Intel CEO Paul Otellini said reports of the demise of the PC are greatly exaggerated. "It is fashionable to write off the PC about every three or four years, and it just doesn't die," he said.
Speaking at a Barclays Capital investor conference, Otellini called the PC a Darwinian device that adapts over time. "One of the things that drives the business and will continue to drive the business for the foreseeable future is PC growth," he said.
To some degree, Otellini is talking Intel's game. He can't say the PC is dead when it is the largest chip maker on the planet, but he may have a point about the PC and netbook for that matter. The PC you bought 15 years ago looks nothing like the one you have today.
Otellini added that the notebook PC isn't going away either. He said:
I think it's easy to forget about how important notebooks are, in particular, to people's lives, and while there is a news flash the iPad is really fun, it's not the only device that's out there, and in fact, if you look at it on a scale of units, PCs are at 1 million units a day this year. Compare that to, what, 4 million iPads last quarter. Pick your own number for this quarter. So, it's a vastly different scale here.
Naturally, Otellini talked up Sandy Bridge, Intel's next generation of processors. The big point here is that graphics are integrated into the chip.
But the big question for Intel is the tablet strategy. Here's what Otellini had to say:
Tablets, the thing that's on everybody's lips and minds. Our strategy here is very simple. We are going to offer best-of-class hardware around our Atom system on chips, and we are going to make sure that we support all of the viable operating systems that we -- that want to work with us that are in the marketplace.
So I've just listed here some of the 35 design wins we have in tablets. A number of them on Windows. A number of them on Android. And this is both Froyo, and then Honeycomb as it comes out. Then, of course, on MeeGo, the operating system that we're working on along with Nokia and other companies. Some of these are in the market today. You can buy -- the ones that are Intel-based that are in the market today are typically from people like AT&T or Cisco, and they're aimed at enterprise-class machines and customers. The consumer products will roll out over the first half of next year. You'll start seeing them on all three operating systems. Probably at CES, you'll see lots of demos, lots of announcements, and we're pretty excited about this product line.
Otellini also talked tablet vs. netbook and notebook competition. He said:
I don't think, at the end of the day, tablets are cannibalizing it. They are not replacements for notebooks. They are a competitor for discretionary income disposition. So you walk into Best Buy and you've got $400 burning a hole in your pocket, or in the case of the iPad, $600 burning a hole in your pocket, and you want to buy something cool for Christmas for your wife or kid or something. It's a competitor.
On the other hand, I have not seen a kid that takes the iPad to school and not a laptop. The laptop is still the fundamental tool in school. So, I don't see it being a displacement. I see it being an extra-fun device that you use to consume content, for the most part. And I think it's additive to the industry. So, if it goes to 50 million or 100 million units a year against a base of PCs that are 500 million units, that's great. And we'll have our fair share of those.
Bottom line: The PC isn't going to get crushed by tablets, but Intel will be ready to hedge its bets just in case.