...and the Award goes to...

A shout out goes to our very own Mark Solomon and the design team for recently getting some shine at the 2008 International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA).

Our design team scored the Silver award in the Computer Equipment category, which was given in recognition of the design of the HP Blackbird 002 gaming and performance system. The recognition is definitely well deserved. As lead designer for HP Voodoo, Mark’s been a tireless worker, a team player and a key part of the Blackbird’s success.

Most importantly, he gets it: this is about creating high-performance technology that is both functionally AND aesthetically exceptional.

Blackbird 002 is already acclaimed and recognized for its engineering and performance, but to get some love from a pure form factor standpoint is indeed awesome.

Congrats Mark and team!


A Cocktail of Edgy Design with Unstoppable Innovation…

Over the past few years we have experienced a few really big moments: joining the HP family; creating a start-up business within HP; launching Blackbird; setting up a dedicated Voodoo Business Unit; and more recently introducing the Omen and Envy 133.

Yesterday was another big one: it’s been announced internally that the Voodoo products are no longer going to be stand-alone entities, but rather they have been welcomed into the greater HP catalogue.

What does this mean?

Ultimately it means that Voodoo and Voodoo-influenced products will be easier to buy, faster to get, they will feature local service, and they will have the full power of HP’s marketing and sales channel behind them. The bottom line is we have ignited the brand and sparked big excitement; so we are now integrating our organizations to fuel our growth.

Since we were acquired by HP in 2006 the plan was always to transform cutting edge ideas and innovations from the high end Voodoo portfolio into various parts of HP’s portfolio. Thanks to the overwhelmingly positive response over our latest products the plan is now being accelerated ultimately making it a reality sooner than any of us ever imagined.

We’re lucky to be part of an organization that appreciates everything we have built and accomplished so far. The great news is we’re all heading in the same direction, and it’s a good thing – it’s a real good thing.

I wanted to take a moment to comment on the press that's been assuming the Voodoo brand is gone - this is not the case. I commented on Engadget, here are my comments below;


Hi guys,

Being on the inside, and also being that I'm the founder of Voodoo and one of the key people setting up the integration, here's what I can tell you;

1) The Voodoo brand is important to HP, very important, so it will remain.

2) This is the next big step in our evolution, and it will give us the opportunity to expand our product line across the globe. Customers asked for it, so they get it --- that's the bottom line.

3) You can look forward to an expanded portfolio, more widely available, with local support and service. This is the kind of thing that Voodoo does not offer today but needs to offer in order to grow effectively.


AMD Puma: Loving The Code Name, Liking The Concept

I wrote this article for the latest issue of CPU Magazine. Check it out online over here...!

AMD has finally taken the covers off a platform that could yield the benefits that many of us were expecting from the company’s acquisition of ATI. There has been some hype around the Internet about AMD Puma, aka Turion Ultra. Many people are calling it a Centrino Killer, and I’m doing my best to strip away all the marketing fluff while determining the market this platform will appeal to.

So, let’s see. AMD has not been known of late for making ultra-efficient CPUs like Intel, and the Turion Ultra CPU has not changed much from the previous generation. Yes, the new Turion Ultra processors feature 2MB of cache as opposed to 1MB, but the TDP has not decreased; I believe we’re still looking at 32- to 35-watt processors.

Take it from someone who knows notebook design; when you’re trying to cool a high-density processor with 2MB of cache, it does not make things easy. In fact, it makes our lives downright difficult when you include a discrete GPU, as well. (But what if we didn’t have to worry about a high-powered GPU? More on that in a moment.)

So, while Intel is toying with 12 to 20W processors in the ultraportable category, AMD is still back in 2005 with its 35W part. AMD has also introduced some new battery-saving elements into the platform, but as far as I’m concerned, the best and only way to save battery is to use more efficient components.

On the graphics side, it’s a very different story. AMD-ATI has always been known for creating unique mobile platforms with great image quality. Though it has faced fierce competition from Nvidia, thanks to MXM and some of the previous-generation GPUs, things are starting to change. In the mobile battle, I would say that AMD has some slight advantages for the moment.

Nvidia chose a strategic direction that sort of put it at odds with Intel—and Nvidia was quite open about this at CES—but as history has shown, these relationships can usually be rebuilt overnight.

Oddly enough, AMD seems to be Intel’s preferred partner for discrete graphics, at least until Intel gets its own graphics off the ground.

ATI has the distinct advantage of being integrated with a CPU company, therefore it can work with AMD’s CPU people to create unique platforms in volume. So, one could say that they are the preferred partner of AMD, too.

AMD’s latest Radeon HD 3000 and HD 4000 chipsets have given us compelling reasons to use the company’s graphics in current and future platforms. Seriously, in case you haven’t seen these things, everything has changed, from image quality to feature set and software.

AMD has nothing to lose; following the acquisition of ATI, it lost market share and was simply out-executed by Intel, and had no choice but to focus on its long-term plan. It seems to be paying off.

So now you have a so-so CPU coupled with a killer IGP, thanks to the graphics side of the house. What does that mean in terms of platform development?

On the ultraportable side, Intel wins hands-down. On the enthusiast side, I’d have to give it to Intel, as well, when coupled with discrete graphics from either AMD or Nvidia. You won’t see any bleeding-edge thin-and-light designs with Puma inside, but you might see some killer budget notebooks taking the sub-$1,000 market by storm. This should not be taken lightly; it’s the bulk of the overall notebook market and is growing at an astonishing rate.

So, while Puma may not deliver the ultimate in battery life or cutting-edge design, if AMD can deliver on its promise, the platform will crush the competition in the area of price/performance. The bottom line is Puma is a cool platform with great new possibilities.

You gotta love competition. I have to wonder if Intel will cut its prices in half just to make it hard to switch over. I also have to wonder whether AMD can execute in volume; I guess we’ll have to wait and see.


Beautiful Envy Packaging

Since we're taking orders on the new Envy 133 now, we thought it would be a good time to demonstrate the packaging and the contents that come inside the box. Our packaging expert Allison worked with our ID folks to design the Envy 133 presentation box to look somewhat like a Tiffany box. It lifts up like a hat box to reveal a wonderful presentation, including the Envy 133 wrapped in a microfiber polish sleeve.

Notice the top tray as it lifts out, underneath this tray are the other accessories.

So let's go through the accessories, below you will see the Voodoo Aura power connect, which includes two removable cables (just in case your power cable starts to fray after heavy usage - you don't have to replace the entire power supply, just the cable). By the way, when you hook up your Ethernet to the Voodoo Aura power connect the logo lights up to indicate when you have an I.P. address.

You'll also see the Voodoo Presentation Adapter - which is more than just an HDMI to VGA adapter. This little adapter slides into the HDMI port and automatically adjusts the display to support a projector - you don't have to lift a finger! Just plug the projector in on the other end and you're ready to present! Just be careful, too much Powerpoint can kill a person.

Lastly, you'll see our Voodoo ESATA Optical Drive, the cable folds under the device and hides in place.

Below you will see zoomed in shots of the carbon fiber. Although this is an engineering unit in the picture, the logo is NOT red on the actual unit. It's silver and chrome - and no, there are no options to how the logo can look or where it can go. It's always going to be our Voodoo Icon in silver and chrome. I should also mention the logo under the screen will also be in silver, not red.

Here are some zoomed in shots of the actual keyboard. The carbon fiber weave on the palm rest area is much finer than the outside panels. It's more of a micro-hexx design, and it's simply awesome.


The SSD Power Consumption Hoax?

This is an extended version of the article I wrote for the latest edition of Custom PC Magazine in the U.K. Once again, if you're looking for the sexiest PC Hardware Magazine in Europe (and one of the best in the world) you should get his magazine! It's full of the best hardware photography ever, and the quality of the paper is to die for.

Toms Hardware just wrote an interesting article called The SSD Power Consumption Hoax.

While they have some interesting points, I would suggest that there is much more involved with evaluating the potential increase in battery life with Solid State Technology.

A Solid State Drive can affect battery life in two situations: 1) Poor Performance, and 2) High Idle Power.

You cannot estimate the power savings of a solid state drive simply by looking at the hard drive subsystem and then extrapolating based on datasheet power specifications. That methodology does not comprehend the work being performed, and performance impacts energy efficiency. If a solid state drive can complete a workload 2x faster than a hard drive, then the entire platform can enter a power efficient state sooner.

We suspect that one reason that Tom's measured worse solid state battery life than a 7200 RPM HDD is likely that the particular solid state drive performed worse than the 7200 RPM HDD.

If the solid state drive completed the workload later, then the platform consumed more power. It also appears Tom’s chose solid state drives that use FPGAs, and these devices probably have very high idle power.

So bottom line is that power efficiency must comprehend the work being performed (during the power measurement.) A better metric is power per IOs per second. I know of at least one solid state drive that consumes only 60mWatts during idle, and it consumed less than 100mW on average in Mobilemark.

...and uhhh, a mobile hard disk drive consumes between 1 and 1.5 watts during a Mobilemark run.

So, does this mean that Tom's Hardware was right? Perhaps with their specific benchmarks - but even unintentionally, it's a pretty glorified "lets be controversial" slightly narrow view of the world. I'm not going to tear it apart - but it seems the author assumes that all solid state drives are created equal. There is a profound difference in performance and power depending on the product architecture and design. Tom's itself reported up to a 10x span in solid state drive raw performance depending on vendor, so it's interesting that this author assumed they are generic.

To put it in perspective, even if the hard drive were removed entirely, it only represents ~5% of the total battery consumption. So even if we halve the consumption with solid state we'd typically only gain 10 minutes battery life (out of 3 hours). Therefore a solid state can have a slight improvement on battery life. So what's the point of even writing about it? Ugh, wasting my time.

Trust me, this is NOT the end of the story. Stay tuned for later this year when the solid state $@#* hits the fan and spinning disk heads start to roll. There are some new players in town and they are bringing the big guns.


Rock Band 2? Rock on!

Rock Band fans rejoice! Rock Band 2 has officially been announced for a fall release.

Fully functional cross-title downloadable content and backward compatible with the original Rock Band, Rock Band 2 promises to…well…rock. This announcement, combined with the recently announced Guitar Hero World Tour, makes me think that rhythm games are here to stay --- and I believe I’m right when I say the monetization model for music is moving to games in a hurry.

Oh, I also just picked up Guitar Hero Aerosmith edition for $99 Canadian. It comes complete with a wireless guitar and a free Aerosmith CD for listening in the car (bundled separately). I’m amazed that these guys can sell millions of these things for $100 a pop.

Think about this --- these old rockers could barely sell CDs for $10, and digital music for .79 cents. Now, thanks to Activision these guys are getting rich all over again!

Now there’s even more justification to never having learned to play a real instrument.

Get practicing, Evy.


Canada Day

Today is Canada Day. It’s the Canadian version of July 4th—a day to celebrate a country and hit the patio. It also happens to be the eve of The Calgary Stampede. A time when carnies, cowboys, and animals, from all over North America come to Calgary for what is dubbed as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. You’ll also notice every outdoor patio full of people for the next couple of weeks – I always find myself wondering “Where do these people work?” as I drive by.

I normally find myself in Seattle this time of year, because quite frankly I’m tired of the Stampede. People drink and drive during the day here as they visit one Stampede BBQ to another. Yep, it’s true – but this year is supposed to be different because “they” are bringing in 200+ extra taxis to handle the traffic. This is one crazy town, yet I am still proud that a lot of our production still happens in my hometown in a largely expanded facility.

So, back to Canada Day (more on the Stampede later). I’m going to raise a glass (of sparkling water, of course) to some great Canadian exports: to hockey, to Feist, to the Blackberry, to Mass Effect and Prince of Persia, to Assassins Creed (thanks Ubisoft Montreal!), to Rachel McAdams, to the Caesar (like a Bloody Mary, but with clamato juice), to Trivial Pursuit, to Celine Dion (sorry Las Vegas) and of course, to all things Voodoo.