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Archive for the ‘Handset’ Category

IF THE father of electromagnetism, Michael Faraday, could be transported into the 21st century, he would no doubt be awestruck by the iPhone. After five hours of tapping its touch-screen to browse the internet, make calls, play games and determine his location via satellite-positioning, he might also find himself a little puzzled. Why, with all the advances in technology and communications, would such a sophisticated device still need to be plugged in to be recharged? If phone calls and web pages can be beamed through the air to portable devices, then why not electrical power, too? It is a question many consumers and device manufacturers have been asking themselves for some time—and one that both new and established technology companies are now hoping to answer.

To seasoned observers of the electronics industry, the promise of wireless recharging sounds depressingly familiar. In 2004 Splashpower, a British technology firm, was citing “very strong” interest from consumer-electronics firms for its wireless charging pad. Based on the principle of electromagnetic induction that Faraday had discovered in the 19th century, the company’s “Splashpad” contained a coil that generated a magnetic field when a current flowed through it. When a mobile device containing a corresponding coil was brought near the pad, the process was reversed as the magnetic field generated a current in the second coil, charging the device’s battery without the use of wires. Unfortunately, although Faraday’s principles of electromagnetic induction have stood the test of time, Splashpower has not—it was declared bankrupt last year without having launched a single product.

Thanks to its simplicity and scalability, electromagnetic induction is still the technology of choice among many of the remaining companies in the wireless-charging arena. But, as Splashpower found, turning the theory into profitable practice is not straightforward. One of the main difficulties for companies has been persuading manufacturers to incorporate charging modules into their devices. But lately there have been some promising developments.

The first is the formation in December 2008 of the Wireless Power Consortium, a body dedicated to establishing a common standard for inductive wireless charging, and thus promoting its adoption. (It is modelled on a similar body that did the same for Bluetooth, a short-range wireless technology that is now found in most mobile phones.) The new consortium’s members include big consumer-electronics firms, such as Philips and Sanyo, as well as Texas Instruments (TI), a chipmaker.

Menno Treffers, chairman of the consortium and director of standardisation at Philips, says universal standards are the single most important requirement for the adoption of wireless charging. Philips is one of the few companies to have commercialised wirelessly charged devices—notably, electric toothbrushes and something it calls an “intimate dual massager”. But Mr Treffers acknowledges that a more collaborative approach is needed to ensure that different devices, such as mobile phones, laptops and digital cameras, can share the same charging equipment.
Charging ahead

Fierce competition between manufacturers of mobile devices is also accelerating the introduction of wireless charging. The star of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, an annual jamboree held in Las Vegas, was the Pre, a snazzy smart-phone from Palm (pictured left). As well as the standard arsenal of technical features—touch-screen, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and built-in camera—the Pre also has an optional charging pad, called the Touchstone, which uses electromagnetic induction to charge the device wirelessly. When the device is placed on the pad, the two recognise each other through built-in sensors. Magnets embedded in the pad align the handset and hold it in place during charging.

Palm was not the only exhibitor in Las Vegas promoting wireless charging. Fulton Innovation, another member of the Wireless Power Consortium and the eventual owner of Splashpower’s assets, used the show to unveil a number of products including an in-car console equipped with inductive coils that can wirelessly charge mobile devices while on the road. (BMW says it will offer its 7 Series cars in South Korea with a wireless-recharging dock for one of Samsung’s handsets.) A modified toolbox from Bosch demonstrated the potential for wirelessly charging power tools.

Other domestic applications in the works include embedding charging pads into kitchen counters to enable the wireless use of blenders and other appliances. Bret Lewis of Fulton Innovation says his firm’s technology could also be used for industrial applications, or to charge electric cars. For the time being, however, the focus is on mobile phones, laptops and other consumer devices, and he sees 2009 as “the year for wireless”. That is probably too ambitious, but a third recent development suggests that the commercialisation of inductive charging may not be far off.

In November 2008 TI announced that it had joined forces with Fulton Innovations “to accelerate development of efficient wireless power solutions”. TI, which provides components to many of the world’s leading mobile-phone makers said it was exploring the production of integrated circuits that supported the technology developed by Fulton Innovations, with the aim of reducing the cost and size of the components needed for wireless charging and making it easier for device-makers to incorporate them into their products quickly.

“From a semiconductor and power-management point of view, wireless charging is a natural extension of what we have been doing,” says Masoud Beheshti, director of battery-charge management at TI. He predicts that, like Bluetooth, wireless charging will initially be offered on high-end devices, before gradually becoming more widely available.

As wireless-charging equipment based on electromagnetic induction heads towards the market, a number of alternative technologies are also being developed to transmit power over both short and long distances. WildCharge, a start-up based in Colorado, has already started selling a number of wireless-charging devices that take a cheaper but simpler approach in which mobile devices make electrical contact with a special charging pad via four small conductive metal studs (pictured).

WildCharge and the licensees of its technology have developed replacement back covers for a number of popular devices, including Motorola’s RAZR phones and video-game controllers for the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PlayStation 3. No matter how the device is plonked down, two of the bumps establish direct electrical contact with the pad. The firm has also developed special “skins” for Blackberry smart-phones, so that they too can be charged without the need for an adaptor. Although it may not have the “wow” factor of inductive coupling, this approach does away with the necessity for a “handshake” between the device and the pad, and with the need to align the device and the pad in a particular way before charging can begin.

At the other end of the spectrum is the idea of long-range transmission of wireless power, which could in principle do away with the need for a charging pad altogether. This technique uses the energy in radio waves, broadcast from a transmitter and harnessed by an antenna, to generate electricity. Using the passive-power principle found in crystal radios, the method has proved successful over short distances in places where it is difficult to replace batteries or carry out maintenance. The problem is that the intensity of the radio waves needed to charge mobile phones and laptop computers over long distances might be hazardous to human health, and regulators would be unlikely to approve.

Nevertheless a firm called Powercast, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has developed wireless-charging products that can do useful things while still operating at safe power levels. Over distances of less than 1.5 metres, its technology can be used to run low-power lighting systems; at a range of up to three metres, the radio waves can provide useful power for trickle-charging rechargeable batteries; and up to about 7.5 metres, they can be used to power wireless sensor networks. The firm talks of providing “milliwatts over metres” and “watts over centimetres”.

Yet another approach is that taken by PowerBeam, a start-up based in Silicon Valley. It uses lasers to beam power from one place to another, but it too faces regulatory difficulties. The firm says the low power-density of its lasers and a series of safeguards ensures that human exposure remains within regulatory limits.

With so many companies working towards wireless power, how long will it be before the cord is finally cut? According to Charles Golvin of Forrester, a consultancy, one of the key considerations is getting manufacturers to abandon a lucrative line of business. He says that many mobile-phone manufacturers use the proprietary connectors on their chargers to retain customers, as people are more likely to buy products for which they already have charging adaptors at home, in the office, or in the car. This may make them reluctant to switch to a common wireless-charging standard. But Mr Colvin thinks strong demand will ensure that wireless technology prevails in the long run.
Peaks and troughs

Stephan Ohr of Gartner, a market-research firm, says the prospects for wireless power are realistic, but the path to widespread adoption will not be as easy as many in the industry expect. New technologies tend to go through a period of “inflated expectations” in which they are hyped, but fail to gain traction. Only after passing through the “trough of disillusionment”, during which expectations return to a more sensible level, are they widely adopted. For wireless charging, Mr Ohr expects this to take three to five years.

But it now seems to be a matter of when, rather than if, wireless charging enters the mainstream. And if those in the field do find themselves languishing in the trough of disillusionment, they could take some encouragement from Faraday himself. He observed that “nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature.” Not even a wirelessly rechargeable iPhone.

Source: economics.com/science

MIT engineers have created a kind of beltway that allows for the rapid transit of electrical energy through a well-known battery material, an advance that could usher in smaller, lighter batteries – for cell phones and other devices – that could recharge in seconds rather than hours.

The work could also allow for the quick recharging of batteries in electric cars, although that particular application would be limited by the amount of power available to a homeowner through the electric grid.

The work, led by Gerbrand Ceder, the Richard P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, is reported in the March 12 issue of Nature. Because the material involved is not new – the researchers have simply changed the way they make it – Ceder believes the work could make it into the marketplace within two to three years.

State-of-the-art lithium rechargeable batteries have very high energy densities – they are good at storing large amounts of charge. The tradeoff is that they have relatively slow power rates – they are sluggish at gaining and discharging that energy. Consider current batteries for electric cars. “They have a lot of energy, so you can drive at 55 mph for a long time, but the power is low. You can’t accelerate quickly,” Ceder said.

Why the slow power rates? Traditionally, scientists have thought that the lithium ions responsible, along with electrons, for carrying charge across the battery simply move too slowly through the material.

About five years ago, however, Ceder and colleagues made a surprising discovery. Computer calculations of a well-known battery material, lithium iron phosphate, predicted that the material’s lithium ions should actually be moving extremely quickly.

“If transport of the lithium ions was so fast, something else had to be the problem,” Ceder said.

Further calculations showed that lithium ions can indeed move very quickly into the material but only through tunnels accessed from the surface. If a lithium ion at the surface is directly in front of a tunnel entrance, there’s no problem: it proceeds efficiently into the tunnel. But if the ion isn’t directly in front, it is prevented from reaching the tunnel entrance because it cannot move to access that entrance.

Ceder and Byoungwoo Kang, a graduate student in materials science and engineering, devised a way around the problem by creating a new surface structure that does allow the lithium ions to move quickly around the outside of the material, much like a beltway around a city. When an ion traveling along this beltway reaches a tunnel, it is instantly diverted into it. Kang is a coauthor of the Nature paper.

Using their new processing technique, the two went on to make a small battery that could be fully charged or discharged in 10 to 20 seconds (it takes six minutes to fully charge or discharge a cell made from the unprocessed material).

Ceder notes that further tests showed that unlike other battery materials, the new material does not degrade as much when repeatedly charged and recharged. This could lead to smaller, lighter batteries, because less material is needed for the same result.

“The ability to charge and discharge batteries in a matter of seconds rather than hours may open up new technological applications and induce lifestyle changes,” Ceder and Kang conclude in their Nature paper.

Source: cellular news

The newly open source OS plans to distribute its new code to developers in April.

The Symbian Foundation said one of its core tasks in future will be to enable operators to integrate their own “app stores” in order to drive multiple “store fronts” onto the mass market.

According to Lee Williams, the former head of Nokia’s S60 division who was appointed executive director of the Symbian Foundation in October last year, the “store front” inventory will be available later in 2009. He noted that Nokia and Samsung have already launched variants of this feature for their handsets.

“Our role is to provide an inventory and a place for developers to go,” Williams said. “It will enable operators to have a really rich store front.”

Click here to find out more!Williams believes there is a requirement for a mass-market approach to the type of app stores pioneered by Apple on the iPhone. He said plans by the likes of Microsoft and RIM for their versions of the app store is reminiscent of the old “walled garden” approach that he believes is not sustainable on the market.

Williams also gave an update on the current status of the Symbian Foundation, which was set up to drive the future development of the Symbian OS as open source software.

He made it clear that the Foundation is being set up as a not-for-profit trust that is completely separate from the “old” Symbian, which in turn is now part of Nokia. He said the Foundation is now recruiting and expects to employ around 200 people by the end of this year, with 120/130 in place by May/June. The company also plans to unveil its new brand at CTIA this year.

Around two thirds of the leadership team is in place, and Williams said around half of the management will be from the “old” Symbian. The Foundation will also have its headquarters next door to the former Symbian in south London.

Williams said the Symbian code will be completely restructured and re-architected, with the first distribution on 2 April. The second distribution will be six weeks after that, and Williams said distributions will then take place every six months.

As for the wider mobile OS market, Williams said he believes multiple operating systems will continue to thrive. But he has doubts about the sustainability of the royalties model on which Microsoft Windows mobile is based: ‘I’m not sure they can carry on like this,” he said.

Source: Total Telecom

Microsoft (MSFT) executives have long spun visions of a world where computer users can seamlessly share information between a PC, the Web, and a cell phone. But the company has made little progress in making that vision a reality—at least until now.

On Feb. 16, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will take the stage at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to announce a major overhaul of the company’s mobile strategy. Some of the new initiatives are purely catch-up. Ballmer will unveil an online app store that lets users of Microsoft-powered phones download tools, games, and other apps. (Apple opened its own app store in July, and Research In Motion (RIMM), Nokia (NOK), and others have announced plans for their own app stores.) Ballmer will also announce a new service called My Phone that lets mobile-phone users automatically sync photos, contacts, videos, and other files to a personalized Web site and then gain access to that content from a PC or any Web-connected device.

But over the next year and a half, the company also hopes to create what it hopes will become a major new category of consumer device—the “Windows phone.” Until now, the company has been content to be a supplier of an operating system, called Windows Mobile, to phone makers such as Samsung and Sony-Ericsson, which in turn branded and sold the devices as they saw fit. The hope is to convince PC owners that a Windows phone is the most sensible choice to go with their Windows computers. “We’re going to double-down on the Windows brand,” says Todd Peters, head of marketing for Microsoft’s mobile communications business. He says to expect a major advertising push. “When people go shopping in the future, we want them to ask specifically for a Windows phone.”

That would certainly be a change. Although it was a pioneer of the so-called “smartphone,” Microsoft’s Windows Mobile software has little of the brand cachet of the Apple (AAPL) iPhone, RIM’s BlackBerry or even Palm Inc.’s products. “We haven’t done a good job of positioning [our mobile products], period,” says Robby Bach, president of the Entertainment & Devices Div., which includes the mobile effort. “Most people who see a cool Windows Mobile phone don’t even know it’s a Windows Mobile phone. We have to communicate very clearly the value in that.”
Extending the Windows Franchise

If successful, the Windows phone idea could extend the lock that’s helped Microsoft become one of the great cash-generating machines in business history. Consider the reach of Microsoft’s franchise. Windows runs on an estimated 1.1 billion PCs in use around the world. Roughly 500 million people use Microsoft’s e-mail or instant messaging services. And while Microsoft’s share of the smartphone business has fallen from to 36% from 45% in the past two years, according to Nielsen Mobile, more than 20 million phones have been sold in the past year that are based on its Windows Mobile software. But even Microsoft executives concede that the company has to succeed quickly. “What happens in the next three to four years will determine what happens for the next decade or more,” says Microsoft Senior Vice-President Andy Lees, who was hired by Bach a year ago to run the mobile communications business.

The strategy faces many complications. In the PC business, Microsoft’s approach of signing up as many hardware makers as possible led to market dominance, as hordes of software developers wrote applications that could run on any PC, whether it’s made by Dell (DELL), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Lenovo, or some other maker. But when it comes to the mobile-phone business, software must be tweaked to run on each different kind of phone—and for each network on which it works. As a result, many developers would prefer to focus on so-called “hero phones”—single models like the iPhone that garner monster popularity on their own. And analysts say Microsoft has lots of work to do on its basic mobile technology. While Ballmer is expected to announce an upgrade of Windows Mobile, dubbed version 6.5, the major 7.0 upgrade was recently delayed and now isn’t expected to reach the market until next year.

And if Microsoft is going to achieve its goals of true PC, Web, and phone integration, Lees will need to change the way Microsoft’s hulking, decentralized business units work together. As head of Microsoft’s gold-mine server business, Lees spent years making sure corporations could make the most of PCs running Windows and the company’s Office suite of productivity programs. Since taking the job a year ago, the 18-year Microsoft veteran has been hiring stars from around Microsoft, including online services executive Brian Arbogast and Joe Belfiore, who designed the entertainment-oriented version of Windows called Media Center. Other hires include Tom Gibbons, who ran the hardware unit that makes keyboards, mice, and the like, as well as former server colleague Terry Myerson, who previously ran the Microsoft Exchange business. “For a long time, mobile wasn’t looked at as a place that was going to be a big platform for the future,” says Bach. “Andy’s done a very good job of galvanizing appreciation for the significance of the space.”
Innovation Is Key

Microsoft insiders say the push for more collaboration between units is paying off. When the PC unit launched its “I’m a PC” ad campaign last year, Lees made sure Peters attended the bi-monthly meetings—a first, says PC chief Bill Veghte. “I went from talking to the PC people once or twice a year, to every two weeks,” says Prithvi Raj, a project manager in Lees’ group. And there are other efforts afoot to enhance cross-company collaboration. Last April, the company created a sales and marketing organization called Consumer & Online International. Rather than have Windows, Windows Mobile, and its Windows Live Web software sold separately, the unit is responsible for all of them.

Organizational shakeups will mean nothing if Microsoft can’t do a better job of delivering truly useful, easy-to-use innovations. To that end, Microsoft’s top brass met last fall to define solutions to seven common frustrations of today’s digital-minded consumers. One, for example, is helping busy parents meld their work and personal calendars, and manage their family affairs through a single Web site. Other scenarios included simpler ways of handling music, videos, and e-mail. “This was a first” for a management team that normally spends the annual planning session on major strategy questions, Veghte says.

Lees has created teams focused specifically on perfecting each scenario. “It’s one thing to sit around and have strategy conversations,” Veghte says. “It’s another to get everyone you need and sit in a room for 12 hours to talk about a specific scenario—customer step by customer step.”
The Customer Has Spoken

The biggest challenge will come from competitors such as Apple, RIM, and Palm (PALM), who are pushing ahead quickly. “For years, we’ve been kind of bobbing about,” Veghte says. Now, with millions using smartphones and billions using the Web, “it’s very clear that we have a unique opportunity—and the time is now.”

Source: Business Week

Motorola lost its position in Mobile handset market to Samsung and LG within the last 2 years. This article of Business Week tries to find why.

Motorola’s stunning quarterly loss is just the latest development in the company’s long, inexorable decline from the very apex of the cell-phone market. Motorola (MOT), which effectively defined “Cell Phone 1.0,” consistently missed the trends that have fundamentally changed the mobile-phone industry. Now, Motorola is teetering on the very edge of irrelevance. Does it even have a chance?

Cell Phone 1.0 was effectively defined by Motorola’s groundbreaking Razr phone. The Razr defined the phone as fashion instrument and status statement. It also had an unusually long run with a near-monopoly on its form factor. Nokia (NOK) and others were slow to realize the affinity American consumers had for the clamshell form factor and the Razr’s dramatically thin profile. However, as the cell-phone market was evolving toward Cell Phone 2.0, Motorola clung stubbornly to its old success, trying to recreate the magic with a succession of devices such as the Rokr, the Krazr, and the Lozr. O.K., that last one wasn’t really a Motorola product introduction, but it might as well have been.

The evolution of the cell phone from 1.0 to 2.0 is all about the change from device to platform. While Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone is certainly the best example of this transition, many of the other players in the market have been focused on this for a long time. What are the characteristics of a platform as compared with a device?

• Software

• Applications

• Ecosystem

• Experience

Motorola’s track record in these areas is spotty at best—virtually nonexistent. Who’s defining this new approach? For the most part, the key players are companies with little or no experience in cell phones. Instead, they come from the computer industry. Leading the way are Apple and Google (GOOG), which has championed the Android operating system for which anyone can develop applications. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIMM) is rapidly trying to evolve in this direction, and Nokia has made significant, albeit largely unrewarded, efforts in the past few years. Microsoft (MSFT) and Palm (PALM) are also still relevant in this discussion.

Against this backdrop, Motorola has very few attractive options. The company’s early commitment to the Windows Mobile platform, with the Q, has brought it no reward, and Microsoft’s current challenges don’t seem to offer a lifeline. Motorola has said that it plans to invest more resources in phones that use Google’s Android, but the operating system is still in its early days. Given a fractured operating system platform, no clear partnership opportunity, and limited software expertise of its own, Motorola is likely to struggle for the foreseeable future.

The company has said that it plans to spin off its mobile-phone division, separating it from the company’s other operations. But it’s hard to see how such a structural change will address the enormous challenges at the company. With few available dance partners and an outdated strategy, Motorola has no clear path to return to its former glory.

Source: Business Week

Nokia saw its fourth quarter net profit drop 69 percent. The Finnish firm’s quarterly results were weakened by a drop in sales.

The world’s largest handset maker reported a net profit of $746.3 million, down from $2.38 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007. The company reported sales of $16.4 billion in the quarter, down from $20.36 billion in the year-ago period and significantly below expectations. The company said it shipped 113.1 million units in the quarter, down 15 percent from the 133.5 million it shipped in the fourth quarter last year.

The average selling price of Nokia’s handsets fell to $92 from $93.28 in the third quarter of 2008, and the company’s market share declined to 37 percent from 38 percent in the third quarter.

Nokia also predicted a far more dismal 2009 than it had in the waning months of 2008, when it issued several profit warnings about the fourth quarter. In December Nokia issued a profit warning, which had been revised down from a previous weak estimate, and said it expected its handset sales would fall 5 percent from 2008 levels. Now, the company is predicting a 10 percent drop. While the company remains the industry leader in terms of sales volume, the weakness and uncertainty mirrors other handset makers like Sony Ericsson and LG, which have already reported fourth quarter losses.

Source: Fierce Wireless

Nokia has vowed to become the world’s biggest touchscreen maker and increase its handset market share in 2009.

Nokia, the world’s largest phone-maker, lost market share in the smartphone segment in Q3 last year under the onslaught of Apple’s iPhone, largely because of its lack of touchscreen devices.

Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo admits the company has been “a follower” in the touchscreen market and plans to roll out several different devices this year.

“If you talk about touch, we have been a follower, yes. But we are now coming with a vengeance,” he told Financial Times.

Kallasvuo said he believed Nokia was well-placed to weather the market crisis, considering the vendor’s market dominance and the fact that the company is competing at every price point.

The company’s broad product range and economies of scale would enable it to increase its market share this year, Kallasvuo said.

According to Reuters, analysts are expecting a turbulent year for the handset industry, and are on average predicting a 6.6% decline in sales volumes.

Source: telecomasia.net



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