EARLIER TODAY WE had a chance encounter with a Norwegian company called CUPP Computing at the MWC in Barcelona and what they showed us and told us has the potential of changing how we use notebooks. The crazy thing is that it has taken them no less than six years to get to the point where they can openly talk about what they’ve developed and in many ways it’s so simple that we’re amazed that no-one else has thought about it already.
You might wonder why we’ve included a picture of a MacBook Pro in a story about a product from a Norwegian company, well, it’s because CUPP built a proof of concept into it and it’s not even based on their final silicon. The hardware in the demo setup is based on an FPGA, but final silicon should be ready in a few months’ time. So what is so revolutionizing about what CUPP has developed? Well, take a closer look at the picture below and you’ll notice that the MacBook Pro isn’t running OS X, but rather Android.
So ok, running Android on a Mac isn’t a big deal, even dual booting two OSes wouldn’t be a big deal. However, what CUPP has done allows for instant switching between OS X and Android in this case, something that has never been done before. It’s of course not limited to these two operating systems, but let’s explain what’s going on here first. What CUPP has created is the switching hardware, so in the MacBook Pro they were demoing their hardware on the optical drive has been replaced by an entire ARM based system on which Android is running.
In other words, you’re having two entirely different systems on the inside with a smart switching mechanism that puts the other system in deep sleep mode. There are still a few things to work out, but things like the USB ports, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, memory card readers, mass storage devices and Webcam etc. are all intended to be shared on the final retail products which feature CUPP’s switching technology. It’s of course some resources that aren’t as easy to share, such as RAM and certain storage devices, but these are problems that should be solvable down the road.
The implications of what CUPP has developed are massive, as it will greatly improve the battery life of notebooks, simply by switching between the platforms when you don’t need the high performance x86 processor. Any OS that will run on an ARM based processor can be used and of course any OS that will run on an x86 processor on the other end. There’s of course an additional cost involved in all of this of the extra ARM hardware needed, but CUPP’s technology isn’t expected to add a huge additional cost to this, we were told that currently they’re estimating it to be at about US$8, but this should most likely go down significantly over time.
As CUPP is still out chasing partners, we didn’t get any firm details as to when we’ll see consumer devices with the technology on the market, but CUPP will be at Computex in Taiwan which kicks off at the end of May and we should be getting additional details by then about who CUPP will be working with. Having an instant on PC sounds pretty tempting, even if it’s running Android (or another flavor of Linux for ARM), but the ability to be able to instantly switch to the more powerful x86 CPU and a full fat OS looks like a huge selling point to us, not to mention the vastly extended battery life that can be had from using the ARM part of the system.S|A
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