IDF 2010 Beijing: Apple's iPhone in Intel's Crosshairs
Intel's CEO Paul Otellini kicked off his January 2010 keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with a bang when he stated that we were "on the cusp of a new era in computing: An era of personal computing, essentially where we have many devices for every person - For computing is increasingly integrated into every aspect of our lives. These changes are transforming the industry and they're transforming Intel." One of the key forces behind this change was Intel's acquisition of Wind River. Their footprint on Intel was felt throughout several of this spring's IDF keynotes and our report's first graphic, in fact, is titled Welcome to the Embedded World to make that point crystal clear. Yet the news that will be most interesting to Macites this day – is in how obsessed Intel is over Apple's iPhone. Intel wants to challenge Apple in the smartphone sector and in order to that they're aggressively creating a new developer platform to sideline Apple and the iPhone. You have to wonder if Intel once believed that by wooing Apple over to the Intel architecture that they'd eventually gain Apple's favor in creating future smartphones and netbooks based on Intel. The iPhone seems to grind on Intel and I don't know whether to laugh or be concerned. Time will tell.
Welcome to the Embedded World
The keynote that Doug Davis, Intel's VP of Embedded and Communications Group, presented was titled "Connected, Intelligent, Pervasive: Transformations in Embedded Computing." While his keynote is not a focal point of this report, the fact is that his message was one that presented Intel's future and one that is at the epicenter of change brought on by several major moves that Intel is making into the Chinese market.
The profound market shifts that Intel is now undertaking will empower Intel's future for the next several decades. Bringing the massive embedded-world market under Intel's architectural roof is going to make this ten ton Marketing Gorilla an unstoppable force in the next decade. Intel's move into the embedded market is now emboldening them to create a new one-architecture, one-world dominating view of how all computing must be done. And in Renee James' keynote to follow, you'll see Intel's vision at ground level prior to take-off.
Winds of Change: Unlocking the Future with Intel
The Shifting Intel Architecture
The key portion of Renee James' keynote began when she stated that "I know you know Intel for our traditional computing but you'll now be seeing us in markets that you might not expect us. In new areas like internet connected TVs and digital signage. Intel's Atom is moving into many new markets and bringing full computing now to devices. So I want to look at two categories specifically and talk about that. One is the netbook … and the other is the smartphone…"
"For software developers, the growth in new segments offers new platforms for development. And whenever we see new platforms, we see a big surge in the developer market. What happens is, there's a whole bunch of new usages, which new companies come out of serving those markets and we deliver innovation which grows the market."
"The real issue for developers today, is which software platform, which developer environment should they use with all of this growth in devices. I want to speak specifically about the smartphone market which is a huge market in China, obviously, as an example, though this is true across multiple device markets. In the handset market there are multiple different operating environments; it's highly fragmented, it's very difficult for developers to be able to target a single environment across multiple platforms."
"IDC estimates that for developers, it's five times the original development costs of an application to move between different phone architectures and different software platforms. Those kinds of costs don't scale for small developers, they don't even scale for large developers and they create a very inefficient design ecosystem." "So for Atom, for Intel, what we've decided to do is to enable a single developer platform for Atom based devices across multiple segments of computing."
"What we announced at Mobile World Congress in February with our partner Nokia (the company suing Apple) is the creation of MeeGo which is designed to run across all Atom based devices. There are changes in some of the specific modules obviously for different uses - There's different user experiences – but the core platform the developers write to, the core SDK and APIs will be the same across Atom based devices."
"We believe this will help developers to target innovation on the Intel platform and reduce the cost of re-targeting different devices when working on Intel. It's from our perspective, the underlying layer of the continuum, this scenario of how we believe people will use computing, is Intel Architecture, a single developer platform and the cloud infrastructure around it."
MeeGo Devices will begin rolling out in the second half of this year covering netbooks, tablets, smartphones and more. Just in case you missed it above, and I rather doubt that you did, Intel's keynote slide illustrating Apple's iconic Mac OS symbology is tantamount to declaring war on iPhone OS 4 which covers the iPod touch, iPad and iPhone. Why they chose the "Mac OS" if baffling, but that's Intel for you.
Renee James ended this portion of her keynote by her stating that "We think that this combination of a complete developer platform really is what will bring the future closer and enable this vision of the compute continuum."
A Message from Intel and Nokia
An NFC Transaction at a Kiosk
One of the live presentation elements in Renee James' keynote covered the use of NFC enabled handheld with an NFC enabled kiosk. These topics were recently revealed in a couple of Apple patent reports respectfully titled "Apple Introduces us to a New iTunes "Concert Ticket +" System" and "NFC iPhone to Control All of Your In-Home Electronics & More."
Realizing the Potential of Connected Computing
David Perlmutter, Executive Vice President Intel Architecture Group presented a keynote titled "Realizing the Potential of Connected Computing in which a few minor things of interest arose including another whack at Apple's iPhone.
One of the more interesting little show and tell moments came when an Intel rep showed off a four-way "video-game conferencing" feature which was powered by Intel's upcoming six core systems. More cores, more threads equal more detail and interactivity in gaming. If Intel is focusing on the smart TV of the future, one could only hope that they have a plan to bring the quality of PC gaming to our living room so as to challenge the underpowered gaming consoles.
Perlmutter continues his keynote at the 30:00 minute mark by stating "But we're not resting, and we're developing our next generation architecture code name: Sandy Bridge."
"We're going to bring this product [Sandy Bridge] to production in fourth quarter this year. It is an impressive leap in energy-efficient performance; significant advances in media and 3D performance and we're introducing a new set of instructions called the advanced vector extension to enhance floating point and intensive application performance."
Perlmutter and the iPhone: What was he Saying?
Then came Perlmutter's stranger point about the iPhone: "We talked about computing… let's talk about connectivity. Broadband connectivity is extremely important to go and connect all these devices into the data centers, into the cloud. Adding these devices (the "AT&T iPhone Mess" slide shown below pops up) as I mentioned earlier increase the requirements from the network in a significant manner. When iPhone was introduced, the AT&T Network was really having hard time to really meet the demand. AT&T spent a lot of time since then to go and increase the capacity. And the more devices you put and the more sophisticated high performance devices one puts on the network it increases the data capacity requirements from the network. And one laptop could generate more traffic than 15 smartphones and more traffic than 450 voice handsets. This is a huge amount of data to be transferred. We've been working with the industry in creating 4G data networks: WiMAX."
"WiMAX is covering more than 600 million people around the globe and creates new capabilities, new performance …new capacity. I would like to use the Taiwan example. More than 30 different services have been enabled on top of the WiMAX network that was built last year in Taiwan. And you could go over this, but I'd like to point out one example just to make it clear. A city guide built an atom based computer into the taxi and gets tourists. And the taxi driver or the tourist guide at his finger tips could get whatever data needed about the location that they're going to and get it in a fast efficient manner using this extremely fast network."
On one hand, Perlmutter's inclusion of the "AT&T iPhone Mess" slide could have been simply to hammer the point home that Intel's push into 4G via WiMAX will be superior to competing 4G solutions now in the works. On the other hand, being that Renee James put the crosshairs on Apple's iPhone and OS – I'm not sure it wasn't a concerted effort on Intel's part. Remember, Patently Apple's report titled "Intel IDF 2009: On the Cusp of a Whole New Industry," presented a video of Intel's head of marketing Don MacDonald putting the iPhone down behind the scenes and it wasn't the first time that an Intel rep has been caught saying something derogatory about the iPhone. It seems to be very personal – whatever their beef is with the iPhone.
Small Points of interest
You'll notice in the slide below that the strongest form factor leading the statistical growth curve is none other than a "Minitower." Let's hope that Apple's recent patent on such a beast was Apple reading the tea leaves correctly and not just to toying with us – Ha!
The Next Generation Netbook
One of Intel's passions is no doubt the netbook which is about to take a leap frog in features including a built-in video cam, a display that twists into a tablet and is touch based as well as stylus capable. Intel's Otellini took a quiet whack at Apple in September 2009 when driving the point home that it was the netbook that had the greatest growth curb and not Apple's iPhone.
It should be noted that Apple may have a plan of their own for a convertible notebook like this, but more sophisticated to be sure.
Without Paul Otellini, Sean Maloney or the one time enthusiastically engaging Pat Gelsinger giving a classic keynote, the IDF was a little flat. That said there were some interesting moments both good and bad. I liked some of Doug Davis' keynote but the future of in-vehicle dashboards as presented by Delphi Electronics doesn't look promissing. In face they were horrific. Please Delphi talk to Apple for your infotainment GUI. If not, let's hope it's designed so that an iPhone feature could hijack the system in some way.
I was hoping to hear that Intel was ahead of schedule on both Sandy Bridge and Light Peak but that wasn't meant to be. Sandy Bridge systems will ship sometime in the first half of 2010.
Although I think that Apple will be able to work with Intel on things like infotainment system integration and harmony with Apple devices – I wonder if Intel is trying to force Apple's hand on forging ahead with a custom architecture for their portables. Don't hold your breath on that one Otellini.
On trends, it was great to see that NFC has finally come to the fore and that Apple is on track for when this revolution hits North America. Also the trend towards mini towers and convertible notebooks are also trends that Apple has shown to be investigating, though only time will tell if Apple intends to deliver on these.
But at the end of the day, we see that the iPhone is apparently getting under Intel's skin and has been for some time now. We may never understand what's behind their behavior and desire to stick in a dig at the iPhone at every keynote opportunity. I guess that says a lot about the power of the iPhone and the absolutely great job that the Crazy One's in Cupertino are doing.
To review past reports covering other Intel events like IDF (Intel Developer Conference), check out our Tech: IDF+ section found in our sidebar.
When was it that an Intel (Moorestown) v. widescreen MID was held up in an audience as a rival to the iPhone? Seems only 3 years ago that Intel was pushing UMP, MID's. Menlow, Silverthorne, Moorestown? No wonder Intel has a bee in their bonnet - they don't want ARM chips running further away - It took them long enough to get Atom to stop guzzling so much power, and move towards the smaller, power sipping chips for smaller handheld devices. We'll see about whether Apple is really serious about making AMD a possibility for Macs - It could be a switch Apple could make. The "we've been secretly compiling our OS" could well be happening currently. WWDC 2010 might shed some light.
Posted by: Tom | April 18, 2010 at 11:44 AM
That's in the period in which Apple would've made a final decision to go with what is now the A4 instead of an Atom as the basis for iPad and future iPhones/iPod touch.
Along these lines, What do you think of this? http://www.technomicon.com/Tech_Chat.html
He believes Apple's A4 is based on the PA6T chip of PA Semi, which uses IBM's POWER Architecture. This would fit perfectly with Apple's hiring of Mark Papermaster, IBM's top expert in POWER architecture, in Nov 2008, and IBM's suit to stop it.
Posted by: kevin | April 17, 2010 at 08:48 AM
The Intel chips are irrelevant to Apple. If Intel finally makes some superior chips, Apple will use them as its mobile OS is extremely portable (pun intended). But if they don't, Apple won't. Very simple.
Posted by: synthmeister | April 17, 2010 at 07:19 AM
Intel has a vested interest to have everyone fighting to use their stuff. Apple is really leaving them out of the iPhone party and they need to stir the pot to see if they can get Apple to flinch.
Intel is doing well as of late, but they're not infallible either. I wouldn't be too concerned by this Intel "threat." The real pressure on Apple comes of the handset hardware and software, not the chips so much at this time. There are some really good chips out there, but Apple seems to be milking theirs better than anyone else right now.
Posted by: R | April 16, 2010 at 07:38 PM