As it does every year, September gave us the opportunity of going to San Francisco to attend the Intel Developer Forum, or IDF, the main communications event in the calendar of the world no. 1 microprocessor manufacturer. And of course it gave us the chance to learn more on forthcoming products and on what the future holds. Here’s what we came back with...
Intel, solution provider
Although Intel talked at some length about Sandy Bridge, the Atom ecosystem and its vision for the integration of computing in our lives, namely the short and the long term, the medium term was completely sidelined. We learned absolutely nothing on the 22 nanometre generation, whether this be the fabrication process itself, Ivy Bridge, the Sandy Bridge “tock”, or Knights Corner, the HPC development of the Larrabee project, the graphics part of which has been pushed back into the cupboard, at least for the time being.
There are probably a number of reasons for this. Intel is relatively prudent with respect to their competitors who may well prove more dangerous in the future with (at last!) a new CPU architecture from AMD, the development of the CUDA ecosystem in HPC and consolidation in the foundries world which could eventually threaten Intel’s current domination in terms of its mastery of new fabrication processes. Intel prefers therefore not to give too much information to the competition on its forthcoming products as well how far along they are.
Intel must also still have a bitter taste in the mouth after having to swallow its pride and announce the abandonment of the Larrabee project that was designed to compete with GPUs in terms of graphics. This very public failure is something that Intel executives most certainly would rather not repeat! Add to that the absence due to sickness of Sean Maloney, co-General Manager of the Intel Architecture Group, which groups all the company’s products and technologies, and we have what makes for an unfavourable climate for revealing announcements on future products.
Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel and David Perlmutter, currently co-General Manager of IAG and his potential successor.
One other reason is probably linked to the fact that Intel has been in continuous mutation over the last few years. At this year’s IDF, Paul Otellini insisted on the fact that Intel wasn’t simply a microprocessor manufacturer but had become a solutions provider. Intel is thus aiming to provide a platform, or even a complete ecosystem, for each type of computing application. The takeovers of Wind River and McAfee are obviously part of this vision.
This strategy gives a means of responding to the mass arrival of connected “intelligent” peripherals with Intel talking about 31 billion of such devices by 2020, as well as the progressive transformation of the CPU into a commodity for an increasingly large proportion of users. It is therefore important for Intel to have a vision of future usages, or even inspire them, so that its products retain value and can continue to sell to an ever increasing number. This development tends to put an increasing accent on the platform rather than the technology that makes it possible.