Haswell! That’s the word on the streets. Or rather, that was until Intel released their fourth generation of Core processors, eliciting varied responses across the world – from applause from the mobile computing sectors to “meh” from overclockers and enthusiasts. Today, Intel officially set the ball rolling by launching the fourth generation in Sri Lanka.
I’d like to start off by saying that this was a press conference. In any press conference, media personnel walk in, are given carefully prepared PR documents, and generally spend the rest of their time waiting idly while the effectively summarized contents of those documents are formally presented on stage. We at Readme cultivate a bad habit of not paying attention to these documents, so in a nutshell, here’s what happened.
Intel’s fourth iteration of their Core architecture is launching into a dream market: a vacuum. There is demand, and right now only Intel is delivering: their primary competitor, AMD, barely exists in Sri Lanka. The first three Core architectures were all about power and efficiency.
With Haswell, Intel seems to be targeting a new spectrum – what they call the “evolution” of the PC. Think Windows tablets. Indeed , that’s what they’re talking about today. The Intel representatives – Indika De Zoysa (Country Manager for Intel SL) and Rajiv Bhalla (Director, Strategic Initiatives, South East Asia) commenced a history of the “compression” of the PC, the form factor shifts from chunky cubes on a desktop of ultraportable touchscreen laptop-like devices. We’re shown the reduced power consumption over the years. Haswell, we’re told, is the logical choice for the next generation of portable, personal computing. Lower power draws – better sleep states – and even better: Iris Pro graphics. The PC, we’re told, is “done”.
“It’s time to get rid of that box,” says Rajiv Bhalla, gesturing at a desktop PC that sits nearby.
This is as much green light for the ultraportable crowd as it is a warning for the enthusiast market. While much of what is said today is true – the age of portable personal computing is upon us – Intel’s singular focus seems to be on mobile and surface-esque tabs is startling. Consumer processors are mentioned only in passing. In fact, features that are painstakingly highlighted, like Iris Pro graphics and the drastically reduced power draws do not exist in the standard Haswell desktop processors entering the market.
When it was time for the Q&A session, I had a couple of questions. The most important: why was Intel excluding their biggest kicker – Iris Pro – from the desktop market? We’d just been told that you could enjoy games without needing to plug in a separate graphics card. Why, then, does Intel not give this power to the masses? Lower end processors could indeed benefit from this added power: budget gamers could build PCs without having to dole out on graphics cards.
The answer to that was apparently market segmentation: Iris Pro is, we gather indirectly, Intel’s edge in the cut-throat portable processing market. One wonders if they’re deliberately nudging the market towards portable tablets like the ones on display. Look, ma, we have graphics.
The next question is whether Intel is happy where they are. (ie: almost total control of the high-end market, with competitor AMD controlling the new generation consoles). The answer is an emphatic no. We’re told Intel has plans for an SoC, probably integrating Iris Pro graphics – another nod towards a socket-less world. One envisions Saruman, the great corrupt wizard from the Lord of the Rings, standing on top of the Intel building and proclaiming to the hordes: “The time of the desktop has ended. The age of the tablet has begun.”
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