Google has launched — quite literally — a new idea to bring the Internet to some of the world's remotest places.
The tech giant's engineering hothouse, Google X, is testing the use of 12-mile-high helium balloons to get coverage in areas where it's impractical to put in conventional infrastructure.
Google said Saturday that it has 30 of the balloons, or "high-altitude platforms" (HAPS), flying over New Zealand as part of something called Project Loon. They will hover at about twice the altitude of a passenger jet.
The program's director, Mike Cassidy, told The Washington Post that the aim is to provide cheaper Internet connections around the world — in places such as Africa, where the service can cost more than an average monthly salary.
"We are focused on an enormous problem, and we don't think we have the one solution today," he told the Post in a phone interview from New Zealand. "But we think we can help and start having a discussion on how to get 5 billion people in remote areas" connected to the Internet.
Wired says the balloons carry a 22-pound payload, including a sheet of solar paneling and a package of antennas, computers, electronics, GPS devices and batteries that will allow them to deliver an Internet connection of at least 3G cellular speeds. The balloon also has attitude control valves allowing it to be kept on station
Date : 6.12.12
The OEMpire strikes back -- Microsoft's best buddies go Google
With Windows PC sales falling like Steven Tyler at an Aerosmith concert, all the major PC manufacturers are unleashing a brace of innovative, competitive products based on Google's Android platform. In some cases, the Android alternatives go head-to-head with the same manufacturer's Windows 8 boxes, with the Android machines always cheaper and sometimes better endowed.
It's almost as if the OEMs, snubbed by Microsoft's announcement of the Surface and its condescending "you OEMs can't build great hardware, so we had to do it for you" attitude, are getting their mojo back.
Take a look at HP. With something like 15 to 16 percent of the global PC market -- and possibly the largest PC manufacturer in the world -- HP's recent hardware announcements set something of a bellwether. HP's in a world of hurt. A year ago (1Q 2012), HP was selling about 5 million PCs a month. Now (1Q 2013) it's selling less than 4 million a month, and the trend's inexorably down.
HP's fighting back now with a newly announced Android -- yes, Android -- laptop hybrid. The HP Slatebook x2 comes with a 10.1-inch 1,920-by-1,200 screen, a fast Tegra 4 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 32GB drive, and "the world's most popular operating system" (ahem, Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean"). Look for it in August at $479, including the keyboard/battery dock.
That machine will go on store shelves next to HP's current offering, the Envy x2, which sports an 11.6-inch screen at the Win8 standard 1,366-by-768 screen, a leisurely Atom Z2760 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 64GB drive, and Windows 8. It's available now for $649, including keyboard/battery dock. See what I mean about head-to-head systems, with the Android cheaper and better endowed?
At some point in the undefined future, HP will release the Split x2, another hybrid from the same mold. It has a 13.3-inch screen, also running at the minimum 1,366-by-768 resolution, Intel i3, 2GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD + 500GB hard drive (in the dock), and Windows 8. The Split x2 weighs in at 4.85 pounds, 75 percent heavier than the Android Slatebook x2. And it'll cost $799, almost 70 percent more than the Slatebook x2.
Of course the guts of each machine is different -- geared to different customers, different users. But physically they're strikingly similar. Clearly, HP is no longer willing to trust its portable destiny entirely to Microsoft.
Then there's Dell. In spite of Microsoft's $2 billion loan to a Michael Dell-led consortium seeking to buy the company, Dell had dire comments about Windows 8 in last Thursday's quarterly financial call. "Windows 8 has been, from our standpoint, not necessarily the catalyst to drive accelerated growth that we had hoped it would be," opined Dell's CFO Brian Gladden, in a brilliantly awkward bit of understatement.
Dell's been shipping Android products including, laughably, the Dell Streak, for ages, but the newDell Ophelia is a tiny horse of a completely different color. Ophelia looks like an overgrown USB drive, plugs into a TV's HDMI port, supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, runs apps, but mostly hops onto the Web. It'll ship in July for $100. Of course, it runs Android.
Acer's CEO JT Wang has publicy expressed his warnings to Microsoft about the inadvisability of selling its own tablets, recently recanting a touch by saying Microsoft has finally learned "how people living on earth think." Acer still sells Windows computers, to be sure, but Win8 isn't where Acer's heart -- or its design dollars -- seem to be headed. Witness the Android-based Iconia A1 tablet, which will go on sale shortly for $169. No, that isn't a typo. Sure, it's small (7.9 inch) and clunky (1,024 by 768), but Acer's gearing up to sell zillions of them, leaving Windows waddling in the dust.
Then there's Asus. Between the Nexus 7 (private branded by Google, but built by Asus) and the many Android Transformer pads, which Asus has been peddling for years, the Asus mind share and market share go to Google, not Microsoft.
Date : 8.12.12
VMware launches network-savvy cloud service
VMware's new vCloud Hybrid Service offers virtual networking as a way to cut cloud deployment costs
VMware has launched its long-anticipated public IaaS (infrastructure as a service), touting its virtual networking capabilities as a differentiator from other established hybrid cloud offerings.
VMware's vCloud Hybrid Service will be based on the company's vCloud architecture, allowing customers to shift their VMware encoded workloads between in-house and the VMware hosted service, a practice known as running a hybrid cloud.
"You can write an application and be safe in the knowledge it can be run anywhere," said VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, in a Web conference announcing the new service, adding that much of the complexity enterprises experience in deploying their workloads in the cloud comes from preparing their in-house applications to run in a new environment.
Those applications that VMware has certified to work with the company's vSphere virtualization platform will also work without modification on the vCloud Hybrid Service, Gelsinger said. The company touts that its software is used by 500,000 customers.
VMware is not alone in offering a hybrid cloud approach. Both Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft both tout how their cloud services work smoothly with their on-premises software, allowing customers to move their workloads between in-house and hosted servers.
Gelsinger, however, touted VMware's expertise in virtual networking as the key that would make its service more appealing than the others. Last year the company purchased SDN (software-defined networking) pioneer Nicira, and has been incorporating Nicira's technology in its own stack of software.
The new service uses virtual networking technologies to extend customers' layer two and layer three networks from their data center to the vCloud Hybrid Service. "This is a real game changer for many of our clients, and completely reduces the risk of deploying applications onto this public cloud," Gelsinger said.
In VMware's approach, a customer's virtual networks are extended across a WAN (wide area network) to the vCloud Hybrid Service, using the Internet or a dedicated link. The company's infrastructure tools, such as load balancers and firewalls, could be packaged in VMware virtual machines, so they can be deployed to the cloud, or moved between the two.
By incorporating virtual networking technologies, VMware can minimize a lot of the work it would take to run applications. Customers already using a VMware platform don't have to worry about repackaging their applications in virtual containers, or changing networking connectivity information.
Extending the virtual networks would also allow organizations, with little additional work, to maintain compliance with internal policies, as well as with external regulations such as SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), or PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards, Gelsinger said.