Tag Archives: marvell

Sneak peek at the OLPC XO 4.0

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The newest One Laptop per Child (OLPC) device made its debut at the CES Unveiled event in Las Vegas tonight, although it might have been by accident.

Marvell was demonstrating its Smile Plug e-learning platform, with the newest OLPC device just sort of sitting on the table, apparently as eye candy. Well, it certainly was that.

The OLPC XO 4.0 sports a touch screen and keyboard, and folds three ways: as a tablet, a netbook or a well protected carrying case. Check the video for how it transforms from one to another.

First look at the OLPC XO 4.0.

The OLPC Foundation announced the specs for the device a couple of months ago, but didn't show a working model. No one from the organization was at tonight's event, and the Marvell representatives couldn't say much about the functionality. But they could talk about the chipsets that power it.

The XO 4.0 is basically a big smart phone without the phone. It runs on a Marvell Armada PXA2128 dual core ARM processor and connects wirelessly via a Marvell Avastar 88W8787 WiFi and Bluetooth SoC. Both are standard Marvell products originally designed for use in mobile devices. Which means power requirements are low – a necessity in developing countries – and the technology is relatively inexpensive – a key feature of the OLPC program.

No details were available on what it costs to build. Battery life and screen performance were thought to be on a par with the previous version 3 of the XO.

The XO 4 has a form factor that parents and kids in any country would love. The original OLPC was the spark that launched the netbook category. This version has similar mass market breakout potential. The OLPC Foundation won't be selling it to consumers – they work on different business model – but there are plenty of companies here at CES that would be happy to do so.


Congresswoman Eschoo pushes for more broadband spectrum

Silicon Valley congresswoman Ann Eschoo wants to shake up the way that Washington manages and assigns spectrum. The goal is to free up a total of 500 MHz for wireless communications purposes. Much of that would come from turning over frequencies held by government agencies to public use. But some of it would come, willingly or not, from the private sector.


“We have to make freeing up spectrum a top priority,” she said at Joint Venture Silicon Valley's second annual wireless symposium, held on 2 November 2012 at Marvell Semiconductor Inc. headquarters in Santa Clara. “So many companies and broadcasters think it belongs to them. We know that the airways belong to the American people.”

Eschoo pointed to an FCC decision to move ahead with buying back television channel assignments from broadcasters on a voluntary basis and auctioning it off to wireless carriers. She said it would account for 120 MHz towards the final goal, and raise $25 billion dollars, although some of that would go to broadcasters who gave up their channel assignments.

The FCC has given itself a June 2014 deadline to hold the auctions. There are a lot of different interests to balance in the process. Wireless Internet service providers are worried that unlicensed frequencies will be sold out from underneath them.

Spectrum policy “must be balanced with both licensed and unlicensed spectrum,” Eschoo said, adding that wireless technology generates $50 billion in revenue in the U.S. every year.

Some government agencies are fighting plans to clear them off of some frequencies and turn the bandwidth over to the private sector, preferring instead to work out some way of sharing. But that idea is not very popular with wireless broadband advocates.

Eschoo believes that federal agencies can be more efficient in their use of frequencies, and wants Congress to step in and “scrub” the way the executive branch holds and uses spectrum. The bottom line, she said, is that the airwaves are an engine for job creation.

No mass market home automation players yet

Incremental advancement but no break through into the mass market for the home automation sector at CES this year. It remains a niche for hobbyists and specialty contractors.

Core technology companies, such as Qualcomm, NXP and Marvell, continue to support it. And there’s no shortage of companies offering, or at least developing, home automation products and services.

Part of the problem is the multitude of standards. Some device makers support more than one, but interoperability is the exception rather than the rule.

The missing piece is a home hub/gateway that’s both consumer friendly and network protocol agnostic.

You can find one or the other. For example, MiOS’s Vera router handles WiFi, Ethernet and Z-Wave natively, and can manage X10 and potententially other protocols via plug-ins. But its user interface is balky and basic. You need to be confortable with programming code to do anything ambitious.

Jakks Pacific’s baby monitor product is easy to use, and the wrist watch-style viewing screen is a nice innovation. But it’s a one trick pony. Canadian company 2D2C’s SafePlug is an interesting RFID-enabled solution, but they only have one item in their product line ready for market. Spain’s q1tecno is targeting the low cost end of the market with their Domotics Toys.

Home Protect, from France-based Moai, is a wonderfull piece of design work. They put their gateway and remote sensors into Tiki God cases that they claim will be plug-and-play simple to install. Unfortunately, it’s not ready for market yet. All they had to display at the show were solid plastic Tiki God statues.

Companies like Greenwave and Dutch manufacturer Freelux are positioning themselves as OEM suppliers to utilities. The advantage to that approach is that the electric company can provide customer support and incentives to use it. If the incentives are good enough, they can also dictate technology and network protocol choices to their subscribers. No one had any utility partnerships to announce, though.

OLPC and Marvell show $100 tablet for the rest of the world

by Steve Blum • , , , ,
One Laptop per Child stole the show at tonight’s CES Unveiled event with a $100 tablet computer. Featuring a solar charger integrated into a protective hardshell case and an optional, robust hand-cranked generator, the device gets it right. It could be the defining digital bridge into the developing world.
The original OLPC project – a $100 laptop computer – launched the netbook market but did not achieve the degree of mass distribution in the developing world as originally hoped. It was by no means a failure, but it never really connected with its killer app: digital textbooks.
Textbooks represent a major cost for developing world governments and a nice profit center for publishers. A $100 e-reader combined with open source or deeply subsidized educational content would completely disrupt that business model, making it possible to put a book on virtually any topic into the hands of any child who has one. It’s self liquidating, or nearly so, in just the first year.
The tablet form factor could – should – be the key to OLPC’s break out. The new tablet is a perfect distribution platform for e-books, plus it supports basic computing and communications functions. It has a capacitance touch screen, which eliminates the need for keyboard skills, and it supports a wide range of network interfaces, I/O modes and power sources. It even has an accelerometer.
The demonstration units are based on a Marvell Armada 610 ARM chip, and include Marvell WiFi silicon as well. It’ll run the Linux, Sugar and Android operating systems, and is specced with 500 MB of RAM, 4 GB of storage and 8 hours of battery life.
It’s not a product as such. It’s a fully implementable design developed by the OLPC Foundation. It’s open source and ready for deployment.

The buzz from CES Unveiled

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

CES Unveiled was the usual mob scene. Maybe even more so this year. But its a good first look at what has the buzz and what doesn’t.

 Lenovo tablet computer becomes a laptop
Lenovo was the only computer maker showing a genuine tablet computer at the event. And its a beauty.

It’s really two computers in one. The tablet runs on a mobile processor and has good, basic functionality. It docks into a laptop-like device. In fact, when it’s docked, it is a laptop.

The tablet becomes the screen and the laptop unit powers it with a full-on Intel processor and a keyboard. People were stacked three, four, sometimes five and six deep trying to get a look.

 Entourage’s e-book reader
E-book readers were surprisingly hard to find, but there were a few. Marvell had some cool reference designs.

One was a dead ringer for a gizmo I’ve been waiting years and years to get: a wafer thin tablet maybe 15 cm by 20 cm, that I’ve been lusting after ever since I first saw one on Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

Entourage was showing a dual screen model. It opens like a book and has an e-book screen on one side and a smaller computer display, suitable for video and multimedia on the other.

The set top box business is losing its pizzaz. Not in terms of product – the user interfaces and on-screen navigation keep getting better and better – but in terms of it representing something cutting edge. Everybody knows you can get TV on the Internet, and you don’t need cable or satellite to get all the movies and television shows you want.

 Marvell’s Deep Space Nine
 reference design
The two best STB products on display, the Popbox and D-Link’s Boxee unit, seamlessly integrate social networking functionality so you can watch TV with your friends, no matter where they might be.

The unexpectedly hot category was small projectors. Palm-top devices that let you watch TV or whatever from your mobile phone or share a video quickly were being demonstrated by 3M and Microvision.

Sharper Image was showing a prototype home projector that’s supposed to start selling for $149 in August. These small, inexpensive projectors are based on LED technology that will only get better over the next two to three years. The days of the $1,000 video projector are numbered.