Intel held its annual Investor Meeting today, where the chip maker talked software, the state of the business, as well as new hardware and leveraging microarcitecture leadership. This installment focuses on the software side of things.
During the various keynotes that were held throughout the day for the Investor Meeting 2011, one ideal seemed to present itself in some form or another, and summarized the message Intel presented to the world. The idea was that of a consistent user experience across every computing platform accomplished by leveraging Intel software applications with Intel hardware advancements to deliver a productive and easy to use computing experience whether it is on a cell phone or a dual CPU production workstation. Intel is a market leader in micro-architecture and x86 processors, as well as in sold state drives and high performance computing. Soon, thanks to advancements in transistor technology, Intel will also have a large presence in the mobile market with low power x86 SoCs. Their dominance in desktop computing hardware, along with their good relations with many software developers allows the chip maker a great deal of influence in the technology industry. On the software side of things, Intel has a team of engineers who work inside Microsoft’s closely with their software engineers to ensure that the popular operating system delivers a solid experience for x86, and specifically Intel, powered computers. Intel is also heavily invested in open source software and has helped in creating open source operating systems and applications. In the mobile market, Intel is still a proponent and developer of MeeGo, for instance.
This influence and investment in both hardware and software research and development has made Intel a leader in the technology industry. Intel plans to leverage this influence to deliver the most consistent user experience across all platforms, and the process has already begun. Intel has several software technologies that are capable of harnessing their architecture technology to make computers easier to use and more productive. They showed off three (new) pieces of such software during one of their keynotes, including PC Sync, and Fast Flash Standby which encompasses an active standby/sleep mode and fast recovery hibernation modes.
PC Sync is a program much akin to Dropbox in that it promises to keep all of the files that you select in sync between all of your different devices. David Perlmutter and a co-worker showed PC Sync working live as they synced files between two computers. The program differs from Dropbox; however, in the fact that it only works over your local network, and thus it is inherently more secure and faster than services that must first sync files to an Internet server before downloading to the target computer(s).
The other interesting software demonstrated was Intel’s Fast Flash Standby technology. This software improves upon the traditional sleep and hibernation modes in Microsoft Windows. The standby mode will put the computer to sleep by saving the system state to RAM and entering a low power mode just like the standard Windows’ affair; however, the software will also automatically wake up the system at periodic intervals to download updates such as email, tweets, and Facebook messages, and then will return the computer to its sleep state so that once the computer is woken, the system is already updated and ready to go. Intel has also improved upon the hibernation sleep mode by utilizing flash memory to greatly reduce the time necessary to enter hibernation and resume from the sleep mode. In the demo, the system state was saved to a fast flash drive, and not only did the computer quickly hibernate but it resumed from hibernation in 5 seconds.
Intel also talked about mobile software. Android and MeeGo are both software platforms that Intel is interested in powering with its mobile processors. The 7" tablet and concept smart phone they showed off were both running android. Intel’s Senior Vice President and General Manager for its Software & Services Group, Renée J. James stated that Intel is well positioned to create an application ecosystem when it enters the mobile market, and that developers have stated that they plan to develop for them. Further, Renée stated that 90% of Android applications are a run-time and can easily be made to run on Intel’s mobile devices.
Intel also addressed the shareholders’ concerns of how Windows 8 on ARM would affect Intel. The Windows 8 SKU for ARM will be a ARM focused operating system, and will run ARM applications. The SKU will be well suited for ARM powered mobile devices where mobile and cloud applications can be used. On the other hand, there will also be a "full" Windows 8 with Windows 7 mode that will offer the full featured Windows experience, including backwards compatibility with legacy applications–which the ARM SKU will not offer. Because of this full featured Windows 8 operating system version is tailored for x86, Intel believes that it will have the "best of both worlds" for the consumers in being able to have the full fledged OS and ability to use existing Windows applications made for x86. Renée remained confident in Intel’s continued position despite an OS version for ARM chips.
Further, Intel recognized its McAfee acquisition. The president of McAfee then took the stage to explain that the company was committed to delivering security products across the Intel line. He also stressed that with the ever increasing presence of malware on the Internet, the current method of security programs using "blacklisting" techniques was not sustainable. The cloud, he surmised, was both a security concern as well as a resource for security programs, and that he expects to have software that is backed by large Internet databases cataloging malware definitions to be the standard in the coming years until a technique stronger than blacklisting becomes usable.
For a hardware company, Intel has also delved heavily into software by working with developers and acquiring software companies. They recognize that it takes more than hardware to create a quality computing experience and only with the right balance of both hardware and software is a consistent user experience across all of their devices possible.