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Are Gaming Consoles Still Relevant?

The digital home has been coming for decades. Ma Bell knew; 30 plus years ago, its vision of the future was "data and pictures at your fingertips." Star Trek knew; iPads were a standard accessory over 20 years ago in the show. And now reality is finally catching up.

This means big changes are needed in the console arena if they're going to be able to survive this new frontier. Our televisions are now smart and possibly 3D. Our Blu-ray players are smart and affordable. Our smartphones and tablets stream movies wirelessly to our TVs, and smartphones have become our gaming platform of choice. During previous console releases, selling points have included:

  1. Better graphics
  2. Inexpensive Blu-ray player
  3. Streaming HD content
  4. Innovative games, etc.

But these selling techniques won't work anymore for the following reasons:

Intel Leaves WSTS: Is It Really a Big Deal?

This week Intel confirmed that it has left the WSTS organization and, as such, will not be participating in the industry monthly data collection. Additionally, AMD pulled out of WSTS late last year. These are two significant players whose information will not be part of the official survey results.

Is this really a big deal?

It is disappointing to hear that these two companies do not see the value in participating in data collection for the semiconductor industry. As an analyst firm, Semico Research utilizes the monthly, quarterly and annual data as one of many reference points to triangulate our forecasts.

But Intel and AMD are not the only significant semiconductor companies that do not participate in the WSTS reporting structure. Other non-reporting members include:

Capex Disconnect

Most semiconductor companies have completed their 4th quarter 2011 earnings calls and announced their capital expenditure budgets for 2012.  Current capex plans indicate a weaker spending year for the industry compared to 2011.  Based on current announced plans, capex spending would fall 4.5% to $59.8 billion in 2012.  Semico believes some companies may be miscalculating the market. In 2011, semiconductor capex reached a record $62.7 billion, an increase of 25.6% over the 2010 level.  The growth was not nearly as high as the over 140% increase in capex that was spent in 2010. Top Ten Spenders in 2012:  Announced Capex Plans

US $ in millions

2011

2012

% chg

2011 Rank

2012 Rank

Samsung

$11,765

$13,122

12%

1

1

Intel

$10,800

$12,500

16%

2

2

TSMC

$7,290

$6,000

-18%

3

3

Hynix

$3,077

$3,692

20%

Robots get a little scarier

If you've been following the robot arena, it all started with an innocent looking robot to learn how to flip pancakes.

And then scientists taught the robots to limbo.

The All-Electric Nissan Leaf, the Perfect Urban Car?

Last week I took a ride in a friend’s new Nissan Leaf, which may be the perfect urban car. It has adequate performance and can more than keep up with traffic, even on the Interstate. It is essentially noiseless. Its range is limited, but more than adequate for trips around a city. It has a quite spacious storage capacity. Best of all, it’s pollution free. The only thing that’s missing is the “zoom.”

What is zoom? It’s a sleek, sexy body style - maybe a coupé or convertible. It’s the sound of an engine howling toward a 7,000 rpm redline. It’s carving a corner and hitting the apex exactly. It’s braking as late as possible while double-clutching to downshift, turning-in at the right point and then maxing the exit speed. It’s 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds. It’s the thrill of pretending you’re a racer. It’s the ego trip of posing as a rugged outdoor 4WD dude. It’s the promise of getting the girl. Until now, zoom is what has sold cars, but we don’t need zoom any more.

My friend doesn’t care about zoom. He doesn’t do drag racing starts or road racing corners. He doesn’t go off-road. He’s married. He already got the girl a long time ago. What he wants is reliable, comfortable, economical transportation. Because he cares about ecological issues, a green car with low carbon emissions is a bonus. He’s a good representation of an average car buyer, but he’s ahead of the pack.

Samsung and the Future

MobileNations did a great video touting Samsung's Smart Window.

As Joanne said, CES was all about the touch screen display - and yes, its very minority reportish.  Putting this one on my wish list.

Battle of the Digital Ecosystems

This year's CES had a few themes to take away, but the one that seems to define the rest is that the old model is dead. We are firmly at a new frontier of technological development, and whatever new age we're entering, it's being shaped by Apple Inc.  Everyone else seems to still be struggling out of the rigid digital ecosystem developed in the 1980s.

For example, Kurt Smith, a VP of Verizon Communications Inc., believes a mature supply chain requires three levels: the content creators/manufacturer, the distributer, and the retailer -- for no other reason than that's the way it's always been done.

Verizon is already behind. This is a lag built upon a generational gap that we can only vaguely understand. For those of us who didn't grow up with the Internet, the texting of the newer generation is confounding. Worse, today's toddlers are using iPads in the cradle, so in 10 years the gap will be even larger and more confusing.

And yet, the majority of the panel sessions at CES were filled with old white men. I saw no minorities on the panels. There were two women in the sessions I attended, one older woman who wasn't even familiar with the panel she was moderating, and another who seemed more afraid of technology than anything else, a disturbing lack of diversity that didn't reflect the audience in any way.

On the show floor, it was shown just how this disparity is playing out.

CES 2012: It Is All About Motion, Touch and Sound

As usual, CES was huge and overwhelming …too much to see, too little time.   Actually there may have been enough time, but my feet gave out before I could get to everything.  The Qualcomm booth wasn’t really a booth; it was a mini-city with 2-story briefing rooms.   From what I did see, the big trend in consumer electronics this year will be in touch, voice and motion sensing.   All the same products were on display, i.e. TV’s, tablets, and smartphones, they’re just doing a lot more than they did last year.

It all started for me at the Qualcomm morning keynote.   Banking on a commitment from Microsoft, Qualcomm is supporting Windows 8 along with ARM technology.  Their move into the x86 arena was showcased on stage with a demo tablet powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 running Windows 8.  Furthering Qualcomm’s expansion into the home, Lenovo showed off their SmartTV powered by Snapdragon with voice activated remote control.  Can they truly get an instant on device?

Walking the floor there were many booths displaying motion sensing software.  Soon our online shopping experience will be improved as we virtually try on clothes using motion sensing devices that allow us to view the item’s fit as well as the color.

CES Mainly Evolutionary

Generally I would say that my observations drew me to the conclusion that most of what was at CES this year was improvements on existing products technologies.  That is I didn’t see anything that was totally revolutionary.  There were two announcements made at keynote speeches that I found quite intriguing.

Qualcomm CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs gave the opening keynote speech on Tuesday, January 10th.  During his presentation he invited Liu Jun, President of Lenovo mobile internet and digital home group on stage for an announcement from Lenovo.  Jun proceeded to demo his company’s SmartTV that is being powered by Qualcomm's snapdragon SoC. The TV is currently only available in China but what I found interesting was that Lenovo was expanding its product line into the consumer’s living room. It’s also a feather in Qualcomm's hat, as it expands Qualcomm's market penetration into televisions.

Several hours later at an afternoon keynote speech Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini also brought out Liu Jun, from Lenovo for an announcement. Liu Jun proceeded to announce that Lenovo would be producing a smart phone powered by Intel's atom. Yet another market that Lenovo is continuing to expand into.  And what a great win for Intel.  They've been targeting the atom processor for smart phones and now they not only have Motorola, an established player in the cell phone market, but they also have a partner with a built in connection to the China market.

The Agony of Digital Rights Management

The semiconductor industry likes to think it doesn't have to worry about software or Digital Rights Management (DRM). I'm often told "those things will work themselves out on their own."

But the truth is, DRM defines how a user will interact with technology. And it defines how different devices are able to communicate. Can you play that movie you downloaded on your tablet, smartphone, or TV? That's DRM, and it's also the digital ecosystem from a consumer's point of view.

One of the themes from this year's Consumer Electronics Show was that we've moved beyond devices. Moore's Law has ensured that we've reached an age where one notebook or another is pretty much the same. So the struggle for the hearts of consumers is now about convincing them which ecosystem, or user interface, is the best for them. That will decide what phone they buy, which TV, which tablet, etc. And all of this is built upon DRM.

So what did CES tell us about DRM? That it's going to be a long, hard battle for our rights as consumers during the next five years. I say this, not because anyone at CES told me, but because of how the security sessions went. Led by a Department of Homeland Security moderator, the mobile security panel showed that they're afraid of technology, and that their solution to all the security problems out there is to tether us more firmly to the grid. Every step you take will require authentication.

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