Likely not a lot. How much of it would require physically meeting the people he talks to, in an age of email and video conferencing? It's quite possible he's never actually met some of the folks he keeps in touch with. (And I'd guess some he might have met would be through industry trade shows, where they more or less came to him.)
The PC era is hardly over, but the market has shifted.
The PC market is largely saturated. Most folks who can use a PC likely have one. There is a substantial market, but it's replacements and upgrades. New sales will be relatively few, and the growth beloved of the financial markets won't exist.
Growth is in data centers and mobile, and Intel's challenge is addressing those markets.
They have a leg up in datacenters, because those already use Intel processors. Mobile is much more of a challenge, because ARM has the same sort of leg up there, and Intel is still strugging to match ARM's power efficiency in an environment where battery life is the scarce resource.
But Intel still faces a challenge in retaining datacenter market share. As datacenters proliferate and server density grows, power efficiency becomes an issue there, too, as power costs skyrocket. ARM is poised to challenge them in the datacenter with chips that use less power and generate less heat.
PCs have been faster than the networks they connect to for a while, but network connectivity isn't the only factor. historically. most of what the PC did was purely local - users ran programs stored on local drives, and created and manipulated data that was also local. HD access speed, CPU power, and graphics performance were far more important than how quick the network was. For most PC usage, they arguably still are.
@DMc: Good question. My hunch is most of his interactions (and most of the interactions of his peers all across the industry) involve a significant amount of face time at non-public events the big companies sponsor for their partners around particular initiatives and design reviews and customer updates.
I think there's a whole ecosystem of mini fovcused events and meetings most of us never hear about where a lot of relationship building and work gets done in the quiet NDA world.
If I have a datacenter, I have steadily increasing server density, with higher power requirements and far greater amounts of heat to dissipate. (At a former employer, the server room was expanded with a lot more servers being put into production. I realized the difference when I no longer needed to wear a sweater in the server room, and my boss was calling in electricians and A/C vendors to upgrade the power coming in and cool the larger number of machines. Compared to the datacenters someone like Google or Facebook might operate, it was a tiny operation, and the big boys would be the same thing squared and cubed.)
Big datacenter customers are seeing far higher demands for power and A/C as server density continually rises. Current generations of ARM processors have the potential of being able to do the same sorts of tasks as Intel processors do, with much lower power requirements, If I'm a datacenter operator, I'll find that prospect attractive, and I'll be thinking about when and under what circumstrances making a shift would be a good idea.
It may be inaccurate to talk about proprietary algorithms. They certainly exist, but an algorithm is simply a precise rule (or set of rules) specifying how to solve some problem. That algorithm will translate to computer code, in the form of instructions the CPU executes. The focus will be on the instructions, rather than the algorithm.
When speed is an issue, developers apply profiling to see where the code spends its time, and attempt to optimize those parts. Sometimes it results in optimized code. Sometimes it results in an entirely different algorithm that yeilds the same results in a different and more efficient ways.
In this case, I can see data center operators doing the analysis, and going to Intel saying "Our servers spend a lot of time executing the following members of the X86 instruction set. What can you do to speed that up?"
I'm wondering when we are going to see RISC come back into vogue as a result.
DM: You're right...there's a lot more upgrading and replacement going on in the PC market. And people are always fascinated with what's new -- and tablets are on the upswing. That said, I think most PC owners may get a tablet (and certainly a smartphone) eventually, but I suspect most will still want a PC/laptop for those times when a tablet or phone just aren't enough. I'm a writer, so a laptop is pretty much indispensible for me. What do others think? Is a tablet alone enough for you?
@Susan Rambo: the current trend in many developing economies (like India & Brazil) is indeed in mega data centers by largely international companies and some domestic. There are many other small to medium datacenters some of which are colo's whereas many others are independently owned and local to Indian market. Tulip Telecom for example has 900K-sqft facility in Bangalore which I would categorize under mega datacenter (but I don't know the number of pods in that datacenter):
What I was saying below as regards to mini & micro datacenter is an evolving trend to serve those who largely use mobile computing for majority of their needs. The storage and computing demand for that segment of the market is only now taking off in India but I would argue more than 90% of the infrastructure is not there! Unlike in the US, a majority of the Indian data centers are in urban areas where power shortage and infrastructure challenges make it very hard to build mega datacenters. Though that country has seen good investments in fiberoptic infrastructure, the number of active equipment to utilize that leaves a lot to be desired.C-DOT in India has been pushing for micro datacenters linked by highspeed connectivity which has motivated couple of startups toward that model.
MP: Thanks for the reminder about India and other still-developing economies. True, the infrastructure in most of India is just now being built. I know many friends in India who tell me it's still rare to have reliable Wifi for laptops, and so wireless is leap-frogging there. It's good for those of us in the West to remember that technology in different places evolves in different ways. In the US, I believe the laptop is a permanent part of the home environment for the foreseeable future, even as tablet and mobile sales soar.
Do other readers in the west disagree? Are you ready to stop buying laptops/desktops entirely?