In 2009 Intel introduced a theme called a continuum of computing and spoke about the three vectors of innovation. In April 2011 they spoke about the rise of tablets and the new mobile device form factors that are on the way. Then in June of this year Intel spoke about the transformation of the PC. They confidentially assured their developers that the turmoil being experienced today in the market, due to tablets, was simply the PC undergoing its third transformation since the mid-ninety's: No more, no less. Otellini described how the growth in computing over the next few years will dwarf what's been accomplished over the past 3 decades. This was about Intel's vision of a future accelerated. And while IDF had its interesting moments, make no mistake about it – the only thing on Intel's mind is their next generation processor called Haswell. This is the processor that they believe will usher in next phase of the mobile device revolution.
Intel's Mobile Centric Counter Revolution Begins with Haswell
While Otellini's keynote rehashed some of the themes associated with their continuum computing and Ultrabook vision, he did cover a little more about the Ultrabook's third and final phase powered by their 2013 processor dubbed Haswell that was worth noting. Apple's mobile device revolution that began with the iPhone and continues with the iPad has swept the industry by storm. And Intel knows that their next generation 14nm Haswell has the power to provide the PC industry with the ammunition it needs to take on Apple on multiple fronts – even though Apple is likely to take advantage of this same powerful new processor themselves.
Intel's Next Generation Haswell Processor Should Appease Apple
In respect to Haswell, Otellini stated that Intel had already completed the design of Intel's next-generation microprocessor which was designed to enable a 30 percent reduction in connected standby power over the currently shipping notebooks using their second-generation core microprocessors. But Otellini was adamant that Intel could do much better than that. In fact, Intel has targeted Haswell's design to not only be about lower power but about architecting a system-level power management framework that's supported by efficient systems design throughout the ecosystem that has the opportunity to reduce the platform power by a factor of more than 20 over our current designs.
If Intel could actually pull that off, you'd have to admit that that would be impressive and might even appease Apple. Remember that back in August, Intel's director of Intel's Ultrabook group, Greg Welch, stated that Apple informed Intel that it better drastically slash its power consumption or would likely lose Apple's business, reported the Wall Street Journal. Greg Welch added that "It was a real wake-up call to us."
Haswell: All-Day Notebook Usage on a Single Charge
So what does reducing the platform power by a factor of more than 20 over Intel's current designs actually mean? It means that Intel's breakthrough 14nm Haswell processor will be able to deliver all-day notebook and tablet usage and have more than 10 days of always-connected standby capability on a single charge from the power grid.
Pushing it Back in Apple's Face
While the threat from Apple took Intel by surprise, we now see that Intel will go beyond Apple's expectations on power and in fact is likely to use Haswell to attack Apple on notebooks, hybrid notebook-tablets and tablets themselves. Otellini was all too pleased to talk up the old Wintel Union and stated emphatically that "Intel believes that Windows 8 on Intel architecture will transform the personal computing experience, not only in Ultrabooks, but also in tablets. It will do this while preserving the benefits of legacy and compatibility that over a billion users worldwide demand.
In fact, over 14 million developers have harnessed the power of Intel architecture to create the largest installed base of consumer and commercial applications— 14 million. Together, this community has enabled more than six million applications for Intel architecture. To put that into perspective, that's about ten times the number of apps in the largest app store in the world." Hmm, and just who happens to have the largest "app store" in the world? Yes, Apple – and Otellini just slapped Apple in the face without ever using their name: Touche.
Solar Powered Computing on Intel's Roadmap
Next up was Intel looking to the day when Solar powered computing would be a reality. Otellini stated that Intel's Haswell was a result of their longstanding obsession with power reduction. Ultrabook is just the latest example of this, but not the last, stated Otellini, and from there he opened the floor to a brief solar powered computing demo which showed a computer system running the Windows OS on solar power alone. The solar cell was about the size of a large postage stamp.
On that note, one has to acknowledge that Intel isn't alone on the solar cell front. Apple has initiated some new research in this area for handheld devices and even solar powered concepts for MacBooks. In fact, Apple was granted their third solar power related patent last week and even registered the domain iPodsolar.com.
However, the two companies are taking different approaches. Intel is shooting for gigantic strides in using solar energy as part the CPU if not the entire CPUs energy. Apple's approaches to date are basically about adding stored solar energy into the power management mix. The advantage to this is that it has the ability of coming to market much faster.
For now, if you want to view Intel's second demo/discussion on their Near Threshold Voltage IA processor, advance the video to about the 47 minute mark as a starting point. The impression that I got from another slide associated with this technology is that Intel is aiming this technology for use in 2018.
Panel Self Refresh Technology
One of the few interesting points made during Mooly Eden's presentation that wasn't a rehash of his IDF Spring Session keynote was that of an upcoming technology that's known as Panel Self Refresh Technology. The benefit of this technology is that it'll provide mobile devices with about an hour's worth of battery life over today's LVDS based displays.
In December 2010, Intel and AMD announced that by 2013 the two companies would no longer support LVDS in favor of scalable and lower power digital interfaces, such as DisplayPort or eDP. Leading PC manufacturers Dell, Lenovo, Samsung and LG Display announced similar plans to phase out legacy technologies in the coming years.
The year 2013 fits in with Intel's third Generation Ultrabook powered with Intel's 14nm processors dubbed Haswell. You could find more information on this technology over at Parade Technologies and/or view a portion of Mooly Eden's Keynote on this matter.
At the beginning and end of Mooly Eden's presentation Intel ran two different inspirational videos. They didn't match or come close to Apple's Think Different campaign but the idea was to charge up the troops that have been discouraged over the past few years by Apple's mobile revolution. Intel is turning upside down to get Haswell out the door on time to reinvent the PC and take Apple head on.
Yet until Intel is able to really make Haswell the centre piece of a future IDF, the industry is basically on hold. The initial phases of Ultrabook will be interesting and a challenge to Apple's MacBook Air starting with the introduction of the Ivy Bridge processor next year. But make no mistake about it, Intel's mobile counter revolution really only starts in phase three when Haswell will power the Ultrabook to take on the versatility of being both a notebook and tablet in an all-in-one form factor. Apple has toyed with this idea since 2008, if not earlier, but has remained deadly quite on any intentions of ever introducing such a unit. Apple may be playing chicken here so as to see if this will be a marketable winner. If they introduce it too early, it could also hurt iPad sales. At the end of the day, the Ultrabook will be the ultimate challenge to Apple's MacBook Air and to an extent the iPad. Business users will definitely be swayed by the third generation Ultrabook. And to really make this a charged up product, it'll be running Windows 8 with Metro, which leads us to part two of this report which covers all things Windows 8 Metro.