During Intel’s most recent quarterly earnings call, Executive Vice President and CFO Stacy Smith talked briefly about the company’s efforts to be a significant player in any computer system of any size.
“As I reflect on the first half of 2014, I believe the strategy that we put in place for this year is playing out nicely to extend the reach of Intel technologies across the spectrum of the smallest embedded devices to the most powerful supercomputers,” Smith said during a conference call with analysts and journalists July 15.
That strategy will be on display next week at Intel Developer Forum 2014, which starts Sept. 9 in San Francisco, where the chip-making giant will address everything from wearable devices and the Internet of things (IoT) to data center systems and PCs in what officials are calling “mega sessions.” Intel over the past couple of years has worked to expand the reach of its silicon beyond traditional PCs and servers, pushing its way into the mobile space, aggressively moving into IoT and embedded devices, and targeting data center networking and storage systems.
The mega sessions on the first day will deal with the smallest of systems—wearable devices and the IoT, both areas in which Intel has been increasingly active. The chip maker a year ago created a business unit dedicated to the Internet of things, and unveiled a new family of very small, highly energy-efficient systems-on-a-chips (SoCs) called Quark, aimed at wearables and the IoT. At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, CEO Brian Krzanich showed off a number of reference designs for wearable devices and announced Edison, a development board featuring a Quark SoC. In April, Intel announced the creation of a $100 million fund and an innovation center in China to help fuel the development of smart systems like smartphones and wearable devices powered by its processors.
In June, Intel helped found the Open Interconnect Consortium, which was formed to develop an open standard to help drive interoperability and define connectivity requirements for the tens of billions of connected devices that will define the IoT. More recently, the company unveiled the XMM 6255, a tiny stand-alone 3G modem that is designed to be a wireless solution for IoT devices. In addition, reports this past week indicated that Intel in September will release a smart bracelet that will be able to deliver such content as text messages and various alerts and, in conjunction with retailer Opening Ceremony, will debut at Barneys New York.
“The Internet of things business is growing fast as we bring intelligence to more and more devices,” Smith said during the July 15 call.
The mega sessions on the second day, Sept. 10, will have a more traditional Intel feel, starting with Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group. Intel officials are expected to talk about the upcoming Xeon E5 “Grantley” processor, the next generation of its mainstream server chip that will come with the “Haswell” microarchitecture and will replace the Xeon E5-2600 v2 “Romley” chips, which were built on the “Ivy Bridge” microarchitecture.
The new chip family is expected to support DDR4 memory, which will help both in improving performance and latency.
During the July 15 call, Krzanich said the company would officially launch the chip in the third quarter. Smith during the same call said that Intel already is “shipping and selling Grantley today into cloud and HPC [high-performance computing] customers.”
Intel officials at the start of the year said they wanted to boost the company’s enterprise business in 2014. The chip maker’s server business is a strong point, with revenues in its Data Center Group jumping 19 percent over the previous quarter. Krzanich sounded upbeat about Grantley’s prospects even though enterprise orders tend to be uneven.
“If you just take a look at the data center volume in general, it tends to be a bit lumpy,” he said. “Whether it’s an HPC order or a cloud order or an enterprise order, they tend to come in big pieces. And so as we move into the Grantley launch, we’ll have to see how the customers place their orders and what the volume is. …We do believe Grantley will be a good product.”
Intel to Talk IoT, Wearables, Server Chips at IDF
Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, told eWEEK a key to Grantley will be the improved power efficiency. It will enable businesses to either do the same amount of work with fewer systems that take up less space and consume less power, or increase the compute density in the space they’re using now. It’s a good situation for enterprises, Moorhead said.
Another mega session will address what Intel is calling PC reinvention and innovation, a key focus of the company over the past few years as competition from tablets and smartphones has fueled the contraction of worldwide PC sales. According to Gartner and IDC analysts as well as executives at companies like Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, the PC market has begun to stabilize, in part because of Microsoft’s decision to end support of Windows XP in April. Other factors include PC innovations that have led to systems that are increasingly thinner and lighter, with longer battery lives and lower costs.
In August, Intel showed off the upcoming 14-nanometer Core M “Broadwell Y” SoC architecture that will enable OEMs to build fanless two-in-one devices—which can be used as a traditional laptop or a tablet—that will be able to compete with tablets in such areas as performance, battery live and price.
“It’s very important because, with Broadwell, it’s the first time someone’s developed a platform and chip that will give customers [who need to decide between a PC or tablet] a really hard decision,” Moorhead said.
Users with 4-year-old PCs who are considering a new system will now have the option of a convertible notebook that is close to tablets in size and portability, offers 10 hours of battery life and comes with a much improved Windows 8 operating system.
“This is interesting because the industry is finally delivering on its promise,” Moorhead said.