IDF 2013: Intel CEO Touts Growing Industry Reach

CEO Brian Krzanich uses his keynote IDF speech to highlight Intel’s push into new industry markets

CEO Brian Krzanich has highlighted Intel’s push “to lead in every segment of computing,”, as the chip giant continues to face questions about its efforts in the mobile device space.

Krzanich, speaking at the Intel Developer Forum for the first time as CEO, led the packed auditorium 10 September through a rapid-fire succession of new products and computing advancements.

Intel Push

These include the company’s upcoming family of low-power Quark processors aimed at segments of the embedded market to presentations of a working prototype notebook based on Intel’s 14-nanometer “Broadwell” chip – due out next year. He also said Intel-based tablets priced at less than $100 (£64) will hit the market this year.

intel insideThe CEO also showed off reference architectures for wearable devices, including a bracelet.

Through it all, Krzanich reiterated that such products were the result of research, development and manufacturing that he said help separate Intel from the rest of the industry.

“We intend to use all of these assets in our environment to win,” he said. “Our plan is to lead in every segment of computing. … It’s a landscape of opportunity for Intel and its developer community.”

Intel has been hurt by the sharp decline in PC sales worldwide, and criticised by analysts and journalists for being slow to respond to the growing popularity of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, most of which run on systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) designed by ARM and made by such partners as Samsung, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

ARM and its partners – including longtime Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices – also are eyeing opportunities in the data centre around dense, low-power servers for hyperscale environments, and are aiming to expand their reach in an embedded market that could grow to more than $15 billion (£9.5bn) by 2016, according to VDC Research.

Krzanich has made the mobile space a priority since becoming CEO in May. Throughout his keynote, a combative Krzanich set out to remind the industry that Intel has the engineering and manufacturing chops that other chip makers lack.

“This is just an example of the … innovation going on inside of Intel,” he said as he introduced the new Quark SoCs.

Noting the company’s dominance in the data centre, Krzanich said Intel is planning to grow its capabilities, not only with new Xeons for high-end and midrange workloads, but also with its new Atom C2000 “Avoton” and “Rangeley” SoCs for microservers and other low-power data centre systems. Also at IDF, Intel announced the Xeon E5 v2 family of chips.

In the PC market, the innovation is happening around new form factors that are driving greater mobility and power efficiency.

PC Transformation

“The PC is in the process of redefining itself,” Krzanich said. “There’s more innovation going on in the PC than ever before.”

He showed off a notebook powered by Core chips using Intel’s new “Haswell” architecture that consume 4.5 watts and are fan-less, and then held up a system running Windows 8 and powered by a 14-nanometer Broadwell chip, which will be released next year.

“This is it, folks,” Krzanich said. “Fourteen nanometers is here, [and] it’s working. … Fourteen nanometers is absolutely ready, and it’s coming to a device near you, and it will come in products early next year.

Intel officials have targeted the growing two-in-one segment – convertible devices that can be used as a traditional laptop or easily configured as a tablet – as a key segment of the PC space. By the end of this year, there will be 60 Intel-based designs on the market, he said, pointing to a display on stage of many of these devices.

Mobile Opportunities

On the other side of the stage was a display showing off tablets running Intel. In smartphones, Krzanich held up a device running on a 22nm Atom chip, and said that Intel had addressed a key weakness in its smartphone products by offering a new 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) solution, and that the next-generation – the XMM 7260 modem – is under development and expected to ship in 2014. That will mean that Intel is shipping LTE data capabilities now, and next year will provide both data and voice LTE.

The Quark family of SoCs will be one-fifth the size of Intel’s Atom SoCs and will consume a tenth of the power, Krzanich said. It will be aimed at such embedded segments as the industrial Internet of Things – the concept of connected machines generating huge amounts of data – and wearable computing. In addition, Intel in the fourth quarter will sample reference boards based on the first Quark products that developers can use to build solutions optimized for the chips.

Krzanich said the Quark chips will be synthesizable – enabling others to develop IP atop of it – and based on an open software ecosystem.

Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Research, said it made sense for Krzanich to highlight the breadth of what Intel offers, given that much of the focus in the industry is around how the company is doing in the mobile device space.

“Too often in this industry, you get sort of a simplistic viewpoint and decide it’s all about one platform or another,” King told eWEEK.

Intel signThe chip maker continues to dominate the server and PC spaces, and while PC sales worldwide are declining, it’s still an industry that ships 300 million units a year, he said. However, the mobile space still represents “a moving target” for Intel.

Apple’s introduction of the iPad in 2010 fed consumer desire for high portability and battery life in their computing devices. Three years later, there are growing numbers of PCs, most armed with Intel’s newest chips, that are both very light and offer long battery life. And the combination of Intel’s latest “Haswell” chips, the new form factors and Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system offers consumers increasingly compelling computing options.

The combination of the three “is about as good as it gets,” King said.

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Originally published on eWeek.