Global Power

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By organizing the memory in two sectors, code and data spaces are no longer different. Since some data doesn't always need to be byte-addressable, the user can decide the amount of code that is allotted to the OS and use the remaining space for data.

If this doesn't violate the first premise of capitalism — private property — what does?

The latest corporate assault on capitalism is the broadcast flag.” The studios ran this one up the pole to limit consumers' ability to record and copy over-the-air digital content, such as movies or prime-time TV series, and for a time they got service providers and the Federal Communications Commission to salute. The FCC mandated that new consumer electronics devices, including PCs, would have to recognize the flag and respect its copy restrictions. But a recent federal appeals court ruling that the FCC had overstepped its bounds in this case has left the broadcast flag looking a little tattered.

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Why all the fuss over recording second-run movies and Dynasty reruns? Because content owners have formulated a Doomsday scenario in which pristine digital copies of their copyrighted content flood the Internet, bankrupting the networks, cable providers and studios, and leaving media moguls unable to sustain the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed. Soon there would no longer be any content available anywhere — except maybe for books. God forbid.

Certainly, we all fear the prospect of a world devoid of reality shows and Legally Blonde III. Nonetheless, many of the new DRM schemes and regulations” proposed by the content-related industries (movies, broadcasting, consumer electronics, PCs and mobile phones) lean disproportionately toward content owners' privileges. At risk are the fair-use rights that traditionally, and justly, have been afforded consumers. We took those rights for granted when the Fairness Doctrine was the law of the land and the land was an analog place.

Under proposed DRM schemes, a consumer will have to think twice before making a personal copy of a digital music file that has been legally downloaded and paid for. The consumer won't necessarily be free to share the music with friends or to play it back whenever he or she wants to on whatever platform is convenient — PC, portable player, car audio or living-room stereo. What you do with your legitimately purchased copy will be restricted according to rules written by the content owners and service providers. It's their world; you just pay for it.

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But under this regulatory regime, why switch from your CD collection to an MP3 file-based digital library in your home computer?

Indeed, an imbalance between the regulatory demands of content owners and the property rights of end users could result in the outright rejection of new technologies by the buying public, warns the Digital Media Project (http://www.dmpf.org), a Geneva-based nonprofit group that recently issued the Call for Contributions on Mapping of Traditional Rights and Usages to the Digital Space.

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If their technologies are not rejected outright, providers can expect to be outfoxed eventually by savvy users seeking ways around unreasonable obstacles to content usage.

For instance, DVD regional coding no longer exists in Paris for patrons of FNAC, one of France's biggest consumer electronics retailers. After selecting a code-restricted DVD player of any brand, the customer need only report to a salesperson, who brandishes a specially programmed remote control and voil: Some Like It Hot fires up.

ESM: China seems to be where all the action is these days. What excites you about Japan?

Feldberg: China is the highest-growth region, but far from the only region. Japan, interestingly enough, if you check semiconductor [total available market, or TAM], is of similar size to the Americas and Europe. So although Asia, minus Japan, has become the largest market, the other three are fairly comparable in size.

I'll give you a ballpark number: Japan, Europe and the Americas all have somewhere in the 20 percent range of the global TAM, with about 40 percent in Asia, minus Japan. So Japan is still a major market. It's really nothing more complicated than that. It's the only major electronics market in the world where Avnet specifically doesn't have a presence. So we're looking to build around Memec's strong position there by bringing some new supplier relationships and some new supply chain programs.

ESM: Although Memec is the only Western distributor on the ground in Japan, its market share is relatively small, roughly $150 million revenue. What are some of the opportunities you see?

Feldberg: I think they'd be in the top 15 distributors, so it's not as small as it might sound. But the reality is, Japan is a very challenging, closed market in general. [There's a] very different approach to the market than anywhere else in the world, so it's difficult to get started. What Memec has there is a medium-size business, principally centered around their largest suppliers, but it's pretty narrow. When you think about how broad Avnet's line card is everywhere else in the world compared to how narrow Memec's is in Japan, some of the growth is simply from adding some of these large suppliers. So once the deal is consummated, we'll begin very quickly courting those very large suppliers to give us the franchise in Japan.

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The migration path is not going to be a chicken-and-egg thing,” he said, but it won't be as smooth as the USB 2.0 transition, which used the previous generation's software and went from spec to chip set integration in about a year.

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