Thursday, July 16, 2009

NEC to Outsource More Chips

By The Wall Street Journal

KAWASAKI, Japan -- NEC Electronics Corp. will likely outsource more production of semiconductors used in consumer electronics to outside chip-making foundries as a way to ensure against a sudden plunge in demand like the one that caused the company's heavy losses in the past fiscal year.

NEC Electronics President Junshi YamaguchiIn an interview, NEC Electronics President Junshi Yamaguchi said that any new outsourcing would start after the company's proposed merger with Renesas Technology Corp. While the two chip makers have reached a basic agreement to merge by April, they are still working out the details of a plan that could lead to the creation of Japan's largest chip maker.

As a way to avoid the huge capital investment required for new chip plants, semiconductor companies are increasingly designing products and then turning to foundries like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and United Microelectronics Corp. for production. NEC Electronics said it hasn't decided with whom it plans to work.

NEC Electronics, which is 70% owned by electronics conglomerate NEC Corp., is using Japanese chip maker Elpida Memory Inc. as a foundry for semiconductors used in LCD televisions, but it now plans to outsource production of chips for other consumer electronics affected by volatile demand.

However, the firm still intends to produce some of those chips in-house and use the foundries to buffer against spikes or plunges in orders from customers. Mr. Yamaguchi said his company will continue to make automotive chips at its own production facilities, because cars change as quickly as consumer-electronics products.

As sales of cars and electronics plummeted near the end of 2008, NEC Electronics and other chip makers struggled with a sharp decline in orders when manufacturers halted production. In turn, it was forced to shut down its own production lines, which contributed to another year of losses.

NEC Electronics is coming off its fourth-straight year in the red, posting a net loss of 82.6 billion yen ($888 million) in the fiscal year ended March 31. Things got especially bad in the January-March quarter when the company's factories were running at about 40%.

2008 Semiconductor revenue, in billions of dollars."The worst is over," said Mr. Yamaguchi, a fluent English speaker who took over as NEC Electronics' president and chief executive in June. He is implementing a 90 billion yen cost-cutting program devised by his predecessor, Toshio Nakajima.

Factory utilization grew to more than 50% in the April-June quarter before reaching about 65% in July. Mr. Yamaguchi said he expects that figure to approach 70% in September.

Part of the company's recovery is being fueled by strong demand for chips used in increasingly sophisticated automobiles and electronics such as flat-screen televisions and DVD players in Japan and China.

Mr. Yamaguchi expects microcontrollers, which serve as the "brains" of electronics products by controlling engine units and other auto components, to cash in on the growing market for hybrid vehicles. Hybrids use 30% to 50% more chips than regular gasoline-powered autos. "It'll be a big tailwind for the chip industry," he said.

Sun Anticipates Missing Wall Street's Expectations

By The Wall Street Journal

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Tuesday projected a wider fiscal-fourth-quarter loss and lower revenue than Wall Street had been expecting, in what may be its last quarterly report as an independent company.

But Oracle Corp., which is close to completing a $7.38 billion deal to buy Sun, continues to predict the acquisition will boost its profits.

Sun's results would continue a series of losses that helped push the computer maker into the arms of software giant Oracle, which edged out International Business Machines Corp. to buy Sun.

Once one of Silicon Valley's most influential companies, Sun reacted later than competitors to a shift to low-price server systems. More recently, the company suffered more than competitors because many customers were concentrated in the hard-hit financial-services sector.

Sun projected a loss for the period ended June 30, excluding items, of six cents a share to 16 cents a share on revenue of $2.58 billion to $2.68 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, on average, had forecast a one-cent loss on revenue of $3.03 billion.

Oracle reiterated an estimate made in April that it expects the Sun acquisition to add at least 15 cents a share to its earnings, excluding items, in the first year after the deal closes. It estimated that the business will contribute more than $1.5 billion to operating profit, increasing to more than $2 billion in the second year.

The deal, expected to close this summer, requires regulatory and shareholder approval. Oracle said last month that the U.S. Department of Justice had made a second request for information as part of its antitrust review of the proposed transaction, focusing on plans to license Sun's widely used Java software technology. Sun shareholders are set to vote on the deal Thursday.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Skype Connects U.S. Soldier To Live Home Birth

Story from Skype News

Darvin Butler may be thousands of miles away from his wife while serving in the U.S. military in Afghanistan. But he won’t miss out on the birth of the couple’s new baby in the states, thanks to Skype, an online videoconferencing service.

Under a technological partnership between CompUSA and Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, Butler and his wife, Vanesia, will the technology, developed by CompUSA and FSO to be together at the time of the birth virtually.

Vanesia Butler will use of the free service to make video and voice calls to her husband from a laptop. Just in time to go online and watch his daughter's birth, Darvin Butler will receive the second laptop in the next few weeks.

Since preparing for the birth of their child, Butler, who is six-months pregnant, knew that her husband’s duties would keep him away. But now, Butler is thrilled at the prospect of her husband listening to the first cries of the baby.

“We are honored to be a part of a worthwhile organization like FSO, which inspires soldiers with hope, strength and courage,” said Gilbert Fiorentino, chief executive of Systemax Technology Group, which includes CompUSA, in a statement. “We wish Vanesia and her husband only the best.”

Butler’s place of business, located in Coral Springs, Fla. has already received two Hewlett-Packard (News - Alert) ProBook 4510s with built-in Webcams from a team of CompUSA technology experts. The team showed Vanesia how to make video and voice calls usingSkype ( News - Alert). CompUSA and CA, a leading independent IT management software company, will also donate a $10,000 scholarship for the Butler family to open a college savings account for their new baby.

Recently, the company selected Activant Solutions's Activant Eagle software solution to be its business management and point-of-sale platform. Activant Solutions said that the storewide internet in Afghanistan connectivity, which makes the product and price information available to both customers and CompUSA team members, is central to the Retail 2.0 concept and will be enabled by the Activant Eagle solution.

The Mobile Flyer Announces New Mobile Marketing Solutions for Real Estate

Press Release From PR Web

Jacksonville, FL -- The Mobile Flyer, a Jacksonville-based mobile marketing and technology firm, has announced its entrance into the Real Estate solutions market with the launch of its mobile messaging service for Real Estate Agents and Brokers. Founded by Real Estate technology veterans and dedicated to 'Expanding the Reach of Real Estate', The Mobile Flyer has combined proven mobile messaging technologies with a suite of consultative services to help Agents connect more effectively with potential buyers.

The case for mobile marketing is more compelling than ever. According to Pew Internet and American Life Project, cell phone usage is now outpacing land line usage, and according to OMMA, SMS message usage is now outpacing regular cell phone call usage in the U.S. The Mobile Flyer enters this market as the mobile messaging explosion begins to revolutionize the way companies in all industries interact with their customers.

"It's easy to see the impact that mobile messaging technology is having on marketing communications in dozens of industries, so it seemed like an obvious gap in adoption of the technology by the Real Estate market," said Nick Trautman, President and CTO of The Mobile Flyer. "We founded The Mobile Flyer to provide Real Estate Agents and Brokers with the tools and consultative advice they need to modernize their market approach and drive more real-time leads."

Through comprehensive industry research, The Mobile Flyer's founders learned that the market wanted more than a simple SMS communications platform. The Mobile Flyer is positioned to solve the unique needs of today's Real Estate professionals through cutting-edge technology, efficient processes, and a staff of experienced Real Estate marketing consultants.

Scott Vierling, Director of Sales and Marketing for The Mobile Flyer, says, "We partner with clients to ensure that their mobile marketing solutions align with the individual needs and goals of their businesses, whether they are Independent Agents, Brokers or Real Estate Corporations. Instead of offering one-size-fits-all tools, we build lasting relationships that truly differentiate our clients from their competition."

Mobile Flyer can service any U.S. Real Estate Agency, Including:

In addition to offering easy-to-use mobile messaging technology, The Mobile Flyer also leverages signage provider partnerships, a proprietary lead capture system, and MLS integrations to increase the return on investment for clients. More information about The Mobile Flyer can be found online at

About The Mobile Flyer
The Mobile Flyer is dedicated to 'Expanding the Reach of Real Estate'. As the partner of choice in providing mobile marketing solutions for Real Estate Agents, Brokers, and Corporations, The Mobile Flyer combines cutting-edge mobile communications technology with a suite of consultative services to enable client success. Learn more about our SMS messaging and lead capture technologies, our signage solutions, and our world-class consultative service at

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hurry Up And Type: Why Your Laptop Battery Never Lasts As Long As It's Supposed To

Story from Newsweek

Imagine if automakers got together and started measuring the gas mileage of new cars with a cool test of their own making—one in which the cars were rolling downhill with their engines idling. Suddenly you'd have some pretty amazing claims: Why, that three-ton SUV gets 300 miles per gallon! This subcompact gets 500! In tiny print at the bottom of the window sticker you'd find a disclaimer saying that, well, um, you know, your mileage may vary.

Crazy, right? Yet that's more or less what's happening with laptop computers and their battery lives. Right now, I'm looking at a Best Buy flier touting a $599 Dell laptop that gets "up to 5 hours and 40 minutes of battery life." Down in the fine print comes a disclaimer explaining that "battery life will vary" based on a bunch of factors. Translation: you ain't gonna get five hours and 40 minutes, bub. Not ever. Not even close.

So how can Dell and Best Buy make that claim? These battery-life numbers are based on a benchmark test called MobileMark 2007 (MM07). The test was created by a consortium called BAPCo (Business Application Performance Corp.), whose members are—you guessed it—computer makers and other tech companies. AMD, the No. 2 maker of microprocessors, is a member of BAPCo, but now has become a whistle-blower. AMD says PC makers know full well that the new tests produce misleading numbers, but they are touting them anyway.

Laptops score big numbers because they're tested with screens dimmed to 20 to 30 percent of full brightness, the Wi-Fi turned off and the main processor chip running at 7.5 percent of capacity—just like those cars idling downhill. Techies and industry insiders have long known that official battery-life claims are pretty much worthless. But regular folks don't. As a result, some are getting pushed toward pricier machines by sales reps who tell them they'll get an extra hour of battery life. Those customers may be paying a premium and getting nothing. "There's only three endings to this story," says Patrick Moorhead, a marketing vice president at AMD. "Either the industry regulates itself, or the FTC steps in and regulates us, or we get hit with a class-action lawsuit. I suggest the industry go with the first option."

AMD is recommending computer makers adopt a new way of measuring battery life, using two states: "active time" and "resting time," similar to the way cell-phone makers describe the "talk time" and "standby time" of a phone. A Dell executive says that approach makes sense, and that the company is considering providing customers with information beyond the MM07 scores. "Customers expect the advertised battery life to reflect the way they really use the product," says Ketan Pandya, head of AMD-based products at Dell.

AMD isn't leading this crusade out of a sense of altruism. Its real gripe is that MM07 gives Intel, its archrival, an unfair advantage. AMD claims MM07 was created in Intel's labs and rigged so that Intel chips would outscore AMD chips, since AMD chips draw more power when idle. (AMD says that in real-life usage, laptops using its chips perform comparably to Intel's.) AMD also points out that the president of BAPCo happens to be the head of performance benchmarking at Intel.

Intel says this is all hogwash. An Intel spokeswoman says that just because the consortium's president is an Intel exec doesn't mean Intel has special influence. Meanwhile, she can't resist taking a crack at AMD: "You will often find that companies who are behind in performance sometimes challenge independent and standards-based benchmarks," she says via e-mail.

Intel and AMD are the Bickersons of the computer industry, with AMD always complaining that Intel is cheating, and Intel always responding that AMD should quit being such a crybaby. But lately AMD has been landing some punches. In May, European antitrust regulators smacked Intel with a $1.45 billion fine, claiming Intel used unfair tactics to bully AMD. (Intel plans to appeal.)

Meanwhile, out in the marketplace, the crazy battery claims persist. Dell says its $2,000 Adamo notebook will run for more than five hours, but The Wall Street Journal got only two hours and 44 minutes. Apple claims eight hours of battery life for its $2,800 17-inch MacBook Pro, but CNET got only four hours and 14 minutes. This stuff is so pervasive that professional reviewers see company-generated battery-life claims as a joke. "The rule of thumb is that in real-world use you get about 50 percent of rated battery life," says Mark Wilson, associate editor at Gizmodo. "It's not that companies are lying, but they're stacking the deck in their favor. [Their claims] are misleading to the general public." That's something to keep in mind next time you're out shopping for a laptop.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Microsoft Bringing New Data Centers Online

Story from the Data Center Journal

The big data center players are seeing green. Green is the color to signify energy efficiency and also the revenues from the increased demand for services that rely on data center space. Microsoft like many other players in the internet services market has been increasing their data center square footage considerably in the past 10 years.

Recently Microsoft announced that they will be building new facilities that include one in Ireland and another in the Chicago, Illinois market. Both of these data center are now complete and will be going online in July.

chicago data center
These facilities represent the increased demand for services throughout the world such as e-mail, web pages, photos, videos, software and more.

According to Microsoft the Dublin, Ireland facility will go online July 1st and was constructed for 300,000 square feet for phase I. The facility was designed with energy efficient best practices that include usage of outside air for cooling.

The Chicago facility is scheduled to open on July 20th and is being designated as one of the world’s largest data centers at approximately 700,000 square feet. This facility utilizes Microsoft’s container unit which allows Microsoft to wheel in up to 2500 servers and have them connected within hours.

The two new facilities by Microsoft is a commitment to the growth of software as a service and the cloud. Like many other companies that are also interested in internet services there has been increased investment in data centers to accommodate the growth of this area.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Mac Laptops Use Batteries Sealed For Power

Story from the Wall Street Journal

The majority of laptop computers come with removable batteries. This approach allows you to pop in a fresh spare when your battery runs out of juice between charges, and to easily replace a battery when its lifespan is over.

But there’s a dirty little secret about removable-battery laptops owned by average consumers: Hardly anybody buys extra batteries. Research firm NPD estimates that fewer than 5% of consumers buy a spare. So, a small trend has begun in the industry: More electronic products are being designed with their rechargeable batteries sealed inside. For instance, Dell’s new high-end laptop, the Adamo, has a sealed battery, as does the excellent Flip pocket video camera.

The leading proponent of this idea is Apple, which has often led the industry in introducing or removing components from computers. This month, Apple unveiled two revised MacBook Pro laptops with higher-capacity, sealed-in batteries. In fact, Apple’s entire line of laptops now uses sealed batteries, except for one low-end MacBook model from last year’s series.

Apple says this makes sense because sealing in the batteries lets the company make them larger, without adding heft to the laptops. Apple says the two models are the same size and weight as their predecessors, yet their battery capacity has grown by 33% and 46%, respectively.

And, Apple asserts, it has come up with some software technology that allows these sealed batteries to last up to five years in typical use. The company claims that is almost triple the industry average for removable batteries and is longer than the typical time consumers keep the computer, thus making it far less likely you’ll need to replace a dead battery. Apple says it is able to seal in bigger batteries without making the machines larger because the company can compensate by shedding the casings, internal housings and other components needed by replaceable power packs.

I’ve been testing these two new Apple laptops, the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 15-inch MacBook Pro, using my own harsh battery test, which I apply to all laptops I review. The results were excellent. These two new Apple laptops scored among the highest battery lives between charges of any laptop I have ever tested with a battery that fits entirely inside the machine’s dimensions, without sticking out of the back or bottom and adding weight.

The smaller of the two machines lasted a few minutes shy of five hours in my test. And the larger one lasted five hours and 21 minutes. I estimate that, in a more normal usage scenario, both machines would come close to Apple’s claim of around seven hours between charges—essentially a full workday of unplugged use. Those numbers are likely to obviate the need for spare batteries for the majority of average consumers.

There are some important caveats. I was unable to verify Apple’s claim that these sealed batteries can be fully recharged up to 1,000 times, and thus, last around five years. Second, if and when the sealed batteries do become unable to hold an adequate charge, the entire computer must be returned to Apple for a new battery. The company says that, if you do this at an Apple store, it’s a same-day process and, at least on the 13-inch model, the price of a new battery is the same as what Apple formerly charged for a new removable battery. But it’s still more of a hassle.

Also, there are users—like people who work on very long flights—for whom replaceable batteries will always be a necessity. These users will want the option, unavailable on the new Macs, to pop in an extra-strength battery.

Finally, while Apple has cut the prices of these two new laptops, they are still pricey compared with similar-sized models from other companies. The 13-inch model starts at $1,199, and the 15-inch model starts at $1,699. Like all Macs, these computers have, in my opinion, a better operating system, better built-in software and better security than their Windows competitors. But you can get competing machines for hundreds of dollars less.

In my battery test, I turn off all power-saving features, leave the Wi-Fi network on, crank up the screen to 100% brightness, and play a continuous loop of music. That maximizes some of the biggest power hogs on a laptop. In normal use, a typical owner would likely use the power-saving features, turn the screen down a bit, have Wi-Fi off some of the time, and wouldn’t be running the hard disk constantly.

Neither of my test machines used the energy-saving, but costly, solid-state drives that are slowly replacing mechanical hard disks. And my test models both used integrated graphics chips, which suck less power than the more potent discrete graphics offered on the 15-inch model.

Still, I believe that these new MacBook Pros prove that sealed batteries can result in a very good experience for average users.

Desktops Not Dead (Yet)

Story from ZD Net

Laptops have long since overtaken their desk-bound brethren in terms of revenues, and more recently unit sales. In the first quarter, desktop unit sales dropped 23 percent, while notebook sales actually increased 10 percent compared with the same period last year, according to iSuppli. Gizmodo even penned an obituary for the desktop this week. But rumors of the desktop’s demise are premature. Take a closer look at iSuppli’s numbers: Desktops still accounted for 47 percent of all PCs sold worldwide–more than 30 million units–in the first quarter. Desktops are still big business.

Over the past week or so, PC makers have been rolling out their Back to School boxes. The laptops and netbooks get more coverage, but these new desktops are still worth a look, especially to see the sort of features you can get in systems ranging from $300 to $900.

HP has announced several new models. As usual, all of the HP-branded desktops have an AMD-based configuration at the low-end as well as slightly high-priced configurations with Intel processors. The Slimline s5000 is a small form factor desktop that currently starts at $290 (s5100z) with a 2.8GHz AMD Athlon LE-1660 single-core processor, 2GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce 6150 integrated graphics, and a 320GB hard drive. The $370 s5110t has a 2.50GHz Pentium E5200 dual-core processor, 3GB, and a 320GB hard drive; the $450 s5150t has a 2.60GHz Pentium E5300, 4GB, and a 500GB hard drive. The Pavilion p6000 is a low- to mid-range mini-tower desktop that starts at $270 with a 2.3GHz AMD Sempron LE-1300 single-core processor, 2GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce 6150 graphics and a 320GB hard drive. The p6110t and p6150t have the same basic configuration and pricing as the Slimline series.

At the high-end, the HP’s Pavilion Elite e9000 series starts at $600 (e9100z) with a 3.0GHz AMD Phenom II X2 545 dual-core processor, 4GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce G210 graphics with 512MB, and a 500GB hard drive. The $700 e9110t has an older Intel Core 2 Quad chip and the top-of-the-line e9150t starts at $900 with the newer Core i7-920 quad-core processor, 6GB of memory, ATI Radeon HD 4650 graphics with 1GB, and a 750GB hard drive. Finally, the Compaq Presario CQ5110F is a basic mini-tower available in only one $350 configuration with an AMD dual-core processor.

Dell has not announced new desktops since the introduction last month of the Inspiron 546 mini-tower and Inspiron 537s slim desktop. A direct competitor to the Pavilion p6000, the Inspiron 546 starts at the same price ($270) as the p6100z and has the same configuration with the exception of ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics. Interestingly the Inspiron 546 is AMD only. By contrast, the Inspiron 537s, which competes directly with HP’s Slimline series, is Intel only. It starts at $300 with a 2.20GHz Celeron 450, 2GB of memory, Intel integrated graphics, and a 320GB hard drive. All of these Dell Inspiron and HP Pavilion models offer optional Blu-ray drives and TV tuners. The only obvious difference is that, in addition to glossy black, the new Dell models are available in eight colors, though this option adds $30 to the system price.

Acer has just revamped its desktop line, and looking over the new configurations and pricing, it’s easy to see why the company has been coming on strong. The high-end Aspire M5800 starts at $800 (M5800-U5802A) with a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400, 8GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce GT230 graphics with 1.5GB, and a 750GB hard drive. That stacks up well against the HP Pavilion e9150t, which has a Core i7 chip but also costs $100 more. The mid-range Aspire M800 series competes with the Pavilion p6000 and Inspiron 546. The $450 Aspire M3800-U3802A has a Pentium E5200, 4GB of memory, Intel integrated graphics, and a 640GB hard drive, a similar configuration to the Pavilion p6150t, which is also $450. It’s harder to compare these two with the AMD-based Inspiron 546, but I’d probably give the edge to Dell here. You can configure the Inspiron 546 with a 2.5GHz AMD Athlon X2 7550 dual-core processor, 4GB of memory, ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics, and a 500GB hard drive for $464. (Note that I used Vista Home Premium SP1 for all these comparisons.)

Finally, Acer updated its small form-factor desktop. The Aspire X3810-B3801A starts at $530 with a Pentium E5200, 4GB of memory, Intel integrated graphics, a 320GB hard drive, and a 20-inch widescreen LCD display. The Inspiron 537s with the same configuration and the Dell S2009W 20-inch widescreen is $644. HP is more competitive: The Pavilion s5110t with a similar configuration and the HP 2009m 20-inch widescreen LCD is also $530. The s5100 series uses the older Intel GMA 3100 graphics, but you get a “free upgrade” to a 500GB hard drive.

Acer also gave its Gateway lineup an overhaul. Gateway’s first small form-factor desktop, the SX series, is more impressive than all three of the others. The SX2800-01 is available starting this week for $500 with a 2.33GHz Core 2 Quad Q8200, 4GB of memory, Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics, and a 640GB hard drive. A 20-inch LCD display would add $130 to the price, but the SX2800-01 has a more powerful processor and larger hard drive. The DX series, Gateway’s standard mini-tower, starts at a little more than $500, but the company is pushing two higher-end configurations. The $750 DX4300-03 has a 2.4GHz AMD Phenom X4 9750 quad-core processor, 8GB of memory, ATI Radeon HD 4650 graphics with 1GB, and a 1TB hard drive. It will be sold on Best Buy’s site. The $900 DX4820-02 has a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400, 8GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce G210 graphics with 512MB, 750GB hard drive, and a Gateway FHX2300 23-inch widescreen LCD display. Gateway says this model will soon be available at All of these are impressive configurations for the price.

I’d like to be able to point to some reviews of these new models, but there aren’t any yet. That more than anything else is an indication of which way the wind is blowing. BusinessWeek’s Stephen Wildstrom thinks that more stylish all-in-ones–along with new features such as touch-screen controls, a part of Windows 7–could reinvigorate the desktop market. I’m not so sure. There is a market for all-in-ones, but it’s a niche, and touch-controls are equally compelling on laptops. What really keeps desktops going are low prices and features such as quad-core processors, 6- or even 8GB of memory, powerful graphics and terabyte hard drives. Over the long run, the trend is pretty clear and lower-selling prices and the rollout of wireless broadband will accelerate the shift to laptops. But desktops will still have their place for some time.