Here’s the quick version of everything Intel will be talking about today: Touch, Live Pay TV, Atom phones, all-day battery life for Intel Core computers.
Intel got into phones last year with its Medfield, the first time it was making competitive mobile phones and tablets. Intel is playing up how well its battery life fared among reviewers, with some highlights, but overall it was a little more mixed than that.
For this year, Intel’s going to focus on value smartphones in emerging markets. It is announcing a new platform for these phones codenamed “Lexington”. The reference phone Intel designed for OEMs runs an Atom processor at 1.2GHz, running Android and an HSPA+ radio. the rest of its specs are half decent too, with 7fps burst shooting from its camera, and dual SIM, dual standby and a microSD card slot. Acer, Safaricom, and Lava will be making phones on this platform.
Intel is calling Lexington a “no compromises, feature rich”, but Clover Trail+ is what most of us are interested in. That will have twice the performance of the current Medfield. That will be available later this year.
Phones and Tablets
Intel’s new Atom line (Clover Trail) also launched this past year. Intel’s talking about how much of a success they were. We found it to be a pretty good way to run Windows 8, but not a miracle by any stretch.
Today it’s announcing Bay Trail. It’s a new Atom micro architecture with a 22nm design. It’s quad core, it has twice the performance of last generation and improved battery life. It will run on both Windows 8 and Android, and it will be out around Christmas of this year.
Convertibles and Detachables
Obviously, a lot of Intel’s projects have been centred around the dropping of wattage, from 17W to 15W. But the new drop is happening in Ivy Bridge, with a drop down to 7W, coming in even lighter than the original expectation of 10W for Haswell. They’re shipping today, instead of waiting for the newer Haswell chips later this year.
That’s actually a huge deal. The drop in power consumption going down to 10W was already nuts, and being able to do it with the current architecture is a big boon to the existing crop of convertibles. It keeps all the products that launched at Windows 8 launch from being immediately outmoded. And that’s important because Intel’s got its chips in 140 ultrabook-class systems. You can say what you want about convertibles being goofy, or even ultrabooks being overpriced, but they’ve definitely become the model of choice, at least for manufacturers. Especially considering that between 2011 and 2012, the ultra low-wattage computer base has grown by five times.
4th Generation Intel Core Ultrabooks
Haswell, the next generation of Core processors, is the first one that will be built expressly for ultrabooks. That doesn’t just mean with the power consumption, which we already know about (claiming the largest battery life increase, generation over generation, in the history of Intel. ) but it’s also requiring touch in all of the products in this generation.
Other additions will be increased security protocols, and better (and more efficient) constant connectivity. (That will probably involve more efficient sleep states, which Intel discussed at IDF.)
The reference design that Intel showed today for Haswell was a detachable 11.6-inch ultrabook that can bump itself up to 13.3 inches by expanding its screen right up to the edge of the screen. And it’s a detachable, with 10 hours of battery life in tablet mode. That’s a pretty good microcosm of where Intel thinks computers are going, and where it’s trying to nudge them.
Basically, Intel thinks that Windows 8 is going to be a good chance to compel people to replace their old-ass desktop computers. That’s because they can be laid flat, like the Sony Tap 20 or the Lenovo Horizon, and used as a family centre to play games. To that end, Intel’s launching an ecosystem to build apps to support these types of experiences. This seems to have some overlap with Lenovo’s apps for the Horizon, and includes big names like EA. The tricks here are things we covered in the Lenovo Horizon hands on, but you can do stuff like play poker, use peripherals like joysticks or wireless dice, and play other games.
Intel Premium Pay TV
Intel is also teaming up with Comcast to stream premium pay TV and video on demand to Intel computers in the US, without a set-top box. This isn’t the huge tectonic shift some of us are waiting on in television, but it further brings pay TV into the internet age.
Natural Human Interfaces
And then there’s Mooly. This is about adding “perceptual computing”. That means human-like senses getting into the devices, hopefully. And not just janky features that don’t really work. Dell is already launching demo software, and searches with voice, command and control with voice in games, interact with Wikipedia, and other features are already available.
One of the ways that this could help would be security, and fixing all the idiotic passwords that people use. It can use face-unlock, and uses advanced imaging tech to recognise about 700 points on the face and muscular movements, so that it can’t be fooled by someone printing out your Facebook profile pic.
You can also do stuff like popping in a 3D camera to recognise gestures (eventually it’ll be built into the machines themselves). With Intel’s SDK (and the right hardware), you can recognise things as fine as each of your fingers, instead of them just showing up as a giant nub. This motion control, which uses Sixense, lets you do stuff like picking up objects in a game with your fingers. Which is a mighty big promise, and something we’d definitely like to see working in a real-life setting before we get our hopes up.
It also lets you do some cool stuff like isolate a friend or relative, and instead of having them in a square box, you would see just their torso overlaid on top of your web page. Or, with Tobii, tracking your eyes around a screen for a game like Where’s Wally?