Monday, January 10, 2011

Conexant sold off to SMSC

Creates group with 900 mixed signal engineers
By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk


How are the mighty fallen. The once powerful embedded chip maker Conexant Systems - spin off of Rockwell and dominant supplier of modem chips - is to be sold off to up and coming chip maker SMSC of New York.
Conexant leaves the industry with a string of legacies through a number of spin offs, from foundry Jazz to telecom chip maker MindSpeed, but the core of chips for imaging, audio, embedded modem, and video surveillance applications will go to to SMSC in a deal valued at approximately $284 million including the assumption of Conexant’s net debt. The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies.
The company had been selling off parts of the business for several years, and last month sold property next to its Newport Beach, California, headquarters for $23m

Combined Company Highlights:
  • Creates a stronger analogue/mixed-signal R&D team with over 900 engineers globally,
  • Complementary connectivity product portfolios to target more expansive set of computing, consumer, industrial and automotive applications,
  • Serves key customers with more complete product solutions,
  • Combined company has the scale and resources to enhance SMSC’s finances with a combined revenue of $632m,
  • Anticipated cost cutting of $8 to $10m by the end of SMSC’s fourth quarter
The combination of Conexant’s imaging, audio, embedded modem and video products with SMSC’s broad connectivity solutions targeting the computing, consumer, industrial and automotive markets provides for a highly complementary merger of talent and technology. Conexant has approximately 600 employees worldwide, including over 230 in Asia.
“We believe that combining the growth potential of Conexant and SMSC will allow us to leverage complementary technology and engineering resources to provide our customers with expanded solutions in connectivity and content,” said Christine King, President & Chief Executive Officer of SMSC. “We plan to focus our resources on the areas of highest return and believe that our respective sales and supply chain relationships will help create a platform to grow our businesses. In addition, we expect to capture significant operating efficiencies that will position us to increase earnings growth. SMSC’s larger scale should position us to increase our R&D productivity and drive profitability and shareholder value.”
“In our industry, size and scope provide a significant advantage with customers and suppliers," said Scott Mercer, Conexant's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "SMSC and Conexant share similar core competencies in analog and mixed-signal design, possess complementary product portfolios, and count many customers in common. By joining forces, we get the opportunity to take advantage of economies of scale and drive profitable growth."
Sailesh Chittipeddi, currently President & Chief Operating Officer at Conexant, will join SMSC upon close of the acquisition as Executive Vice President, reporting to Christine King. Mr. Chittipeddi’s responsibilities will include all product lines and global marketing and engineering functions for SMSC.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

IPv6 provides path to secure deployment of next-generation Internet - uptake data

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have issued a guide for managers, network engineers, transition teams and others to help them deploy the next generation Internet Protocol (IPv6) securely.
This is vital for the next generation of embedded devices as it provides a wider range of addresses and more security, but uptake has been slow - see graph


You can also go to http://v6asns.ripe.net/ and choose the list of countries you are interested in for the uptake data updated regularly.

Guidelines for the Secure Deployment of IPv6 (NIST Special Publication 800-119), describes the features of IPv6 and the possible related security impacts, provides a comprehensive survey of mechanisms to deploy IPv6 and suggests a deployment strategy for a secure IPv6 environment.
The ballooning popularity of devices, such as smart phones and netbooks, tied to the Internet is rapidly depleting the number of so-called IP addresses available under the current Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), so the networkers of the world are preparing to move to the next generation, IPv6. Among other improvements, IPv6 has a vastly greater number of potential addresses—several billion per each of the world's current population of about 6.9 billion people.
To ensure that the US government is prepared for IPv6, the Office of Management and Budget has mandated federal agencies to begin deploying the new protocol. NIST developed the IPv6 security guidelines in support of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). The publication is designed to help federal agencies avoid possible security risks that could occur during IPv6 deployment. It also could be useful for the private sector and other organizations.
"The Internet protocol pervades every aspect of computer communications," explains lead author Sheila Frankel, "so deploying IPv6 is a major task." With detailed planning, she says, organizations can navigate the process smoothly and securely. Most organizations will be operating IPv6 and IPv4 concurrently.
"Security will be a challenge, however, because organizations will be running two protocols and that increases complexity, which in turn increases security challenges," Frankel says. SP 800-119 describes the security challenges organizations may face as they deploy IPv6. Those challenges include fending off attackers that have more experience than an organization in the early stages of IPv6 deployment and the difficulty of detecting unknown or unauthorized IPv6 assets on existing IPv4 production networks. The publication provides information to be considered during the deployment planning process and makes recommendations to mitigate IPv6 threats.
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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Qualcomm's acquisition of Atheros key to Connected Home says iSuppli

Key to combat Broadcom 

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Qualcomm’s planned acquisition of Atheros Communications will position the combined companies to take on rival Broadcom in the burgeoning consumer electronics market for wireless connectivity semiconductors, according to market researchers iSuppli.
Qualcomm today confirmed it will buy Atheros in a deal estimated to be worth about $3.1 billion. Qualcomm is the world’s largest supplier of semiconductors for wireless products, accounting for an estimated 22.4 percent of global wireless semiconductor market revenue in the fourth quarter of 2010. Atheros ranks 12th in the market with an estimated share of 2.2 percent.

“With Atheros adding only 2.2 percentage points to Qualcomm’s portion of the wireless market, this acquisition is clearly not a market share play for Qualcomm. Rather, it’s a pure strategic play, designed to bolster its position in the fast-growing wireless connectivity space now dominated by Broadcom,” said Francis Sideco, principal analyst, wireless communications for iSuppli.
Atheros’ main allure is its global leadership in low-power semiconductor solutions that support the 802.11n high-throughput wireless local area network (WLAN) standard, a type of Wi-Fi technology suitable for the transfer of bandwidth-intensive data such as video.
After several quarters of effort, Atheros has experienced limited success selling its 802.11n semiconductors in the cell phone market. iSuppli’s Teardown Analysis service has identified Atheros chips in smart phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy 5 and Sony Ericsson’s XPERIA X10. But the company has enjoyed greater success in non-cell-phone products, with design wins in products including Apple’s iMac line, Hewlett-Packard’s Pavilion PC family, Acer’s Aspire PC line, the third-generation Amazon Kindle and Microsoft’s Zune MP3 player. Furthermore, Atheros has achieved strong design wins in home networking routers, positioning it for success in the connected home segment.
“While Qualcomm already has its own Wi-Fi technology, this deal bolsters its design capabilities and opens up more opportunities in non-handset devices such as tablets and consumer electronics devices, particularly those in the connected home,” Sideco said.
Broadcom currently dominates the market for wireless connectivity semiconductors for consumer electronics, the so-called connected home area. This represents a booming segment of the wireless semiconductor business, with shipments of video-oriented consumer electronics devices equipped with high-bandwidth wireless solutions expected to grow to more than 85.2 million units by 2014, up from 606,000 units in 2009.
“Connectivity has arrived on the consumer electronics market in a big way—and no semiconductor supplier can seriously tackle this market without extensive system-on-chip (SOC) design capabilities, including a vast portfolio of intellectual property,” said Lee Ratliff, senior analyst, broadband and digital home, for iSuppli. “Broadcom is the gold standard in this area—the king of the SOC solution. With the acquisition of the Atheros portfolio, Qualcomm now is better positioned to offer SOCs that can compete with Broadcom’s offerings for a slice of the connected consumer electronics market.”
Ratliff noted that Qualcomm is not alone in its efforts to position itself against Broadcom in this critical area. Other semiconductor suppliers eying the connected home market include Marvell Technology, Ralink Technology and Zoran.
Some of the most attractive opportunities for connected home products are televisions and set-top boxes.
The acquisition of Atheros’ technology also could help Qualcomm to simultaneously defend against and attack Broadcom in its core business in cell phone semiconductors.
“Broadcom has enjoyed major success with its connectivity solutions in cell phones, most notably the main WLAN slot in the iPhone,” Sideco observed. “iSuppli believes it is only a matter of time before an EvDO and/or LTE iPhone will be introduced. It is essential that Qualcomm be part of the baseband picture for those types of phones due to its virtual lock on the EvDO market. Because of this, the company could be trying to expand its footprint by winning this slot from Broadcom.”
Meanwhile, the Atheros acquisition will help Qualcomm address the fast-growing market for tablets.
“Only some tablets will have the kind of 3G or 4G connectivity that requires Qualcomm’s silicon,” Sideco said. “However, all tablets will have the kind of Wi-Fi capabilities that can be supported by Atheros. This acquisition will ensure that Qualcomm has an opportunity to sell its chips into all tablets, whether they are 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi/Bluetooth.”
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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Embedded market research consolidation continues as NPD buys In-Stat

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk


Market research is an important tool in the development of embedded systems, and the firms that provide such data are seeing a key consolidation into just two large and relatively unknown conglomerates. This has happened before, with the Gartner Group taking over Dataquest in 1995, with the resulting loss of key semiconductor research and loss of confidence in the quality of the data and understanding of the embedded industry.
Now the NPD group is taking over In-Stat, joining it with screen hardware data supplier DisplayScreen purchased in 2005. In-Stat will be a strategic addition to the NPD family of analyst businesses,” said Tim Bush, General Manager of The NPD Group’s Analyst Services, into which In-Stat will report. “By combining information and services from DisplaySearch and In-Stat, we will be able to offer the industry a complete view of the digital world, including analysis of how digital content is affecting the evolving hardware market.” 
Mark Kirstein, CEO of In-Stat sees it positively of course: “We are delighted to become a part of The NPD Group family. As part of The NPD Group’s Analyst Services we will be better able to serve our clients on a global basis, as well as leverage NPD’s complementary market information and scale.”
This mirrors the recent deals by IHS taking over supply chain researchers iSuppli and screen content data supplier Screen Digest last year.

IHS and NPD are relatively unknown in the embedded industry, unlike iSuppli, In-Stat, Screen Digest and DisplayScreen, and while all the organisations are keeping their own identity at the moment, the tendency, as shown by Gartner, is to combine them into a wider group.  
NPD supplies data to a bewildering selection of industries, including automotive, beauty, commercial technology, consumer technology, entertainment, fashion, food and beverage, foodservice, home, office supplies, software, sports, toys, and wireless. The specialist electronics skills of In-Stat are likely to become lost in this wide range, which would be a great shame.


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USB3.0 drives the 'zero client' computer with no internal processing power - CES

New Approach to Computing Powered by USB 3.0 at CES 2011
By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

The rise of the high speed USB3.0 technology, particularly the optical version, is leading to a renaissance in the thin client, driving the idea of the 'zero client', says VIA Labs.


The Zero Client concept is an evolution of the Thin Client computing model that takes Shared-Resource Computing to the next level with no independent hardware processing facilities. Through multiple zero clients, many users can be simultaneously connected to a single server, leveraging the abundant computing power and flexibility provided by today’s mainstream systems. In contemporary zero client implementations, the end user experience is often bandwidth dependant since each Zero Client requires video, audio, and data connections.
Before the speed and flexibility of USB 3.0, Zero Clients utilized USB 2.0 or Ethernet, and frequently offered inferior multimedia capabilities and a degraded user experience. VIA Labs is demonstrating a zero client based on the new USB 3.0 standard which offers massive bandwidth capacity with its portfolio of USB 3.0 Superspeed controllers where several client terminals can now simultaneously enjoy a full user experience including HD multimedia, using the optical version to get the distance to the terminal previously provided by Ethernet.
“The zero client concept exemplifies the benefits that higher bandwidth USB 3.0 technologies can offer,” said Gibson Chen, Vice President of Sales at VIA Labs. “USB 3.0 based zero clients can enjoy a full and immersive PC experience simultaneously across several client stations thanks to the far greater data throughput that our leading USB 3.0 controllers offer.”
VIA labs is the only company in the world to have a complete USB 3.0 solution with host, hub and device controller products that are quickly setting industry standards. With an emphasis on delivering leading bandwidth performance while also pursing aggressive power-savings, VIA Labs is paving the way forward for new applications and devices in the broader electronics industry.
Complying with USB 3.0, USB Battery Charging, and eXtensible Host Controller Interface specifications (xHCI) the VIA VL800 offers four downstream facing ports that enable the simultaneous operation of multiple peripheral devices and includes USB Battery charging support to rapidly charge smart phones, tablets, and other compatible devices.
The industry’s first USB 3.0 hub controller, the VIA VL810 is a highly integrated, single chip solution provides maximum data transfer rates of up to 5Gbps, or ten times the throughput available to USB 2.0 based devices. Enables up to four USB devices to be connected to a single downstream port of a host or hub.
The VIA VL700 USB 3.0 to SATA Controller is a highly integrated single chip solution that allows users to connect any SATA hard disk drive (HDD), solid state drive (SSD), and optical disc drive (ODD) devices to their PC over USB 3.0. Details can be found here: http://www.via-labs.com/en/products/vl700/index.jsp
The VIA VL750 USB 3.0 to NAND Flash Controller is the first of its kind in the world, featuring a 4-channel memory controller with interleaving support, the VIA VL750 offers consumers blisteringly fast data transfer speeds of 100MB/s or more on larger capacity ‘thumb’ drives and USB sticks.

Related articles
CES: USB 3.0 facing slow take-up from manufacturers (v3.co.uk)
USB 3.0: Everything You Need to Know (itexpertvoice.com)
You: Intel Confirms USB 3.0 on Chief River Notebook Platform (everythingusb.com)
USB-IF Announces Second Certified USB 3.0 Host Controller (eon.businesswire.com)
USB 3.0 Support in Windows 7 (devcurry.com)
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Monday, January 03, 2011

VIA Launches Embedded Industry’s First Dedicated Graphics Card with 3D and DDR3

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk


VIA eH1 card offers DX10.1 graphics and multi-screen HD video content for embedded systems

 VIA Technologies has developed a graphics card designed specifically for the embedded market. The eH1 is a DX10.1 compliant, multi-display card for the PCI Express slot that comes with the three year product longevity guarantee that is vital for embedded designs and is the most power-efficient discrete graphics and video solution on the market today. The VIA eH1 AIB uses the 64bit S3 Chrome 5400E GPU graphics chip for DirectX 10.1, OpenGL 3.1, OpenGL ES 2.0  and offers multi-stream 1080p HD video decoding and Stereoscopic 3D rendering capability alongside 512Mbytes of DDR3 memory. This makes it the ideal solution for a range of embedded applications that require advanced graphics and video on multiple displays.
 “The VIA eH1 hits a real sweet spot for the embedded industry as a whole,” said Daniel Wu, Vice President, VIA Embedded Platform Division at VIA Technologies. “Offering technologies like DX10.1, OpenGL/CL, plus multi-channel HD video playback on an extremely low power AIB will excite system integrators who want to bring the latest features to existing platforms.”

VIA eH1: Embedded Graphics and Video
The VIA eH1 is a low profile PCI Express add-in-board designed for next generation embedded applications in a range of segments including digital signage and advertising, POS, POI, gaming or any embedded application where graphics and HD video is streamed on two displays.

l            PCIe 2.0 Bus Interface
l            512MB DDR3
l            Low profile form factor
l            Dual-Link DVI and HDMI (with HDCP)
l            Fully programmable DirectX 10.1 Unified Shader Core
l            OpenGL 3.1 + OpenGL ES 2.0
l            GPGPU on OpenCL 1.0
l            H.264 and VC-1 support for Blu-Ray
l            Support for resolutions up to 2560x1600
l            1080p/1080i/720p HD-decode
l            Steroscopic 3D capable
l            Dual display support

The VIA eH1 can be used in conjunction with a number of VIA EPIA board products and can supplement any existing system that uses a x1, x4, x8 or x16 PCIe slot. Samples of the VIA eH1 are available now to project customers upon request.


Details regarding the S3 Chrome 5400E can be found at S3 Graphics

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