PORTLAND, Ore. -- With traditional deskside PCs on the decline and laptops being refreshed less and less often, Intel is setting out on a plan to revitalize x86 CPU sales with its Core M processor being announced today at the IFA (Consumer Electronics Unlimited, Berlin, Germany). Intel's strategy, says Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's PC Client Group, is to provide the Core M (code-named Broadwell Y) processor to 2-in-1 makers giving them up to a 700 percent performance boost over aging PCs and laptops, while consuming only 25 percent of their power.
The second part of the strategy is to make sure 2-in-1s provide the "wow" factor of having a tablet while performing all the functions and storage of all the users files that their old laptop did, plus allowing users to attache a keyboard to provide the full laptop, x86 PC experience. And since a majority of 2-in-1s will sell for under $699 (same as a high-end tablets) Intel expects them to be refreshed by users every year or two, which it hopes will counter its declining consumer CPU sales, in particular in from PCs.
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However, Intel is not putting all its eggs in one basket, since the rest of the 5th generation Cores (code named Broadwell U) will be announced by the end of 2014 with desksides, ultrabooks and normal laptops due out in 2015.
2-in-1s Next Big Thing?
Does Intel have a chance against hundreds of unknown companies hawking ultra-inexpensive tablets that people can combine with an ultra-inexpensive laptop like a ChromeBook? Analyst Richard Doherty at The Envisioneering Group (Seford, New York) says "yes."
"Intel is especially well poised to attract shoppes this holiday season whose heads are spinning at literally hundreds of brands of $50-to-$130 'unknown' Android tablet brands," Doherty told EE Times. "With $120-to-$150 Windows tablets announced here at IFA by Toshiba, Acer and soon likely others, Intel has an excellent shot at attracting a good-sized chunk of the ARM/Android market."
But what about 2-in-1s which will have to sell for more, since the Intel Core M by itself is over $280? Doherty is gung-ho here too, since the jumps in performance that Intel is reaping from its 14 nanometer CMOS process are, so far, unbeatable by the competition.
"The engines and SOCs do seem to be ahead of the normal 'Tick-Tock' for Intel this year. Far better than the slight performance misstep of four years ago -- which helped derail the normally dependable PC performance growth curve," Doherty told EE Times. "We are well into Early Majority of the Geoffrey Moore's adoption cycle curve of marketing."
Karen Regis, mobile platform marketing manager at Intel, reinforced Doherty's points by recounting the last four years of Intel history of the Core processor:
"It was 2010 -- the first Intel Core processor -- when you first saw turbo boost technology, yielding greater performance and better power efficiency, and for the first time put the processor and the graphics co-processor chip in the same package...In 2011, Intel announced the 2nd-generation Core processor and the ultrabook initiative aimed for thinner notebooks with longer battery life, and for the first time put the graphics processor and the CPU on same chip, again for better performance and power efficiency...In 2012 the 3rd generation Core processor was in the first notebooks that integrated touch into the display using 22nm design rules to introduce 3-D Tri-gate low power transistors...Then introduced last year was the fourth generation Core processor which started a whole wave of new 2-in-1 systems into the market plus introduced the biggest improvement in battery life than any other generation in Intel's history."
When EE Times asked her about how the current x86 PCs, laptops and ultrabooks were doing in the marketplace, she declined to answer -- deferring to the quarterly earnings report -- but adding "we've been very happy with the growth we've see in the 2-in-1 category. Comparing Q313 to Q314 we've seen a 3X increase in the number of systems," Regis told EE Times in a conference call. "Also increased were the number of designs that are $699 or less--by 7-times" for 70 different models in all.