Intel Developer Forum Falls Victim to Chip Maker's Evolution

The chip maker's increasingly diverse market focus leads company officials to retire the popular annual developer conference.

Intel

Intel has outgrown its annual developer conference.

Until the past decade or so, Intel was focused on getting its processors into as many PCs and servers as possible, and built its annual Intel Developer Forum (IDF) around that effort. However, in recent years the giant chip maker has evolved rapidly, broadening its reach into such areas as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), drones, self-driving cars, 5G wireless technology and wearable devices. With such a diverse market reach, company officials reportedly believed that a single, large event like IDF no longer could serve the needs of its disparate developer communities.

In a brief, one-paragraph notice on its website, Intel announced that after almost 20 years, it is canceling the IDF show, opting instead for smaller, more focused events. This year’s IDF was scheduled for Aug. 15-17 in San Francisco. In their statement, Intel officials recommended that customers and developers with questions about the decision contact their Intel representatives.

A spokesperson for Intel told the Silicon Valley Business Journal that the decision comes as the company grows beyond its PC roots into a wide array of other markets. The focus will be on smaller hosted events, such as the recent Artificial Intelligence Day and Tech and Manufacturing Day, as well as a larger presence at events in particular markets—such as autonomous vehicles—hosted by other companies.

“The scope has really grown,” the spokesperson told the publication. “As our business evolves, we need to reach new audiences and use different ways to reach them.”

Given the chip maker’s evolution, a large, single event like IDF no longer makes sense for Intel, according to Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT.

“The company’s focus has become so diverse that the idea of putting everything under a single tent … became harder and harder to do,” King told eWEEK.

IDF had grown to become one of the top IT conferences in the country, attracting thousands of developers, customers and partners. However, where once the developers coming to the show shared a similar interest in PCs and servers, in recent years their focuses had become as diverse as Intel’s interests. That diversity could be seen on stage during the keynote addresses, where Intel CEO Brian Krzanich at one point may be talking about two-in-one consumer devices and within minutes showing off the latest drones or self-driving cars powered by Intel products.

Company officials a decade ago famously misread the rise of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, the bulk of which are now powered by systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) based on the ARM architecture. Krzanich has said that Intel will not make the same mistake with other emerging markets. Intel is still the dominant player in the server and PC markets, but the growth markets for the company are in such areas as the IoT, AI and self-driving cars.

Some large IT vendors—such as Dell, Oracle and Salesforce.com—continue to host big user conferences, though others, including Microsoft and IBM, have shifted to more focused events as well. Pund-IT’s King noted that the developer bases of such companies as Oracle and Salesforce are much more narrowly focused than that of Intel.

In their statement, Intel officials said the company is offering a broad range of resources for developers—from software and tools to documentation—in its Resource and Design Center.

King said the company will need to follow up with developers and customers to explain its decision regarding IDF. It was a well-established and well-attended conference that had become a regular event on users’ calendars, so company officials will have to go beyond a single paragraph to tell customers the reasons behind the decision, he said. Intel doesn’t want to keep developers and others guessing about those reasons or what the company’s plans are going forward.