Monday, November 19, 2007

Will mobile phones become the primary personal computing devices?

IBM and Google announced they have jointly established an Internet-scale computing initiative to promote new software development methods that can help students and researchers address the challenges of Internet-scale applications. From [IBM Internet-scale computing] webpage:

Internet use and content has grown dramatically, fueled by global reach, mobile device access, and user-generated Web content, including large audio and video files. More of the world population is looking to the mobile Web to fulfill basic economic needs. To meet this challenge, Web developers need to adopt new methods to address significant applications such as search, social networking, collaborative innovation, virtual worlds and mobile commerce.

The University of Washington is the first to join the initiative. A small number of universities will also pilot the program, including Carnegie-Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Maryland. In the future, the program will be expanded to include additional researchers, educators and scientists.

The heart of the project is a large cluster of several hundred computers (a combination of Google and IBM systems) that is planned to grow to more than 1,600 processors. Students will access the cluster through the Internet to test their parallel programming projects. The cluster is powered with open source software, including:

Linux [Fedora]
XEN systems virtualization (see [XenSource])
[Hadoop] workload scheduling
The project includes a Web site to encourage collaboration among universities in the program, built with Web 2.0 technologies from the [IBM Innovation Factory].

While many people might be aware that IBM designs and fabricates processor chips for all of the major game consoles (Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Nitentendo’s Wii, and Sony’s Play Station 3), they might not know that IBM also makes chips for many cell phone manufacturers.
IBM has managed to integrate seven Radio Frequency (RF) front-end functions onto this single CMOS chip using silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology.
And this means? For cell phones, according to IBM foundry product director Ken Torino, "Our solution minimizes insertion loss and maximizes isolation which will prevent dropped calls even on the most inexpensive handsets."
Currently, cell phone RF front-end functions are handled by five to seven chips and at least two of those are using expensive gallium arsenide (GaA) technologies. The CMOS 7RF SOI should not only reduce costs by eliminating the need for so many chips, but also trim the fat from materials expenditures since GaA tech is somewhat expensive. IBM predicts that manufacturers will first use the chip to reduce on-phone processors to two or three before making the leap to a single chip.

Tony Pearson
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