PC, net marriage to drive standards push
Integrating communications capabilities within computing devices sets an evolutionary trend in Asia's PC and networking industry. Manufacturers are pushing for new standards that would allow smooth interoperability between new and existing devices. As vendors continue to develop new technologies for the digital home, more and more features will need to be packed in desktops and mobile PCs.
Leading pda manufacturers in China have integrated various functions such as wireless connectivity, enhanced processor speed and multimedia applications into their models. These new functions, in effect, place heavy requirements on processor performance and power consumption.
According to Tim Bailey, regional marketing manager for desktop and mobile platforms at Intel Corp. Asia-Pacific, the merging of communications and computing will drive industry growth. "As we continue to see the integration of communications capabilities within computing devices, new technologies will drive new models which will push industry growth."
Intel's new product line for the digital home, the entertainment PC, is set to invade the Asian market with hopes of greater adaptability and regional acceptance. Intel eyes China, Taiwan and South Korea as key markets that would readily welcome entertainment PCs right in their digital living rooms.
One important factor to drive the digital home success is the emergence of common industry standards, Bailey said. Intel works with the Digital Living Network Alliance in formulating new sets of interoperability guidelines and policies that promote common standards. "When you work on similar standards and guidelines that enable interoperability, that's how you get mass market adoption of products," he said.
As international players enter the China market, local manufacturers are pushed to remain competitive in terms of core technologies—designing electronic products based on their own intellectual property. With high hopes for the digital home market, manufacturers in China need to develop independent standards and enhance their competitiveness. The creation of the Intelligent Group and Resourcing Sharing (IGRS) has attracted leading Chinese IT integrators, home appliance and contract electronic manufacturers and telecom operators in establishing protocols for seamless interoperability of products.
IGRS sees the need to create common standards for devices such as PCs, TVs and cellphones so that devices coming from different manufacturers can interoperate and be connected as a network.
Going beyond ubiquitous mobile computing devices, "wearable computers" are taking South Korea to the next level as the country's next-generation PCs are now converging with the fashion and clothing industry. Such a technology maximizes the efficiency and convenience of communications with a portable or wearable format and responds to human movement. Infineon Technologies AG is an early proponent of wearable electronics. Today, Korean manufacturers are on the verge of pursuing opportunities in the wearable electronics market by developing their designs in 2005.
Acting as a salvation army to address clocking and power consumption problems associated with the development of new-generation processors, multicore architectures are becoming the mainstream. Convergence to a common ip network is driven by the need to reduce costs and deliver new revenue-generating services. In 2005, networking services will evolve from relying on pure connectivity and bandwidth to an application- or subscriber-based model.
Because of advanced semiconductor process technology, integration of multicores within monolithic chips can now be done smoothly. Hence, in 2005, a "multicore revolution" will be evident in the PC, embedded system and networking applications. Multicore processors have found backing in numerous manufacturers with its higher performance and lower price.
In September, a desktop computer released by Apple Computer Inc. used a dual-2.5GHz Power Mac G5 processor to increase the memory capacity to 8GB using 64bit processing technology. Each processor core has its own 1.25GHz front-end bus, which promotes the computing efficiency to an order of magnitude compared to traditional unicore processors.
Intel has recently launched its first dual-core prototype chip for desktop applications at the Intel Developer Forum Fall 2004 in Taiwan. The chip adopts the same NetBurst architecture as Pentium 4 and is expected to step into the market this year. Intel also announced the dual-core mobile computing platform—codename Napa—and lays the development plan for a dual-core Xeon processor. AMD, on the other hand, will introduce its dual-core processors in the x86 server market in 2005 and will further provide the dual-core solutions for the advanced PC segment.
Dual-cores may face fierce competition as Broadcom Corp. extends its processor technology in embedded and networking applications. Broadcom adopted the chip multiprocessing technology in 2004 and released a broadband processor that integrates four 64bit MIPS cores in a single chip, with execution speed of up to 10,000Dhyrstone MIPS and power consumption of no more than 25W.
Also aiming at the network application, PMC-Sierra's RM11200 processor integrates two 1.8GHz E11K cores. The command cache capacity of each core is increased to 64KB while the data cache capacity is increased to 32KB. The processor works with various chip interfaces such as DDR2, PCI Express, Gigabit Ethernet and HyperTransport.
Most current multicore processors and those slated for release in 2005 use 90nm CMOS low-k technology.
Major developments are underway in the telecom and datacom market. Traditional sources of service provider revenues, such as voice and lease lines, are under pressure from new services. "We're seeing the term 'triple play' becoming more significant—carrying data, voice and video over one media," said Frank Cappellari, Agilent Technologies' business development manager for Asia and Japan.
"From a network perspective, we're seeing traditional SDH networks evolving to cater for Ethernet-based services," Cappellari said. "We're seeing the evolution toward next-generation SONET/SDH network, and new technologies such as GFP, Vcat and LCAS being used in the next-generation SONET/SDH equipment to carry the Ethernet services."
Similarly, IP networks are using new technologies not only to cater triple-play deployments, but also to ensure maximum network uptime. The deployment of networking protocols such as MPLS, VPNs and IPv6 will be a major highlight in 2005. At the subscriber's edge, a range of access technologies will be used to take advantage of existing infrastructures.
According to Integrated Device Technology Inc., in the carrier networking, next-generation voice equipment and service provider switches are expected to grow at double-digit rates; W-CDMA infrastructure to achieve over 30 percent CAGR through 2007; and IDS/IPS enterprise equipment to grow at 20 percent CAGR.
"In 2005, we shall see continued deployment of 3G infrastructure as 3G handsets increase in capability. We shall also see continued deployment of hardware to support advanced services and the sustained development of infrastructure to support the rapid buildup of VoIP," said Phil Bourekas, VP of Marketing at IDT. "It's clear that the networking business, and thus the networking silicon business, is addressing an ever-growing set of needs. As bandwidth goes up, the number of users goes up as well. Even the services required are getting more comprehensive."
"We see silicon providers embracing standards-based solutions; more partnerships between silicon providers and customers, or other silicon providers or ecosystem partners; and more focus on accelerating the processing of packets to provide value-added services," Bourekas added.
IDT has long been bullish on the communications design activities in Asia. The region designs a variety of infrastructure equipment, including metro and enterprise, 3G infrastructure equipment and home gateway equipment.
"One of the most significant trends in Asia is Ethernet-based fiber access," IDT said. "Japan already has 40/50Mbps ADSL access and has created a new broadband world that is heavily dependent on finer audio/video contents. And now this technology is driving the availability of 100Mbps access with Ethernet-based passive optical network (E-PON) equipment such as CPE, Fiber-DSLAM, access Ethernet switches and metro aggregation switches," Bourekas said.
In China, Huawei Technologies plays an important role in the DSLAM, ADSL and Ethernet switches market. Huawei has taken away a major market share from Cisco over the past three years. With the competitive product demands of customers in China, IDT is eyeing a bright future for Asia.
All roads lead to convergence. Next-generation networking systems will cater high-frequency and high-speed infrastructures that would expand the boundaries of the broadband realm. As new technologies with new usage models line up this year, manufacturers are pushing for standards that would allow seamless interoperation of devices. Despite a sluggish performance in Q3 of 2004, analysts predict that next-generation desktop and mobile PCs will rebound from their slump at the start of the year and are predicted to continue their growth until 2008.
Rey Buan Jr. in Manila, Joy Teng in Taipei, Joh Yoon-Ju in Seoul and Abbon Yan and Rita Zhou in Shenzhen contributed for this story.
- Karen Kou
Electronic Engineering Times-Taiwan
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