An air of uncertainty hung over the Moscone Center on the opening day of IDF 2013. It was the first time that Brian Krzanich would address the crowd of developers, press, and other interested onlookers at the 16th annual event as CEO of Intel, a position he took up in May.
It was assumed that he would lay out the future of the company as being one focused on mobile devices and the Android operating system, two platforms that Intel has had trouble grasping as they've grown in popularity over the last several years. And that's exactly what he did.
His most significant announcements concerned the advent of what he calls the world's first 22nm phone, which also supports LTE data transfer (at speeds of 35-70Mbps, the latter with carrier activation); and the new Quark platform, which is intended for use in wearable tech devices (part of the "Internet of Things") and is one-fifth the size of the Atom processor — using one-tenth of the power.
These advancements anchored Krzanich's speech, which was titled "Mobilizing Intel," and went on to cover the ways he sees that Intel is hoping to stay at the forefront of innovation, and remain as relevant as possible in the so-called "post-PC world" so many claim we are currently entering.
"Devices have continually become more personal and connected," Krzanich said at the beginning of his talk, outlining the ways in which technology of all kinds have become smaller, more useful, and better able to communicate with other devices and people over the course of the last several decades. From servers to desktops to notebooks to tablets to smartphones, he explained the evolution of technology from the traditional system architecture to a more modern system architecture — having all the essential components on one piece of silicon has fuelled innovation like very little else, he said.
"This is about innovation and integration," Krzanich said, "and that's exactly what we do." He said that he perceived Intel's chance for continued leadership in the industry was strong due to the company's "plan to lead in every segment of computing." In addition to the aforementioned phone and Quark platforms, he claimed that Intel will do this through the following accomplishments:
Accelerating the datacentre: Intel will implement best platform solutions "top to bottom," with server rack scale architecture and software-designed infrastructure. He cited the Xeon E5 system, released this week, as a particular achievement.
Pushing PC innovation further: From battery life to form factor to capability, Krzanich said, "the PC is in the process of reinventing itself" as more than a monolithic system to which others must adapt, but a personalised system that will be exactly what users want. He held up a Haswell-Y device that, at four and a half watts, was fanless, and stressed that just a few years ago this achievement would not have been possible.
Building the next-generation PC: Krzanich pulled out a PC based on the 14nm Broadwell architecture, which will be shipping to customers by the end of this year. "That 14nm product on Broadwell provides another 30 percent power improvement," Krzanich said, and promised additional performance improvements in the future.
Two in one: A new computing frontier: "It's the best of both words," Krzanich said. "A PC when you want a PC, a tablet when you want a tablet." But, he said, it's not just two systems — at which point he stepped before the wall of nearly four dozen convertible systems he insisted are transforming the way people see mobile systems.
Unprecedented choices for the tablet market: Choice is one of the most important philosophies behind Intel's tablet strategy, according to Krzanich. Intel wants tablets to be available with all types of Intel chips, on Android and Windows operating systems, at prices even less than $100 (£64) — something he promised will be available for purchase by the holidays.
Intel President Renée James followed Krzanich's speech, basing her talk on the broader picture of what these kinds of advanced technologies will mean for life in years to come. She spoke about the ways it's becoming easier to manage large cities, and how wearable technology can mean significant inroads in the worlds of health care, from cases as small as better monitoring a heart rate to replacing mobile response units and even potentially curing cancer. One Intel employee, Eric Dishman, even came out to explain how whole-sequence genome sequencing saved his life after he was diagnosed with cancer.
All of this suggests an incredible — and perhaps overwhelming — path for Intel and rest of us in the decades and generations that lie ahead. Krzanich summed up the message of the morning best near the beginning of his presentation, when he reiterated his own energetic view of the myriad of tasks that lie before Intel. "I can't think of a more exciting time in our industry than right now."