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Beyond the PC: The Emerging Smart Revolution

1B cover - Intel - Sandy Bridge will Revolutionize PCs Again
Over the years there have been some really dynamic opening IDF keynotes from Intel's CEO Paul Otellini. While this wasn't one of them, there was certainly a very important message for the whole industry to hear loud and clear. Why? Because while companies like Apple are changing their business model by stepping into the chip business, Intel is likewise stepping out of their traditional chip-centric role in the marketplace to become a total "Solutions Provider." Yet Intel isn't just changing, they're aggressively changing as they rapidly acquire new companies that will help them shape their new emerging business model. Last year's big news was their acquisition of Wind River. This year the train is picking up steam as they acquired McAfee for security software, Infineon for 3G and LTE technology and lastly acquiring the Texas Instruments cable modem business so as to fast-track their Smart TV initiatives. Beyond acquisitions, Otellini provided us with a peek at Sandy Bridge and provided us with an overview of what that powerful architecture will bring to the desktop in 2011. Yet it was a little segment at the end of the Perlmutter keynote that struck home the hardest. We were presented with a demo of a 3D Wand that could only come to life thanks to Sandy Bridge's powerful CPU/GPU architecture; a wand that resembled the outline of a recent Apple patent. Yet there was a twist to this wand that Apple could definitely adopt that would open the door to some rather interesting video gameplay. So tune in and we'll show you what all the fuss is all about. 


Intel's IDF Focus


Otellini began this segment by stating the he wanted to focus his keynote on three areas: "Number one: Intel's transformation into a computing solutions provider. Number two: The Essentials we see at Intel for building strong computing platforms; and thirdly, what happens, a glimpse into what happens when everything out there becomes smart.



The PC Industry is achieving a significant milestone this year: One million PCs sold per day. I think this momentum will continue and we're certainly investing for the continuing growth of the PC Industry. We're not alone though. Gartner believes that this year's growth will be 18% in units and in fact they're projecting next year 2011 will also be another 18% unit growth year over year."


What's driving this growth? Otellini said that's it's a combination of emerging markets, more disposable income and finally the shift from one PC per household to one PC per person due to the wide adoption of laptops. This is leading an untapped market, stated Otellini.


# 3 - proliferation of smart devices 


"But much of the energy in the Industry is about the spread of computing beyond the PC. And this is about the proliferation of a multitude of smart devices. There are about 5 billion devices now connected to the internet. If you parse them, about 2.8 billion of those are what I would call smart devices. They're devices that have sufficient local intelligence and connectivity to be able to give the user a multifunctional multidimensional experience. That number of smart devices is expected to more than double to over 5 billion by 2014.


In China, 50% of the people who download videos to their PC put those videos onto their handheld devices and watch them while they're on the go. It's a requirement for seamless connectivity. So with this proliferation of devices and applications a seamless experience of devices is becoming more and more urgent. It's a problem that we as an industry have not yet solved and it's an opportunity that we're going to be spending much of this developer's conference talking about."


Intel a Solutions Provider


We're in the process of changing how we as a company develop and deliver solutions. We're becoming a solutions provider. Ten years ago, Intel was focusing on just delivering great chips for PCs and servers. But today we have not just the best silicon for PCs and servers we're trying to deliver a full computing solutions stack to our customers and developers around the world.


 4 - Wind River 

Going forward, Otellini stated that we'll see Intel "deliver and develop more complete hardware and software solutions than we ever have in the past – and secondly you'll see us work at enabling services capabilities based upon our platforms." Otellini added, "This is one of the key reasons why Intel about a year ago, acquired Wind River Systems."


"In looking at Wind River we identified a need to enable customers to build out their software and service offerings in handsets, in embedded systems and consumer electronics. Wind River had the right products; they had the services and the expertise to deliver on this strategy." He quickly added that "we at Intel are committed to keeping them open and cross platform."


Computing Essentials: The Three Pillars of Computing


In this segment, Otellini began by stating that "I believe that there are fundamentally three pillars that are necessary for computer devices going forward.


Number one: Energy-Efficient Performance. Every device is demanding more and more performance but it's also simultaneously demanding less and less power. This requires significant engineering to be able to deliver.


The second thing is internet connectivity. This connectivity is enabling new usage models that we see day in and day out, emerging in front of us in terms of a variety of devices. One thing that we've worried about for some time was broadband. Last year worldwide residential broadband subscriptions grew to 573 million households. This year, 3G will touch a billion users by end of year. 4G is building momentum."


# 8 Essentials - 3 pillars of computing 

"The third pillar is rather new: It's security. Essentially, the time that we all spend online, the amount of data that we're now all accessing online, the amount that we trust our devices to protect us is going up. And quite frankly the bad-guy-threats are going up at the same time. Security is becoming an increasing need for all of us in all devices."


Otellini side stepped for a moment and provided us with an update. Beyond 32nm processors which will dominate the latter part of 2010 and most of 2011, Intel is actually ramping up their 22nm processor silicon which is still on track to surface sometime in the second half of 2011.


# 9 - Energy Efficient Performance 

Getting back to the subject of security, Otellini stated that "security is becoming a more complex topic." According to Otellini, Intel is "trying to change how platforms are secured." Intel's plan is to go beyond their current vPro security technology for the enterprise and "offer secure capabilities across the entire continuum of Intel architecture devices. The recent acquisition of McAfee Corporation by Intel is really focused at adding to those capabilities."


# 10 McAfee, Security 

 Otellini stated that "we're moving from a known bad model to something that is a known good model. What do I mean by that? Most security software and security schemes today take advantage of understanding the threat database of all known things that are out there. And protecting your PC against those threats as one tries to enter your computer. "Going forward" stated Otellini," wouldn't it be great if we could move to a known good model. Where we could secure the machine, give you a trusted machine that only allowed in trusted software. And that has the potential to eliminate not just the known bad attacks but to stop what's called in the industry a 'day zero' or first time attack. And we believe that only the combination of hardware and software based security can yield this kind of innovation and this kind of protection."


In Dadi Perlmutter's keynote, we see a new slide noted below concerning Security and Trust. Dadi added that Intel is adding new capabilities to Sandy Bridge that would add some kind of engine that would run under the OS and include a new kind of application. "We're going to bring things to life that really are important for us as consumers or people running businesses, anything with protection of identity, anything that has to do with detection and prevention of malware." You'll notice a few new things about security are being added to Sandy Bridge even though they weren't covered in the keynotes themselves.



The third [pillar], Otellini stated, is internet connectivity. Connectivity has been a key bottleneck for both access and sharing for many, many years.


# 11 - Infineon

This led Otellini to introduce their Infineon wireless acquisition that according to Otellini will eventually lead to leadership in delivering LTE technology in notebooks and more. The last acquisition that Intel briefly touched on was their latest concerning the Texas Instruments cable modem business. Otellini explained that "what we did here was purchase the cable modem products and technologies that allow us to bring the internet, video and advanced services into cable television; Essentially helping to enable our vision of the Smart TV.


Integrated Graphics


Otellini began this segment with a slide that he had first introduced back in 2007. Otellini reiterated what he had stated at that time that Intel was going to deliver integrated graphics by a power of 10X by 2010. His new report card on the matter, as shown below, clearly indicates that advancements in Core processors will blow away those forecasts by providing a whopping 25X improvement.


# 12 A - Integrated Graphics

"But there has been a fundamental shift since 2007. Great Graphics performance is required, but it isn't sufficient any more. If you look at what users are demanding an increasingly good experience, robust experience, across the spectrum of visual computing."


# 13 - Visual Computing

"Users care about everything that they see on their screen and not just 3D Graphics. And so delivering a great visual experience requires media performance of all types; in games, in video playback, in video transcoding, in media editing, 3D graphics and in display. And Intel is committed to delivering leadership platforms in visual computing not just in PCs but across the continuum."


Software Environments


In this segment, Otellini begins by stating that "another critical element of platforms is software. There is with the proliferation of all of these smart devices, you're seeing an abundance of software environments being generated. Intel's strategy has for many years been something that we call Port of Choice. Every major operating system that is out there is one that we want ported to our architecture and optimised to our architecture to the point where it runs best on Intel. And even this world [the software world] is getting more complex. 


Port of Choice - Intel slide IDF 2010   

Today you're seeing us support Linux, Chrome, Mac OS, Windows, Android and most recently, MeeGo. MeeGo is something that we've been building for some years now as an open software platform such that OEMs and service providers can take part of the innovation and software services that are occurring with this proliferation of devices that are out there." This is a topic that will be better covered by Renee James's Day 2 keynote.


Sneaking the iPhone into an IDF Keynote



Interesting to note that during one segment having Intel customers plug all things Intel, Intel put together images that once again clearly are using the iPhone in the video as if it's an Intel product. They get away with it at this keynote technically because of the use of the Infineon chip within the iPhone that is now an Intel part: Sneaky Intel … very sneaky (ha!) – Propaganda at its best.


Sony/Google TV + Cisco Cius Tablet on Atom Architecture



Otellini finished this segment of a series of customer-centric videos by stating that "What I loved about that video was that it showed a number of a number of new customers and some old customers but using Intel architecture in new ways. And we get real excited about that because we see the beginnings of the build out of this continuum.


Otellini later on stated that he was most excited about Smart TV. "This category I believe will take off very quickly. One of the first products being launched will happen this fall, with Google TV, the partnership between Google, Intel and Logitech…" The small demo of Google TV was basically showing how TV will merge with internet. The TV screen could be shrunk into a PIP (Picture-in-Picture) window and vice versa.


Update: On Day 2 of IDF Doug Davis, VP of Embedded and Communications Group at Intel discussed Smart TV in his keynote at the 8:57 to 12:00 minute mark (and up to the 18:44 mark if you listen to Microsoft's take on Smart TV. Their Smart TV box to compete with Apple will ship in 2011).


Smart TV 2 - slide - idf 2010 Intel 

 Apple's CEO Steve Jobs is adamant that users don't want this capability. I'm not so sure about that position. Though time will tell if Internet-TV will take off or crash over the years – I think that some version of it will succeed. Especially if we see video calling integrated into Smart TV. And this is where LTE technology that Intel has acquired could come into play, big time. Let's hope that Apple is seriously rethinking their Apple TV strategy because in light of Intel's acquisition of TI's cable modem business, I think that Apple could be in store for some real competition on this front. In an all important market like Smart TV, Apple can't afford to keep swinging and coming up empty. 


On tablets, Otellini stated that "Another area that all of us have seen in the last couple of quarters is the emergence of the tablet technology: A real viable, incremental option to computing that's out there. You saw comments from Cisco about their amazing product Cius." You should note in the graphic above that the Cius is the smaller 7" type of touch tablet that Cisco is determined to bring to the enterprise in the not-too-distant future. One of the options for this tablet is that it doubles as a video phone display. Perhaps this is an area that Apple could pursue in the future for the home market.


The Smart Revolution


# 15 - SMART

In the third part of Otellini's keynote he spoke on the evolution of "Smart." "I'd like to start in the PC space and talk a little about Sandy Bridge. Sandy Bridge will revolutionize PCs again. This chip has unprecedented feature integration for us. On one single chip, we've put in place, all the critical capabilities for computing, from not just the core microprocessor capabilities but things like graphics which allow us to now control performance and power across all system requirements. So we could take performance up when you need it and we could take power down when you don't need the performance in a very seamless fashion." Below is a graphic displaying the new "Sandy Bridge" Core Processor Logo family that Intel will be using in 2011.


New Second Generatioin Intel Core logo for Sandy Bridge - Copy

"It delivers amazing performance, particularly in the area of media capability. Things that used to take hours to process in terms of high definition video on a notebook – will take literally seconds" on Sandy Bridge states Otellini. "It will also drive exciting changes in the desktop. The desktop is becoming the central hub for many – many homes." Something that Steve Jobs said more than a decade ago.


According to Otellini, "Sandy Bridge will begin to ship in very high volume early in 2011." In August Otellini stated that "Due to the very strong reception of Sandy Bridge, we have accelerated our 32nm factory ramp, and have raised our CapEx guidance to enable us to meet the anticipated demand." Obviously Mr. Otellini overhyped the delivery of Sandy Bridge for that conference call – considering that new chip ramp ups usually happen in that time frame anyways: Tisk-tisk Mr. Otellini.


Computing 2020


"The compute environment that we live in today is really just the beginning. These are just incredible statistics that IDC just published. Taking a guess at what computing in 2020 is going to look like: 50 Trillion Gigabytes of data, 2 Trillion financial transactions per year, 31 billion connected devices, 4 Billion connected people etc etc. The kind of world that we're going to live in. The kind of connectivity is only going to expand and it's going to expand much more rapidly than it has – even in the last decade."


# 17 - computing 2020

Sandy Bridge & Sensors


In Perlmutter's keynote there was an interesting segment on Sandy Bridge and sensors. Perlmutter invited Jeff Bellingshausen, founder and CTO of Sixense to talk about sensing.



One of the demos was using the Razer Sixense controller running on Sandy Bridge. "So what the Sixense technology does is give you absolute one-to-one position and orientation tracking. So that means that I can pick up this object with the controller (as noted above), move it left and right, up and down, all the way in and out. " Bellingshausen went on to say that "this application has a very high performance CAD engine built into it. So I can take these objects and do different kinds of modeling operations." This is very floating point intensive. Another exciting application possibility that has promise is 3-D television technology.


This application reminds me of Apple's 3D remote patent. It matches the CAD and 3D modeling aspects almost to the letter. That of course will get any Macite excited because the Sixense shows us another great twist that Apple could take with their future 3D wand in respect to gaming. See the video below: 


Apple's 3D wand could one day provide us with some very cool gaming capabilities if it follows some kind of gaming model as we see outlined in the video above. 


2011: It's All About Sandy Bridge


Intel's message seemed to be in many ways, contradictory. On one hand it was about going beyond the PC into the emerging Smart Revolution. On the other hand it was about Sandy Bridge and the smarts that it will bring to the PC. Yet somehow, through this contradictory message, you somehow walk away from both keynotes thinking that maybe, just maybe, we could have our cake and eat it too.  



At the end of the day if all of the promises relating to smart capabilities and advanced GUIs discussed at IDF and elsewhere come to life in the next two years, then perhaps we are in fact on the cusp of witnessing the Renaissance of the desktop. And for most of us, it couldn't come fast enough.


On the practical side of the equation I have to admit that I was surprised and highly disappointed to not hear a word about the timing of USB 3.0 or Light Peak to market. Light Peak was the big buzz of IDF 2009 and not a word of follow-up was to be had on this subject matter. A lot of consumers understandably want to know when Intel will begin to shift to the next generation I/O and the sooner the better.



Review our previous IDF Reports here.


Update: On Sept. 16, 2010, news of Intel's intention for USB 3.0 emerged. USB will be added to Intel's host controller in 2012. The delay may be considered a tactic so as to allow Intel's next generation I/O Light Peak to debut at the same time or earlier than USB 3.0.




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