November 28, 2005

NAND in the news

I may be a bit biased, but it’s good to see Idaho making computer news again. The recent announcement by Intel from Santa Clara and Boise-based Micron Technology to form a new company, IM Flash Technologies, is also good news for the computing world. Subject to final agreement, which should be announced by the end of the year, the new company will be focusing on building and distributing NAND technology. IM Flash Technologies, 51% owned by Micron, 49% owned by Intel, has a management team balanced by people from both companies. Apple has already expressed interest in buying a significant percentage of the output, and subject to the agreement, will prepay $250 million each to Intel and Micron.

NAND technology is used in Flash memory and USB Flash cards as well as in MP3 players, cell phones, and other portable devices. The forecasts are that the demand for this new technology will grow, and Intel and Micron’s IM Flash Technologies company will most likely be the best-positioned to take advantage of this growth.

November 15, 2005

It's not in Webster's

They’re out there, and proliferating almost daily.  But doesn’t need dictate supply?  Joe Q. Public must have a need for dictionaries of internet terms, otherwise web sites such as onelook.com, webopedia.com, and netlingo.com wouldn’t exist.  A recent survey revealed that 70% - 90% of average web surfers don’t know what a podcast is, or what people are doing when they’re blogging.  Seems to me that if companies want to sell to the public, then they ought to expend a bit of effort to identify to that same public what the products are that are for sale.  Just a thought.

November 11, 2005

Universal Translator Wanted


It’s been compared to the world’s largest amateur library, but one in which all of the books laying about on the floor rather than neatly shelved.  However, say what you will about the lack of accuracy in Wikipedia concerning various topics, we should all applaud its efforts on behalf of endangered languages.  One brief search under “Languages” and I was able to pull up information and links on over 808 different languages, from Afrikaans to Zuni.  True, some of them were duplicates – Lakota was listed under “L” and also listed as a subset under “Sioux” – but I also found a listing for the currently-under-fire language of Neapolitano, including a brief description and 13 links for more information.  
     Anthropologists and linguists have been fighting a losing battle for years in their efforts to save endangered languages.  As the world moves closer to globalization, individual peoples for the most part have had to learn second or even third languages in order to increase trade opportunities and communication.  The internet itself is contributing to the extermination of languages because even though all of the major languages in the world are represented online, things are being conducted primarily in English.       
Even as different peoples of the world get cozier with each other, they should also be able to celebrate their own uniqueness’ and to that end, Wikipedia is performing an invaluable service.  Viva la Tower of Babel.

Cell Processor Gets SW Boost… and Now to Market

I’ve been following the activities of Power.org for awhile now.  Power.org is the group IBM launched to drive collaborative development around the Power architecture.  You probably know that a Power product, the P5 processor is the base of IBM’s current iSeries, pSeries, and high-end storage architectures.  But another product of the Power architecture is the Cell Processor (officially the Cell Broadband Engine or CBE), co-developed by IBM with Sony Group and Toshiba. That processor is best known for its upcoming role in the next-gen PlayStation from Sony, but it has other uses as well including:

  • future digital TVs from Toshiba,

  • future Cell-powered engineering workstations from IBM and Sony designed to produce digital content for movies, TV shows, and video game,

  • future medical and chip-testing equipment from Mercury Computer Systems in the near term, and in military radar and sonar systems later.

So there are plans for Cell in consumer devices, as well as embedded devices, but naturally for the architecture to really thrive, it needs to be adopted by a broad base of technology developers.  The problem of market adoption is rarely issues with the hardware however, but is usually with the software.  If critical mass of software development doesn’t happen, a perfectly good hardware can languish or slip into a niche.  Additionally, if the development tools are lacking or the OS is too specialized – it just becomes too expensive for ISVs and developers to adapt.  Hence this week’s announcement by IBM and Sony Group is significant.  

In summary, IBM has released new software components and documentation, including software infrastructure extensions to the Linux operating system, compilers, and utilities.  IBM also has an alphaWorks site, where they routinely offer access to new and emerging technologies to developers.  Within that site, they have now created a new section for the Cell processor.

Making this technology available to developers is a critical first step.  The new challenge becomes disseminating the knowledge and building developer excitement around the platform.  Broadly speaking, there are three groups who IBM and its partners need to interest in this technology.  The first group is the ├╝ber-geeks, hard-core programmers and technologists who will take this technology and run with it.  They are actually the easier group for IBM to reach, as this is IBM’s comfort zone.  The second group, is the leading edge of hipster-geeks, the multimedia, gaming, video, crowd that is frequently as much artist as technologist.  They are important because they will lead the coolness must-have end of the market. Many of these guys are also found at the university level too.  Finally there are the mainstream developers for embedded products and other ISVs that are more likely to consider Power as it grows in reputation and market familiarity.  

The question is how does a grassroots collaborative community like Power.org take advantage of marketing?  It can use word-of-mouth, but it’s not like there’s a marketing budget for Power.org as such.  IBM will drive some of the marketing, but there’s a risk in tying Power.org too closely to IBM.  Some of this involves seeding the university market and making Power interesting to future programmers.  It also involves major marketing to the Linux community, as it already markets to all three groups.  Just building and distributing good or great technology is not enough.  Building presence and awareness are the next big challenges to Power.org.