Intel executives last year began talking about their vision of wire-free computing, in which everything from the connection to the Internet and peripherals to charging would no longer require cables.
Company officials said Jan. 29 that Intel has made a strong step in that direction with the launch of its 5th Generation Core vPro processors, which include several wireless technologies to let notebooks easily connect to displays and peripherals.
The chips, aimed at business systems, also include integrated security, improved performance, longer battery life, easier manageability and better graphics, according to Intel officials at a Webcast event in London.
They also said there was broad range of systems available now from a dozen OEMs—including Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Panasonic—that come in an array of form factors, including clamshells, two-in-ones, Ultrabooks and mini-PCs. Tom Garrison, general manager of business client platforms for Intel, said during the event that the longer battery life—up to 16 hours in a new Toshiba system, and 12 hours in a new Helix notebook from Lenovo—are part of the wireless vision.
With such long battery life, “you don’t need to be tethered to your power cable,” Garrison said.
Intel officials have been vocal over the past few months about the need for wireless computing. During the Intel Developer Forum in September 2014, Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of the chip maker’s PC Client Group, paced the stage holding up what he called a “rat’s nest of cables” that PC users need. Skaugen said the upcoming release of Intel’s 14-nanometer “Skylake” processors later this year will help usher in the era of wire-free computing.
Officials have talked about Intel’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 for wire-free device charging.
However, with the introduction of the wireless capabilities within the new vPro processors, Intel has made “our first step along the journey [to] a no-wire workplace,” Garrisons said.
He argued that businesses worldwide have lost billions of dollars due to reduced productivity just in the five to six minutes it takes employees to find and attach various cables needed to get meetings up and running. Without the need to wrestle with cables, those minutes could be spent more productively, he said.
The new vPro chips support Intel’s Pro Wireless Display (Pro WiDi) technology, which enables notebooks to connect wireless devices to displays via a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) adapter. Actiontec Electronics, which builds a range of broadband-powered products, announced in conjunction with Intel’s announcement its ScreenBeam Pro Business Edition wireless display receiver for Pro WiDi. Garrison also said that Panasonic plans to integrate the Pro WiDi technology into its projectors.
Intel Pushes Wireless Computing with Latest vPro Chips
He noted that there are consumer technologies that enable such wireless connections, but that Pro WiDi comes with greater manageability and security capabilities.
Intel also introduced its Wireless Docking technology—based on the company’s Wireless Gigabit technology—which enables PCs to automatically connect to monitors, keyboards, mice and USB accessories. Workers no longer have to use mechanical docks to connect to the peripherals.
“These employees are productive as soon as they sit down,” Garrison said.
Along with the wireless capabilities, Intel officials said the new vPro processors can be used in new mobile PCs that can offer up to twice the battery life and more than twice the performance of notebooks from four years ago. At the same time, the new form factors can be up to three times thinner and 50 percent lighter than those older laptops.
During the event in London, Garrison held up a new Dell Latitude notebook that is 19.4mm thin and weighs 2.76 pounds, and an HP Elite notebook that is 2.2 pounds.
The new wireless capabilities, improved performance and new form factors are important to Intel as its looks to drive sales in the PC market, which saw sharp declines in shipments worldwide after 2011 as consumers and business users turned their attention to tablets and smartphones. Analysts at IDC and Gartner said the PC market stabilized last year, due in part to new PC form factors, a slowdown in tablet sales, businesses refreshing their aging PCs and Microsoft ending support for Windows XP.
Intel officials have argued that PC and component makers have done well driving new form factors that give customers the performance and mobility they’re looking for, such as in ultraportable systems or two-in-ones, that can be used as either traditional PCs or tablets.
Intel’s financial numbers have improved as the PC market has stabilized, with officials saying earlier this month that the company PC Client Group’s revenues grew 3 percent in the fourth quarter last year and 4 percent for all of 2014.