Intel CEO Brian Krzanich at the company's annual developer show earlier this month showed off systems running on the vendor's upcoming "Kaby Lake" processors and said products powered by the chips would hit the market later this year.
On Aug. 30 Intel officials took another step in that direction, officially rolling out the 7th Generation Core processors, the third iteration of silicon built on the chip maker's 14nm process. The processors, which earlier last year weren't even on the product road map, are now part of what the company calls its "tick-tock-optimize" chip cadence.
The company for years had driven development of its processors on a tick-tock schedule, with new microarchitectures being introduced in the "tick" year—such as the move to 14nm with the "Broadwell" processors—and enhancements for improved performance and power efficiency coming in the "tock" years, as with the introduction of the current 14nm "Skylake" last year. "Cannonlake," the first of Intel's 10nm processors, initially was due out this year.
However, manufacturing challenges associated with the 10nm processors convinced Intel officials to delay the release of Cannonlake until next year and to introduce a third 14nm processor—Kaby Lake—this year.
While Kaby Lake essentially shares the same microarchitecture as the 6th Generation Skylake, it comes with enhancements that will help drive performance and energy efficiency gains and make it a key technology for what company officials are calling the "immersive internet." That includes everything from powering virtual reality applications with headsets such as Oculus Rift and HTC Hive to running 4K ultra high-definition video.
"These trends in how we consume and create content, in how we communicate and interact, reflect what we at Intel call the immersive internet," Navin Shenoy, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel's Client Computing Group, wrote in a post on the company blog. "And the best way to take advantage of the immersive internet is on a computer with the performance to deliver a lifelike experience. People need the power to view, the power to create and the power to play—something that the PC is uniquely designed to do."
The focus on PCs comes even as the company is reducing its dependence on the contracting global client space in favor of such emerging markets as the internet of things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), drones and the data center. However, Intel officials see PCs as a key connected device in the IoT, and an important vehicle for VR, gaming and other immersive computing uses.
In addition, while the overall PC market continues to struggle, some segments are seeing strength, including convertibles and 2-in-1s. During a briefing with journalists and analysts earlier this month during the Intel Developer Forum, Shenoy noted that 2-in-1 shipments grew 40 percent last year, and that enthusiasts and gamers continue to embrace high-end PCs.
Intel officials also contend that there are hundreds of millions of PCs five years or older still being used that will need to be upgraded soon, and that the newest systems are significantly better in performance and power efficiency—1.7 times faster at traditional processing jobs and three times faster running high-end 3D games, said Chris Walker, general manager for mobile client platforms at Intel, during the briefing. They're also 8.6 times faster at creating and sharing 4K 360-degree video and 15 times faster at creating video in almost real time.