Intel shifts focus as tech moves beyond the PC

IDF 2009: Innovation needs to meet changing computing demands arising from netbooks, mobile phones and in-vehicle devices, Intel chief Paul Otellini tells developers
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive and  Larry Dignan, Contributor

At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, chief executive Paul Otellini left attendees with a simple message: we'll keep innovating on the technology front, and you keep building the next big things.

In his keynote speech to developers on Tuesday, Otellini drove home the message that, through standards technology, Intel wants developers to be able to just build once, not many times for multiple platforms.

The IDF keynote was centred around the idea of changing demands, which he described as a "continuum of technology". It used to be, Otellini said, that everything was centred around the PC. Today, that is no longer the case. The market has shifted and grown, and the need for computing power is everywhere.

While there are consumer gadgets such as netbooks, portable gaming devices and web-enabled handhelds, there are also devices that are mission-critical in the medical field, features that are driving change in the automotive industry, demands for digital signage and even an interest in new technology for Las Vegas slot machines, he said.

Chip technology used to be focused around speed, size and improved battery life, Otellini noted. Today, the differentiators in products come in the form of bandwidth usage, user interface and even the ability to 'tweet'. The devices people use — whether a smartphone or a netbook or even a plasma-screen television — all need to work together in a seamless fashion. The key to this, he said, is the software

"The software binds this continuum together," Otellini said. "It removes the barrier."

Over the past couple of years, Intel has acquired 10 companies in the software area to get the tools that allow developers to do more, he noted. With the arrival of Windows 7 in October, the public will finally experience the innovation that has been going on behind the scenes — faster bootups and better power management among other things, he said.

Otellini called Windows 7 a "first-class operating system" that could help spark a resurgence in the tech industry. Netbooks have been built on Intel's Atom processor, and the interest in them has been "astounding, a growth driver for Intel and the industry". Otellini said he envisions the industry continuing to grow — and evolve — with the arrival of Windows 7, the continued interest in mobile devices and the imagination of the developer.

Also in his speech, Otellini showed off the first working chips using 22nm process technology. These 22nm manufacturing techniques will be the basis for future chips from Intel that will begin arriving in the second half of 2011, he said.

Otellini said the 22nm chips show how "Moore's Law is alive". However, he noted that working to the technology continuum is a different proposition from working to Moore's Law. "While Moore's law is very predictable, this continuum is not," he said.

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