What’s this Zii about??

Creative technologies, yes yes.. our DEAR Creative announced a couple of weeks ago, their new initiative. It’s called Creative Zii.. with the subtitle “Stemcell Computing” (which they seem to have trademarked).. and the tagline “Everything you know is about to change”.


There were a few more details/speculation which floated around the internet. The first was an email update from Creative, which states..

Drawing our inspiration from the intelligence of Mother Nature – who through over a billion years of evolution has designed the basic building block of life: the stem cell – we have created a stem cell-like silicon that is able to grow and multiply into different solutions and ecosystems.With an investment that spans over 10 years, over a billion dollars and over 10,000 man-years, the world is poised to experience a breakthrough that will better lives beyond our imagination.Even in the midst of these turbulent times, you will discover incredible recession-friendly business opportunities that enable you to thrive and prosper.

To find out more about Zii and how it can change your life, visit our booth (booth #30651) at CES 2009, or go to Zii.com from 8 January 2009 for updates.

And the next was a US Trademark Office search for the term “Zii”, which seemed to be registered under Creative for a very generic usage. It listed almost all the various fields which Creative has every dabbled with.

So what is this Zii??

Knowing Creative’s love of playing with words, especially during their “viral marketing” campaigns, I looked at the big picture, to look for more clues with regards to what they were actually doing.

The HW geek in me caught on to “a stem cell-like silicon that is able to grow and multiply into different solutions“. It reminds me of dynamically reconfigurable SoCs or ECAs.

The idea is very simple.. Instead of have 1 super-fast and super-powerful core in a PC.. We can have 1000 not-so-fast and not-so-powerful cores such that, working together the 1000 will be the same at the 1 super core. But, if we can have the connections between them made dynamically reconfigurable; which is, they can be changed by the software, while the software is running; these 1000 cores can be used very efficiently.

Power savings aside (because you can individually turn off any of the 1000 cores), we can now configure (wire up) these small cores to execute the specific logic that we want.. And that suddenly opens up the possibility of many many interesting applications. Our current notions of limitations of speed and performance are totally irrelevant in such architectures.

For eg. let’s say we want to watch a video, we can configure the cores to form a H.264 decoder, and suddenly the H.264 decoding becomes a very fast process, since it’s being done automatically by the HW (Hardware), and not by SW (Software) as it is done in most cases today. If we can drasctically speed up such processor intestive tasks, like Multimedia rendering, and complex calculations, we will start seeing many more interesting advances in computing technology, including the efficiency which Creative has promised.

But why would Creative do something like this?? Which brings me to the part of the email ” 10 years, over a billion dollars and over 10,000 man-years“. 10 years is a long time. And something that Creative has been ignoring about the same amount of time is their IC Design business. Yes we’ve had the X-Fi, but that was just one, and it probably was designed much earlier. What else??

And also if Creative has really been doing this for 10 years, they must have taxed the rest of the company by drawing loads of funds and skilled manpower. Which, we have seen happening as Creative has had some financial troubles in the recent years, and also they’ve had a lack-luster product line-up following the X-Fi.

While my analysis is surely not sound, it’s something that would be really be fun to see from Creative. The concept has been looked at by various companies all over the world, but no one has put such a system into commercial applications. With Creative’s reach into the Sound Card market, it might be able to launch this technology into the Commercial market.

Well.. we can never really tell. All we can do is to wait and wander around booth #30651 at CES 2009.

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