Posts Tagged ‘apple’
I would like to applaud Apples 32nm migration plan. By starting with lower volume products and even then, only on a portion of the iPad 2s available on the market, Apple maintains a low profile and gets great experience with Samsungs 32nm HK+MG process.
Anand Lal Shimpi @ Anandtech.com does a great turn explaining some of the Electrical Engineering minutiae entailed by Apple’s un-publicized switch to a smaller design rule for some of it’s 2nd Generation iPads. Specifically this iPad’s firmware reads as the iPad 2,4 version indicating a 32nm version of the Apple A5 chip. And boy howdy, is there a difference between 45nm A5 vs. 32nm A5 on the iPad 2.
Anand first explains the process technology involved in making the new chip (metal gate electrodes and High dielectric constant gate oxides). Most of it is chosen to keep electricity from leaking between the two sides of the transistor “switch” that populate the circuits on the processor. The metal gates can handle a higher voltage which is needed to overcome the high dielectric constant of the gate oxide (it is more resistant to conducting electricity, so it needs more voltage ‘oomph!’ applied it). Great explanation I think regarding those two on-die changes with the new Samsung 32nm design ruling. Both of the changes help keep the electrical current from leaking all over the processor.
What does this change mean? Well the follow-up to that question is the benchmarks that Anand runs in the rest of the article checking battery life at each step of the way. Informally it appears the iPad2,4 will have roughly 1 extra hour of battery life as compared to the original iPad2,1 using the larger 45nm A5 chip. Performance of the graphics and cpu are exactly the SAME as the first generation A5. So as the article title indicates this change was just a straightforward die shrink from 45nm to 32nm and no doubt is helping validate the A5 architecture on the new production line process technology. And this will absolutely be required to wedge the very large current generation A5x cpu on the iPad 3 into a new iPhone in the Fall 2012.
But consider this, even as Apple and Samsung both refine and innovate on the ARM architecture for mobile devices, Intel is still the technology leader (bar none). Intel has got 22nm production lines up and running and is releasing Ivy Bridge CPUs with that design rule this Summer 2012. While Intel doesn’t literally compete in the mobile chip industry (there have been attempts in the past), it at least can tout being the most dense, power efficient chip in the categories it dominates. I cannot help but wonder what kind of gains could be made if an innovator like Apple had access to an ARM chip foundry with all of Intel’s process engineering and optimization. What would an A5X chip look like at the 22nm design ruling with all the power efficiency and silicon process technologies applied to it? How large would the die be? What kind of battery life would you see if you die-shrunk an A5X all the way down to 22nm? That to me is the Andy Grove 10X improvement I would like to see. Could we get 11-12 continuous hours of battery life on a cell phone? Could we see a cell phone with more cpu/graphics capability than current generation Xbox and Playstations? Hard to tell, I know, but thinking about it is just so darned much fun I cannot help but think about it.
- Lab Tested: The new iPad 2 and old iPad 2 (hazima.wordpress.com)
- The Upgraded iPad 2 Has Significantly Longer Battery Life Than The Latest iPad (gizmodo.com.au)
- iPad 2′s new 32nm A5 processor improves battery life (tuaw.com)
Not only did Apple roll out a new processor that was not what it was advertised to be, but it also snuck in a new process technology for the manufacturing of this new A5. The previous generation A5, part number APL0498, was manufactured on Samsung Semiconductors’ 45 nm LP CMOS process. This new A5 processor is manufactured on Samsung’s new 32 nm high-k metal gate, gate first, LP CMOS process technology.
Check out the article at the Chipworks website, just follow the link above. They have a great rundown of what they discovered in their investigation of the most recent Apple A5 chips. These chips are appearing in a newly revised AppleTV but have also appeared in more recently manufactured Apple iPad 2 as well. There was some amount of surprise that Apple didn’t adopt a shrunk down die ruling for the A5X used in the iPad 3. Most of the work went into the integrated graphics of the A5X as it was driving a much higher rez ‘Retina’-like display.
Very, very sneaky of Apple to slip in the next generation smaller die size on a ‘hobby’ product like the Apple TV. This is proof positive that when someone says something is a hobby, it isn’t necessarily so. I for one am both heartened and intrigued that Apple is attempting to get a 32nm processor out there on their ‘low power’ low cost products. Now that this part has also been discovered in the more recently constructed Apple iPad 2 units, I wonder what kind of heat, battery life differences there are versus an early model iPad 2 using the A5 part number APL0498?
Keeping up with the Samsungs is all important these days and Apple has got to keep its CPU die rulings in step with the next generation of of chip fabrication giants. Intel is pushing 22nm, Samsung has been on 32nm for a while and then there’s Apple sitting 1 or 2 generations behind the cutting edge. I fear this may have resulted in some of the heat issues that were first brought to people’s attention by Consumer Reports weeks after the introduction of the iPad 3. With any luck and process engineering speed, the A5X can jump ship to the 32nm fabrication line at Samsung sooner rather than later.
- Apple TV “single core” A5 actually has two cores, one is off (chipworks.com)
- Apple TV A5 SoC is 32nm, Harvested dual-core A5 (anandtech.com)
- Chipworks Offers A5X Die Photo Wallpaper for New iPad [iOS Blog] (macrumors.com)
- New Apple TV’s A5 chip found using 32nm design(electronista.com)
A meta-analysis of the Apple A5X system on chip
(from the currently shipping 3rd Gen iPad)
New Ipad’s A5X beats NIVIDIA Tegra 3 in some tests (MacNN|Electronista)
Apple’s A5X Die (and Size?) Revealed (Anandtech.com)
Chip analysis reveals subtle changes to new iPad innards (AppleInsider-quoting Anandtech)
Apple A5X Die Size Measured: 162.94mm^2, Samsung 45nm LP Confirmed (Update from Anandtech based on a more technical analysis of the chip)
Reading through all the hubbub and hand-waving from the technology ‘teardown’ press outlets, one would have expected a bigger leap from Apple’s chip designers. A fairly large chip sporting an enormous graphics processor integrated into the die is what Apple came up with to help boost itself to the next higher rez display (so-called Retina Display). The design rule is still a pretty conservative 45nm (rather than try to push the envelope by going with 32nm or thinner to bring down the power requirements). Apple similarly had to boost its battery capacity to make up for this power hungry pixel demon by almost 2X more than the first gen iPad. So for almost the ‘same’ amount of battery capacity (10 hours of reserve power), you get the higher rez display. But a bigger chip and higher rez display will add up to some extra heat being generated, generally speaking. Which leads us to a controversy.
Given this knowledge there has been a recent back and forth argument over thermal design point for iPad 3rd generation. Consumer Reports published an online article saying the power/heat dissipation was much higher than previous generation iPads. They included some thermal photographs indicating the hot spots on the back of the device and relative temperatures. While the iPad doesn’t run hotter than a lot of other handheld devices (say Android tablets). It does run hotter than say an iPod Touch. But as Apple points out that has ALWAYS been the case. So you gain some things you give up some things and still Apple is the market leader in this form factor, years ahead of the competition. And now the tempest in the teapot is winding down as Consumer Reports (via LA Times.com)has rated the 3rd Gen iPad as it’s no. 1 tablet on the market (big surprise). So while they aren’t willing to retract their original claim of high heat, they are willing to say it doesn’t count as ’cause for concern’. So you be the judge when you try out the iPad in the Apple Store. Run it through its paces, a full screen video or 2 should heat up the GPU and CPU enough to get the electrons really racing through the device.
And then the reveal: Mac OS X — sorry, OS X — is going on an iOS-esque one-major-update-per-year development schedule. This year’s update is scheduled for release in the summer, and is ready now for a developer preview release. Its name is Mountain Lion.1
Mountain Lion is the next iteration of Mac OS X. And while there are some changes since the original Lion was released just this past Summer, they are more like further improvements than real changes. I say this in part due to the concentration on aligning the OS X apps with iOS apps for small things like using the same name:
iCal versus Calendar
iChat versus Messages
Address book versus Contacts
Reminders versus Notes
Under the facial, superficial level more of the Carbonized libraries and apps are being factored out and being given full Cocoa libraries and app equivalents where possible. But one of the bigger changes, one that’s been slipping since the release of Mac OS X 10.7 is the use of ‘Sand-boxing’ as a security measure for Apps. The sand-box would be implemented by the Developers to adhere to strict rules set forth by Apple. Apps wouldn’t be allowed to do certain things anymore like writing to an external Filesystem, meaning saving or writing out to a USB drive without special privileges being asked for. Seems trivial at first but on the level of a day to day user of a given App it might break it altogether. I’m thinking of iMovie as an example where you can specify you want new Video clips saved into an Event Folder kept on an external hard drive. Will iMovie need to be re-written in order to work on Mountain Lion? Will sand-boxing hurt other Apple iApps as well?
Then there is the matter of ‘GateKeeper’ which is another OS mechanism to limit trust based on who the developer. Apple will issue security certificates to registered developers who post their software through the App Store, but independents who sell direct can also register for these certs as well, thus establishing a chain of trust from the developer to Apple to the OS X user. From that point you can choose to trust either just App store certified apps, independent developers who are Apple certified or unknown, uncertified apps. Depending on your needs the security level can be chosen according to which type of software you use. some people are big on free software which is the least likely to have a certification, but still may be more trustworthy than even the most ‘certified’ of AppStore software (I’m thinking emacs as an example). So sandboxes, gatekeepers all conspire to funnel developers into the desktop OS and thus make it much harder for developers of malware to infect Apple OS X computers.
These changes should be fully ready for consumption upon release of the OS in July. But as I mentioned sandboxing has been rolled back no less than two times so far. First roll-back occurred in November. The most recent rollback was here in February. The next target date for sandboxing is in June and should get all the Apple developers to get on board prior to the release of Mountain Lion the following month, in July. This reminds me a bit of the flexibility Apple had to show in the face of widespread criticism and active resistance to the Final Cut Pro X release last June. Apple had to scramble for a time to address concerns of bugs and stability under Mac OS X 10.7 (the previous Snow Leopard release seemed to work better for some who wrote on Apple support discussion forums). Apple quickly came up with an alternate route for dissatisfied customers who demanded satisfaction by giving copies of Final Cut Pro Studio 7 (with just the Final Cut Pro app included) to people who called up their support lines asking to substitute the older version of the software for a recent purchase of FCP X. Flexibility like this seems to be more frequent going forward which is great to see Apple’s willingness to adapt to an adverse situation of their own creation. We’ll see how this migration goes come July.
- It’s called a developer preview for a reason (tuaw.com)
- Apple Announces OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Drops ‘Mac’ From OS Name (socialbarrel.com)
- OS X Mountain Lion (thetechscoop.net)
Famously proprietary Microsoft never dared to extract a tax on every piece of software written by others for Windows—perhaps because, in the absence of consistent Internet access in the 1990s through which to manage purchases and licenses, there’d be no realistic way to make it happen.
While true that Microsoft didn’t tax Software Developers who sold product running on the Windows OS, a kind of a tax levy did exist for hardware manufacturers creating desktop pc’s with Intel chips inside. But message received I get the bigger point, cul-de-sacs don’t make good computers. They do however make good appliances. But as the author Jonathan Zittrain points out we are becoming less aware of the distinction between a computer and an applicance, and have lowered our expectation accordingly.
In fact this points to the bigger trend of not just computers becoming silos of information/entertainment consumption no, not by a long shot. This trend was preceded by the wild popularity of MySpace, followed quickly by Facebook and now Twitter. All platforms as described by their owners with some amount of API publishing and hooks allowed to let in 3rd party developers (like game maker Zynga). But so what if I can play Scrabble or Farmville with my ‘friends’ on a social networking ‘platform’? Am I still getting access to the Internet? Probably not, as you are most likely reading what ever filters into or out of the central all-encompassing data store of the Social Networking Platform.
Like the old World Maps in the days before Columbus, there be Dragons and the world ends HERE even though platform owners might say otherwise. It is an Intranet pure and simple, a gated community that forces unique identities on all participants. Worse yet it is a big brother-like panopticon where each step and every little movement monitored and tallied. You take quizzes, you like, you share, all these things are collection points, check points to get more data about you. And that is the TAX levied on anyone who voluntarily participates in a social networking platform.
So long live the Internet, even though it’s frontier, wild-catting days are nearly over. There will be books and movies like How the Cyberspace was Won, and the pioneers will all be noted and revered. We’ll remember when we could go anywhere we wanted and do lots of things we never dreamed. But those days are slipping as new laws get passed under very suspicious pretenses all in the name of Commerce. As for me I much prefer Freedom over Commerce, and you can log that in your stupid little database.
- Now You Can Tether Your iPhone to Your Laptop Without a Monthly Fee (readwriteweb.com)
- Did Steve Jobs Favor or Oppose Internet Freedom? (scientificamerican.com)
- Apple pulls iTether from App Store, cites carrier burden (macnn.com)
- The Personal Computer Is Dead (technologyreview.in)
The schedules may help back mounting beliefs that the iPhone 5 will 64GB iPhone 4 prototype appeared last month that hinted Apple was exploring the idea as early as last year. Just on Tuesday, a possible if disputed iPod touch with 128GB of storage also appeared and hinted at an upgrade for the MP3 player as well. Both the iPhone and the iPod have been stuck at 32GB and 64GB of storage respectively since 2009 and are increasingly overdue for additional space.
Toshiba has revised its flash memory production lines again to keep pace with the likes of Intel, Micron and Samsung. Higher densities and smaller form factors seemed to indicate they are gearing up for a big production run of the highest capacity memory modules they can make. It’s looking like a new iPhone might be the candidate to receive newer multi-layer single chip 64GB Flash memory modules this year.
A note of caution in this arms race of ever smaller feature sizes on the flash memory modules, the smaller you go the less memory read/write cycles you get. I’m becoming aware that each new generation of flash memory production has lost an amount of robustness. This problem has been camouflaged maybe even handled outright by the increase in over-provisioning of chips on a given size Solid State Disk (sometimes as low as 17% more chips than that which is typically used when the drive is full). Through careful statistical modeling and use of algorithms, an ideal shuffling of the deck of available flash memory chips allows the load to be spread out. No single chip fails as it’s workload is shifted continuously to insure it doesn’t receive anywhere near the maximum number of reliable read write cycles. Similarly, attempts to ‘recover’ data from failing memory cells within a chip module are also making up for these problems. Last but not least outright error-correcting hardware has been implemented on chip to insure everything just works from the beginning of the life of the Solid State Disk (SSD) to the finals days of its useful life.
We may not see the SSD eclipse the venerable kind off high density storage, the Hard Disk Drive (HDD). Given the point of diminishing return provided by Moore’s Law (scaling down increases density, increases speed, lowers costs), Flash may never get down to the level of density we enjoy in a typical consumer brand HDD (2TBytes). We may have to settle for other schemes that get us to that target through other means. Which brings me to my favorite product of the moment, the PCIe based SSD. Which is nothing more than a big circuit board with a bunch of SSD’s tied together in a disk array with a big fat memory controller/error-correction controller sitting on it. In terms of speeds using the PCI Express bus, there are current products that beat single SATA 6 SSDs by a factor of two. And given the requirements of PCI, the form factor of any given module could be several times bigger and two generations older to reach the desired 2Terbyte storage of a typical SATA Hard Drive of today. Which to me sounds like a great deal if we could also see drops in price and increases in reliability by using older previous generation products and technology.
But the mobile market is hard to please, as they are driving most decisions when it comes to what kind of Flash memory modules get ordered en masse. No doubt Apple, Samsung and anyone in consumer electronics will advise manufacturers to consistently shrink their chip sizes to increase density and keep prices up on final shipping product. I don’t know how efficiently an iPhone or iPad use the available memory say on a 64GByte iTouch let’s say. Most of that goes into storing the music, TV shows, and Apps people want to have readily available while passing time. The beauty of that design is it rewards consumption by providing more capacity and raising marginal profit at the same time. This engine of consumer electronics design doesn’t look likely to end in spite of the physical limitations of shrinking down Flash memory chips. But there will be a day of reckoning soon, not unlike when Intel hit the wall at 4Ghz serial processors and had to go multi-core to keep it’s marginal revenue flowing. It’s been very lateral progress in terms of processor performance since then. It is more than likely Flash memory chips cannot get any smaller without being really unreliable and defective, thereby sliding into the same lateral incrementalism Intel has adopted. Get ready for the plateau.
Cisco killed off the much-beloved Flip video camera Tuesday. It was an unglamorous end for a cool device that just few years earlier shocked us all by coming to dominate the video-camera market, utterly routing established players like Sony and Canon
I don’t usually write about Consumer Electronics per se. This particular product category got my attention due to it’s long gestation and overwhelming domination of a category in the market that didn’t exist until it was created. It was the pocket video camera with a built-in flip out USB connector. Like a USB flash drive with a LCD screen, a lens and one big red button, the Flip pared down everything to the absolute essentials, including the absolute immediacy of online video sharing via YouTube and Facebook. Now the revolution has ended, devices have converged and many are telling the story of explaining Why(?) this has happened. In the case of Wired.com’s Robert Capps he claims Flip lost its way after Cisco lost its way doing the Flip 2 revision, trying to get a WiFi connected camera out there for people to record their ‘Lifestream’.
Prior to Robert Capps, different writers for different pubs all spouted the conclusion of Cisco’s own Media Relations folks. Cisco’s Flip camera was the victim of inevitable convergence, pure and simple. Smartphones, in particular Apple’s iPhone kept adding features all once available only on the Flip. Easy recording, easy sharing, larger resolution, bigger LCD screen, and it could play Angry Birds too! I don’t cotton to that conclusion as fed to us by Cisco. It’s too convenient and the convergence myth does not account for the one thing Flip has the iPhone doesn’t have, has never had WILL never have. And that is a simple, industry standard connector. Yes folks convergence is not simply displacing cherry-picked features from one device and incorporating into yours, no. True convergence is picking up all that is BEST about one device and incorporating it, so that fewer and fewer compromises must be made. Which brings me to the issue of the Apple multi-pin connector that has been with us since the first iPod hit the market in 2002.
See the Flip didn’t have a proprietary connector, it just had a big old ugly USB connector. Just as big and ugly as the one your mouse and keyboard use to connect to your desktop computer. The beauty of that choice was Flip could connect to just about any computer manufactured after 1998 (when USB was first hitting the market). The second thing was all the apps for making the Flip play back the videos you shot or to cut them down and edit them were sitting on the Flip, just like hard drive, waiting for you to install them on whichever random computer you wanted to use. Didn’t matter whether or not it had the software installed, it COULD be installed directly from the Flip itself. Isn’t that slick?! You didn’t have to first search for the software online, download and install, it was right there, just double-click and go.
Compare this to the Apple iOS cul-de-sac we all know as iTunes. Your iPhone, iTouch, iPad, iPod all know your computer not through simply by communicating through it’s USB connector. You must first have iTunes installed AND have your proprietary Apple to USB connector to link-up. Then and only then can your device ‘see’ your computer and the Internet. This gated community provided through iTunes allows Apple to see what you are doing, market directly to you and watch as you connect to YouTube to upload your video. All with the intention of one day acting on that information, maintaining full control at each step along the path way from shooting to sharing your video. If this is convergence, I’ll keep my old Flip mino (non-HD) thankyou very much. Freedom (as in choice) is a wonderful thing and compromising that in the name of convergence (mis-recognized as convenience) is no compromise. It is a racket and everyone wants to sell you on the ‘good’ points of the racket. I am not buying it.
- RIP Flip cameras.. You will be missed! (chatootsboots.wordpress.com)
- Alternatives to the dearly departed Flip camera (trafcom.typepad.com)
- Farewell, Flip Camera (www.readwriteweb.com)
- Cisco fades out Flip camera (www.consumerreports.com)
- Why Cisco’s Flip Flopped in the Camera Business (www.wired.com/gadgetlab)