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Samsung exec: Smartphone of the future is bringing a technical design revolution

AUSTIN, Texas -- The smartphone of the future is going to require a "revolution" in thinking about technical design and "not enough people are prepared" for the challenges coming in here years, the president of Samsung Electronics said in his keynote at the Design Automation Conference (DAC) here today.

Based on the chip and electronic design automation (EDA) in existence today, the industry has done well with smartphones so far and will roll along for the next two or three years, said Dr. NamSung ("Stephen") Woo, president of Samsung Electronics and general manager of the System LSI business. But the smartphone of the future is going to be one that has a flexible screen that can be folded like a handkerchief, plus better and new applications and high-end cameras that demand a profound design overhaul.

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Putting forward a vision of the future smartphone, Woo suggested the broader semiconductor industry and the electronic-design automation industry, the audience he was addressing, and Samsung, too, need to do things a lot differently than they do today.

"We still have to use over a dozen chips to build a smartphone," said Woo. But smartphones are being asked to perform more services, such as voice command, location-based services, Web browsing and applications like gaming, as display-screen resolution and camera sensors improve dramatically. The basic engineering design challenge that relates to space, battery, low-power and heat level is soon going to hit a sort of crunch time.

That's because of the advent of "flexible display," a bendable screen that can fold up like a handkerchief and be unfolded again for use, Woo said.

Flexible screens, an innovation first shown by Samsung, is clearly a "disruptive technology," said Woo. It not only "requires a new look" for a smartphone, it calls for the need of a "system on a chip" which doesn't really exist today, he pointed out. "Still what we have is a system on a dozen chips, not a system on a chip."

It's going to require new technologies for three to five years from now to meet the challenges of the smartphone of the future. But today, the industry is not yet pointed toward it. "We are not there. We are walking one way that's good so far," said Woo, but Samsung, like others, "may have to shift our direction to address this challenge."

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: @MessmerE. Email: [email protected].

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