related news, Intel was showing off tablets powered by Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) slick Windows 8 Metro user interface.  Animations on the x86 tablets looked very fluid (we saw one live in a small private setting).

The look of this tablet is far ahead of iOS 5 or even the relatively graphical Android 3.0 "Honeycomb".  When you consider that this slick GUI is bundled along-side the kind of fully-functional file browsing interface (via the accessible "traditional" Windows screen) that iOS and Android lacks, it won't be surprising if Windows 8 tablets are the hottest item come next year's holiday season.

Last, but not least, Intel happened to mention it had produced a Haswell chip.  While not due to hit the market till 2013, the 22 nm architecture redesign ("tock") promises to make a huge splash in two years.

We probed an Intel executive about whether Haswell would contain a "tick" GPU -- a die shrink -- given that Ivy Bridge packed a "tock" GPU.  The executive hinted that Intel liked to "mix things up" and that sticking to a static two year schedule is too predictable to the competition.  This hints that Haswell might have both CPU and GPU architectural revisions.  If so, that's very exciting news.

Coupled with the 22 nm Tri-Gate tech from the previous model, this should be some powerful bits of silicon when they hit the market.

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RE: Journalism...
By JasonMick on 9/15/2011 6:19:43 PM , Rating: 3
Quick question though. You've stated this claim a dozen times now, in one version or another, that no way, no how, can anyone make a "minimalist" tablet and not be sued by Apple. How about your put your money where your mouth is and state something for the record --- something we can, you know, go back and mock you for in a year?

Yes, that is precisely what the GERMAN court ruled. And only the German court ruled that thus far (by contrast a Netherlands court gave competitor full freedom to make minimalist touch-screen designs. But yes from a narrow view of the German court, that is true.

Of course you must consider several factors.

First , Samsung is appealing the decision and will likely do likewise if it sees major losses in other rulings (likewise for HTC and Motorola whom Apple is also suing international to ban their tablet sales)...

If Samsung et al. win their appeals, the situation in Germany could reverse themselves.

Second , if those companies win their countersuits they may force Apple into cross-licensing, hence re-opening markets that were closed by court rulings.

Third , Apple clearly is attacking Samsung/HTC/Motorola due to their sales success.

They control the majority of the tablet and smart phone market that Apple does not currently control (besides Nokia who Apple already agreed to cross-licensing with and RIM who co-owns much IP with Apple making it more difficult to sue). So some designs may go legally unchallenged even in regions where the courts have catered to Apple's wild claims, simply because it's not worth it financially for Apple to crush them.

Finally , Apple may yet be afraid to sue Microsoft's tablet partners even if they do well as MSFT has a huge amount of OS and mobile IP and is known to vigorously defend its closest partners in court.

In short will Android or Windows minimalist hybrid tablets/laptops be sued by Apple? It's unclear, but as I said it's certainly a concern given the hostile intellectual property atmosphere.

Suppose a company, you know, actually tried to be innovative and created a tablet with a built in cover --- at the very simplest version, something like Apple's iPad1 cover but built-into the device. Would this, expert scholar of design law that you are, pass muster? How about a bezel with LEDs in it? How about a tablet with chording buttons on the side? How about a tablet with a tiny indigo screen at the top that provided basic status info (mail, battery, wifi etc)?

I've thrown out, without trying, a dozen different ways a tablet can be built differently from an iPad. Do you claim that every one of them would be sued by Apple?

It depends on what the Judges ("experts" who, consider, mostly have no professional design background) think. I certainly have opinions here, but they're of no consequence to the legal fate of such products (unless I was called as an expert witness, I suppose...)...

That said Samsung's Galaxy Tab is significantly different from iPad -- thinner, different size of bezel, no face buttons, different size button positioning, different aspect ration, different back plate design, slightly different edge curve...

Given that the German court declared this very different device to be "too similar"/"minimalist", it's VERY unclear where the line ends of who Apple can sue off the market in that EU nation.

RE: Journalism...
By just4U on 9/16/2011 2:51:55 AM , Rating: 2
If you ask me .. that's what it's really all about.. Apple eventually getting a cross-licensing agreement out of these companies. Just sort of sucks the way they go about it.

It would be like one of us creating a engine and some other company seeing that .. and copy-writing a circle.. You need the circle to make your wheels so you let them use your engine design.

"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings

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