Intel officials say their vision of a wireless PC experience will start becoming a reality by the end of 2015.
During two talks at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2014 this week in San Francisco, Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of the chip maker’s PC Client Group, said Intel’s upcoming “Skylake” 14-nanometer processors will help usher in the technologies that will make computing free of wires—and that includes wires for charging the systems and cables for connecting them to monitors and other peripherals.
“At the end of the day, we carry around this rat’s nest of cables,” Skaugen said, adding that next year, Intel will introduce a reference platform that will help users get rid of all the wires.
Intel officials began talking publicly about their efforts to bring about a wire-free computing environment, including the company’s embrace of the WiGig wireless technology—which is faster than traditional WiFi—and its work with the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) industry consortium that is developing the Rezence standard.
With Skylake, the company will be able to move the PC industry in that direction through the use of a range of such wireless technologies, Skaugen said. Intel early next year will begin rolling out reference designs for two-in-one form factors and PCs that feature the wire-free capabilities, with the expectation that commercial systems will hit the market by the end of 2015 and into 2016.
Skaugen and other Intel officials, as well as industry analysts, have compared the chip maker’s ambitions around wireless charging and other capabilities to the multibillion-dollar program that began in 2003 with the launch of Intel’s Centrino mobile platform that helped make WiFi ubiquitous. Taking cables out of the equation also will help an embattled global PC industry that has seen sales slow over the past few years in the wake of competition from tablets.
“The industry importance of this is to keep the PC platform differentiated and relevant, as the mobile platform players would like nothing more than the PC to wither away and experience a boring death,” Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy, wrote in a blog for Forbes. “Intel has experience in getting new PC experiences adopted as evidenced by the billions spent on WiFi and I see the same level of motivation and intensity with removing cables.”
The drive toward wireless charging is being pushed by a broad range of tech vendors. While Intel has embraced the Rezence standard, other industry groups—including the Wireless Power Consortium and Powers Matter Alliance—also are focusing on the issue, with the Wireless Power Consortium offering its own standard, call Qi.
With Rezence, the idea is to put support for it in a wide range of mobile products—from smartphones and tablets to PCs and wearable devices—and as well as throughout homes and businesses. Essentially, anything—from tables to a toaster, as shown off by Skaugen during IDF—can be made to be a wireless charging station by putting Rezence-based wireless charging pads into or on top of them, enabling users to simply put their devices onto such places to charge them.
Intel Pushes Rezence, WiGig for Wireless PC Experience
Systems OEMs—from Dell and Lenovo to Acer and Asus—also are supporting the Rezence standard, Skaugen said. He showed off wireless charging covers that will be available for mobile phones starting in the first quarter of next year and for tablets later in the first half of 2015.
Officials with Emirates airlines said during IDF that the company is embracing the Rezence standard.
“The biggest challenge will be to get the charging mat technology into all those offices, hotel rooms, meeting rooms, airline clubs, and airlines,” Moor’s Moorhead wrote. “Intel has demonstrated they can successfully do this, just like they did by propagating WiFi with their multi-billion dollar Centrino marketing effort.”
Intel is looking to the WiGig standard for connecting PCs to peripherals such as keyboards, mice, printers and external hard drives. WiGig is 10 times faster than 802.11n WiFi, and will begin appearing in systems powered by Intel’s Core M and Core M vPro chips—which were recently launched after about a six-month delay—by mid-2015, Skaugen said. Skylake is the next-generation chip after Core M.
Intel envisions a time when users can walk into a room and set their PC down, and the device will automatically wirelessly link with whatever peripherals are in the room.
Intel also is pushing its WiDi technology for connecting PCs to larger displays, again enabling the system to automatically search for and connect to WiDi-enabled monitors. Skaugen said the technology is catching on, with more than 300 million WiDi-enabled devices getting into the market by 2016. The chip maker also is partnering with Actiontec to build a small WiDi adapter that will cost about $40.
Intel also demonstrated an LG Electronics 4K television that will come out next year that supports WiDi and can stream HD video to PCs without wires.