There once was a time when Intel was in crisis mode. While it could make a damn fine processor that ran circles around its competition in speed tests, growth in that sector is non-existent thanks to the market shifting towards a mobile centric growth structure. If Intel didn’t move with the market, it wouldn’t necessarily be doomed but it wouldn’t be the titan that it once was as documented in the excellent Wired piece “An Empire Strikes Back”.
Intel’s first push out of that crisis mode was in 2011 with the launch of the Ultrabook platform. Fast forward to Computex 2013 and Intel has announced what is essentially its insurance policy against irrelevancy: Haswell and Silvermont.
Hardware Canucks’ review of the Haswell i7-4770K and i5-4670K can be read here.
On stage at Computex, Intel’s Tom Killroy hyped Intel’s Haswell — which he called the company’s greatest generational shift — and its plan for mobility which he called “2-in-1”.
“We believe this is the new norm,” he said. “We made one of the most seismic changes to our roadmap ever to build these new Core processors that deliver the stunning performance of the PC and the mobility of a tablet in one device.”
For Intel this “new norm” is a device that functions both as a tablet and a laptop. It ‘s an Ultrabook with a removable touch screen. So far those that have entered the market with this paradigm, such as Lenovo’s Ideapad Yoga 13, have been gawky and awkward but the devices Intel had on stage at Computex (and what ASUS showed off on Monday) demonstrated that this methodology might work if done well — so well that Intel says it has 50 devices in the pipeline based on the same concept.
The reason why Intel may find success as a mobile chip vendor, and pull of the “2-in-1” paradigm that it was hyping on stage is because of its ability to fabricate its chips at the 22nm level with Tri-Gate transistors. These transistors draw less power, thus can offer up to 9 hours of battery life and up to 13 days on standby breaking what Mr. Killroy called the “x86 power myth.”
The power draw myth is busted because Intel said it can crack the 6 watt power threshold. It should be noted that Intel’s power draw numbers are based upon what it calls “Scenario Power Draw”, a measure that factors in the amount of power a mobile device requires to dissipate heat during power-intensive situations versus the industry standard “Total Power Draw”.
A chip for every smartphone
Intel’s other big announcement at its Computex keynote was its 22nm Merrifield and Bay Trail-T processors based on the Silvermont architecture as well as the Bay Trail-T, designed for smartphones and low powered tablets.
Intel says Bay Trail-T will feature support for 4K video and LTE.
On stage, Mr. Killroy wasn’t able to show anything but a reference design when promising that his company’s new Silvermont chips in the Atom family would be able to offer a 50% increase in overall performance and a 300% increase in graphics performance.
Mr. Killroy said that more details would be available in Barcelona in 2014, meaning the Mobile World Congress. Nonetheless, these all look like substantial developments as Intel transitions towards a more mobile-centric existence and begins competing heat to head against the likes of ARM, Samsung and Qualcomm.