Intel flying blind into PC, tablet future?

Intel flying blind into PC, tablet future?

Summary: When it comes to what the PC market will look like in the next year, Intel doesn't look like it has much of a clue anymore.

TOPICS: Intel, Tablets

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.

More: Intel CEO talks soft data center sales amid cloud growth | Intel's Q3: Hits revenue target but Q4 outlook light | Intel's Q3, Q4: Hostage to the Windows 8 upgrade cycle | Intel's Moore's Law may ultimately meet economic limits

"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. 


Topics: Intel, Tablets

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  • The admission of not knowing

    is probably the most positive news out of Intel since they "got" the design for the Pentium from Apollo when the patent ran out...
    Tony Burzio
    • PC slowing down will spread to tablet market

      Once the hardware matures, it no longer provides the drive for people to upgrade. It's the same dynamics be it PC, smartphone or tablet.
      • Not quite

        Sure, the dynamic growth of the smartphone and tablet markets -- and the idea that we're still trying to figure out just what these are... we have the PC pretty well nailed -- is one of the factors driving growth. Another is market penetration, since lots of people don't have tablets yet.

        Some of this will slow down, but some won't. The smartphone is actually a pretty settled issue for the moment, and conservative upgrades like Apple's iPhone 5 tell you the market is already maturing. On the other hand, these things are sold on subsidies, and so, unless the telco sales model changes dramatically in the future, the vast majority of consumers will still buy device refreshes every other year (at least in the USA).

        Tablets are sometimes sold the same way. But, another factor in pushing sales of smartphones and tablets is the environment -- these things get lugged around, they fall, they break. Your PC pretty much doesn't. That alone is prevalent enough to keep the market going once we hit "CPU-cycle demand saturation" (eg, they're fast enough for most folks' use, as PCs have been since 2000 or so).

        Another factor in the mobile devices market, and certainly the thing that Microsoft worries about, is the fact that while smartphones and tablets are not going away, their use patterns are still in flux. It's likely that, over time, we'll be shifting even more general personal computing to these devices. That's got Intel trying to blur the line between PC and "non-PC personal computer" from the performance top down, even as the use pattern is causing that to happen from the performance bottom up.
        • Betting against your customer

          It's a weird one, because of course the most successful Intel-based 'Ultrabook' is made by a company also responsible for a lot of the mobile disruption.

          Of course, if Apple weren't there, I think Intel would still be suffering the same problems - ARM had control of the mobile-space before it became the significant battleground, and that was a real strategic fail. Android would still exist, albeit somewhat different. Nokia would still be a dominant player. I can't imagine any of them switching from ARM to Atom, because the only thing Atom really gives you is x86 compatibility - and the only reason you would want that is running Windows applications.

          That's not dissing Intel's hardware - they're regained their lead over AMD, and produce some really good kit - just that this battle might have been lost before they were aware it started.

          Bearing in mind that they sold an ARM-based CPU until 2006 (XScale), then sold off the whole division. But there is nothing to stop them applying their expertise to designing a Samsung/Apple-beating ARM CPU - and their chip-fab business is also world-leading.

          But they definitely need to do something rather than hoping that the WinTel PC business is going to strike a comeback.
          • WinTel Mobile.

            That should be their striving, Microsoft has an A.R.M. based O.S. Windows R.T. (which sucks) and an Intel based O.S. Windows 8 (which rocks), no-one wants a Tablet-P.C. with Windows R.T. but Windows 8 for Tablet-P.C. users is loved by those that own it, and Intel would be a fool to let Microsoft work with A.R.M.
            Agosto Nuñez
  • Blue Men

    Pay no attention to the tablet or mobile space. We have the Blue Men dancing and entertaining you. Battery life and cost are insignificant when compared to such strong marketing muscle.
    • Cost?

      I can buy a laptop with x20 the processing power, x10 the storage space, x5 the screen for x0.5 of the cost. So, these other devices are steps forward?
      Know what I will buy next and it is not an ARM based phone or tablet.
  • What is questionable

    the statement is a clear statement of the present state of software and hardware evolution and development. Win8 and Haswell will revolutionize how we interact with electronic assistants. The Surface RT is a vanilla form factor of a tablet mimicking a laptop but as an understanding of win8 develops and the power of Haswell comes into play the action really starts.
  • intel doesn't need to know the EXACT form factor variation that will win

    they know mobile is going to win, all they have to do is beat ARM at their own game. leave it up to OEMs to figure out what little variations will win, intel should know what it has to do now. make great, power efficient SoCs. no more thought on their part is required.
  • The unfortunate side-effect...

    As mobile starts to win out over desktop, so will the processing capabilities of computing devices. For some, it doesn't matter. For the rest of us, that sucks. When they can push the latest nVidia card with all its capabilities to the latest gen tablet, then I'll be a believer. Seeing as how the cards themselves are thicker, and sometimes even longer than an entire tablet, I won't be holding my breath. But you don't even need to stop there... Show me an I7 that can run in a tablet form factor that doesn't produce extreme heat, and I'll show you a seriously nerfed processor pretending to be something it's not. Until the physics game is won, the tablet is still a toy.

    There needs to be a balance in the market, until the day our entertainment consoles (i.e. XB360 / PS3) catch up with the real computing market (may never happen?).
  • The truth...

    Intel has its market, AMD has its, ARM has its, IBM has its... and so forth.
    While tablets are decent at best, they are used by the majority, which I am not a part of.
    Laptops are used more than tablets are cause they offer power, battery life, portability, etc. at a fraction of the price.
    Then you have desktops, which are used just as much as laptops are, if not more so. You have power and ease of use with desktops.
    All of these items will never go down in popularity.
    Whether you need power (desktop), portability & practicality (laptop) or complete portability (tablet), there is a market for you.
  • Ultrabooks already failed to provide the excitement Intel needed...

    of the PC market needed. Windows 8 I suspect will likewise also fail to generate the needed excitement these OEMs need to push PC hardware. The market has matured. There's no need to run out and spend upwards to $1000 for a general PC when something half the price (or less) is sufficient. Windows 7 is mature and doesn't need fixing either, or should I say screwing-up for the sake of change.

    This is the time companies should be trying to revolutionize the PC industry, not putting lipstick on pig.
    • $1000 for a general PC?

      We haven't had to pay $1000 for a general PC for years now. A so-called general PC can be bought new for around $400 to $600 depending on the hardware involved, said PC having more than enough power and upgrade capability to satisfy any "average" user". The days when you had to fork over $1000 for a general PC are long over.
  • Not knowing the future...

    Not knowing the future is NOT equal to ...."not having a plan". (my point).

    Otellini not sharing the details of the plan is NOT equal to ...."not having a plan".

    Not sharing any real details... may be part of the "plan".
    Sharing observations.. may be all that is required to meet their legals obligations.

    The cost of not sharing the details of a plan with investors .. may be a "expenditure" in executing the "plan". This cost (losing some investors, a dip in stock value) may be less than the cost of sharing the plan's details with the public (investors).

    Sharing any plans?... the cost of being a publicly traded company.

    The world is such a confusing place.....
    (a company going public , requiring the sharing of plans with it's competitors)