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Micro power set to make waves

01 Jul 06

Many may disagree but Simon Glass, founder of Christchurchbased Bluewater Systems believes PDAs and smart phones will eventually eclipse the PC.

“Portable devices are the way of the future especially at the rate capability is increasing.

These days an ARM chip is like a Pentium chip in a PC only it’s much cheaper and consumes less power,” he says.

Bluewater Systems specialises in developing advanced RISC machine (ARM) processor technology, in particular its flagship Snapper system module and single board computer.

Corporate clients include industry giants Intel, Samsung, Nintendo and NEC.

Glass is something of an ARM expert, having worked with the technology since its infancy in various positions at Arm Technologies.

“Within five years PDAs will have the same performance capabilities as PCs. At the moment there is around a five year lag behind PCs in performance.”

In comparison to slowing growth in the PC market Glass says ARM is growing upwards of 50% annually, driven in part due to the technology driving many of the hottest consumer gadgets including Nintendo DS, Navman, iPod Nano and PSP.

Part of the appeal for Glass is being able to turn wasted minutes into productivity.

“If I’m stuck in traffic or waiting at the airport the first thing I do is get on my phone.”

While good news for consumers Glass concedes the growth in the handset market won’t necessarily bring glad tidings to traditional resellers.

“I’d say it’s more of a threat.

The carriers can sell handsets cheaply because they recoup the money on services but for resellers the margins aren’t that great.”

Yet as Glass points out, just because a device is all-inclusive doesn’t signal the death of other products.

“I can take photos on my phone but I still use a digital camera because the quality is better.

The same goes for music, it’s useful to have it on a phone but I won’t be throwing away my iPod.”

Tim Trewinnard, general manager, says his company is at the leading edge of embedded computer technology – especially in the handheld and automotive markets.

“For the company to be really successful it has to look beyond the water surrounding New Zealand,” he says.

Earlier this year Bluewater won a $500,000 contract with the Australian Department of Defence’s science agency to design and develop a component device for an advanced communications system.

Trewinnard says the contract is a huge coup for his company, launching it into the high-tech defence arena.

“It goes to show that a small New Zealand company can compete in an open tender environment,” he says.

Simon Glass

Bluewater Systems