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Intel Developers Forum

Intel kicked off its annual Intel’s Developers Forum (IDF) talking about reinventing computing.  This involves collaboration to shape the future from datacenters to devices.  In prior years Intel emphasized heavily its lineup of processors, manufacturing technology and focused on consumer products.  These things were of course presented this year and ultrabooks are an important innovation that Intel is promoting.  The next generation Core CPU, Haswell, is also highly anticipated.  Nevertheless, the datacenters and cloud services played a bigger role this year.

Datacenters with servers, communications infrastructures, cloud services and security are just not sexy enough for the general public.  However, the continued growth of smartphones, tablets and personal computing is dependent on the build out and continuing innovations of datacenters to support these devices.  Security throughout this ecosystem is being addressed by Intel and was discussed in detail.

The data centers are an important business for Intel.  As noted in its most recent financial statements it is the company’s fastest growing segment and best profit margin.

Intel noted the oft cited growth of data traffic and increasing number of connected devices.  There is a wealth of data that businesses can analyze and extract vital information.  Therefore, even more powerful processors are necessary for this task.  The soon to be released Xeon Phi is a co-processor for the Xeon processors.  The Xeon Phi has 64-cores and delivers 10 petaFlops performance for highly parallel applications.  This is targeted at high performance computing.

However, there is more to the data center than more processing power.  There is also connectivity and security.  A cohesive message throughout IDF was that all of the devices and platforms eventually tie back to the datacenters.  In addition to cloud services for consumer and enterprise, there is also a new vision for embedded control.  Intel has redubbed its embedded control group as the Intelligent Systems Group.  Rather than isolated islands of embedded computing such as point of sale terminals, ATMs, kiosks, industrial controls, etc. these will become interconnected.  This will enable companies to derive information and be able to better manage their business.  These intelligent systems will connect to datacenters.  ISG’s goal is to simplify the internet of things.

IDF 2012 Highlights


This is the fourth generation of Intel Core microarchitecture.  It will be manufactured on the current 22nm process same as Ivy Bridge (third generation Core).  Haswell is based on Ivy Bridge but with numerous enhancements.  This is the “Tock” in Intel’s MPU “Tick-Tock Strategy”.  The result will be improved performance and power consumption.  Idle power has been cut by 20 times due to improved power management.  Within the same power envelope Haswell will have much higher performance of Ivy Bridge.  Conversely the same performance can be achieved at a much lower power consumption level.  The graphics performance is double compared to Ivy Bridge.

Haswell has integrated the CPU, graphics controller and memory controller, essentially all the functions associated with what used to be called the north bridge of the PC chipset.  It is a multichip package.  The other die is the Peripheral Controller Hub formerly known as the I/O Hub or the South Bridge.  Haswell is a scalable platform so there will be different MPUs that can be used across platforms from tablet PCs to servers.  These devices will roll out throughout 2013.  Intel did not give a specific roadmap.


Intel still has high expectations for the conversion of the notebook market to the ultrabook form factor.  The ramp up in the first half of 2012 has been slower than expected and consequently inventory levels have increased.  Intel is confident that in 4Q 2012 that 40% of the consumer notebooks will be ultrabooks.  What will help spur this trend is the release of Microsoft Windows 8 in late October 2012, new form factors and systems available for as low as $599.

As the ultrabook form factor continues to evolve new features will be introduced.  The ultrabook will be more than an extra thin and light notebook PC with fast turn on and long battery life.  The user experience will be enhanced.  Soon there will be ultrabooks available that will feature touch screens, voice input, wireless charging, facial analysis, gesture control and augmented reality.  All these modes of interaction will work together.  This will require the addition of more sensors and HD cameras, including 3D cameras.  Touch screens will add $100 to the base price of the system.  Intel surveys indicate that 80% of users want touch.  This could result in pulling the hardware refresh cycle in by a year.

The ultrabook form factor is focused on screens that are 13 inches and larger.  New form factors are being introduced.  These are the convertible ultrabooks which are being distinguished from the traditional clamshell ultrabooks.  The convertibles have screens that flip or fold back, can be snapped out of or slid out from the keyboard and are able to be used like a tablet PC.  But these are still considered ultrabooks.

The new desktop

The desktop PC has been in decline for the last few years eroding at the rate of low single digit percentages.  However, Intel is excited about a new generation of desktop PCs that are emerging.  The All-in-One (AIO) has been around but in very small volume.  Over the last few years Intel claims that this sub-segment has been growing at a 30%+ annual rate.  But more is happening to AIO than just eliminating the tower case and putting the motherboard behind the screen.  Touch is being added to the screen.  A new version is emerging, the Adaptive AIO.  This form factor allows a user to be able to disconnect the screen from its base and power source and move it around.  It has battery in it that can last a few hours.  One could set it on an easel or flat on a table top.  At first thought this seems like an extra large tablet PC!  Intel demo’ed a prototype model from Sony which will be marketed as the DeskTab.

Manufacturing Technology

Everything appears to be on track for Intel’s manufacturing technology.  Intel’s Mark Bohr stated that the company has a 10 year visibility on its roadmap starting with 32nm in 2009.  A new manufacturing process is released to manufacturing every two years.  In 2013, products on 14nm will roll out.  This will be followed by 10nm in 2015, 7nm in 2017, and 5nm in 2019.  Mark Bohr explained that there are two versions at each node: CPU and SoC versions.  The 22nm SoC version is ready but not yet released.  In the past the CPU and SoC versions were more than a year apart.  This difference is being reduced. Mark Bohr stated that no impediments are foreseen that could upset Moore’s Law.

Semico Spin

Intel presented a rosy picture of the future as usual at IDF.  Even in tough economic times Intel doubles down and will not back off on its aggressive technology roadmap.  As noted above, at IDF 2012 Intel had a cohesive message that all of the devices and platforms eventually tie back to the datacenters.  In addition to a vision of exciting new form factors for computing and increasing security, Intel also presented a vision of the future where vast amounts of information will be managed to benefit companies and users.