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Tuesday's opening IDF keynote by Intel's CEO Paul Otellini was interesting in many ways. It presented us with a message that Intel was on the cusp of change. A change from a company focused on computers to a company focused on computing. Otellini shows us the how the industry is rapidly evolving and reveals a rather stunning shift that Intel is prepared to make in order to prove that they're ready for this new era ahead. The implications of that shift will have a rippling effect in the years ahead I suspect. Otellini also pointed to in-vehicle infotainment, in part because of their Wind River acquisition – and to spice up the show, Otellini takes a whack at Apple's iPhone in no uncertain terms.


Intel's IDF 2009 fall session began on Tuesday with Paul Otellini's keynote on "Building a Continuum of Computing." His keynote began with a video that seemed rather rushed and outdated in style. The message of the video was as follows: Imagine: A world in which every computing experience is highly personalized, yet comfortably familiar; a world where the quality of the user experience remains constant across an ever expanding spectrum of computing devices; Leading the transformation from the era of the personal computer to the era of personal computing. In this world, developers create once and deploy across the entire spectrum, providing users with the freedom to move seamlessly from one platform to another putting each at the center of their own personal universe [noted as YOUniverse]. Welcome to the Continuum. An experience that all begins, right here [An Intel chip is shown].


Very early on in Otellini's keynote, he makes a rather striking statement that almost felt like the end of an era unfolding before my eyes. He stated that "While Moore's Law is very, very predictable; I think that the continuum is not. For quite some time, what we've been focused on are things like speed, size and battery life. Those are still important. But increasingly, the differentiation is around things like bandwidth, user interfaces, social networking, and even tweets. As a result, IDF is changing. The nature of IDF is that it used to be a PC event, with a very narrow focus around PCs."


Otellini provided us with stats that spelled out the reality of the day. In 1997, 60 percent of the IDF attendees were PC OEMs with only a handful of attendees representing the software side of the equation. Juxtapose that to today's mix and you see why Intel thinks that it has to evolve. Out of 4000 attendees at this year's IDF, only 20 percent represent PC OEMs. The remainder is broken down roughly as follows: 10 percent from the consumer electronics; 10 percent from the communications industry; 15 percent from software, 12.5 percent from other industries be it energy, financial and healthcare. While Otellini's math leaves us with only about two-thirds of the total attendee mix, we get the picture that the world is changing and that Intel must lead in new ways to remain relevant.  


"This is a profound shift for Intel," stated Otellini. And "how we build this continuum out is the topic of my talk today."


System-on-Chips: New Rules, New Markets


Paul Otellini stated that "SoCs are a big investment for Intel," and to prove it, Otellini announced that Intel is porting the Atom core over to TSMC. And in doing so Intel is "rewriting the traditional rules of how Intel has operated," Otellini explains. "We're not doing this for capacity. We're doing this to be able to reach out to new customers, to allow customers who want to embed their own intellectual property onto an Atom core SoC, or to use the wide variety of library devices, IO devices, that exist at TSMC to build semi-custom devices around the Atom for themselves. New rules, new markets," Otellini concludes. 


Software: Ta-Ta Client/Server


For most of Otellini's career, he admitted that the core software environment called the client/server was king. "That's no longer true," stated Otellini.  Today, "it's all about multiple clients and multiple clouds, and building devices and infrastructure that support that wide variety of clients, taking advantage of cloud infrastructure as it's built out."  Otellini touted that Intel is very committed to their development community and that in the last couple of years they've acquired up to 10 companies in the software area alone to be able to flesh out the tools to bring developers better graphics, SoC capabilities and more. In the area of graphics, the acquisitions of Havok and Project Offset come to mind. Others include Cilk Arts and Rapidmind who focus on parallelism - and the most important acquisition of all perhaps, is that of Wind River – that will give Intel a multicore real-time commercial grade OS called VxWorks that Intel will likely push quickly to open up for their developers. This could be a huge opportunity for developers.


Half-Baked: Videoconferencing on a Handheld Demo  


At the 28 minute mark of Otellini's keynote Intel showed off their next generation microarchitecture called Sandy Bridge that they had up and running on a PC to applause from the crowd. Not that it did anything to warrant the applause, mind you. But I guess it was to show it was well ahead of schedule, unlike Nehalem, which was late. Then onto another classic Intel demo flop. What would an IDF show be without one? The onstage engineer touted that video conferencing, via Windows 7 Live Messenger, could only be done on a handheld using Windows 7 on Intel's Atom architecture.  The funny thing about this so-called "videoconferencing" demo was that they had a person on the other end of the line that just waved hello on the handheld. He didn't say a damn word! What the heck did Intel think that proved? How do I know that it wasn't just a stale video feed that I was seeing?  Ha! - What would an IDF event be without another half baked nonsensical Intel demo? Yet the point here is that Wintel was trying to show-off; trying to show that they had something over Apple's iPhone, in my view, and they proved nothing. In fact, it simply showed a sense of desperation. On the other hand, we know that when Steve Jobs decides to show us a demo of videoconferencing on an iPhone, it will be on sale the next day. No hocus pocus nonsense or vaporware- delight will be needed.


The Astounding Netbook: Intel Takes a Whack at Apple


According to Otellini, the success of the netbook has been nothing shy of astounding and he had no problem taking a whack at Apple for downplaying this hot new device segment. According to Otellini, " I'm comparing here the first six quarters of shipments of the three hottest consumer electronics devices in the last three years: the iPhone, the Wii and the netbook. And the netbook has outpaced all of these after the third quarter, and really, there's no looking back.


IDF - iPhone


Otellini continued on the netbook theme by pointing to the opportunity around the netbook and how to accelerate volume even faster. "One of the things that become very clear to us – is that we need a better applications environment."  Of course, Intel went on to announce that they'll have to … copy … Apple's app store innovation. Not that the words "copy" or "Apple" were ever used here in this context folks, but please - give me a break. Otellini just made sure to put the iPhone on a chart that puts them last because … it doesn't use an Intel processor? Nah - that would be too cynical of me. No matter how you look at it, I found it to be the politest elbow in the face that I've seen since the Stanley Cup playoffs.    


The first three customers noted to be jumping on Intel's app store framework, known as the "Intel Atom Developer Program" is Dell, Asus and Acer. But fun aside, the advantage seen for the Atom architecture longer term is in the embedded arena. This will be accelerated now that Intel has acquired Wind River and Atom will at some point rapidly work its way through the continuum. 


Connecting the Embedded World


IDF - The embedded world


As you see can clearly see in the slide above, embedded Atom will work its way into a million and one areas of life both commercially and recreationally from wearable PCs to hotel concierge systems to military training devices to hospital bedside equipment to security cameras and so forth. This will, over time, give Atom based handhelds an advantage over the iPhone in many cases. There's no doubt that the momentum is on Apple's side of the equation at the moment - so we'll have to see if Apple feels the need to blink and put a toe into the Atom platform at some point in time.


Intel's Drive into the Auto Infotainment Market


While admittedly the embedded market is a little down the road, Otellini wanted to dive deeper into a multi-billion dollar segment of the industry that Intel is focused on like a laser beam. It's that of the infotainment system market that is growing at 17 percent even in this depressed economic auto sector. The problem is that each manufacturer has had to tend to their own systems and expensively rebuild the entire base generation after generation of system. "They to," stated Otellini, "are seeing the benefits of a consistent, persistent architecture." Otellini then pointed to the new alliance called GENIVI which is focused on creating interoperable standards for in-vehicle infotainment systems across the auto industry.


IDF in-vehicle stats


One of players in this market that Intel has been working with for the past three years is Harman Becker who has recently secured BMW and Daimler design wins for Atom-based systems.  We'll see BMW S and C-Class series adopting it in 2012. 




Otellini used these win announcements to plug Atom as a platform as one with momentum behind it because it's both scalable and a reusable architecture. 


On the flipside, Apple has been very active on this front for years ensuring that every major car maker had some form of iPod integration scheme in place and this year alone we've seen several key patents of Apple's focused on in-vehicle navigation. See: One, two, three and four. Apple's latest iPhone 3G-S also introduced Maps + Compass and now has the best turn-by-turn car navigation system available via "Tom Tom for iPhone."


Power Coming to Future Atom Handhelds


Atom roadmap


Otellini quickly brushed over the power that's coming to Atom based handhelds. He stated that "In 2011 we move to 32 nanometers in Medfield, and that really allows us to bring our architecture into smart phones in the smallest format. It reduces again the board size, the power, the chip count, et cetera, and I think it’s going to unleash as yet unimagined devices." Is that what he's calling the 2011 iPhone? I jest of course.  Otellini was likely referring to Moblin based devices and to prove it he ran a video of a "future conceptual cell phone." 


A moblin collage for a future phone


Paul, Paul, Paul, why is it always about the "future" instead of the present. Apple's iPhone is out today. Just tell folks to go out and buy one to experience a "future Atom cell phone." Really, it's much simpler that way.   But no – Paul Otellini instead invited Claire Alexander to the stage who is the Moblin User Interaction and User Experience Design Lead to update the developer community on the advances of the Moblin based cell phone. It's supposedly due out sometime in late 2010.


Intel on the Cusp of Change


In January 2007, Steve Jobs announced that "Computer" was being removed from its name. The new Apple Inc. branding would better reflect the consumer electronics side of Apple. On Tuesday, Intel's Paul Otellini made an announcement of their own - though perhaps not as dramatic. Otellini stated that "Intel is going to be using the continuum opportunity as an ability to move from personal computers as a company to personal computing."




"On the research side," stated Otellini, "we're going to drive the future of mobile and the computing experience in every way we know. And we're expanding the spectrum and gluing it all together. We have a lot of work to do together. What do I mean by that? One of the things that we've done in the past few months, as part of our “Sponsors of Tomorrow” campaign, is we ran large electronic billboards in some of the major cities in the world. The picture here is the one in Times Square. And we asked people to text in their ideas of what they wanted from technology – what they wanted from computing in the future. And we were surprised. During the time we ran this campaign, we got 24,000 suggestions a day. And as we went through them we found it inspiring, because it says that we can't, as a developer community, sit still. Our customers don't want what we have today; they want what we can invent tomorrow."




Otellini concluded his keynote by stating that some of these customer driven ideas shown in our closing video were "inspiring." You could see some of the ideas presented in the video in the collage created for this report, above (click to enlarge). Otellini continued by stating that "they give you an idea of what we have to build. Some of those things are kind of wacky. Some of them, I think, are great business ideas. Some of them we know how to do. Some of them, like the time machine, are a little ways out. But it's pretty clear that delivering on what our customers want is going to take the energy and the collaboration of everyone in this room and in the industry. And in doing so, we have a chance to make computing truly personal."


At the End of the Day


At the end of day, we clearly see that Intel is at the cusp of a revolutionary change, though only in time will we understand the full extent of the changes ahead. Otellini didn't have much to tout at this IDF, but did point to some minor advances in the pipeline. Their video conferencing demo flopped and they took a whack at Apple's iPhone in support of their own netbook segment. But the one point that struck me as the winning announcement of the day and one that will carry over for years to come is the one in respect to TSMC. When Otellini stated "New rules, new markets" – I couldn't help but wonder if this was a clear invitation for Apple to move their iPhone over to Atom or a way to give Intel's other customers a way to more aggressively attack Apple's iPhone.  There's a strange undertone that's hard to decipher between Intel and Apple of late. And it's hard to say where this is going. But to be sure, we'll be keeping an eye on it.


What's your take on the Apple-Intel partnership?





My take is that the partnership is in much better shape than Intel's mobile solutions.

Apple's Mac line will continue to pick appropriate, leading solutions that target their desktop market. And they will continue to push the envelope aggressively on non-Intel phones, game/music iPods and probably a tablet/netbook, which might surprise people by running basically OSX. (Just as they had X86 OSX running for years before they made The Switch, the head of engineering would be long gone if there weren't a careful analysis of what proprietary extensions ARM needed to make an ultralight that kicked butt on OSX, and probably several prototypes even.) Nothing to stop Apple from sucking up to Acorn _IF_ they wanted to (Fat Chance Dept).

On the Intel side, allowing TSMC to incorporate Acorn IP into other spaces is basically an admission that they can't touch ARM's power budget by themselves. Give 'em the benefit of the doubt on netbooks and smartphones even, there's no hope for Acorn on the smartphone that will use any of those non-existent apps, so Acorn will be appropriate for a stripped-down Windows experience, i.e., the netbooks, on which margins for everybody beside Intel have gotta be virtually zero.

I think that Intel has worked very hard with Apple in the hopes of them using Atom. I'm not sure, however, that they're happy about the way things have turned out thus far. That's what makes your point very interesting, Jo. We'll see what happens in 2010.

Maybe we'll see Apple's engineers work together with Intel and TSMC to create a new Atom-hybrid for their future tablet. One that would give Apple an edge while boosting Intel's Atom image


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