Intel sees strong growth in its NUC mini-desktop business

While desktop sales are declining overall, the company says tiny PCs have been responsible for over a million sales in the last year.
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor

Despite dominating in laptop processor sales, and perpetually desperate to make it big in other mobile device categories, Intel still has its heart in desktop CPUs. Unfortunately, that's a bit of a problem, given that the market share for desktop PCs continues to plummet.

Nonetheless, one of the few bright spots for desktops of late has been the growth of mini-PCs, including Intel's Next Unit of Computing, or NUC, platform. Lisa Graff, Intel PC Client Group vice president, recently told Ars Technica that sales of such diminuitive desktops have skyrocketed recently, from virtually nothing to over a million units in just over a year.

There have been small-form-factor computers for years -- witness Apple's Mac Mini, for instance --  but NUCs have seemed to hit a particular nerve with businesses wanting to update their desktops to something small and cheap, according to Graff. While mini-PCs aren't generally known for their performance, Intel has recently updated its NUC models to include its latest fourth-generation Core processors (a.k.a. Haswell), with some units now able to handle 2.5-inch drives.

Given their small footprint and, in many cases, HDMI ports, the NUC systems are quite suitable for living room use, perfect for media streaming and maybe even serving as lower-cost gaming consoles. Intel even created a guide to using the NUC as a home theater PC using Mint, though it just needed to provide a BIOS update to ease Linux installations. That could make it easier to load the SteamOS onto an NUC desktop instead of spending more for a forthcoming Steam Machine (though you'll be paying for far superior performance).

The NUC faces a competitor in Google's Chromebox, a similar concept that runs the Chrome OS. Dormant for a while, the Chromebox has bounced back to life with the recent announcement of new models from Asus and HP. While it's a competing platform, the good news for Intel is that, to date, Chromeboxes have used its processors.

Do you have an interest in a NUC desktop or other mini-PC? Will they continue to have success in a world where desktops are less and less important? Let us know in the Talkback section below.

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