Intel's fourth quarter outlook turned out to fall below Wall Street expectations on Tuesday, but the chipmaker's outlook for the overall PC market looks even more hazy.
The problem is that Intel doesn't have any clear vision about what the default form factor for personal computing will (or at least should) look like in the next few years.
Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini asserted that when "the numbers are in," they will show that PC consumption did grow in Q3 at half the normal seasonable rate and the same is expected for Q4.
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"Our customers are designing entirely new categories of PCs," Otellini posited, adding that there will be more than 140 core-based Ultrabooks rolled out next year -- more than 40 of which will have touch capabilities and more than a dozen will be convertibles.
Many of them are supposed to fall around the "mainstream $699 price point," but Otellini hinted that there could be some that sell for even cheaper.
"I see the computing market in a period of transition, but also a period of innovation and breakthrough creativity," Otellini asserted.
But when asked during the call if we're never going to see the same kind of growth in the PC market that we're used to, Otellini reiterated that is hard to determine based on the currect economic climate and other factors.
Nevertheless, Otellini didn't offer a definite answer to analysts or investors hoping that Intel had a plan:
I don't think that the tablet as we've seen it evolve over the last several years is the end-state of computing. The innovation is going to start pouring in now that you have widely available skews on a widely distributed operating system that will come from multiple vendors that can unleash their creativity.
What I can't predict is what form factors going to win here. But I do think that some of these things that have sort of the best of both worlds. The performance and the capability of a laptop and the form factor and convenience of a tablet are likely to be the things that are most high-volume runners, but we honestly won't know for 12 months.
While tablets are arguably still a new segment in the PC market, the rate at which this market is growing is astounding. Thus, there isn't room nor time when it comes to guessing.