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Analysts expect smart devices to flood consumer market

Posted: 30 Jun 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart device  media tablet  smartbook  consumer electronics 

Consumer electronics is on the brink of a "smart devices revolution," according to the CE panel members at the Freescale Technology Forum. The agreed that the elements necessary for such a revolution have been maturing over the past decade and will begin to blossom by the 2010 holiday season now that the global recession is receding.

New media tablets and smartbooks will soon flood the market, according to panel moderator Jeff Orr, senior mobile devices analyst at ABI Research. Orr predicts that more than 16.3 crore media tablets and smartbooks will be shipped in 2015.

Panel members backed up Orr's predictions, adding the new consumer devices will not be running Microsoft OS on Intel processors like today's computers, but instead will use smaller, cheaper, lower power ARM-based microcontrollers running open-source variants of Linux.

"The long term is wild exciting—I look forward to dethroning Intel as number one semiconductor supplier—there are huge opportunities for billions of smart mobile devices," said Glen Burchers, consumer segment director at Freescale Semiconductor Inc. "We were hit by the recession, which clearly slowed down development, but for the current year I expect to see tens of tablets and smartbooks, with clamshell and sliding keyboards, to be introduced in the next few months."

ARM, likewise, has been maturing over the last decade, but has now surpassed the mainstream computer microprocessors from Intel for the low-cost and low-power needed by mobile devices, according to Warren East, CEO of ARM Ltd.

"It takes six to 10 years for a new architecture to fully blossom," said East. "But now we have all the technology ingredients from which a new era of content consuming devices will be built."

Open-source software has also been maturing for the last decade, and now has passed Microsoft in keeping up with usage trends, according to Michael Kress, senior director at Canonical Ltd, a provider of support, engineering services and hardware and software certification for the Linux-variant Ubuntu.

"We are taking the best of all the open source software available today and bringing it together into a single platform. Linux continues to evolve, coming out with a new version every six months, unlike Microsoft which is much slower to respond," said Kress. "We think that Linux is the one—with Android, Amigo and Ubuntu leading the smart devices revolution."

Going low-cost
According to Sriram Peruvemba, VP of global sales and marketing at E Ink—maker of the paper-white reflective displays use by almost all e-readers—the key to this smart devices revolution is the ability to adapt to new mass markets for cheap, handheld mobile devices that consume content rather than create it, like conventional computers running Windows on Intel processors.

For instance, today students in developed countries spend thousands of dollars on books they carry around in backpacks, but in developing countries a single low-cost e-reader can give students access to entire libraries for a fraction of the cost, Peruvemba said.

"I call it 'one library per child'—e-books can give children in developing countries access to complete libraries despite their remote locations," said Peruvemba.

Only the limits of our tradition-bound imagination will reign in the possibilities offered by new smart devices specialised to solve old problems in new unconventional ways, he claimed.

"Our biggest competitor will be changing usage patterns," said Peruvemba. "We need to think outside the rectangle."

Form factors, for instance, no longer need to be confined to the rectangular shape of every computer made today, but can be made to match the task at hand, for instance with "holes" in them, presumably for grasping like and artists palette, in oddball shapes such as the wearable wrist-cuff device worn by Arnold Swartznegger's alien adversary from an advanced civilisation in the movie "Predator," Peruvemba said.

- R. Colin Johnson
EE Times





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