Intel Hopes to Prove PC Naysayers Wrong Yet Again

Published on September 11, 2012
by Ina Fried

Intel hopes a combination of new chips and new technology will help the PC once again stave off threats of extinction.

While last week’s earnings warning added evidence to the notion that a post-PC world has dawned, the chipmakers in Santa Clara insist that the personal computer will continue to defy its critics.

At a developer conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Intel will offer details on two new chip families designed to allow lower-power computers and hybrid tablets that can do the full work of a PC.

One of the chips, code-named Haswell, is the next evolution of the company’s mainstay “Core” line of processors. That chip is due out in the second half of next year.

The other is a chip added only recently to Intel’s roadmap, and it is aimed at a new generation of computers that can act as both tablet and PC. While some such models will debut this year with Windows 8, it is this new chip — due out in the first half of 2013 — that will enable designs thin and light enough to really be attractive to mainstream consumers.

It’s all part of an effort for Intel to remake itself and its product line over the next 12 months, Intel vice president Navin Shenoy said in an interview.

“We are going to reinvent the PC,” Shenoy told AllThingsD. “We are going to start with our own technology.”

Intel will also encourage developers to use the computer’s ever-increasing horsepower to enable new methods of interaction, including voice and gesture. The company will unveil a software development kit that includes support for speech (developed along with Nuance) and support for a new type of 3-D camera.

And while the death of the PC has been forecast before, the difference this time around is that technology buyers really do seem to be delaying computer purchases in favor of buying other electronics, including tablets, smartphones and e-readers.

Intel is also looking to boost its presence in the smartphone arena, though those efforts have been slow to bear fruit. A few lesser-known players are building devices around an Intel-designed smartphone, while Motorola is due to unveil its first Intel-powered smartphone in London next week. China’s Lenovo and ZTE have also adopted Intel processors, in limited fashion, for their phones.

For his part, Shenoy says the distinction between PCs and post-PC devices is overblown.

“At the end of the day, we are a computing company, not a computer company,” he said. “Computing is going to take various form factors. I think that is good for the industry.”

But the distinction is more than just semantics. Intel can get hundreds of dollars for a mainstream computer processor, while those used in phones, tablets and other devices are typically measured in the tens of dollars.

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