Intel Extends and Expands the Boundaries of Personal Computing

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  May 31, 2017

During his opening keynote at Computex Taipei 2017, Gregory Bryant, corporate VP and GM of Intel’s Client Computing Group highlighted new and updated solutions that he said will help Intel evolve from a PC company to one building “a more immersive, personal, smart and connected world.” The new offerings include:

  • Intel’s new Core X-series processor family, which scales from 4 to 18 cores with matching price points. The X-series also introduces new Core i9 processors with high performance capabilities ideal for data-intensive tasks like VR content creation and data visualization. These include the 18 core, 36 thread Core i9 Extreme Edition i9-7980XE which Intel said is the “first-ever teraflop desktop PC processor.”
  • The new Intel x299 chipset is compatible with the new X-series family. It adds significantly more I/O performance and overclocking capabilities to those solutions, and is also compatible with Intel’s recently announced Optane memory technologies.
  • The updated Turbo Boost Max 3.0 which in Core i9 Extreme Edition chips detects applications requiring higher performance, then shifts those workloads to the best available one or two cores and boosts clock speed accordingly. For example, in Core i9 Extreme Edition solutions, Turbo Boost Max 3.0 can raise the clock speed for single and multi-thread performance from a base 3.3 GHz or 3.6 GHz up to 4.5 GHz.
  • The new Intel Compute Card allows devices from smart screens to interactive appliances to VR headsets to be easily connected to PCs. These include HTC’s Vive VR headset which can operate wirelessly using Intel WiGig technology. Compute Card solutions are expected to start shipping later this year.
  • Second generation 3D NAND SSDs, including the Intel SSD DC P4500, P4600 and P4501 Series for use in data center applications, and
  • Strong support from ecosystem partners for Intel’s new Optane memory technologies, resulting in over 130 Optane-ready motherboards, along with related systems from OEMs and systems integrators.

Bryant also stated Intel’s commitment to deliver new 8th generation Intel Core processor-based devices by the 2017 holiday season. The new Core chips are expected to deliver over 30 percent better performance than current 7th gen Core processors.

Multi-dimensional personal computing

The first three decades of personal computing development were fairly easy for people to track and comprehend. Succeeding generations of desktop PCs and associated peripherals generally stayed within a narrow range of form factors. Performance improvements proceeded according to Moore’s Law and other predictable and widely understood metrics. Applications and operating systems followed similar courses, with new features and enhancements paralleling the generational evolution of hardware.

But in the last decade or so, PCs and their commercial markets have become far more complex. That’s primarily due to continuing, remarkable progress in four areas:

  1. Performance—Due to advancements by microprocessor, storage, memory component vendors, including Intel, PC performance continues to press ahead, enabling consumer PCs to support applications and workloads once reserved for commercial workstations, and workstations to provide ever more value to business owners
  2. Power—Energy efficiency gains achieved through hardware and battery innovations are enabling both notebook PCs and tablets to achieve unprecedented gains in battery life with little, if any effect on system performance
  3. Portability—While premium notebooks with sometimes meager performance once typified mobile computing solutions, component advancements and materials design innovation have led to numerous thin, light notebooks and tablets fit to travel anywhere while delivering a full-fledged PC experience.
  4. Price—The cost of PCs always has and always will reflect performance characteristics, system quality and target applications. At the same time, the continuing evolution of silicon and other components has resulted in robustly performing systems at virtually every price point. That, in turn, is enabling the confluence of what were once entirely separate solutions for business and consumer applications.

In other words, desktop and notebook PCs have evolved from essentially monolithic devices to multi-dimensional solutions that can be flexibly configured for a wide range of use cases, budgets and user requirements.

From multi- to mega-tasking

Some of the results of that evolution are clearly apparent in the offerings Intel announced at Computex Taipei. But how will the new X-series family and Core i9 solutions impact consumers and businesses?

An area worth examining is what Intel terms support for “mega-tasking,” an extension or refinement of more common multi-tasking solutions. Broadly speaking, mega-tasking refers to a PC’s ability to simultaneously support multiple, high performance applications or workloads, a capability which can enhance both consumer and business tasks.

For example, Intel noted that its Core i9 Extreme Edition solutions will allow an enthusiast to play his or her favorite game, stream it, record and encode their game play, and share it on social media, all at the same time. The process can also be enriched with Intel-based systems supporting multiple displays (for an overall 12k experience), and up to four discrete graphics cards.

Mega-tasking is common in the workplace, especially for businesses employing content creators, like graphics and video processionals. In those cases, Intel X-series family offerings can support fast image rendering, video encoding, audio production and real-time preview functions—all running in parallel. That is likely to improve workplace efficiency but it also means that content creators should have more time to create, and deliver additional value to their organizations.

Final analysis

It is true that Intel’s latest solutions, particularly the X-series family, Core i9 Extreme Edition processors and Compute Cards are aimed at the higher end of the PC spectrum. But that’s typically the case when new and next generation technologies are introduced. Not every consumer or business requires such products but those that do happily pay a premium for latest/greatest performance.

However, Intel’s new Extreme Edition offerings, like the teraflop-capable Core i9-7980XE, will allow the company’s OEMs to explore intriguing synergies in designs for both high-performance gaming systems and business workstations, particularly those used for creative graphics and entertainment content development. Those opportunities have certainly existed in the past, but Intel’s new X-series family processors and related offerings should enable OEMs to pursue and capture them more easily.

The new Intel offerings also provide a clear view of where Intel solutions are heading in the future. One part of that journey will lead to additional improvements in Core silicon, like the 30 percent performance gain expected in the 8th generation processors that are expected later this year. But others, like the Turbo Boost Max 3.0, Compute Card offerings, and Optane memory technologies highlight Intel’s resolve to create ever more immersive, personal, smart and connected solutions.

That’s great news for Intel’s OEM and developer partners, along with the countless consumers and millions of businesses those vendors serve. But it will also place less able or more limited competitors at a distinct disadvantage, and put a squeeze on those who mistakenly believe they are positioned to triumph in a race where Intel is clearly setting the pace.

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