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Dec 28, 2011

Leaked Roadmap Unveils Windows Phone Tango and Apollo Timeline

We already knew that Microsoft was working on the release of new Windows Phone platform versions, but no specific info on when they might arrive had been unveiled before.

Today, however, we can have a look at a leaked Windows Phone roadmap that provides more details on the matter. 

Following the release of Windows Phone 7 in October 2010 and of Windows Phone 7.5 Mango in  
October this year, we should see two new platform releases being pushed to users in 2012.  

Codenamed Tango and Apollo, they should bring along a variety of features and enhancements, further improving the experience that users can receive from the OS. 

The first of them to arrive will be Tango, which is expected to open the door for cheaper Windows Phones, just as rumored before. 

Previous reports also suggested that it might be set to bring along LTE connectivity support and some other features as well.

This OS flavor is said to arrive sometime in the second quarter of the next year, much like this year’s Windows Phone NoDo update did. 

As for Apollo, it was long said to be the next major release of Microsoft’s mobile OS, one that would arrive on the market as Windows Phone 8. 

Among the features expected in this OS release, we can count support for dual-core application processors and HD screens, which translates into the availability of high-end smartphones running under Windows Phone. 

With Apollo, Microsoft will finally manage to match the performance levels that Android can deliver today at the high-end of the market, thus increasing the platform’s competitiveness. 

The leaked roadmap shows that this OS iteration was set for a fourth quarter release next year. Most probably, we’ll see it made available in October, in line with the major Windows Phone releases so far. 

However, nothing was officially confirmed on these for the time being, and it might be a while before Microsoft makes a formal announcement. We’re expecting for some more details to be unveiled during CES or MWC next year, so stay tuned for more.

Intel to Release 22nm Ivy Bridge CPUs on April 8, Say Taiwan PC Makers

After many rumors and suppositions regarding the release date of Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors hit the streets, a recent report citing sources from Taiwanese PC makers has revealed that the chip giant plans to launch these new 22nm CPUs on April 8, 2012.

Previously, all we knew about the launch date of Ivy Bridge processors was that Intel wanted to go for the March/April timeframe, with some recent rumors claiming that May could also be a potential launch target.

However, sources cited by DigiTimes have now revealed that Intel is actually planning to release its first Ivy Bridge chips on April 8, 2012.

The initial release will cover the third-generation Core i5 and Core i7 desktop products with prices ranging from $184 to $332 (141 to 254 EUR), and Core i7 mobile chips, while the next CPU batch will include Core i3 and Core i5 mobile processors.

This launch will also take place in the second quarter of 2012, while desktop Pentium processors will presumably follow in Q3 2012.

As far as chipsets are concerned, on April 8, Intel will unveil the Z77, H77, Z75 and B75 platform controller hubs for desktop systems and the HM77, UM77, HM76 and HM75 notebooks chipsets.

Ivy Bridge is the code name used for the 22nm die shrink of the current Sandy Bridge chips and features basically the same architecture, but with a few minor tweaks and improvements.

This includes a new on-die GPU that will come with full DirectX 11 support as well as with 30% more EUs than Sandy Bridge, in order to offer up to 60% faster performance that current Core CPUs according to Intel.

In addition, the processor cores have also received some minor tweaks as their AVX performance was slightly increased and Intel has updated the integrated PCI Express controller to the 3.0 standard.

AMD to Launch Three 28nm Radeon HD 7000 GPUs by March 2012

During the course of the coming months, AMD is expected to increase its lineup of Radeon HD 7000 graphics cards with new models based on the Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture ranging from the just released HD 7970 to the HD 7750.

The first card to arrive after the Radeon HD 7970 announced earlier this month is the HD 7950 that is based on the same Tahiti GPU, but this time coming with some of its Compute Units disabled.

As we have detailed previous, this move will leave the Tahiti Pro graphics core used for the card with 1792 shaders, 112 texture units, and 32 ROP units while its frequency will be limited to 900MHz.

Just as it’s the case with the HD 7970, the 3GB of video buffer installed in this card is connected to the GPU via a 384-bit wide bus, but this time the memory operating clock was decreased to 1250MHz (5GHz data rate).

Pricing for the card will be set at $449 (343 EUR), but as Fudzilla reveals a cheaper version with just 1.5GB of memory will arrive until March hits, which could prove to be a much better option for price conscious buyers.

Moving a little bit lower in AMD’s graphics card lineup we find the 245 square millimeter Pitcairn GPU that will be sued for the Radeon HD 7870 and HD 7850 graphics cards expected to arrive in February of next year.

Both of these will include just 1GB of video memory and will be priced at $299 and $219 (229 and 167 EUR), respectively.

Finally, the last two solutions to be unveiled by AMD will be the Radeon HD 7770 and HD 7750, which are both based on the 164 square millimeter Cape Verde chip.

According to Fudzilla, the more powerful Cape Verde XT version of the GPU, which will be used in the Radeon HD 7770, will include 896 stream processors, 56 texture units and 16 ROPs. Pricing for the card is not yet known, but its smaller sibling will end up costing $149 (about 114 EUR).

The end of Q1 2012 won’t however mark the end of the Graphics Core Next product launches for AMD as some LE editions of Tahiti and Pitcairn are expected to come out in the second quarter of the year, but little is known about these solutions at this point in time.

PS Vita Quad-Core Processor Developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba

It seems like the trio that was behind the CELL processor found inside Sony’s PlayStation 3 was reunited to develop the quad-core CPU used by the Japanese company for the PS Vita portable console.

Previously believed to be fabricated by Samsung, the chip, which is marked as CXD5315GG, was revealed by a Tech Insights teardown to be manufactured as a joint effort between Sony, IBM and Toshiba.

As it was the case previously, IBM is in charge of the production process with the other companies being limited to developing the CPU.

Other info is not available at this point in time, but the end result is a CPU comprised out of four ARM Cortex-A9 cores that are installed in the same package with 512MB of DDR2-S4 SDRAM memory.

The rest of the chips found inside the PS Vita portable console come from a series of other companies including Qualcomm, Avago, STMicroelectronics and Marvell, to name just a few.

Asus makes Official Intel Cedar Trail Powered Eee PC 1225C Netbook

After being spotted in an online store a little bit more than a month ago, Asus’ Eee PC 1225C netbook powered by Intel’s upcoming Atom Cedar Trail processors was made official by the Taiwanese company who just posted the netbook’s manual online.

Notebook Italia has caught a glimpse of this document and managed to save some images from the manual right before this was removed from Asus’ website.

These reveal the silhouette of the notebook which from the listing that made its appearance in November we know that it will sport a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N2600 dual core processor.

This chip is built using the 32nm production process and includes dual processing cores clocked at 1.6GHz with support for Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology and improved multimedia capabilities.

These are mostly due to the new PowerVR SGX545 graphics core that Intel has introduced in the Cedarview architecture, which can support hardware decoding for MPEG2, VC1, AVC, and H.264 Full HD content as well as for Blu-ray 2.0 content.

The same specs posted by the online store the last month also reveal that the Eee PC 1225C will be equipped with 2GB of system memory, a 320GB hard drive as well as the standard 802.11n Wi-Fi, low-res webcam, and optional Bluetooth 3.0.

The 11.6-inch screen has a native resolution of 1366x728 pixels and the operating system of choice is Windows 7 Home Premium.

Outside of the Eee PC 1225C that is based on Intel’s Cedar Trail Atom processors, Asus will also launch an AMD Brazos version of the netbooks that will be known as the Eee PC 1225B and which we detailed just yesterday.

A release date is not available yet, but we expect that both of these netbooks to be introduced during CES 2012.

5MB IBM HDD Was as Big as a Washing Machine

People know, in principle, that tech products used to be a lot bigger and weaker than PCs are today, but it might be hard to gain perspective.

Fortunately, there were ways of taking photos even half a century ago, so we can see for ourselves what a hard disk drive looked like.

The Next Web dug up some things on the IBM 305 RAMAC, a 'super' computer with a hard disk drive of no less than 5MB.

Don't be fooled: that thing up there in the photo is just the HDD.

Indeed, back in 1956, 5 MB HDDs were as big as a washing machine (or two) and needed forklifts to be moved around.

This goes to show just how much and how fast technology advanced once the world recovered from the convalescence of the world wars.

Microsoft Finds Root for WP7 SMS Bug, Promises Fix for It

Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, the latest flavor of Microsoft’s mobile operating system, was recently discovered to suffer from a security issue, one that resulted in the handset to crash when a specific message was received. 

Microsoft has been hard at work during the past few weeks to find the cause for this issue, and it appears that they finally got a sense of it. 

Moreover, they promised a fix for the issue in the not too distant future, Khaled Salameh, the developer who found the bug, notes on Twitter.

“MS Security Team contacted me today, they've confirmed the WP7 SMS Bug and found the root cause, a fix is currently under testing,” he tweeted

One other thing that we should add on this is that the bug appears to be widely spread across a variety of Microsoft products using the Silverlight/WPF framework.

Bold 9900 and 9930 Get a Porsche Design Look via New Theme

RIM’s Porsche Design P'9981 BlackBerry is set to make an official appearance on shelves before the end of the ongoing year, with a price tag fit for a high-end device. 

Yet not all users out there will be willing to pay almost $2,000 (around 1,500 Euros) for a new BlackBerry, that’s for sure. 

For those who own a Bold 9900 or a 9930 smartphone, the appealing looks of Porsche Design P'9981 BlackBerry are now available to enjoy courtesy of a new theme pack. 

The theme also brings along new icons to these devices, extracted from the Porsche Design P'9981, it seems, so that more users can benefit from them. New fonts are also available.

Basically, the full customizations on the luxury device are available for Bold 9900 and 9930 users, but only for devices that run under BlackBerry 7.0 OS (no support for OS 7.1 as of yet). You can learn more on this on n4bb.

Official Ice Cream Sandwich Launcher for CyanogenMod 9 Now Available for Download

It looks like the CyanogenMod team is one step closer to releasing the final version of CyanogenMod 9 ROM, which is expected to bring Ice Cream Sandwich platform to a range of Android smartphones. 

While the developer team is working hard to deliver the ultimate Ice Cream Sandwich experience to all Android fans out there, we are given short sneak peeks of their work that are slowly completing the CyanogenMod 9 ROM like big puzzle.

The latest piece of the puzzle is called Trebuchet Launcher, which is the official Ice Cream Sandwich launcher for CyanogenMod 9. Even though this is just an alpha release, the launcher is now available for download.

According to the folks over at XDA Developers, the Trebuchet Launcher was especially designed to work only on Android 4.0.3 devices and needs to be installed on /system with root.

Obviously, the launcher is mostly focused on customization options, so users who want to download it and take it for a spin can be sure that the new Trebuchet Launcher for CyanogenMod 9 will rock their worlds.

Among the list of features offered by the XDA team who builds the CyanogenMod 9, there are some that will probably make any Android enthusiast want to use it as soon as possible:

  • Custom number of Homescreens;
  • Enable/Disable Persistent Search Bar;
  • Separated Apps/Widgets in Drawer; 
  • Resize Any Widget; 
  • Show and Fade Scrolling Indicator in Homescreen and Drawer; 
  • Enable/Disable Auto-Rotate; 
  • Drawer Apps Sorting (Title, Install Date).

In addition, the developer team promises to deliver even more features that will be available in the next versions of the Trebuchet Launcher. Some of these upcoming features are detailed below:

  • Infinite Scrolling;
  • Dock (Custom pages and size);
  • Transition Effects (Homescreen and Drawer);
  • Backup and Restore.

For more details on how to manually install the Trebuchet Launcher head over to XDA thread here.

Gran Turismo 5 XL Edition Leaked by Retailers

Turismo 5, as several retailers from the U.S. have listed a brand new product called Gran Turismo 5 XL, which is set to appear towards the end of January.

Gran Turismo 5 impressed legions of PlayStation 3 owners with its high quality graphics and great simulator gameplay when it was launched over a year ago, and saw the release of quite a lot of patches and new downloadable content since then.

Now, just as Japanese customers are getting ready to receive a special Gran Turismo 5 Spec II title, which includes the full game plus all the DLC and updates that appeared for it, as well as some future content, U.S. retailers are listing a special Gran Turismo 5 XL edition on their websites, via GT Planet.

While Sony made no mention of releasing Spec II outside Japan, it’s pretty safe to say that this XL edition might be the name of this version in North America at least, especially since it’s scheduled to appear on January 17, 2012, while Spec II is expected in February.

Until we hear an official confirmation, however, we can’t say for sure what this game might be.

RIM Says BlackBerry ‘Thank You Gift’ Apps Only Available Until December 31

Research In Motion is by far the company most affected by the changes in the smartphone market. The company’s problems culminated with the BlackBerry outage in October, which left most BlackBerry users without RIM’s services for three days.

To compensate its customers for the BlackBerry outage, RIM offered them a free apps package comprising several productivity tools and games.

Today, RIM issued a reminder for all BlackBerry users that the so-called “Thank You Gift” apps package is only available for download until December 31.

The package can be downloaded for free via BlackBerry App World and includes the following applications: Shazam Encore, Vlingo - Virtual Assistant, DriveSafe.ly Pro, Bubble Bash 2, The Sims 3, Nobex Radio Premium, Bejeweled, N.O.V.A., Photo Editor Ultimate, SimCity Deluxe, iSpeech Translator Pro, Texas Hold'em Poker 2 and DriveSafe.ly Enterprise.

Samsung Galaxy S III First Test Photo Unveiled

It was just a matter of time until the first details on the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S III leaked into the wild. There was much talk on the phone’s specs sheet that might include innovative technologies, as well as 3D features. 

Until we have more info concerning Samsung’s next-generation Galaxy smartphone, the folks at Pocketnow have just published a test photo that seems to be taken with the Galaxy S III. The full-size picture is available, just click on first photo below.

According to the EXIF data, the picture is taken with an unknown Samsung GT-I9500, which might indicate that this is the next top-tier smartphone in the Galaxy family.

In this regard, Samsung previously used lower model numbers for its Galaxy S (GT-I90xx), Galaxy S II (GT-91xx) and Galaxy Nexus (GT-I9250).

The folks at Pocketnow also mention that the photo was made by the same person who tested the Samsung Galaxy S II a few weeks before it got officially launched at Mobile World Congress 2011.

The EXIF data of the picture shows that the person who made the shot set the camera to five megapixels, but we can safely assume that the Galaxy S III will be delivered with an improved camera.

However, the rest of the module camera’s specs may be accurate, such as the 2.65 aperture and 4mm focal length.

No additional details have been leaked on the upcoming Galaxy S III, but rumor has it that the smartphone will be announced at Mobile World Congress 2012.

In other news, Pocketnow was also able to grab a test photo of the HTC Quattro super-tablet, which is slated for release in 2012. HTC Quattro will be one of the first devices to be empowered by NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 Kal-El system-on-chip (SoC).

The quad-core device is expected to be announced in early 2012, probably during CES or MWC trade fairs.

MSI Voice-Activated Motherboard Becomes Reality at CES 2012

There are features that one wouldn't expect to find on a motherboard but MSI thinks at least one of them could prove useful, that of voice activation. 

Anyone thinking that MSI's motherboards already have more than enough overclocking features will find that the company itself disagrees. 

Granted, what Micro-Star International is about to officially launch is not some new clock speed-altering or performance-enhancing technology. 

Instead, it is more of a functionality-enhancing feature, a perk for people willing to buy high-end gear as it were. 

Simply put, the company has made it possible for motherboards to be controlled by talking to them. 

We actually picked up on MSI's voice-activated and controlled motherboard idea back in September (2011). 

The company itself has now shed some clarity on the matter, revealing that the motherboards themselves won't respond to words on their own. 

Instead, it is the Voice Genie control system that makes this all possible, it being an add-in card. 

It is “the first voice control system with system startup control” and lets users tell the computer to power on or off, start a browser, run MSI's control center and initiate sleep mode or wake up, among other things. 

The company even threw in two sets of voice recognition, for up to 8 customized voice commands. 

In addition to voice control, Micro-Star International created the MultiConnect Panel, an add-in card that includes a Bluetooth 3.0 module (grants smartphones and tablets control over the mainboard) and Wi-Fi 802.11n (up to 150 Mbps). 

Unlike Voice Genie, MultiConnect Panel is an accessory that sits in one of the desktop case's 5.25-inch drive bays. 

MSI intends to ship both of these products with P67, Z68 and X79 motherboards (the exact list is available here). 

The first demonstration will be carried out during the 2012 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2012).

Credit Card-Sized PC Raspberry Pi Debuts in January 2012

There aren't many personal computers that can stand out nowadays, not with tablets and consumer electronics drawing the eyes of customers, but those few that do manage to enrapture onlookers do it in style. 

The Raspberry Pi is one of these few that we have been keeping track of for the last couple of months

Even a video of it in action surfaced just at the beginning of December. 

Now, this computer that has the same size as a credit card is almost ready to start selling. 

In fact, contrary to what some may fear, the compactness does not involve a higher monetary cost than what regular PCs sell for. 

If anything, the item is very cheap, priced at as little as $25, or about 18.5 Euro according to exchange rates. 

The Raspberry Pi Foundation envisions a world where the Raspberry Pi is found in schools, homes, at work, everywhere really. 

Now, something almost concrete has been said about when mass production will start: in January, 2012. 

The credit card-sized computer is the result of five years of planning and development. 

It relies on an ARM processor with a clock speed of 700 MHz, plus 128 MB or 256 MB of RAM (random access memory). 

There is also a SD card slot (for storage, obviously) and a 5V Micro USB connector that supplies the power. 

Speaking of ports, in order to communicate with displays, Raspberry Pi is designed with RCA and HDMI ports. 

It should easily plug into a TV and perform any and all casual computing and web surfing tasks on its own. It even supports playback of 1080p videos, which is no small feat. 

Raspberry Pi is loaded with a version of the Linux operating system and is the foundation's way of proving that a PC doesn't have to be expensive and big in order to be versatile and easy to use.

Tranquil PC MMC-12 HTPC Packs Sandy Bridge CPU Inside 1.5-Inch (38mm) Tall Case

Tranquil PC, a company specialized in developing computers tweaked for silent running, has just announced a forthcoming design for a new media center system dubbed the MMC-12 that will pack Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors inside its 1.5-inch case.

The system is constructed from metal and finished in a satin-textured matte black, its front panel showing only a power button, a badge with the company’s name on it and a slot loading optical drive.

Users have the option of going for either a DVD or Blu-ray ODD when they configure their system and will also be able to choose from various Intel Sandy Bridge processors.

Judging by a post on the company’s official blog, the CPU options list will include chips from the Core i3, i5 and i7 product families, although we doubt that 95W TDP models will be on the list of supported processors.

The good news however is that since we are talking about Sandy Bridge CPUs, this means that users will be able to take advantage of the Quick Sync technology included in these chips for drastically decreasing the time needed for transcoding video.

The rest of the MMC-12 features weren’t made public by Tranquil PC yet, but it’s safe to say that no major surprises will come our way given the limited space available inside the case.

Pricing and availability of the MMC-12 HTPC also wasn’t detailed, although Tranquil PC did reveal that the MMC-12 will arrive in 2012.

If you are familiar with Tranquil PC’s product lineup then you pretty much know that this isn’t the first low-profile system developed by the company, but compared to its predecessors the MMC-12 comes as a big step forward since it swaps the previous Atom or Pentium M chips with second generation Core CPUs.

KFA2 Quad-Display Capable GeForce GTX 580 MDT X4 Gets Priced

A little more than a week after KFA2 announced the introduction of the quad-display capable Nvidia GTX 580 MDT X4, the graphics card has become available for purchase from several retailers in Europe with prices starting at 5,100 SEK including VAT (569 EUR or $743 US).

KFA2 was able to overcome Nvidia’s limitation for two monitors per card by using a third-party IDT VMM1400 controller, a chip that is usually found in multi-display hub devices.

Despite this change, KFA2's latest creation somewhat resembles the company's previous GeForce GTX 580 Anarchy as it uses a similar tri-fan cooling solution, but which was now painted black together with the PCB for a more aggressive look.

However, unlike the other GTX 580 model in KFA2 lineup, the MDT version drops the usual dual-link DVI outputs in favor of three mini-HDMI and a single DisplayPort connector, which can support up to four monitors simultaneously, double than Nvidia's reference design.

Three of the displays attached to the card can be combined to form a single surface (for multi-monitor gaming or productivity) with a resolution of 5760x1080 pixels @ 50Hz.

The monitors attached to the graphics card can be controlled from the KFA2 EZY Display Setting Management software that is bundled together with the GTX 580 MDT X4.

As far as clock speeds are concerned, the GPU comes factory overclocked to work at 840MHz compared to the 772MHz of the reference design, while the memory frequency is set at the standard 1002MHz (4008MHz data rate), according to Nordic Hardware.

The GeForce GTX 580 is based on Nvidia's GF110 GPU and it packs 512 stream processors, 64 texture units, 48 ROP units and a 384-bit wide memory bus that is usually connected to 1.5GB of GDDR5 video buffer.

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