Intel talks physics on Atom, App Up, MeeGo tablet

Day 2 of IDF saw Renée James, Senior VP and General Manager of the Software and Services Group, take to the stage and work her magic.

James is the person in charge of Software and Services Group at Intel, and the person who will shoulder the responsibility of moving Intel in that direction. This is a huge responsibility right now, as Paul Otellini has mentioned the company will definitely become a different type of player in the market, promoting software solutions as much as it does silicon.

"Port of Choice" is Intel marketingese for running software on any OS, so long as it's an Intel platform, the tagline being "Runs Best on Intel". This makes oodles of sense for Intel to say, but the differentiating factor is that Intel usually puts its money where its mouth is.

In the "Leading by example" way that Intel does things, the company paraded its efforts and achievements in software optimisation in its so-called three pillars: security, connectivity and performance.

Havok, Intel's physics middleware company, snapped up just 3 years ago, has made significant steps in bringing believable physics to 3D. James brought out Andrew Bond, the Havok VP of Engineering who proceeded to demonstrate an ogre like creature with plenty "cloth" and "soft tissue", ie: rags and beer belly.

Looking at the demos CPU cycles readout, a single fully physics-enabled ogre moved without causing too much damage to a 1st generation Core i7... He then proceeded to max-out the demo by cloning the model 47 times and having a small army of elf-trouncing ogres hop around the screen. The process was distributed equally amongst all six cores. That's CPU Physics. Something Nvidia doesn't want to get into, but will definitely be paying more attention to from now on.

In a sort of goodbye gift, the Havok boffin mentioned they are also branching out into AI and working on porting physics middleware to the Atom. This last bit sounds interesting, considering it is a pretty intense thing to do no such a "light" processor.

Intel has gotten into its head that producing a gazillion useful apps for the Atom platform and making the portal look a bit like a social network is, by any measure, the way to success. Prizes are being awarded for top developers and the community is just huge right now. This queued up the MeeGo monologue.

Intel wants MeeGo to become the PC equivalent of iOS on every level and even a bit more, as Intel wants it to be the foundation for smart devices like SmartTV (or any form of InternetTV hooked up on some form of Atom). 4TiiToo, a german company, was on hand to demonstrate a new MeeGo tablet (a good likeness of an iPad) and a custom MeeGo touch-based GUI that you command with your thumbs by holding the tablet with both hands, length-wise. This will go on sale right away.

Next on the menu were the acquisitions that Intel has been making over the past couple of years. This includes Wind River and McAfee, but mostly ... Wind River as there is little for Intel to talk about when blurting out the McAfee name.

Wind River is a low-profile network solutions company that Intel snapped up last year. They were quickly integrated into New Intel's roadmap to deliver solutions for network connectivity, and according to James, the resulting "Network Acceleration Platform", or NAP, has accelerated packet processing by 20x and improved load balancing across all cores. With this comes less system overhead and some serious throughput. The numbers, said James, are 10.5 million packets per second per core, and it scales linearly across all cores (although which cores in particular remained a mystery).

The tagline of choice for Intel this season is "Port of Choice", and what it means is that they want everything to run better on Intel architecture than on anything else. "Port of Choice" is about the opposite of hardware-agnostic software. It's, in fact, the precise opposite, and Intel is happy to lend you a hand if you have a good idea to implement on IA.

App Up, Intel's own app store will cater to supplying users and developers with a marketplace for their apps. À la App Store, Windows Marketplace and Android Marketplace. The difference is that while those stores are software-locked to a platform, App Up will be OS-agnostic. It will be able to funnel apps from all OSes. Best Buy in the US and Dixons Retail here in the UK will support AppUp. The App Store will be preloaded on Advent and Curry's PCs, as of the 1st of November.

In essence, James provided the audience with an idea of what the company's approach is on the way it is evolving. Surgically acquiring services, solutions and security companies will allow Intel to mature these businesses while building up the "ecossystem" to carry on the job and further develop the model. This is exactly what Intel has done over the years with hardware, and hopes to continue to do so with software solutions.