Today was the first day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, which runs through Wednesday. Yours truly is not in attendance, but some of folks from the Street were there and have filed some dispatches to clients.
Piper Jaffray chip analyst Gus Richard today reflects that Qualcomm’s (QCOM) estimates could go higher based on “robust” smartphone demand. A Q&A at the show with Qualcomm prompts Richard to write that “while we believe QCOM’s 28nm chip has yield issues, we expect them to be sorted out by year end, in time for production ramps.”
Richard writes that “the performance of its latest processor looks impressive and the company indicated a high level of customer interest.”
In addition, he is “seeing a shift to more powerful application processors at Mobile World Congress, benefitting ARM Holdings (ARMH),” which, of course, makes the instruction set architecture and CPU core designs incorporated by Qualcomm and others into their chips for mobile devices.
History Repeats in Silicon Valley as Mobile World Congress Begins
February 27 2012
History has a way of repeating itself in Silicon Valley. Back in the 1990’s desktops saw a race for market share between Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and a growing band of ‘me-too’ PCs. Now, Apple may have a similar war on its hands — only this time the turf is smart phones and the opposition is Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).
Google’s SVP, Mobile and Digital Content, Andy Rubin gloated on the Google Mobile Blog that Android, Google’s mobile platform, is seeing nearly 850,000 activations every day. That’s 250 percent more than last year. Globally there are 300 million Google-sanctioned Android devices in operation, and about 12 million of them are tablets.
Saying “it’s all about the ecosystem,” Rubin is confident app developers could soon be producing apps for Android as a priority over iOS. Android Market has 450,000 apps compared to 150,000 it had at the time of the Mobile World Congress last year.
Intel Corp. (>> Intel Corporation) unveiled partnerships with handset makers in China and India, and said it is working with Visa Inc. (>> Visa Inc.) on securing mobile payments, continuing the chip maker's push in the fast-growing mobile phone market.
"What we hoped to do was show a number of new partners coming into the Intel family around phones, carrier operators and services built on the phones," Chief Executive Paul Otellini said during a presentation at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. "It's something we're doing slowly and surely. You will see more and more capabilities and partners announced over the course of this year and into next year."
Among the partnerships unveiled Monday was one with ZTE Corp. (ZTCOY, 0763.HK, 000063.SZ), which will be introducing smartphones and tablets in the China market. The first phone will hit the market in the second half of the year, followed later by tablets, said He Shiyou, executive vice president and head of the terminal division of ZTE.
Lava International Ltd., meanwhile, will make Intel-powered phones for India, with the first, dubbed the Lava XOLO X9000, becoming available in the second quarter.
"XOLO is going to be all about speed," said Vishal Sehgal, Lava co-founder and director.
Meanwhile, Intel will be partnering with credit card processor Visa on securing the use of mobile devices for payments. As part of the agreement, Visa has certified Intel's smartphone reference designs, which will incorporate Visa's payWave payment application.
Intel, the dominant supplier of microprocessors for computers, has been struggling for years to move its franchise into handsets. The pocket-sized devices are typically powered by chips based on designs from ARM Holdings PLC (>> ARM Holdings plc), in large part because those chips tend to draw less power and allow longer battery life in phones.
But Intel believes the latest version of a chip line called Atom, also known as Medfield, has achieved rough parity with ARM-based competitors on power consumption. Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (>> Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc) and Lenovo Group Ltd. (0992.HK) in January became the first smartphone makers to announce plans to use the chips, and France Telecom's (FTE) Orange late Sunday said it would be introducing an Intel-based phone this summer.
ARM today announced the availability of Version 3.0 of the ARM® Cortex™ Microcontroller Software Interface Standard (CMSIS). CMSIS 3.0 is expanded with a standardized API for Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) kernels and support for System View Description (SVD) XML files. The RTOS API is designed to expand existing RTOS kernels with a standardized function set that supports multiple threads, resource control, time management, and data exchange. The RTOS API allows programmers to rely on standard RTOS features that are required in source code templates, middleware libraries, and other software components.
The SVD XML files provide detailed information about a specific system and the integrated peripherals. SVD files can be used in various ways, for example to create device header files or peripheral awareness for debuggers. The SVD file format is already widely adopted by silicon vendors and debugging tools.
Dell has long been synonymous with servers built around the so-called ‘x86′ processors used in personal computers. That might not always be the case, Forrest Norrod, general manager for Dell’s server solutions group hinted Monday.
“We’ve had ARM systems in our lab for over a year,” Norrod says, referring to the processor architecture shared by the processors that power most of the world’s smartphones. “If that’s what our customers demand that’s what we’ll offer.”
Norrod spoke with Forbes at an event in San Francisco where Dell introduced a portfolio of new blade, rack, and tower servers.
A credible threat
Of course, signaling that Dell has options gives the Round Rock, Texas company more leverage when negotiating with Intel or AMD for x86 processors. However, the ability to make a credible case that Dell could adopt ARM-based processors — such a those sold by Samsung, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Nvidia — also underscores how different Dell is than it was a decade ago.
While Dell once built servers that were little more than rack-mounted versions of the personal computers Dell is best known for, the company has been reshaping to capture surging demand for data center gear. Since 2009, former IBM mergers and acquisitions chief David Johnson has led Dell through a dozen acquisitions to round out its portfolio of networking and data storage products.
Dell has also worked to make it easier to manage vast fleets of servers. One of its crown jewels is the company’s lifecycle management technology, which relies on a package of software and proprietary hardware bolted onto the motherboards of all Dell’s servers. 500 engineers work on this feature alone, Norrod says.
“Our management is independent of the processor powering the server,” Norrod says. “If we wanted to incorporate ARM into our server lineup, to any management tool it just looks like a PowerEdge server.”
Making a switch to ARM processors might let Dell build servers that can offer some interesting options for customers concerned about power consumption. “ARM has some interesting advancements around power density,” Norrod says. Although he also adds that Intel and AMD have both been working to trim down their processors power consumption as well.
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