Ultrabooks 2.0

Intel shares their vision for 2013, and it involves Ultrabooks!

Intel is a yearly presence at CES and typically have a few interesting things to talk about.  Last year we got to see Will.I.Am on stage telling us all about how the Ultrabook has changed his artistic life.  Oddly enough, things have not changed dramatically for the company.  Ultrabooks have inherited the latest Ivy Bridge processors which were released last Spring.  Medfield is still the primary cell phone processor for Intel.

The first area they covered  is the cellphone market.  Medfield is still the go-to processor and Intel claims that it has better performance and battery life than even the latest Qualcomm products.  Intel is introducing a new reference phone for emerging markets around the world codenamed Lexington.  Based on the Z2420 and the XMM6265 modem, this budget smartphone will be Android based with certain optimizations instituted by Intel in collaboration with Google.

Intel has achieved more wins throughout the next few months.  Acer, Safaricom, and Lava will all be announcing new smart phones based on Intel silicon.  Details of these products will be released later in the quarter.

Medfield will be replaced by Clover Tail+ and then further on with their next gen 22 nm product.

Tablets are another area that Intel is going to push hard in.  Clovertrail is the SOC of choice for the Windows 8 push on tablets.  So far there are 10 OEM platforms using the Atom Z2760, running up to 1.8 GHz and dual core products.  Twice the CPU performance of the previous generation, 10+ hours of battery time, and 3 weeks of standby.

The big announcement is the Bay Trail platform which will feature a 22 nm Valleyview processor.  Bay Trail will be available during the Holiday 2013 timeframe.

The Core group had plenty to talk about, but only a small amount based on the upcoming Haswell.  Instead Intel is announcing a new product based on the 3rd Gen Core architecture.  The latest Ivy Bridge based parts are now down to 7 watts TDP.  Previously we expected the 4th gen parts, Haswell, to go down to 10 watts TDP.  This is a small, but meaningful change, as they are shipping today and can be placed in smaller and more battery efficient designs.

Ultrabooks are still the big push for Intel going into 2013.  The upcoming Haswell based parts will have new requirements in that they have to include touch capabilities and the Intel Instant On technology.  Intel is hoping to push touch enabled Ultrabooks down to the $599 price point, down from the current $699 that we often see today (at the lowest).

Intel is also pushing the convertible tablets/notebooks.  Their reference design features a Core i5 or i7 with batteries in both the tablet portion and the base unit.  These two pieces can be disconnected from each other and the screen will act as a tablet.  Intel expects a total of 13 hours of battery life from such designs, and for these products to include features such as accelerometers and other sensors to improve interactivity with this product.

We saw previously that Lenovo is developing their “tabletop computer” which is simply a large, lay-flat tablet with an integrated battery to allow use away from outlets.  Other manufacturers are creating products such as this and they will be available near the end of the first half of this year.  Intel claims they want to bring back family night, but I honestly wonder if they are overstating the impact that such a product can have on or interpersonal interactions.

Intel covered briefly their Pay TV Content service that they are offering.  They are working with Comcast in the US and will be working with a French company by late Fall of this year.  Intel claims that the built in security features of their Atom products will enable the safe delivery of content to paying customers.  These will be Atom based products on the user end.

Finally they ended with perceptual computing.  This is a push to enable computers to utilize multiple “senses” to interact with users.  Touch, hearing, seeing, motion, and “emotional context” will be key in next generation products.  These include facial recognition, three dimensional gesture interaction, and eye tracking.  They are working with software partners to better enable voice interaction and commands.  The demos were interesting, but the 3D motion capabilities still requires a standalone unit similar in functionality to the Xbox Kinnect sensor.

Overall Intel did not release anything truly groundbreaking, but they continue to push the industry forward.  They no longer consider AMD their primary competitor; instead they look to the Samsungs, Qualcomms, and NVIDIAs to compare their latest products to.

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