Archive for January, 2011

How the new conductor wants to make the elephant dance again

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Back in June 2010, long before Nokia brought in Elop as the new CEO, I predicted that Nokia’s salvation may come from a strategic alliance with Microsoft. With the announced strategic message to come out on the 11th of February, speculation is rife across the internet what the new strategy might look like.

So, here’s mine 😉

The message will be simple and clear and will be summarized in three points:

1. The alternative to Apple and the ‘pee in the pants’ ((c) former Nokia VP) strategy of the Android camp has to come from a two-legged strategy: Symbian and Windows Phone, through a deep, strategic alliance with Microsoft

2. MeeGo is phased out – hard to build a new ecosystem from scratch (and it’s easy to do: no legacy to support, no sales are jeopardized)

3. Symbian for cost-aware, Windows Phone for high end phones

In practice this will mean the death of Symbian^3 as well, but over time: declaring it now would kill a large part of Nokia’s sales during 2011-2012 (until the WinPhone comes out – who would buy a dead OS-based phone?); what’s in the production  pipeline already will be the last Nokia phones based on Symbian. What will survive however is S40 for the low-end phones which are still the bread and butter of Nokia’s revenue. For high end, it will be all Windows.

There’s a subtle connection here to Microsoft’s announced plans to make Windows 8 available on ARM processors as well: this, combined with a likely unification with Windows Phone, will enable Nokia to build both ARM and Intel-based phones and tablets in the future, while leveraging the same software stack. It will be a clear differentiator compared with Apple or the Android camp and allows addressing different segments (e.g. business and consumer) with different offerings. Windows Phone also represents the last chance to enter to US market which, given the combined financial strengths of Microsoft and Nokia and a good understanding of the market by the former, is within reach.

(once again, this is a pure speculative post, based solely on intuition and interpretation of publicly available material; pure work of fiction)

P.S. It turns out, this is my 100th post in exactly 2 years and 4 months. That’s about 1 post every 9 days. D.S.

Of Wintel and WARM

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

(this blog post is, of course, pure speculation – no insider information whatsoever)

Such announcements are few and far between: Microsoft announced at CES 2011 that the next version of Windows will be available on ARM-based chips as well, in a move that’s the biggest shift in the OS policy of the Redmond giant ever since those early days of DOS.

The announcement raises several queations and opens up for quite some speculations. It was in the making for some time, but now that it’s public, it provides serious food for thought. What will this mean for Intel? Is it a scale-up step for ARM or a scale down step for Microsoft? How does this relate to Windows Phone 7?

Interestingly, two other giants face similar challenges: Apple with iOS and MacOS, Google with Android and Chrome. Does this fragmentation make sense? What could the “grand plan” be?

I think Apple provided a glimpse of what to expect. Beside the design, their “next generation Macs” focus primarily on battery life, as does the iPad. Adding an iOS-like layer to MacOS is another clue; honestly, I believe what kept Apple in the Intel camp, despite having their own chip design unit, was HW compatibility with Microsoft. Now that is about to change – so why on earth should they have two types of chips and two software stacks? If they can do ALL they deliver today on just one platform, with 4-5x better power efficiency, is there really any serious counter-argument left?

I believe there isn’t. So here’s my prediction for 2012.

In Janury 2012 Apple will launch iPad 3 with the A6 processor based on ARM’s Cortex-A15 core, probably in dual or quad core configuration, together with touch-based iOS 5, bringing the best of MacOS to the tablet (for example, real multi-tasking). It will be followed by iPhone 6 on the same platform in June and the “ultimate Mac” in the fall: same unified iOS 5, but with a mouse-based non-touch interface. It will feature the same A6 chip design but with 4, perhaps 8 cores, delivering 2x performance and 4x better battery life (up to 24 hours and 6 months stand-by). It will be able to run Windows and Linux just as before and for some time to come, the Intel verison will be supported.

What about Microsoft? It will follow more or less the same pattern: Windows 8 will unify the core of Windows and Windows Phone 7, but with two interfaces, one for touch devices based on the Windows Phone 7 interface (to be used on tablets and phones) and the mainstream interface for “big” Windows. Unlike Apple however, Microsoft will continue to support Intel as the primary platform – PCs and servers are still too big to quit. In addition, Intel will likely get their act together and deliver a competitive embedded chipset that can run Microsoft’s new OS.

What about Google then? They won’t have much of choice than follow the same path. In addition, it will have to get the fragmentation of Android under control – openness has proven to be a liability so far.

Will this actually happen? Time will tell, but it’s fun to make predictions, isn’t it?

What you can learn by writing a book

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

At some point in time, I thought I will actually never be able to put it in writing, but here it is: I managed to finish the book on many-core programming I’ve been working on (with two co-authors) for the past one and a half year – complete with references, figures and word index. It’s now submitted to the publisher, so stay tuned for a release in June.

It was a one of a kind experience. I learned a lot on the technical side but, even more importantly, a lot of the” do:s and don’t:s” of writing a book. Working on a book is a solitary experience and – especially towards the end – a race against the clock and number of pages. You just sit in front of your screen and type and type and type, with the sword of public criticism over your head: every mistake you make will be criticized, perhaps ridiculed. You try to get the text in shape, only to realize, at the end, that the most time-consuming and dull work is to actually get your references, keywords and figures in shape – let alone proof-reading and fixing the raw text you produced.

Would I do it again? Probably yes, but certainly not right how. Will I read it, once out in the wild?

Don’t know. Let me know if it’s worth reading 😉