The contrast between what Intel was saying and doing at its annual analyst meeting was pretty revealing.
The complex calculations about PC TAM growth were buttressed with pledges to reinvigorate the design of PC. Boy, that's an old one.
Former Intel exec Pat Gelsinger sang that tune a decade ago, staging a PC fashion show to get Taiwan's beige box makers to compete in industrial design with the Apple iMac. Now Intel says in two years it will lead the market in creating ultrathin tablets that have all the power of a desktop PC, a ten-hour battery life and instant-on software—sounds like the 2011 iPad to me.
Some things just left me scratching my head. Intel said Thunderbolt will go mainstream this year and generate $100 million in revenues. First of all, I thought the interface was royalty free, and secondly I have yet to hear a PC maker other than Apple adopt it.
The company did show some credible highlights. Revenue in the catch-all category of embedded systems is up to $1.5 billion and should grow a heady 25 percent through 2013, thanks in art to the broad adoption of the x86 as a high-end controller in everything from routers and switches to intelligent everythings.
I also give Intel kudos for the McAfee deal which will give it the clout to enable hardware root of trust to any operating system or hypervisor starting this fall. That's a big win for the x86 architecture.
The company also seems to be firing on all cylinders in the data center where Web 2.0 companies are still buying x86 boxes literally by the shipping container. Thank you, Facebook and YouTube.
At the end of the day, Intel has amazingly good process technology, tons of smart engineers and managers with the cojones to try big things, be flexible and move fast. Sometimes they are just a little too ineffective with that whole smoke-and-mirrors marketing routine.
Embedded x86 sales have plenty of room to grow.