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Author Topic: Is the window closing on Plug Computing?  (Read 3273 times)
lgnome
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« on: January 05, 2011, 07:49:47 PM »

I guess I am just a little disheartened and disappointed, so please just consider this my $0.02...

Based on the incredible progress in ARM-based tablets and other similar devices at this years (2011) CES and the palpable lack of progress with new Plug devices, is the window of opportunity closing here?  I suppose it really depends on what the application is but still...   Why are there still very real problems with the GuruPlug and why are there no new vendors?   What happened to the $50 Sheevaplug?  Why are the few existing vendors out there so mickey mouse?  Sorry, but many would agree with me on that last point.   It seems to me that the lack of forward progress in the hardware area will encourage developers to jump onto other platforms that ARE making real progress (almost on a daily basis).  Granted I am referring primarily to standard consumer products like tablets, etc.   However, if you stand still, you find that others have BLOWN PAST, not just edged ahead.  It's time for Marvell to step it up and partner with some of the big boys OR subsidize and build their own plug's to jumpstart the platform.  Cheap and truly reliable plug's would change the whole equation and encourage a developer community (us really) to build those killer app's we know are possible. 

Feel free to agree or flame, as I probably deserve both...

Mark
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Fletch
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2011, 07:54:03 PM »

Even if it had been more successful, plug computing is still niche compared to phones and tablets.  And niche is not something Marvell is generally known to be interested in or good at.  I'd be interested in reading a report from someone at CES on how (or if) plug computing is positioned at the Marvell booth.
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lgnome
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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2011, 07:59:20 PM »

Good point, it IS a niche market.  And it will be a non-market  Sad  if Marvell doesn't act and soon...

However, with the right hardware at the right price point with a killer app that many folks want, it could   Tongue  become more than a niche
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edmc
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« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2011, 11:49:51 PM »

The bigger risk of slowed (halted?) progress on so-called plug computers is, IMHO, to be overtaken by those very much mainstream SoC-based smartphone/tablet platforms.

Indeed, the folly of trying to graft a display onto the "plug" (as many pitched during Marvell's "Plug Event" last year) has me completely baffled. Were I to need an ARM-based SoC platform that supported display logic, there are a variety of alternatives out there with much more motivation to be low power, reliable, cheap,... In fact, a plug-sized nVidia Tegra-2 solution with the display simply not exposed would seem to be plenty of competition for our current options. I might be able to find a very good use for the parallel processing power of that GPU :-).

In short, I feel Marvell can only hope the "plug" to succeed at a $10 price point, not $50...and actually fit in something the size of an actual plug. What we have today is the size of a "wall wart" of course.
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peter a
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2011, 03:06:29 PM »

Hi , Have you looked it this:-
http://www.geeky-gadgets.com/microsoft-demos-new-windows-06-01-2011/

Windows on ARM !!!!

If they leave it too long the door will shut behind them, and become a file server , android and windows tablet.
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radael
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« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2011, 02:05:25 PM »

A summary of what has been written by others in various places.  This is not intended to be a rant; just cold, logical observation.

It certainly seems as if the window either is closing, or it will be closing in the not-distant future.

Marvell is a company that makes profits from selling many chips.  Any product needs a huge customer base, or it will not be worth the time to develop and product it.  Neither Marvell, nor it's partner manufacturers are likely to keep producing Plugs for just a few hundred, or thousand hobbyists.

We might take a lesson by reviewing the product arc of the NSLU2.  It was one of the somewhat earlier NAS devices, was sold in retail stores for a decent price.  The fact that it was a retail product means it provided a revenue stream that would sustain it's availability for a while.  Being a retail product also meant that the platform was relatively stable.

Both the availability and the stability gave hobbyists the chance to create software that would reliably install the Linux overlays.

Seems to me, some people at Marvell were hoping the same thing would happen with the Plug.  Not so much because the company was thrilled to support this niche, but because they hoped that the hobbyists, and the hype, would lead to some new product or use which would sell a million units.

But, there were problems on the way to paradise.

We can put aside, the power supply issues.

The main issue is the new kernel installation and un-bricking.  It is not so difficult, really.  But there are two things that make it difficult for the newcomer.  First, the differences in Plug configuration [is an old one, a new one, a new-old one?].  Second, the differences in the installing host (operating system, 32-bit vs 64-bit).
As a result of these two issues, there are many instructions and "helper" scripts about how to install or unbrick a Plug. . . But, it seems, most of them will only work for some persons, while others work for other people.
So, the bottom line is, the guy who may know some Linux, but doesn't know about bootloaders or kernel installation is facing a steep slope and no clear map.  (The plug is for the "hard-core" hobbyist.)

Those challenges mean mean that the hobbyist community which Marvell, et.al., might have hoped for has not taken off with the speed and force similar to the Slug (NSLU2).  (Not to slight those who have helped -- Thank you, cbxbikerr61, rooster, those who've contributed to the wiki, and all the others who have built and helped others.)

Furthermore, the evidence suggests that Marvell is already minimizing their involvement/investment.  The official documentation set has errors that will cause a re-flash to fail; that has not been corrected.  The wiki sees much more spam than actual content activity.  In fact, it seems there's been no administration of the wiki since November.  There is no reply to email requesting that the wiki be secured.  It doesn't seem as if it would take much effort (investment) to fix some of these problems, so the inaction only contributes to the impression that the situation is being allowed to come to a conclusion without further corporate effort.

I started working on the wiki, and there's a lot more that might be done.  But, then I saw the spam, and the user creation logs, and realized that hardly anyone is looking at it.  Made me wonder if my efforts would be supporting a community, or just talking to myself.  That was what led me to these observations and conclusions.  I suspect others have arrived at the same conclusions.

Thus, we arrive at the question posed in this discussion -- just how long is this going to continue?  Will the plugwiki and the plugforum simply disappear one day?  (The domain is, after all, registered to Marvell.)  Is there enough of a community that it would make sense to move the wiki and forum to a non-corporate domain?

Contrary to what it may seem, I'm pretty  happy with my Sheeva; it will be a better Asterisk host than the Slug.  I'd like to be able to buy another one in a few years if/when this one breaks.

But, I suspect that won't be possible.  I expect that, say three years from now, the choice will be to work on whatever new little device has come along (hoping it has a serial/JTAG port), . . . or, buy a Plug replacement/spare now and pull it out of storage when the service unit bites the dust.

Hobbyists work on the fringes of the marketplace.
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superpat
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2011, 03:34:28 AM »

@ radael

An excellent summary!

I have a sheevaplug AND an Open-RD Ultimate.   The Open-rd.org wiki, forum, git etc is in exactly the same state as you describe (apart from the spammers haven't found it yet).  The Open-rd site has not been updated for months. There is no activity from Globalscale, einfochips or Marvell.  The openrd is dead but it doesn't know it yet.

After I read your post I searched Google news for CES 2011, Kirkwood, Marvell, Sheeva, plug, plugcomputing  and so on.  There was almost ZERO hits. The only Marvell hits were with reference to a new  initiative  "mobile lifestyle"  computing using the Armada  series

Here is an article full of marketing speak:-

http://fixed-mobile-convergence.tmcnet.com/topics/mobile-communications/articles/131829-marvell-demonstrate-true-mobile-lifestyle-ces-2011.htm

I am certain you are correct,  manufacturers have moved on.

I am not involved with it but if people are looking for a new platform,  then the Pandaboard, seems to have a lot going for it at a reasonable price!

http://pandaboard.org/

It is touted as a "Mobile"  platform, as every manufacturer seems to be jumping on the  android tablet market, but looking at the hardware it should make a nice home whatever you need!.

as always YMMV

regards

Patrick


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UnaClocker
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« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2011, 01:45:38 PM »

Hey, that Pandaboard looks pretty nice! I had checked out the Beagleboard, and the Hawkboard, and even the Chumbyboard, all of which were lacking RAM in a big way, and were seriously low on MHz. The Pandaboard is a bit pricey, but finally has specs above the Sheeva.
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SheevaPlug - 8gb class 4 SDHC primary drive, 4tb 3.5" media drive, Debian Wheezy, nginx, Samba, Shorewall

radael
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« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2011, 09:49:38 PM »

To be fair, it appears that the spam on the wiki site stopped two days ago.  All of the spam pages, and the many bogus users are still there.  It does not seem that the user account creation has been secured, but maybe the Russian and Chinese servers were blocked.  Or, maybe after a week of purging the spam pages as they were created, the spammers realized they were getting no benefit.
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radael
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« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2011, 06:32:17 PM »

Spam is back.
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