Sean Connery shilling for immersion lithography?

February 26, 2006

As reported by the EE Times, Japan’s Toppan Photomasks apparently brought in Sean Connery, or someone that looked like him, for a reception at the SPIE Microlithography event in San Jose. (SPIE, spy, 007…get it?) It’s still not certain whether the man was the genuine article, but if he were I suppose it’s a step up from literally dancing for Japanese whiskey.

The EE Times article does a good job of going over the progress of realizing immersion lithography, but I suppose it could be summed up in one simple word.



Amtel Rolling out Wimax Chipset

February 26, 2006

Amtel is releasing a single-chip WiMAX transceiver for mass production in 2Q 2006. It works only with WaveSat’s baseband, but another version compatible with industry-standard baseband is in the works. Power consumption is not optimized and it’s therefore intended only for fixed equipment. However, they are working on a miniPCI version.

It will be interesting to see if the solutions coming out later are adopted by Taiwanese broadband equipment makers.

Robot Love

February 26, 2006

The Economist writes how Japan’s complex social rules and xenophobia are helping to drive their robot industry. On the culture side, the article contrasts the way in which Westerners are by and large totally creeped out robots, while the Japanese find humanoid robots much easier to deal with that the intricate bows, nods, affirmations, and honorifics required when dealing with their flesh-and-blood compatriots.

The Xenophobic angle is that the Japanese are especially eager to use robots in the healthcare field for their growing elderly population, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Filipina nurses are ready and willing to work in Japan at a fraction of the cost. But I’m not so sure it’s entirely a xenophobic thing. I have to admit, if it were me, I’d much rather have my spoon-feedings and enemas performed by a robot. Especially this one.
Still, over the long term, the Japanese jones for robots should continue to push breakthroughs in a robotics industry that is already the world’s most advanced.

Plasma Displays: Get the Lead Out?

February 26, 2006

Korean and Japanese plasma display panel (PDP) makers and other PDP TV assemblers have reason to hope that lead in PDP will be exempted from the EU’s RoHS directive. A German environmental research center responsible for the study has indicated that there are no commercialized alternatives available, which may open the door for PDP TVs to be sold in the EU. However, the final report, originally due in January 2006, won’t be out until July.

Intel: You call that a laptop?

February 26, 2006

Recently came across some curious comments by Intel’s Craig Barrett while he was in Sri Lanka in December. Regarding Negroponte’s $100 laptop for the world’s poor:

“Mr. Negroponte has called it a $100 laptop — I think a more realistic title should be ‘the $100 gadget.’ The problem is that gadgets have not been successful. It turns out what people are looking for is something is something that has the full functionality of a PC…reprogrammable to run all the applications of a grown up PC … not dependent on servers in the sky to deliver content and capability to them, not dependent for hand cranks for power.”

Yeah, and they’d also like indoor hot-tubs and stacked washer-dryers. Is Barrett forgetting that these “gadgets” are targeting areas with an unreliable or nonexistent power infrastructure? Is he also forgetting that the target customers are governments, not end users? If you were the government, which would you choose: give a maximum amount of the populace stripped-down computers with a hand-crank so that they can have some exposure with the outside world, or spend trillions on a power infrastructure and fat subsidies to support power-hungry, “fully functional” PCs so that the people can play Doom 3 or make hideous PowerPoints? “Sorry kid. You’re manning the crank.”

It’s hard to deny that there isn’t a certain ring of fear in Barrett’s comments. Intel created their own ruggedized “community computer” with a $220 price tag for rollout in India during December 2005. Not only is it double the price, it also requires a power source, albeit at a lower 80-volts served up by a generator. Still, having to choose between firing up the generator and eating at the end the month might limit computer use a bit – a situation compounded by erratic income flow in such areas.

Even if Negroponte’s offering blocks the success of Intel’s computer over the short term, what Intel should be looking at is the similarity between $100 initiative and the GSMA’s Emerging Markets Handset program. The key point is to get the poor “connected,” and while you can list a number of altruistic reasons behind this, in the end what these programs are doing are creating future buyers. Whereas in the past these folks would not even consider purchasing these items, growing familiarization over time breeds need, and hence, a desire to replace or upgrade down the road.

So in sense the $100 laptops are creating a foundation of computer expertise and habits. Intel can then exploit this foundation once power infrastructures improve and computers (or gadgets or whatever they are) come down in price to levels that will motivate consumer, rather than government, purchases. Otherwise, you risk perpetuating a population of non-adopters.

Hey stud, that a cellphone in your pocket?

February 24, 2006

Google has stumbled upon some interesting data as it pushes its way into the mobile search. Apparently, 20% of all searches are for adult content, as opposed to 8.5% via PCs. Not only does this run counter to conventional wisdom that folks would be more prone to view such content in the warm-blue glow of their home monitors, it also points to the viability of mobile television. While pornography has long been called the true killer app for technology adoption in the consumer space, there were quite a few reservations as to whether this was applicable to handsets since most people tend to be a bit shy about watching Thanks for the Mammaries on the bus. Google’s discovery helps grind down this particular obstacle.

Yet opposite the hyperventilating conference attendees working themselves up into a lather about mobile TV is a laundry list of very real challenges. In brief:

  • Competing formats: Europe’s DVB-H, Korea’s terrestrial and satellite DMB, and MediaFLO in the US
  • Scads of different national regulatory environments
  • The absence of an established, successful a business/revenue sharing model, which is perpetuated by…
  • Operators that think in terms of ARPU instead of audience
  • Content providers that have no clue how to repurpose, or don’t want to and are hoping to God that aggregators will deal with it

Beyond the technological maturity of Korea’s DMB environment, one of the reasons that Korea has been so successful in rolling out mobile TV has been the crack job done by aggregators in enabling content delivery. While some credit of the rapid rollout can be attributed to a certain cultural homogeneity that fosters more economies of scale than most Western operators enjoy, what’s interesting is that this was accomplished without a heavy nudge from porn. So perhaps what Google’s factoid demonstrates is less that mobile TV will wash across the Earth in a shuddering crescendo of portable moans and groans, but more that there is indeed a hunger for a third screen that many detratractors have said is too small to be feasible.