IDF San Francisco 2008 Round-Up

Posted on 02 September 2008 by

IMG_7143IDF, the Intel Developer Forum was held a few weeks ago and through the generosity of readers I was able to attend, listen, contribute and learn from the experience. Here’s the report that went out to my sponsors last week. Slightly abridged but containing all the important info.

If I was asked to summarise IDF from the ultra mobile angle I would probably say just one thing – software. Intel’s ultra mobility group have been working hard to bring in a number of important ISVs and IDF was the place they wanted to show it all off. Gypsii (A GPS-enabled social networking and POI IMG_6985network), Fring (Single client IM and social networking interface) Adobe (Flash 10 beta I assume they are working to get hardware video decoding in there) and Move networks (intelligent multi-protocol video streaming solution with H.264 hardware decoding support) were at the fore and Intel say that now have 60 ISV’s working with them. The software ecosystem was highlighted in both ultra mobility keynotes and appeared to take precedence over hardware announcements.
The other feeling I got was that things are taking off in Asia. This shouldn’t be a surprise to us considering past success of small mobile computing devices. Intel may be taking advantage of this by responding to Asian demands and I heard a number of people say that big hardware announcements would be made at IDF in Asia next spring. [Report continues below]

perlmutter There wasn’t any news about Moorestown although I did pick up a tidbit that made it clear that hardware video encoding would be included in the next chipset. Presumably this is to attract people to the idea of live streaming from mobile devices, something that is currently a low-quality and short-battery life operation and with the possibility of WiMax networks that will enable higher upload bandwidths, we could be looking at mobile, high-quality H.264 content delivery in 2010. I’m sure many media companies will be interested in this. Imagine Atom and Wimax in video cameras broadcasting 1-2mbps high-quality video streams. It really will change the face of citizen journalism in my opinion. Very exciting.

Obviously the people responsible for working with OEMs haven’t been asleep in the last few months. Nearly all of the OEMs that Intel said would be releasing devices are doing so. There appears to be some delay as OEMs work to their own schedule but its possible that we really will see 20 manufacturers releasing MIDs aross the world before the end of the year.

Moblin is moving to version 2.0. Intel have decided to switch package methods to RPM (from debian) and this will take some time. Certain packages will filter in over the next months as version 2 and it is expect to be complete by Arpil 2009. At that point Intel want to keep to a 6-month cylcle of releases.

Design seems to be improving. Quality seems to be improving. There is definitely more focus on the important elements of mobility, battery life and always-on Internet and for me, the products at IDF seemed to represent a step-improvement for ultra moblity. There’s still a long way to go though with UI’s and aesthetics but its obvious that these elements are being taken seriously and being worked on. MID V1.0 devices as we might want to call them, will be useful but not as slick as some of the reference products out there like the iPhone and the Archos range. Like an overlay on windows mobile, there are still shockingly poor quality fonts, menu systems and designs behind the front-ends. Im going to get very loud the next time I see xcalc used as the calculator. It reminds of my SunOS 3 back in the late 80s.
Panasonic, Fujistsu, Lennovo, Clarion, Wibrain (NeoSolar) , Digifriends, Viliv (Yukyung), Benq were all represented along with a clutch of netbook manufacturers.

  • Wibrain i1 a big, big improvement over the B1 with much much longer battery life and cooler, quieter operation. Build quality is still at the low end of the scale but ease-of-use is high with the Wibrain. The IMG_6975Wibrain has always been a love-it-or-hate it device but I have to say that if its going to give 6 hours 3G online battery life, its will make a great mobile internet device. We will be testing this in September and look forward to getting prices. See the preview video here.
  • Benq S6. Very strong and satisfying UI. distribution through carriers. Starting in Europe next month. Trying to arrange demo device for review. See the preview video here.
  • Gigabyte M528 UI is improving. Price is impressive. Should be available in the second week of September globally.
  • Viliv – S5 PMP-Like mini tablet device running Windows. Long battery life and GPS and 3G options. Should make a very impressive alternative to the Nokia N800. Planned for launch in Q4 2008. Presentation video here.
  • Viliv S7 a high-design product with an even bigger battery and Viliv are confident of 8 hours battery life on this. With Atom systems running at 3-6W in total now, its highly possible. 3G, good keyboard. A very interesting ‘pro mobile’ device. Planned for Q1 2009. Preview video here.
  • Digifriends have 3 OEMs lined up to sell their modular MID device. Very stylish. No working demo available at IDF. See the video review here.
  • Fujistsu U2010. U820. Very nice pro-mobile device.. appears to be well engineered and has reasonable battery life. We must get this in for an in-depth test.

In general, It was very much a ‘we’re on track’ update on mobile Internet devices with the promise of some Moorestown detail in the next IDF. Spring 2009 in Beijing next April. A big thank-you to all the people that donated and sponsored the UMPCPortal IDF project including the advertisers below. A thank-you to Intel for the invite and hospitality and a thanks to Mike, Kathy and Zak for putting me up.

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