Mobile Tech: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
All signs indicate a healthy continuing demand for mobile technology that can support ever-more-demanding eye-candy and apps on very-high-resolution display devices. According to independent high performance computing expert Rob Farber, mobile tech is where the money is right now in computer technology.
Current leadership-class supercomputers are “wowing” the HPC world with petaflop-per-second performance through the combined use of several thousand graphics processing units or Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors. But, in reality, the sale of a few thousand of these devices is insignificant when compared against the 1.5 billon cellphone processors and 190 million tablet processors that are expected to be shipped by the end of 2013.
In a recent Scientific Computing article, Rob looks at how heavy demand for retina-quality displays and long battery life in laptops, tablets and cellphones is providing a marketing paradise for technology vendors, as better looking devices easily entice consumers to abandon still-working technology to purchase new products.
Rob believes that the market will undoubtedly remain hot in mobile computing for many more device generations, as technology companies struggle to deliver interactive performance for high-resolution, touch-enabled, true-color displays while hobbled by fixed power budgets dictated by limited space and current battery technology. Mobile technology winners will be those companies that can avoid being crushed between the rock of high-pixel displays and the unyielding limitations of fixed power budgets.
In a nutshell, the market looks fantastic for consumers of mobile technology according to the published roadmaps through 2015. But who will capture the hearts and minds of the billion-plus-unit mobile market fundamentally depends on the technology utilized to avoid being crushed between the rock of high-pixel displays and the unyielding limitations of fixed power budgets.
The lessons learned from the past indicate that limited, yet highly optimized hardware works well for the initial wave of customer demand, while more general-purpose programming capabilities are required as customers become educated and more demanding. For this reason, it is likely that the ability to support a higher-level programming model, such as OpenMP 4.0, will become a key factor in future mobile success.
However, according to Rob, the creation of more 3-D WebGL content will highlight limitations in current devices and make them look dated.