Tuesday 23/08/2005 — Part I
At last! The show's afoot and Paul Otellini fronting the first keynote. "It's so exciting," said Nick Knupffer, our boyish, long-suffering and permaholidaying minder, "that I deliberately haven't read the press releases so I'll be just as thrilled as you when it's announced." Which seems an odd confession for a PR, but you can't blame him for trying to find new ways to avoid awkward questions. Bless.
It, it turned out, was a magic new chip architecture, bolted together like Frankenstein's monster from some bits of the Pentium 4's Netburst and some bits of the Pentium M. As such a thing has been on the cards since the Pentium M team said they were beating the pants off Netburst at the same time as the latter's power dissipation figures for Netburst qualified as a major source of global warming, this was only marginally more surprising than Nick complaining about our bar bills. We weren't told the name for this saviour of the silicon race, which makes it a bit difficult to write about, and for the life of me I can't see why they'd import hundreds of journalists, make a fantabulous revelation and then make it so hard to refer to. Intel's Next Generation Micro-Architecture — Ingma? It's called Converged Core inside Intel, though they don't want you to know that, which is a succinct, accurate and memorable term — I expect some lawyer somewhere got its talons into it for being too darn useful.
The rest of the keynote was downhill from there. A chap from Google showed off Google Earth, which I doubt one person in a thousand at the keynote hadn't downloaded for themselves by now. It does look impressive on cinema-sized screens, until you realise that the flythrough is as vertiginous at that scale as being strapped into one of the more insane roller-coasters that dot California. Fortunately, the demo stopped before we could demonstrate parallel processing in one huge multicore chunder.
There was the standard moment of digital pathos: Bill Siu, head of platforms, talked about unreliable power supplies in the developing world as the big screen above his head froze in a Hollywood caricature of a crashed communications link. There was the Intel Video in support of the Digital Home — happy family living life of technocratic delights, check. Cute young kids at home with sci-fi gizmos, check. People using Internet to download television? Surely not! Whatever will they think of next! "I'm hooked on soap operas from Shanghai" twittered the mother. Yes, dear, but when we do it to watch US TV before it appears over in the UK, we're the dangerous spawn of copyright anarchy.
That question came up during the Q&As after the keynote. The answer, said Otellini, was open standards for content protection like DTCP/IP and (cough) Microsoft DRM nextquestionplease. "Why didn't you mention the Itanium?" "I had a 59 minute presentation, and had to leave stuff out. If only I'd have had 60." Poor Itanium. No special life-enhancing Pentium M goodness for you!