Forget PCs, tablets or the microprocessors that power them. Intel kicked off its Intel Developer Forum on Tuesday by talking about something that’s unusual for Intel: end products, and specifically, wearables.
About 43 miles away from where Apple announced its first wearable Apple Watch, Intel’s chief executive showed off several wearables too, including ones that the company helped develop as well as those created by its partners. Krzanich said that the next-generation wearable from its Basis group, for example, will ship by the 2014 holiday season. It will be thinner, lighter, with a better battery life and better screen, he said.
Krzanich also said that its Edison embedded processor, announced at CES, is now shipping. And executives showed off a working demonstration of Skylake, the chip architecture that will succeed the just-launched Core M.
Finally, Michael Dell appeared on stage to announce the Dell Venue 8 7000 series, a tablet due this November that will include the first of Intel’s RealSense depth cameras built inside.
Intel’s goal is to extend its leadership in microprocessors from the data center out through the PC to the new network of sensors that are appearing in wearables. All of that will provide data for Intel’s processors to crunch: By 2020, the total device market will exceed 50 billion devices, supplying 35 zettabytes of data, Diane Bryant, the executive in charge of Intel’s data-center business, said. That’s going to place more of an emphasis on data analytics, where Intel’s “big iron” server processors will come into play.
Edison will power embedded technology
“It’s more than just hitting a number,” Krzanich said of the company’s newfound emphasis on embedded technology. “It’s how do you build a platform that lets people build on this.”
By 2020, up to 17 billion devices could make up the Internet of Things, Krzanich said. Intel hopes to power them through its Edison platform, which combines computation with communication capabilities.
Edison is a successor to the Quark embedded processor that Intel launched at last year’s Intel Developer Forum—but Edison is made using a 22-nanometer process. Edison itself was announced at CES, and it’s now shipping, Krzanich said, with a target price of about $50.
In wearables, Intel hopes to establish what he called an edge-to-edge solution: a platform to sense data, process it on the device, and then ship that data back to the data center. Products like its prototype CitySense air-quality monitors have been deployed in London, Dublin, Ireland, and San Jose, Krzanich said.
Krzanich also showed off the MICA, a smartband that the company developed with Opening Ceremony. “What we were doing is building a cell phone capability that could link your cell phone and get all that textual information: texts, tweets, Facebooks,” he said.
“This is something you want to wear regardless of the technology inside, and when you see the technology inside, you want to wear one,” Krzanich added. As another example, Krzanich mentioned the smart earbuds developed by SMS Audio, which can measure a runner’s heart rate and report it to a smartphone.
Don’t forget the PC—or Skylake
For the past few months, Intel has touted its vision of a wire-free future, where notebooks and other devices will be wirelessly charged, with wireless displays that automatically connect to a nearby monitor. Intel has said previously that the wireless display component of that vision will arrive with the Core M.
Native wireless charging, however, will enter the PC space with the Skylake platform in the first quarter of 2016, said Kirk Skaugen, the senior vice president in charge of Intel’s Client Group. “Our goal is to make wireless charging in every device,” Skaugen added.
Intel sits on the board of the Alliance for Wireless Power, also known as Rezence. By the end of 2015, Intel hopes to deliver a reference design that eliminates all cables.
Even a year a way from production, Skaugen showed off a Skylake-powered notebook that could run the 3DMark benchmark and 4K video. “I am incredibly excited about the health of Skylake,” Skaugen said—a significant statement, given that the current Core M processors were delayed six months.
Skaugen also announced that the next-gen Broadwell chips for desktop PCs would be available in products in the first quarter of 2015.
Tablets becoming increasingly important
Although its chips have been historically synonymous with the PC, Intel also hopes that they will move into the strong market for Android tablets. Intel has developed an Intel Reference Design for Android, certified by Google, that will take its Atom chips and allow OEMs to quickly develop an Android tablet powered by its hardware.
At CES 2014, Intel announced RealSense, a product line which will include the first “depth cameras” that mimic the Microsoft Kinect. Michael Dell, the founder of Dell, appeared onstage to announce the Dell Venue 8 7000 series with an integrated RealSense camera. The tablet will include a 2K, 8.4-inch OLED display, an edge-to-edge screen, and measure just 8 mm thin. While it will ship this November, Dell did not announce a price.