What I saw at Intel Developer Forum 2011

Hi Everyone.. Jack Madden here.

Hi Everyone.. Jack Madden here. This is my first blog post since I joined TechTarget a few weeks ago. I now live in San Francisco, and the 2011 Intel Developers Forum took place a few blocks from our office. While most of the content was outside of our area, I did go to the keynotes and a few relevant sessions. Here's what I heard:

Opening keynote

Intel CEO Paul Otellini started the opening keynote with all the usual figures about the growth of personal computing, the transformation towards user-centered computing, and the total number of transistors in the world, measured in the quintillions (soon to be sextillions), all thanks to Intel. (Of course. Cue videos of smiling people being creative with PCs.)  

He went on to announced chips for 2013 based on the "Haswell" microarchitecture. This architecture enables chips with very low power consumption. In a demo showing possibilities for the future, a chip running a Windows PC that was playing an animated .gif was powered by a postage stamp-sized solar panel.

Otellini also showed off the Cisco Cius phone, which is basically just an Android VoIP tablet with a 4G connection. The big announcement of the day was a joint effort with Google to optimize Android for Atom processors. (Read: "Intel will optimize Android for Atom and Google agreed to do it because it’s Intel’s money and what do they have to lose?") And of course they’re also going to have to push the Android software developer kit since all the current Android devices are ARM-based and their apps won’t run on x86 Android.

Accommodating consumer devices in the enterprise: a view from Intel IT

Tom Mant, a Senior Technology Evangelist, addressed consumerization issues that are familiar to most of us: users have far more knowledge of their devices than they used to, they have high expectations, and they know how to work their way around limitations placed by IT.

Malcolm Harkins, Intel’s CISO, related some of his experiences managing their internal IT policy. One interesting tidbit he mentioned is the effect of device ownership on security. When users at Intel were allowed to use their laptops for personal purposes, lost and stolen rates declined dramatically. Apparently a user is going to be much more careful with their company laptop if they’re also using it to store photos of their kid’s soccer game.

As the boundary between enterprise and home usage is disappearing, these are his calls to action:

  • Enable IT support of consumer devices.
  • Develop and support the capability to isolate corporate data, enabling environments that can exist side-by-side with personal environments, and that can transition from device to device.
  • Data and applications need to be abstracted from devices so they can function on diverse environments.

Overall, he stressed that IT needs to be proactive; otherwise users will go around it.

In the question and answer segment, several people spoke up with the sentiments of, “We can’t let this happen, it won’t be secure,” and voiced concerns about who is responsible for maintaining and paying for the device in a BYO situation.

Day 2 Keynote

This keynote started out again with videos of users being creative with PCs. Mooly Eden, GM of Intel's PC client group, then came on stage and gave more facts about the growth of PCs, including highlighting some emerging markets. Will people in those emerging markets buy PCs? Of course he says yes. He highlighed big jumps in the past where user experience was transformed—of course by Intel chips—and says that the next transformation will be with high-performance, sleek form-factor, extended battery-life laptops they have dubbed Ultrabooks. (I have dubbed them "The industry's response to the MacBook Air, as built by people who are driven by cheapness rather than design.")

Here’s Intel's view of the Ultrabook features:

  • The high performance will, of course, come from their new Ivy Bridge architecture. (When Mooly mentioned that a whole bunch of the machines on stage were using chips with Ivy Bridge, people applauded, so you know this is a geeky crowd)
  • The power savings will come from low-power Haswell chip (in 2013, though people still inexplicably clapped for that too).
  • The other thing that they could do with the low power chip is to have it wake up to check-in occasionally while the computer is on standby. That way everything can be up to date when the laptop wakes up (which will also be very fast).
  • Additional security features will come from McAfee (remember that Intel bought McAfee last year), including two-factor authentication and remote wiping. These are of course features we’re used to this in the corporate realm, so I'm not 100% sure what specifically this has to do with Ultrabooks. I think Intel is just reminding us that they do that.
  • One of the things that people were also excited about was something called "Panel Self Refresh" technology from a company called IDT. Basically, when the screen is static, it allows the GPU to be shut down, instead of refreshing the screen 60 times per second. They said it could save 500mW and add 45 minutes to a laptop’s battery life.

One of the final interesting things they showed was a tablet with a low-power Atom processor running Windows 8. It was using the "Metro" UI and the audience seemed pretty impressed. They also showed the Metro UI on a laptop. Full screen apps on a laptop are a pet peeve of mine, but they had traditional mouse and keyboard-based apps as well.

Day 3 Keynote

Intel CTO Justin Rattner delivered the final keynote at IDF. He spoke about processors with increasing numbers of cores becoming mainstream, and dismissed fears that they are too difficult to utilize or might hit scalability walls. 

Rattner gave several examples of applications for multicore technology, including faster web apps and faster cloud interaction. This is one of many factors that are making SaaS more appealing to users (and corporate users, whether their companies or IT admins like it or not).

Looking to the future, Rattner spoke of the possibilities of many-core processors, noting that they will have very little power per core to be viable. Along those lines, a low power chip (the same one as from the opening keynote) that was able to work just above the minimum power threshold—or at higher power for higher performance—was demonstrated; they also showed Micron Technology’s Hybrid Memory Cube, which is able to achieve very high rates of data transfer with very little power consumption.

Intelligent desktop virtualization

Jesus Garcia, who has presented sponsor sessions at BirForum, gave a broad overview various desktop virtualization solutions. The content would be nothing new to most of our audience, but it was a good introduction for the more general attendees at IDF.

He emphasized the three key tenets that Brian covered last week: utilizing central management while executing locally, intelligent use of layering, and utilizing device native management and security. The presentation concluded by quickly outlining the various solutions of Wanova, MokaFive, RES, Scense, and Virtual Computer. Then Tal Klein of Citrix gave an overview of their products. All the different flavors of desktop virtualization reminded me of Brian’s rainbow of complexity.

Final thoughts

Intel announced x86 processor-optimized versions of Android and demonstrated a tablet running Windows 8 back-to-back. What does this mean? Intel is clearly putting money on both Android tablets and Windows 8 tablets so that they come out ahead no matter which own is more popular. They must have shown them on two different days so that the Microsoft guy and the Google guy didn’t have an awkward meeting backstage before the keynote.

Regardless of what happens in the tablet and mobile market, Intel knows it can always bank on the market for its big server CPUs. They estimate that one server is required for every 600 new smart phones or for every 122 tablets.

There is certainly a lot of information from the keynotes that I didn’t mention. What announcements from IDF interested you?

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