Convergence of Screens

It was at GITEX Technology Shopper week in Dubai a month back when my wife, like every other bargain hunter, decided to use GITEX as an opportunity to look for the best deals on TVs. The demands from our ideal TV were very simple: a 46 inch LCD at around AED 2,000. Interestingly enough, all of the GITEX salespeople had a different take on “ideal”. They started bombarding her with all these sheets and brochures, trying to upsell her to a LED TV for AED 4,000 or better yet, a SMART TV so we could potentially surf the internet and watch YouTube and with a price tag of AED 6,000.

Looking for an opinion, she found me in the venue and asked – ‘Between the two of us, we have two Smart Phones, two Tablets and three Laptops and yet, why would I want to surf the internet or watch YouTube on the TV??? I just want a TV for the occasional desire to watch a TV show or a movie on a big screen from the comfort of my couch.’

It was this question, which upon reflection formed the basis of this blog. Our activities have become increasingly visual – we surf the internet, read the news, watch videos, look at photos of friends, update our social media status, play games etc. And we find ourselves immersing in all these activities on a variety of screen sizes.
Furthermore, our smart phones have all our contacts with whom we communicate with on a frequent basis. Our tablets have all our apps and games that we enjoy either when in the metro or for an hour before bedtime. Our laptops store all our work related emails and numerous worksheets and presentations. And finally, the TV is to watch our favorite sitcoms and movies.

The cumulative cost of the 4 separate screens is around AED 8,000 (assuming AED 2,000 per device) but I would be happy to pay around AED 4,000 for just one device that combines it all – the screen that rules across sizes. But what would that device be called? The term Phablet, coined from the combination of a Smart Phone and Tablet, is common place and there are a few brands in this space. But will the Phablet replace the phone, laptop, PC and TV?

In my ideal world, this single screen or device would connect to a dumb keyboard and screen at work for me to create content, i.e. make presentations and worksheets and store them in the cloud. At home, this Single Device would connect to a dumb TV terminal and transform into a media hub for when we want to read the news, play casual games or stream TV shows from the internet. It would simultaneously serve as our communication device for when wish to talk to friends or send a SMS.

I imagine a screen size of around 5 inches for the Single Device that I envision – one might say that current smartphones are already there. However my counter argument would be that the existing crop of smartphones is not powerful or standardized enough to be used to create content. The current range of smartphones and tablets are primarily for consuming content while the PC remains the de facto device to create content.

Manish Punjabi, Marketing Manager (META) at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

Computing at the Speed of Thought

October 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Industry

Recently I was listening to Walter Isaacson’s audiobook book on Steve Jobs and the third chapter briefly mentioned Steve Wozniak’s attempt to use the keyboard to display characters on the screen. It seemed like sheer coincidence when, a few days later, I read about Valve (the company behind STEAM) echoing a similar sentiment by saying that keyboards and mice had not seen any major innovation over the last several years. This got me further intrigued of how little things have changed for the PC Interaction aspect over the last 30 odd years, i.e. the keyboard continues to be the primary interaction interface for PCs.

But before the keyboard, there were punch cards that had physical holes to indicate 1s and 0s – binary, the official input and output language. Then in the 1970’s, the typewriter layout was adapted for the new input method for PCs and since then QWERTY has ruled our lives – or AZERTY if you are French. There were attempts at voice software . I tried one several years ago but couldn’t quite consider it as a replacement to type out emails. And recently Apple offered Siri in the iOS 4.0 which put voice recognition back on the map.

Gestures and joysticks have been the domain of game consoles but these haven’t come up as potential keyboard replacements. Or rather should I say the “keyboard killer”. I shouldn’t miss the mouse which found a place in our computing lives when Xerox came up with the Graphical User Interface (GUI) – yes, apparently, according to Walter Isaacson’s book, Steve saw the GUI idea first while visiting Xerox’s Palo Alto location but then perfected it for the Apple OS. Apple’s iPad, though not the first attempt at a tablet computer, brought the concept of touch to the masses.

Display units on the other hand are probably facing the same dilemma or even worse off – What resolution is enough? As a budding engineer in the ranks, I studied the cathode ray tube (CRT) technology which offered a maximum of 640×480 resolutions. But the CRT has since been replaced with Plasma, LCD, LED, and 3D technologies which offer as much as a 7680×4320 resolution. Will this increase to 16K resolution?

Source: Jayse Hansen

However, coming to the essence of my 500 word limit – How will interaction between humans and computing devices change? What is beyond the keyboard and display screen? Mark Papermaster, AMD’s CTO, recently delivered a vision of ‘Surround Computing Era’ at the Hot Chips convention, saying “Surround Computing imagines a world without keyboards or mice, where natural user interfaces based on voice and facial recognition redefine the PC experience”

This is definitely in line with what is hopefully coming in the immediate future and I am excited to imagine interacting with my PC using facial recognition. Haier, the Chinese home appliance maker, launched the Eye Control TV at IFA 2012 where the TV that can be controlled using facial features such as movement of the eye and blinking. That is a step in the direction of Surround Computing but I am thinking of beyond Surround Computing – Will we ever come to a stage where we communicate with computers using thoughts or our brain waves?

Imagine wearing a hat with 2 interface points – one for the left hemisphere or the logical side of your brain and the other for the right hemisphere or the creative side of your brain. Put on the hat and boot the PC, draw a picture that the right hemisphere of your brain imagines while simultaneously doing spreadsheets and writing emails using the left hemisphere. The response is communicated by the same hat directly to your brain – Computing at the Speed of Thought, Literally.

Manish Punjabi, Marketing Manager (META) at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

Technology as a Hegemon driver

September 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, Blogs, Industry

I am a big history buff which used to be my favorite subject in school and to date the histories of different eras continues to fascinate me. My choice to work in technology marketing also makes me a geek, therefore inspiring me to dedicate this article to talking about both and how they are related.

In the 1500s, advances in navigation technology mixed with courage allowed Christopher Columbus to sail across the Atlantic to find the Americas. For years after, the Spanish reaped the rewards of shipping gold and other precious jewels to Spain thanks, in part, to holding the edge in navigation technology, allowing the Monarchy to reign for 50 odd years as the undisputed global power – the Hegemon. A hegemon is defined as the center of the world, economically; a global super-power that we all know to be the US today. However history is littered with examples of hegemons that capitalized on the technological advances of their era to rule.

In the 1600s, albeit for a short while, the Dutch held the Hegemon title, once again thanks to superior shipping innovations. For 200 years after the Dutch, it was for the English to carry the crown, establishing a hegemony status with the steam engine, textile mill and other revolutions of the Industrial Era. The English imported raw material from all over the world only to re-export them as finished goods.

War in the first half of the 1900s brought a new player to the front – USA, who continues to dominate the global landscape. The US was crowned Hegemon thanks to technology advances in weaponry, such as the Oppenheimer’s Nuclear Bomb, information technology including Cerf’s Internet, automotive with Ford’s Automobile, and space with Armstrong’s trip to the Moon. The list is endless. The era of the US Baby Boomers resulted in an army of engineers who powered the innovation engine, giving birth to Silicon Valley, Facebook, Wall Street and has firmly implanted the US as the hegemon of our lifetime.

Today, technology is still evolving and it is thought that the crown may eventually pass to China, which is accredited with inventing paper, the compass, gunpowder and printing. The timing is suspect with the current financial crisis; however I choose not to speculate; this is not about politics, but about advances in technology that determine the duration of hegemon status adorned by a country.

So, a question presents itself: Who will be the next hegemon? Which technology, with a confluence of several other factors – social, financial, etc, will determine the next lynchpin of the global economy?

In my opinion, after each continent has had its turn at the hegemon crown, technical advances will place it on Africa. Africa still has several roadblocks to overcome such as infrastructure, education, socio-political dynamics; however China was but akin to a small fishing village until the 1960s. At first manufacturing moved into China and simultaneously infrastructure improved which encouraged further investment to the extent that eventually, a Made in China label became sign of prosperity and pride. China, akin to the US, now produces several thousand engineers every year. These engineers, I read, are using existing technologies to help China leap ahead in telecommunications, manufacturing, transportation etc. However the cost of living and wages in many of China’s coastal cities, the original manufacturing hubs, has shot up and industries are either moving into rural China or moving to Vietnam and Cambodia. It is this constant hunt for the lowest manufacturing cost base that will eventually lead industries to Africa.

But to become viable for business, Africa has to be overcome its afore-mentioned hurdles. Technology is already bringing about change – Internet costs are dropping and consequently penetration is increasing. Recent socio-political changes in North Africa used social media platforms as a rallying call–Telcos are rolling out 4G or LTE (Long Term Evolution) infrastructure in Western Europe and Africa simultaneously. With plenty of sun, solar panels might be the answer for rural areas plagued by electricity shortages.

But the question remains, which technology advance will make Africa the next Hegemon? I am not an oracle to see beyond the next 3 years – heck, I couldn’t even predict the tablet takeover until 2009. Any thoughts on that?

Manish Punjabi, Marketing Manager (META) at AMD
His/her postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

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