SAN FRANCISCO—Intel executives earlier this month officially launched its Core M processor, a 14-nanometer chip based on the “Broadwell” architecture that within weeks will find its way into a variety of two-in-one systems and other form factors.
Five days later, they’re turning their attention to the Core M’s successor, another 14nm processor codenamed “Skylake.”
At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2014 show here Sept. 9, CEO Brian Krzanich and other executives showed off a notebook powered by a Skylake chip and running 4K video. While few details about the processor were released, Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s PC Client Group, said the company early next year will release an early version that will be offered as a software development platform.
The processor will go into production in the second half of 2015, with systems sporting the technology showing up on shelves before the end of the year, Skaugen said. While Skylake will be the same size as the Core M, Skaugen said developers and OEMs “should expect a significant increase in performance, battery life and power efficiency.”
Skylake was one of several announcements Intel officials made in the PC and mobile space on the first day of IDF, where most of the attention was on the efforts the chip maker was making in the areas of wearable devices and the Internet of things (IoT). The chip will be another step in Intel’s push into a mobile chip space dominated by ARM’s low-power architecture, which can be found in most smartphones and tablets currently on the market.
However, Intel officials are betting that as more power-efficient, cost-effective and high-performing two-in-one and other PC form factors come to market, buyers will gravitate away from tablets and embrace thin and light PCs that can be used as either a traditional notebook or a tablet and is easier to use when creating content.
“People are learning what tablets are good for and what tablets are not good for,” Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64 and a fan of the two-in-one form factor, told eWEEK. “I don’t know a lot of people who will open up their tablet and write a paper on it.”
Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy, said Skylake is “a step along [Intel’s] overall strategy to bring PC-level performance in to phones and tablets.” By lowering the power level of the chip, the chip maker would be able to extend the reach of Broadwell into the mobile device space, making the smartphone market “a lot more competitive than it is today,” Moorhead told eWEEK.
“I’ve felt that Skylake has always been something that could be a game-changer at Intel,” he said.
Another important aspect of Skylake is the impact on the timetable for Intel, Brookwood said. The Core M chip hit the market about six months late due to early problems with yields and coordinating the release schedule with device makers, Krzanich told Brookwood during a question-and-answer period after his keynote.
The analyst told eWEEK later hitting the schedule of having Skylake in production a year from now “would be really encouraging because all along they have said that their tick-tock [schedule] meant that there would be 12 months between releases, but the last few years it’s been more like 18 months. Putting Skylake out in a 12-month cadence would be very important to them.”
Intel Says Skylake PC Chips to Launch in Second Half of 2015
According to Intel’s Skaugen, along with the improvements in performance and power efficiency, Skylake will be a key step in the chip maker’s efforts to get rid of cables used by PCs, and to eliminate the need for passwords. Intel officials have been talking for months about creating a wire-free computing environment, including leveraging the WiGig wireless technology to offer faster speeds than WiFi 802.11ac and to enabling computing systems to automatically wirelessly link with monitors and other peripherals. In addition, it will mean enabling systems to wirelessly charge through a standard based on Rezence, which is being developed by the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP).
Intel officials demonstrated wireless devices that were being charged via a device attached to the bottom of a table. Skaugen said Intel envisions wireless charging stations leveraging Rezence being found in a broad range of places, from homes to coffee shops, and said it could be as important as when Intel introduced its Centrino mobile technology in 2003, which helped drive the acceptance of WiFi. Insight 64’s Brookwood agreed.
“They drove that,” he said, noting that Intel helped put WiFi hotspots in places all around the country, and that those places that did have the hotspots often sported the Centrino brand on stickers. “If they can do the same with wireless charging … that could be very big.”
Regarding passwords, Skaugen said the company wants to eliminate the need for them by 2015 and more towards the use of biometrics and face recognition technology.
In addition to Skylake, Intel officials said the company was on schedule to meet its goal of shipping 40 million tablets powered by Intel chips by the end of the year.
Intel officials also said the company was working with Google to create a reference tablet for Android. Doug Fisher, corporate vice president and general manager for Intel’s Software and Services group, said system makers will be able to leverage the Intel Reference Design for Android to get their own designs to market more quickly. At the same time, it will give Intel a vehicle for getting its own technologies into more Android-based tablets. Among the technologies is the chip maker’s RealSense 3D camera software, which enables cameras to capture depth in photos and can do such things as allowing the focus of the photo to be changed after it’s taken. It also allows for accurate measurements of objects and distances in the photos.
The technology was demonstrated on Dell’s upcoming Venue 8 7000 series, a thin tablet (at 6mm) with an 8.4-inch screen and a dual-core Atom processor inside. CEO Michael Dell, taking the stage with Intel’s Krzanich, said the device will be available in November.
“I’m really excited by [the innovation] coming back to the PC space,” Michael Dell said.
Intel also announced that its Xmm7260 LTE modem is shipping in Samsung’s Galaxy Alpha smartphone in Europe and other markets.