At IDF, Intel will feature its chip architecture code-named Sandy Bridge, with enhanced graphics capabilities. PCs with the new chips are due out in early 2011.
Intel's next-generation "Sandy
microarchitecture will be a key topic of discussion at the Intel Developer
Forum, which kicks off Sept. 13 in San Francisco.
CEO Paul Otellini and Dadi
Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's
Architecture Group, are expected to demonstrate the processor's capabilities
during their keynote addresses the first day of the event. After that, there
will be panel discussions and other events designed to dive deeper into the
With Sandy Bridge,
Intel will put the CPU and graphics processor on the same piece of silicon,
which Intel officials have said will be a boon for users running applications
that involve three-dimensional workloads. In addition, the new chips will play
Blu-ray 3D video.
Desktop and laptop PCs powered by Sandy
Bridge chips are expected to begin
rolling out in early 2011. The new microarchitecture is an important technology
for Intel because of the growing use of high-performance graphics and video on
desktops and notebooks, according to Pund-IT Research analyst Charles King.
"What Sandy Bridge
really indicates is that sophisticated graphics are becoming a mainstream part
of the everyday computing experience for businesspeople and consumers
alike," King said in an interview with eWEEK.
For that reason, Sandy
Bridge also is a big deal for PC
makers that use Intel technology and can now incorporate the enhanced graphics
capabilities into their systems, he said.
Intel and other industry players are hoping Sandy
Bridge, with its enhanced graphics
capabilities and other features, can help rejuvenate weakening consumer
interest in the PC space. Analysts throughout the summer had warned of a slowing
PC buying trend, particularly among consumers.
That came into full focus in August, when Intel officials-who
had seen their company post extremely strong financial numbers in the first and
second quarters-lowered their revenue forecast for the third quarter, in large
part due to a weakening of consumer demand for PCs.
Analysts from such market research companies as IDC
and Gartner also lowered their PC revenue and shipment expectations for the
second half of 2010.
More recently, other chip makers, including Texas Instruments
and National Semiconductor, noted the trends in the PC market. TI on Sept. 9
lowered its revenue projections for the third quarter. National Semiconductor
officials on the same day announced their fiscal 2011 first-quarter numbers.
Though sales increased 3 percent over the previous quarter, and 31 percent over
the same period last year, the results came with a word of warning.
"Our business model is working well with another quarter
of revenue growth, 70 percent gross margins and over 36 percent operating
margins," Don Macleod, National's chairman and CEO,
said in a statement. "However, in the near term, slower growth in our
end markets and distribution channel, along with some likely inventory
reduction, will mute the seasonal growth that we would normally see in our
business during this time of the year."
Overall, the PC market for all of 2010 will be strong, and
should continue into the following years, according to IDC.
That said, the figures for the second half of the year seem to be slowing,
despite the strong first two quarters.
"After several years of carrying the load in terms of
shipment growth for the PC industry, the U.S.
consumer market is getting fatigued," IDC
analyst Richard Shim said in a statement Sept. 2. "Challenged with less
discretionary income than in previous years, as well as a slew of new devices
to divert their attention, fewer U.S.
consumers are expected to update their PCs this holiday season. Fortunately,
large businesses are expected to reinvest in their PCs over the next several
quarters, helping to drive double-digit shipment growth in the U.S. PC market
Pund-IT's King said Sandy
Bridge could help give the PC
market a boost.
"Coming up with a technology that significantly improves
the [user] experience could be enough of an incentive for customers who are
interested in [high-performance graphics] to get the moths out of their wallets
and pay some money" for a PC, he said. "I think that's what everyone
is waiting for."
Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices also will be in San
Francisco while IDF is under way, at a nearby
location, demonstrating its upcoming "Zacate" APU
(Accelerated Processing Unit). The dual-core Zacate is part of AMD's
Fusion initiative, which puts the CPU and GPU on a single piece of silicon.
AMD officials say the
discrete-level graphics capabilities of the Zacate APU
will improve the graphics experience for value and mainstream notebooks and
Systems with AMD's Fusion
APUs are scheduled to start rolling out in early 2011. The graphics technology
comes from AMD's 2006 acquisition of ATI.
Pund-IT's King said AMD,
with the ATI purchase, had hoped to beat
competitors in bringing
together general-purpose graphics and traditional CPUs.
However, delays in
the Fusion programs have hampered AMD. The
first Fusion products initially were due out in late 2008, then in 2009.
"AMD had a goal to be
the first mover in this area, and they were not able to deliver on it,"
King said. "Their opportunity to be the first mover in this space has