Bad Quarters for Three Bellwethers

Carl Weinschenk
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I hope the heat wave that is gripping the east coast will be over in a day or so. Suffice it to say that it has been hot. But mere high temperatures don’t stop news from happening in telecommunications and IT, so here is a rundown of some of the hot events and heated commentary from this warm week.

The Greening of Mobile Devices

Makers of computer and consumer electronics equipment face pressures to use green materials and manufacturing processes. This week, the push got even greater as The Green Electronics Council said that later this year it will expand its EPEAT rating system to include smartphones.


The mobile device standard will be based on Underwriters Laboratories’ UL110, which covers materials, manufacturing and operations, PCWorld reports. Samsung, HTC, LG, Kyocera have contributed to UL110. It has “attracted the interest” of Sprint.

Ultra Good Ultrabooks

Ultrabooks are some of the flashier emerging devices. PCMag offers a nice roundup of some of the newest models. It starts, however, by offering a working definition of what an ultrabook is.

Intel has a long list of specifications on its blog. While the specifications are still evolving, the main ones are a low-voltage Intel Core processor, a frame no thicker than 0.83 inch, at least five hours of battery life, and fast boot times. The last rely on an Intel technology called Rapid Start, which makes use of flash storage embedded on the laptop's motherboard.

The piece links to extensive reviews of what it calls the top 10 ultrabooks. There are two units each from Asus, Dell and Lenovo and one single entry on each device from HP, Samsung, Acer and Toshiba.

Bad News for Intel, Google and Microsoft

Three telecom- and IT-related companies had lackluster quarters. The drama for the first, Intel, revolves around its growing pains while trying to get into mobility. The results say that new CEO Brian Krzanich--who was hired to improve the company’s mobile fate--has already made a mark. CNNMoney said that the new exec has a clear mandate:

Krzanich restructured Intel's management two weeks ago with an eye toward fostering better communication and the flexibility needed to transition the company to the new ultra-mobile environment.

But it takes time to turn a ship around. While it’s too dramatic to say that the race to save Intel is on, the progress will be interesting to watch. This week, the chip maker reported its fourth consecutive quarter of sales declines.

The second company with a problem was Google, which attributed second quarter results that fell short of analysts’ expectations to softening of the ad market and losses from its Motorola unit.

It wasn’t disastrous, however. Reuters reported revenues of $14.11 billion during the quarter, which were ahead of the $11.81 billion of the year-ago quarter. The average of analysts’ expectations was $14.4 billion.

The third company that experienced bad news was Microsoft. Its fiscal fourth quarter revenue and earnings per share were, according to Barron’s, “well below analysts’ estimates.” The main culprit was weakness in the PC market. The company actually saw growth against the year-ago quarter. Revenue rose 10 percent to $19.9 billion and earnings per share 59 cents. Analysts, though, had expected revenues of $20.72 billion and earnings per share of 75 cents.

Arris to Commercialize CCAP

The cable industry has successfully added broadband and phone services atop their original--and still predominant--video offerings. It’s a great success story. However, the problem with all these add-ons is that each requires specialized equipment. Consequently, cable facilities get ever more crowded, and providing enough air conditioning and electricity to keep all the gizmos cool and operational is increasingly expensive.

For that reason, the industry has embarked on creating the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP), which combines as many functions as possible in fewer devices. Lightreading reported this week that vendor Arris has completed trials of its E6000 Converged Edge Router (CER). The device now is ready for commercial deployment. The story notes that Casa Systems released a CCAP product in May.

Airing Out Light

Finally comes a piece from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). 

The main thing that slows light’s progress through fiber optic cables is the glass itself. A person swimming through a pool, after all, is mainly slowed by the water. Other issues, such as wind resistance, play a minor role.

This led DARPA engineers to a simple thought: Why not simply eliminate the fiber:

A novel fiber design using a hollow, air-filled core removes this limitation and dramatically improves performance by forcing light to travel through channels of air, instead of the glass around it. DARPA’s unique spider-web-like, hollow-core fiber design is the first to demonstrate single-spatial-mode, low-loss and polarization control—key properties needed for advanced military applications such as high-precision fiber optic gyroscopes for inertial navigation.

The DARPA press release says that the Compact Ultra-Stable Gyro for Absolute Reference (COUGAR) approach can increase fiber speeds by 30 percent.



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