Intel began the year strongly at CES in January by delivering a keynote about 2013 being a game changing year for Intel. It was all about a game changing product on the way called the Ultrabook Convertible. Last week in Beijing, Intel's IDF was in full gear once again to excite their developers in China about the coming new product category. The theme echoing throughout their main keynote was that the next generation Ultrabooks in the form of convertibles and detachables were going to deliver the very best 2 for 1 computer deal for consumers that they won't be able to ignore. The new devices will deliver the best powered notebook and the best featured tablets in one device. Intel believes that this this is the game changer they need to breathe life back into the PC market which just experienced its worst quarter in more than twenty years. Will they be able to pull it off? Time will tell.
2 for 1: The Ultrabook Convertible and Detachable Category
The main keynote delivered at IDF Beijing 2013 last week titled "Reinventing the Intel Computing Experience" was delivered by Kirk Skaugen, Senior VP, General Manager PC Client Group. Early into Skaugen's keynote he made the observation that at the end of the day "we're all both consumption and creation people. On one hand, we consume news on our phones and tablets every day. But we're also creation people. So there's room for a new and exciting category that we're calling the Ultrabook Convertible and Detachable. Simply put it's a 2 for 1 computing device that's the best of a PC with a full quad core experience and a fantastic tablet."
If there was one message that Intel hammered home at IDF Beijing, it was definitely that the coming wave of Ultrabook Convertible products arriving this summer will deliver the very best 2 for 1 computer deal and experience that the industry has to offer. The multiple slides presented during Skaugen's keynote and throughout IDF prove this out. Below are some of the slides that repeat their new 2013 marketing message.
And just in case you didn't quite catch that message: The new Ultrabook Convertible is a 2 for 1 Experience.
The Difference between the Ultrabook Convertible and Detachable
The detachable category, according to Intel, is a notebook that will primarily offer an 11.6 inch multitouch display that's really a tablet first and foremost. When detached from the keyboard it is a fully functional, fully featured light weight tablet.
The Ultrabook convertible on the other hand is really a notebook first that will offer consumers a much wider range of display sizes to meet their needs while gaining a tablet when the display is converted to function as a multitouch tablet. Meaning that the user will be able to hide the keyboard by twisting the display around and setting it back over the keyboard so that all you see is the multitouch display and use it as you would any tablet. The ultra-light Ultrabooks will be no heavier than most 9.7 inch tablets.
Intel states that the next generation Ultrabook's will be powered by Haswell, Intel's fourth generation Core Processor that will offer consumers the best tablet when you want it and the best PC when you need it, all in one device.
The first OEM that will take advantage of Haswell in a Convertible Ultrabook will be Lenovo who will be introducing an 11 inch design with an i5 Haswell processor that wasn't even an option just a year ago. Lenovo will introduce their next generation Yoga 11S this this June for $800 US.
Haswell Powered Convertible and Detachable Ultrabooks will Deliver Vastly Superior Battery Life
Intel's 22nm based Haswell is a new Core processor built from the ground up and designed to deliver the best battery life in history. The new computers will offer a 20X power reduction vs. Intel's second generation Core processor family which is a serious advancement.
Intel's next generation processors will drop power consumption by more than 50% over the last generation of Core processor to enable thinner, lighter systems with significantly longer battery life.
In general, Intel's Haswell is now being shipped in high volume to their OEM's which all but guarantees shipment of these new devices right on cue for this summer and more importantly, in time for the all-important back to school season.
Another Giant Leap in Integrated Enhanced Graphics
As you could tell by the specifications noted in Intel's slide above, Haswell based computers will deliver 2X graphics performance and will be able to power three 4K HD quality Monitors as noted in the middle graphic in the slide above.
Depending on the system, Intel will offer 3 levels of graphics performance depending on the chip that is chosen (i3, i5 and i7). Intel states that their on-chip graphics will beat out 80% of the discrete graphics cards on the market today.
Intel to Introduce a New Entry Computing Level Processor in Time for Q4 Holiday Season
Beyond Ultrabook developments, Intel introduced a new processor called the Bay Trail M&D (Mobile & Desktop) that will debut sometime this fall. The new processor is to power entry level value computers ranging from all-in-one desktops right through to tablets and other fan-less form factors with all day battery. It will be available for Windows 8 and "Alternative Operating Systems."
During Intel's CES 2013 keynote, Skaugen talked briefly about facial recognition, gesture interaction and voice assistance coming to Haswell based computers. In his Beijing keynote, Skaugen began promoting Intel's new marketing term "Perceptual Computing" which covers the very same features.
As Skaugen framed it, it's really just a fancy word for "making interaction with our computing devices more life-like. If you think about it, our PC's and tablets for the most part have only had one eye, or one camera and they've only had one ear, or one microphone. And this year we're adding dual array microphones to give us two ears and significantly better cameras with 3D kind of capabilities [to give us two eyes]."
While Intel's marketing team was in high gear pumping up "perceptual computing," we're not likely to see many applications adopting these capabilities right out of the gate. So it'll take time for these new capabilities to become meaningful.
Some of the 3D camera stuff that Intel talked about will require the purchase of a fairly large and awkward "WALL-E" looking camera from Creative that that clips onto your desktop display. Though give it time. In a few years, these 3D cameras are likely to be built right into the bezels of future PC hardware like standard cameras are today.
Intel's Big Push to Support Multiple Operating Systems
Vice President and General Manager, Systems Software Division Doug Fisher, delivered "Intel's Vision for Developers." According to an Intel press release, Fisher opened the second day of IDF, addressing Intel's transformation of the PC experience and advances in device segments along with full support of multiple operating environments.
Intel's particular slide below shows us that Intel is stepping up their work with Google's Android and Chrome operating systems. Google's new Chromebook Pixel, which is powered by Intel's i5 processor, is likely just the tip of the iceberg of what's to come from their collaboration.
Intel released the slides from Fisher's keynote along with a brief press release about it, but they didn't actually provide us with the associated webcast. That's unfortunate because Fisher obviously touched on the Tizen OS that will be officially debuting in products later this year beginning with a Samsung smartphone.
Update 04/15/13: Intel released Mr. Fisher's keynote Mid-morning today. We're reviewing it now and will update our report if something of interest is worth noting, especially about the Tizen OS.
Update 2 0/4/13: On the topic of the Tizen OS, Doug Fisher stated that it was an open source project and an open business model. "It's an alternative for all to participate in and deliver compelling solutions from smartphones to in-vehicle infotainment systems." To clarify, he stated that "Companies like Toyota, Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan are actively investing in Tizen to deliver in-vehicle infotainment solutions. And Intel is investing to ensure that our applications and our solutions in Tizen are optimized for Intel Architecture to meet the needs of our customers."
In September 2012 we covered Intel's IDF event in our report titled "Intel's Next Wave: Transparent Computing," we noted that Intel was investing heavily in creating HTML 5 tools for developers. In last week's keynote, Doug Fisher added an interesting statistic worth noting.
"If you take a look at what's happening in China, 85% of developers believe it's now time to really start investing in HTML 5. By 2015, 80% of mobile devices will be deployed with HTML 5 capabilities." Fisher then announced Intel's HTML 5 Developer Environment tools as noted below were being made available to developers at no charge, as in free.
Intel Supporting Smartphone eWallet Capabilities in China
Another key point from Fisher's keynote worth noting is Intel's ongoing work with China's UnionPay to deliver an eWallet solution for smartphones powered by Intel. Next generation smartphones powered by Intel mobile processor will use near field communications (NFC) and Intel's new Identity Protection Technology to help make secure mobile payments a reality. Intel collaborated with global bankcard network UnionPay.
Speaking during Fisher's keynote, Hongfeng Chai, executive vice president of UnionPay, introduced the UnionPay Quick Pass service that will used to pay for products everywhere from department stores to vending machines. The vending machine that they referred to is very much like the Coke machine which we covered in our IDF September 2012 keynote report.
China the Number One PC Consumption Country
It's just a fact that times change as we can see by one of Intel's IDF slides that China is on track to be the number one PC consumption country in the world by 2016. At the same time Wintel is no longer the powerhouse it once was, Apple's iOS is powering the number one smartphone in the world and Google's Android is the number one OS by sheer volume in the mobile space. Both use ARM based processors.
At the End of the Day
At the end of the day, Intel's IDF Beijing 2013 keynote delivered by Kirk Skaugen covered most of the same ground that he did in his CES keynote this past January. Intel's main theme was once again about the Ultrabook Convertible and Detachable products coming to market in the second half of this year.
Skaugen had stated during his keynote that the initial stages of the Ultrabook in year's past were simply modified Intel iCore based products; a means of gearing up for the real product category killer that could be a real game changer for Intel. The ultimate Ultrabook Convertible and Detachable product lines will roll out with an all new Core processor designed to power the next generation of PCs and especially the hybrid-notebook class of device.
Beyond the developments of the Ultrabook, Intel's IDF Beijing 2013 did in fact bring a few new things to light. Intel will be introducing a new value-market processor later this year that's important for a country like China and other emerging markets to meet the needs of their diverse populations. They also highlighted the Tizen OS for the first time at an IDF event and made it clear that Google's operating system was going to play a larger role in Intel's ecosystem going forward. And lastly, it was important to see Intel's work with UnionPay. It's yet another sign that the revolutionary e-Wallet and/or iWallet market is still pushing toward to making this a mainstream reality in the not-too-distant future.
Yet make no mistake about it. Intel is betting the house on the Ultrabook Convertible and Detachable segment to revive the PC industry that has just hit rock bottom last quarter. The PC stats don't lie and the PC segment hit a twenty year low. But stats don't always show the whole story, just the present trend.
Microsoft is the one squarely to blame for the PC's last dip pushing it over the edge to a historic low. They tried to pull off an Apple-like surprise event last fall to shock the market with the introduction of their Surface tablet. They pushed Windows 8 with its dual OS too hard too fast at a time when the touch enabled display segment of the PC industry wasn't even ready. They just selfishly blew it.
Now that that most OEM's are beginning to roll out PC's with touch-enabled displays, the Ultrabook Convertible and Detachable products just might have a chance to win back some market share and revive the PC sector back to respectability. I think if you're a current PC notebook power user, your next upgrade to an Ultrabook variant will be a no brainer. The ability to get a 2 for 1 computer deal is just too good to pass on at prices that are acceptable to the mainstream market. And it's only going to get better over the next few years.
With the IDF keynote example of a new Lenovo Ultrabook Convertible coming to market with an i5 Haswell processor this June, it's a clear sign that others OEM's will be following this trend. Products such as HP's Envy X2 are likely to graduate from being considered a high-end netbook to being considered a full powered notebook which is really where the rubber meets the road for power users.
In the end, the bottom line is really about one of context. The revival of the traditional PC is about finding its way back to being a competitive product in the new order of things. It's not about the traditional PC sector returning to its glory days, as that would be delusional. By and large, consumers always look to the next-great thing and handheld computers and the coming wearable computer segments are currently where it's at.
In that light, the coming Ultrabook variants will likely be able to hold a solid position with consumers who, beyond surfing the net, chatting or socializing, actually need to get some serious work done. This is where the new convertible and detachable Ultrabooks come into play. After your serious work is done, you'll be able to simply detach your notebook display, kick back and enjoy all of the advancements found in a modern tablet. In fact you'll be able to get a larger 11 inch multitouch display to surf the net and play games with and a battery that will be able to deliver more hours for you to enjoy it with. This is why Intel believes this is a game changer. It's a pure 2 for 1 computer deal that provides consumers with true value. And in that vein, it may very well prove to be the game changer that Wintel is hoping it to be.
After two long years of preparing the market for the coming of this next generation Ultrabook Convertible and Detachable computer category – it's showtime for Intel and the PC industry as a whole.
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