PC makers are using the launch of Intel’s much-anticipated “Skylake” processors to release a slew of new systems that take advantage of the performance and power improvements and new features that the chip maker put into its product lineup.
Lenovo, Acer and Toshiba were among the system OEMs that unveiled new offerings at the IFA 2015 show in Berlin that are powered by Intel’s new 6th generation Core processors that executives with the chip maker introduced at the same show Sept. 1. That comes on the heels of reports in the weeks leading up to the show about Skylake chips powering upcoming PCs from Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Asus and others.
Lenovo at the show ran out an array of systems running Microsoft’s Windows 10 and powered by the Skylake chips, from new Yoga convertible PCs and desktop systems to Ideapad laptops and an Ideapad tablet. Acer added to its Aspire lineup with a new convertible notebook and a desktop, and Toshiba rolled out a 12.5-inch two-in-one, the Satellite Radius 12. A number of the systems are aimed at the upcoming holiday buying season, carrying the hope that PCs that offer the combination of Windows 10 and the Skylake processors can slow the decline in global PC shipments that has been going on since 2011.
In unveiling the new chips, Intel executives said they expected that over the next year or so, the combination of systems running Windows 10 and powered by the 6th generation chips will help drive demand for new PCs. They also noted the age of many of the PCs that are still in use. According to Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Client Computing Group, there are more than 500 million PCs being used today that are five or more years old, and about 1 billion that are more than three years old.
In addition, while Intel engineers did a lot of work in the areas of performance and energy efficiency with the 14-nanometer Skylake processors, they also put in a wide range of features—such as RealSense 3D cameras, WiGig wireless technology and the Intel Speed Shift technology, which improves the responsiveness in mobile systems by more quickly moving between low-power and full-power states. Intel and Microsoft also worked closely together in such areas as security and authentication, all of which can only be taken advantage of through new systems.
The new chips bring “previously niche and fringe experiences to the mainstream,” Skaugen wrote in a post on the company blog. “Beyond offering leaps in performance, graphics, security and power efficiency, the latest processor family brings an immersive computing experience that will forever change our relationship with technology. And for that reason alone, there truly never has been a better time to buy a new computer. These experiences put the ‘personal’ back into PC.”
The OEMs that rolled out new systems at IFA highlighted many of these features. For example, Toshiba officials touted the facial authentication offered in its new two-in-one system, which comes from using Intel’s RealSense camera technology and the Windows Hello biometric authentication feature.
Bob O’Donnell, principal analyst with Technalysis Research, said those features—and the fact that Intel and Microsoft worked so closely together in developing Windows 10 and the Skylake chips—hold the promise for a strong PC market going forward. O’Donnell has long believed that despite the declining worldwide sales numbers over the past few years, PCs were not going to disappear in favor of smartphones.
“Despite all the death knells for the PC, the simple fact is … people are still using PCs,” he told eWEEK.
Lenovo, Acer, Toshiba Unveil PCs With Windows 10, Skylake Chips
O’Donnell noted that users are holding onto their systems longer than in the past, but that with a solid operating system available, capabilities offered that can only be leveraged through new PCs running Windows 10 on the Skylake chips, and the growing range of form factors to choose from—including two-in-ones, convertible PCs, mini-PCs, all-in-ones and traditional notebooks and desktops—people have a greater range of interesting options.
In addition, new systems are lighter, smaller, thinner and faster than the 3- to 5-year-old PCs many are using now. According to Intel officials, PCs with the new 6th generation chips offer up to 2.5 times the performance, triple the battery life and 30 times better graphics performance than PCs that are 5 years old. In addition, those form factors can be half as thin and half the weight, wake up faster and have all-day battery life.
The breadth of what PC makers can now offer will help, according to Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT. Intel rolled out about four dozen new chips, with power consumption ranging from 4.5 watts to more than 65 watts, King wrote in a research note.
“That means consumers will find Intel’s newest Core chips supporting solutions ranging from stick PCs to mini PCs to tablets to convertibles to laptops to desktop PCs to AIOs,” he wrote. “Plus, the Core architecture is being leveraged to power the first ever Xeon E3-based mobile workstations. … The sheer breadth and depth of the 6th gen Core solutions reflects the essential changes that have occurred and are still underway in personal computing. Intel understands that point, in spades, and the wide variety of Core processor offerings suggests that wherever users are and whatever they are doing, a 6th gen Core solution will be ready and available.”
The combination of the Intel chips and Windows 10 also brings some stability to the PC’s future, which gives both consumers and business users something they can plan on over the next five or more years, according to Technalysis’ O’Donnell.
Whether it will mean any sort of bump in the short term—during the holiday buying season—is “a bit of a long shot. It’s a little bit of a reach,” he said. That said, O’Donnell said there are reasons why it could happen. There isn’t a lot of competition—tablet sales are faltering, though there is interest in smartphones, and it’s still a nascent market for wearables. Also, two-in-ones will look more attractive, especially since Windows 10 makes it easier to move between PC mode and tablet mode.
However, even if there isn’t tremendous traction over the next few months, there should be longer-term, he said. Seeing Intel and Microsoft coming together again was an important step.
“You needed the two core companies working together like they used to,” O’Donnell said, reiterating the fact that people still use PCs. “Put those two things together and you have a good thing.”