A View from the Top: A Virtual Prototyping Blog


Mobile World Congress, Barcelona – Day 3: Less wires = wireless

The Barcelona sun finally starts to arrive and helps to put the serious business being conducted here into a supportive environment. The best deals are being cut at the outside coffee table. The forward looking roadmap conversations happen by sitting together on the fountain walls.

Mobile is a massive business. Indian software services company WIPRO employs about 1,100 engineers in the mobile practice software services alone. As their general manager Arvind Jayabal points out they prefer doing their work in the fully green oriented WIPRO facilities rather than being forced to work at their international customers facilities. One forcing function for that is the infrastructure to develop software, like specific development board, which may only be available in limited quantities and locations. Virtualization of electronic platforms should be able to solve this problem soon.

Not less massive – from a booth perspective – is the appearance of Microsoft’s new Windows Mobile OS. Even on day 3 a faithful crowd of visitors listen to what the moderator has to say about the great features of managing your social life. You can aggregate all of your friend’s data from your own address book, calendar and FaceBook. Looks very cool. Many people are listening to this while happily typing an e-mail on their Blackberry or checking FaceBook on their iPhones….

Mobile video remains an interesting topic throughout the show. CEVA showcases their newest flagship, dual core DSP. The two DSPs are actually performing different tasks within video processing and have been optimized for those using the latest processor design technologies in this area. The CEVA CTO, Erez Barniv, points out proudly that a full rate 1080p HD video can run on an FPGA implementation of their DSP at just 50 MHz clock speed. This provides a promising outlook to using this new core for actual handset chips. DSP industry analyst Will Strauss stops at the demo and is significantly impressed by the technology as well.

Cambridge based mobile IP leader ARM is presenting several netbook products in their booth. More and more of their Chinese customers require them to predict performance for a specific set of target product constraints. ARM is addressing this through their sophisticated traffic generation tools combined with their partners providing the exploration and modeling technologies for ARM’s interconnects. They also point out that significant breakthroughs on the software side are necessary to keep their Santa Clara competitor on a distance in their home market. “They told us, before you can do Flash, you can’t sell real computers. Now we have it. What is their next challenge?”

The green topic in terms of power consumption continues in the infrastructure market. If you are dialing 911 from your cell phone in the US your location information should better be true. TruePosition is the provider of pizza box sized electronics that AT&T and T-Mobile are putting on their basestation towers to calculate your position from relaying several basestation measurement data. Many of these types of infrastructure systems are today being implemented using a combination of FPGAs and DSPs. The race for getting all the ‘green content’ is on between the TI and Freescale and Xilinx and Altera. In the end only the innovation of the system OEMs to advanced algorithms, software implementation, hardware implementation or custom processor design is making the green difference. The semiconductor companies just deliver the basic ingredients.

Away from the business discussion into the consumer view again one booth caught a significant attention, mostly because of clever marketing. The booth for “Powermat” was entire closed with the exception of a small entrance where customer had to line up for badge scanning. The process was deliberately slow, so a busy line would form. The product concept? Put your Smartphone into an additional protection sleeve that contains a power plug and a wireless charging device. Carry around a much bulkier phone all day so that when you come home you can just drop it on the Powermat, where it charges. Spend lots of dollars on ‘new sleeves’ for each of your device and discard the included charged from your device. If they can stay in business until the phone manufacturers will include the technology into the standard phone package this maybe interesting.

In the end business managers return satisfied from the show. It is a worthwhile concentration of decision makers in the industry. They have their calendars marked for 2011 already.

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