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#TBT: Automakers go high-tech; Nvidia’s Kal-El ‘super chip’; RIM teeters … this week in 2011

Editor’s Note: RCR Wireless News goes all in for “Throwback Thursdays,” tapping into our archives to resuscitate the top headlines from the past. Fire up the time machine, put on the sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

Ford goes high-tech to connect cars
DEARBORN, Mich. — Here at Ford Motor Co.’s (F) headquarters, Doug VanDagens is preparing to rapidly expand the size of his connected services team over the next three to four years. The global director of the connected services group at Ford recently got the go ahead to double the size of his U.S. team over the next three years and quadruple the size of his global team over the next four years. “It is by far the fastest growing arena in Ford that I am aware of,” he told RCR Wireless News during a recent visit. A team of 40 people people work directly with VanDagens on connected services today and there are still hundreds more that contribute from IT and hardware development. “Our mission in life is really to bring data services and content from outside the vehicle into the vehicle,” he said. “There’s a real need and it’s a real differentiator in the car to be able to bring your connected lifestyle with you into the vehicle and we try to compliment that lifestyle, and because of that I think everybody is kind of after Ford.” VanDagens said Ford has been able to attract top talent because the products his team works on are so up-front and connected to the car. “We’ve long had a history of technical talent in the automotive industry. People don’t realize how much technology there is in a car. A computer processor in the car is four- to five-times greater than even the most sophisticated smartphone. We have to deliver this technology in an environment that’s harsh in terms of temperature, vibration, all of these things. It’s really amazing, you know, the lines of code that we produce and the processing power in the vehicle is incredible. People kind think of Detroit as old and stodgy, and it’s really just the opposite,” VanDagens said. … Read more

GM focuses on connected infotainment
WARREN, Mich. — Like many of its competitors, General Motors Co. (GM) has adopted infotainment and telematics as one of its technical pillars. The company is working to roll out a pair of branded infotainment hubs — MyLink for Chevrolet brands and IntelliLink for Buick and GMC brands — over the next 18 months on 18 nameplates globally. The core goal is to bring connected infotainment choices into the vehicle, accommodate customers’ cellphones by enabling them to make calls and listen to music hands free, and equip vehicles with voice recognition technology. “Our whole purpose here is to accommodate these devices and do it as safely and securely as possible,” Kathleen McMahon, program manager of connected infotainment at General Motors, told RCR Wireless News. “What my position was created for is to provide the necessary focus to bring all the different pieces of a strategy like connected infotainment together so that the vehicles launch with all the right stuff,” she said, reflecting on her exactly one-year mark at the job during this interview. “It’s one thing in the past to just put a radio inside the vehicle but now obviously the whole point of being connected is that you have to be able to connect up to cellphones and smartphones and you have to have websites to update the vehicle and to tell the customer what phones you support,” she said. “So that’s kind of different for the automotive industry. We have some experience with that with OnStar, but still getting all those parts to come together at the same time is not a normal operation within the automotive industry.” McMahon’s job is to shepherd all of that under a more organized framework. … Read more

Video strains mobile networks
Video generates anywhere from 40% to 60% of mobile data traffic on wireless networks today, according to a fresh mobile analytics report from Bytemobile Inc. Considering that, it’s no wonder mobile videos are stalling between 5% and 40% of the time depending on network conditions and the time of day. “That is a large amount of data to deal with. If it didn’t exist, operators probably wouldn’t have any problems with their network,” Anna Yong, mobile analytics manager at Bytemobile, told RCR Wireless News. The amount of video traffic that flows on any given network is generally a function of the network and the devices, Yong said. “When the experience is poor customers aren’t going to do it,” she added. While most carriers have been reticent to change or manipulate content to achieve a better experience for their customers, there has been a shift and more operators are pursuing video optimization on their network. … Read more

Angry Birds was such a big deal
Nokia will be debuting Angry Birds’ Mighty Eagle level clearer before rival Google’s Android will get its hands on it, RCR discovered on Monday. The news was leaked at an exclusive Mobile Monday meet-up in Singapore just ahead of the Communicasia conference, which kicks off on Tuesday. Mighty Eagle – an in-app purchase which clears difficult levels for users of the furious fowl game – has been available on iOS for a while now, with the promise of an Android version always just on the horizon. But Nokia appears to have somehow pipped the Googlers to the post, tempting the eagle over to its side. Whether this has anything to do with the close ties between Angry Birds developers Rovio – a Finnish company – and Nokia – also a Finnish company – is anyone’s guess, but it certainly is a coup de grace for the embattled phone maker. “It almost makes you wonder how much money had to change hands for that to happen,” remarked one MoMo goer. … Read more

Nvidia’s Kal-El chip — it’s super!
NVIDIA’s Icera acquisition was not about integration was not about integrating baseband onto the processor chipbut about doubling the firm’s opportunity market wise, according to Mike Rayfield, the firm’s general manager of mobile. Speaking to RCR at Computex in Taipei, Taiwan, Rayfield said the purchase gave Nvidia an additional $15 billion in total available market share (TAM) which it could add to its already large system-on-chip (SoC) TAM. The “innovative team” of “300 amazing engineers” was also a big factor in the Santa Clara company’s decision to buy Icera, said Rayfield who claims the move was simply about “being able to have the second processor on a mobile device.” “If integration down the line makes sense, we’ll do that, but that wasn’t the objective when we purchased it,” he declared. Meanwhile, integrated baseband or not, Nvidia is pressing ahead with its mobile processor plans and its next generation Kal-El SoC, which Rayfield describes as “the first mobile quad core super chip.” … Read more

RIM teeters
Smartphone pioneer Research In Motion Ltd. (RIMM) could use some wind in its sails. Revenue is down 12% from the previous quarter, an unknown number of job cuts are planned throughout the company and its next set of BlackBerry devices are facing more delays. After the Waterloo, Canada-based company released another round of disappointing earnings and slashed its guidance, yet again, company stock took a beating. After closing the day at $35.33 with a market cap of $18.51 billion, shares immediately dropped more than 15% in after-hours trading and stock is currently down more than 21%. The BlackBerry maker sold 13.2 million smartphones in the quarter and netted $695 million in income, down 26% from the previous quarter and down nearly 10% from the year-ago period. While RIM enjoys growth in other markets, it experienced a significant lag in North America. Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said the sales decline in the United States is “largely related to the age” of BlackBerry devices available today. And by that, he means RIM needs some new products to sell. Before that happens though, another quarter will come and go. … Read more

Playing with the big dogs
PHILADELPHIA – Timing, scale and the long-term sustainability of a business and business model are key factors to betting right in the mobile broadband business, panelists agreed at RCR Wireless News’ Global Mobile Broadband Tour and Conference Philadelphia. And it’s good to own spectrum as well. While all of the panelists were bullish on wireless, Yaron Eitan, managing partner at Selway Capital, noted the complexity of investing in the space. Not only does the investor have to choose the right technology and the right company, but hope that areas outside the investor’s control fall into place as well. For example, Selway invested early in Magnolia Broadband, betting that wireless operators would need Magnolia’s chip technology. But beyond the investment, Eitan noted, the right carrier has to choose the right components to make the right device and market it properly. Consolidation among the wireless operators has caused venture capitalists to shift funding toward tools that operators need to monitor their networks rather than investing in the carriers themselves, said Bruce Hernandez, partner, at Spire Capital. “We shifted our focus from being a backer and funder of carriers to being an arms supplier,” he said, noting that carrier competition today is a “big boys game.” The operator market in the United States today is beginning to look like a duopoly, added David Berkman, managing partner at Associated Partners L.P. Competing against entrenched operators is increasingly difficult, agreed David Zilberman of Comcast Ventures. Marc Ganzi, CEO of Global Tower Partners, was even more blunt. Comcast Corp. (CMCSK) is sitting on spectrum because it is a better use of its capital than building out a new network, Ganzi noted. Comcast would have to build between 20,000 and 40,000 cell sites to have its own standalone network or an overlay on its existing cable footprint. LightSquared and Clearwire Corp., which are building out new networks, will not be able to compete at the retail level against entrenched providers. As such, it is smarter for Comcast to sit on its spectrum until it decides whose network it wants to use to carry its traffic. … Read more

Check out the RCR Wireless News Archives for more stories from the past.


Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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