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Portable all-in-ones and mini-PCs are among the new classes of desktops Intel is a fan of

Intel Corp. (INTC) continues to struggle to leverage its substantial semiconductor process lead on the mobile front as sales of traditional PCs decline.  The good news is that the jury is out on whether this slump is permanent, or simply the result of certain factors such as consumer difficulty with Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows 8 and the rapid expansion of tablet sales.
I. Bringing Desktop Sales Back From the Brink
The hardest hit segment of Intel's business has been PC desktop sales.
Much as Intel has looked to Ultrabooks to revive laptop sales, at the 2014 Game Developer Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, Intel emphasized the importance of new desktop form factors to improving sales.
According to Intel, in terms of desktop sales, emerging form factors and enthusiast/high-end desktops are the two current areas of focus.  Intel's Desktop Client Platform Group VP Lisa Graff told developers at the GDC that Intel will continue to ramp up its offering of chips with high end integrated/on-die GPUs, with the rollout of the next generation of Iris.

GDC 2014
The 2014 Game Developer Conference [Image Source: GDC on Flickr]
Introduced with the launch of the fourth-generation Core-Series processors in 2013 -- chips which pack 22 nm Haswell cores -- Iris is by far Intel's most serious graphics effort to date, as Intel's decision to give it special branding (a first) indicates.
Ms. Graff comments:
The desktop business is a large and important segment for Intel, and we are investing in it – reinventing form factors, experiences and products for our customers.  Enthusiasts are the heart and soul of the desktop and they asked us to give them more. We are delivering – more cores, better overclocking, faster speeds.
On the enthusiast front Intel's first upcoming release will be "Devil's Canyon", the mid-generation refresh of Haswell, which will bring high-end chips with unlocked multipliers.  Intel says to expect an "improved thermal interface and CPU packaging materials that are expected to enable significant enhancements to performance and overclocking capabilities."

Devil's Canyon
Devil's Canyon (Haswell cores, unlocked multiplier)
Next up is an octacore "Extreme Edition" version of Haswell, due out in H2 2014 (likely Q3 2014).  The beastly processor will feature 16 threads and support for the new DDR4 memory standard.
Intel also said to expect a Pentium "Anniversary Edition" processor (Intel recently celebrated the twentieth birthday of the Pentium brand).  Similar to the Devil's Canyon chips, this will feature an unlocked multiplier with independent memory and CPU frequencies.  Intel did not indicate any special thermal features, though, so there's reason to believe this may be a sooner release -- possibly out in Q2 2014.
II. Broadwell Nears
Intel also said to expect unlocked chips for enthusiasts sporting Broadwell cores -- the 14 nm die shrink of Haswell.  While no timetable was given, it's safe to say that should happen sometime in very late 2014 or sometime in 2015.
The chipmaker didn't state much about the status of Broadwell otherwise, but there's no reason to believe that it's broken from its plan to launch the chip to consumers in Q4 2014.  According to Intel's Q4 2013 earnings call, that chip is expected to enter mass production by the end of this month (the end of Q1 2014).

Broadwell (right) will shrink the die of Haswell (left). [Image Source: Intel]
Finally, Intel announced that it would be rolling out a firmware technology called Ready Mode Technology, which is designed to improve power consumption when tablets or laptops with cellular modems are not in use.  The mode allows content to continue to be pushed through, but at a slow rate, with the processor being kept near hibernation.  Many ARM chipmakers already offer similar modes in their tablet-geared offerings.
The new mode could help Intel's process lead shine brighter, in terms of power efficiency.  Thus far Intel's latest Bay Trail tablets have looked good, but not great in battery life.  As a disclaimer, though, a key factor holding them back has been Windows -- which traditionally has been less power efficient than its Linux and Unix-like brethren.
III. Intel's "Black Book" Will Highlight AIO Push
Intel plugged the emerging small form factor PCs.  Eager to decouple itself from the struggling Microsoft, Intel gave Valve Corp.'s Steam OS (a Linux-based operating system) a thumbs up.  Intel is hoping to push its product in Google Inc. (GOOG) Chromebooks on the laptop/hybrid-laptop front and in Chromeboxes/"Steam Boxes" on the desktop/hybrid-desktop front.  By embracing other platforms, Intel can shift towards relying more on the overall health of the PC market rather than heavily on the health of Microsoft's PC offerings.
ChromeboxSteam Box
A ChromeBox (left) and SteamBox (right) [Image Source: ASUS (left) Polygon (right)]

Intel spent much of its presentation focusing on desktop all-in-one (AIO) computers -- desktops that have their motherboard, processor, DRAM, GPU (if applicable) housed in their screen chassis, which also has a battery.  The idea is to have touchscreen computers that can act as normal desktops some of the time, while acting as a tablet when the need arises.

Intel has recently taken to deploying exotic form factors directly to consumers in the form of first party products, in hopes of inspiring OEMs to follow in suit.  For example, Intel currently offers a small form factor PC called NUC (with a Intel Core i3 3217U Haswell inside), which retails for around $179 USD.  Intel says it will release an AIO desktop called the "Black Book" which will include "3-D camera, a quad microphone array, premium audio and a full HD display."
That device will launch later this year.

One necessary ingredient for the form factor to succeed is software. Intel announced modest gains on that front, saying that it has 170 applications onboard its multi-user, multi-touch (MU/MT) program for AIO form factor PCs.  Much of these apps are focused on children (e.g. a Sesame Street app).  Intel will have to work hard with its developer partners to try to create more adult-geared touch apps.

Source: Intel [press release]

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"Back from the brink"?
By hpglow on 3/21/2014 1:25:29 AM , Rating: 3
Yes desktops are in decline but they are hardly on the edge of extinction. There will always be users that demand absolute performance.

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By vignyan on 3/21/2014 4:52:25 AM , Rating: 5
*ahem* Jason Mick article.. :)

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By StevoLincolnite on 3/21/2014 5:10:22 AM , Rating: 2
Yes desktops are in decline but they are hardly on the edge of extinction. There will always be users that demand absolute performance.

It's partly Intel and AMD's fault that there is a decline, being victims of their own success and all.

I have an almost-3 year old Core i7 3930K @ 4.8ghz (Can sustain 5ghz, but at the cost of massive power consumption), which is still pretty much still the fastest consumer processor money can buy.

Intel has given zero reasons for me to upgrade, Ivy-Bridge-E 4930K? $600 for a minute performance increase and in a worse-case scenario significantly reduced overclocking headroom?

AMD isn't any better, there really hasn't been a good cost effective upgrade since the good old Phenom 2 x6 1090T.

Fact of the matter is, I'm more the exception rather than the rule.
I still know *plenty* of people who are still happy to chug along on a 6-7 year old Core 2 PC, because it can handle everything they throw at it like Facebook, Flash games, Email, Word processing etc'.
Throw in an SSD (Even your grandmother should have one!) and they feel like a new system again...

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By Strunf on 3/21/2014 9:14:03 AM , Rating: 1
It's unrelated... The PC (desktops) decline is linked to the rise of tablets and smartphones, today many don't even need a computer anymore, they can write letters and what not at work and once they get home a tablet is more than enough for surfing the web and play some games.
When PC were expensive there was 1 per household, then they became cheap and there was has many PCs as people living in the household, in the future I'm guessing we'll go back to 1 PC per household or not even that.

The moment you start playing video-games on your PC you'll upgrade your PC every 2 or so years, but the people that play video-games on their PC are a minority.

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By Flunk on 3/21/2014 11:15:03 AM , Rating: 4
That's actually not true, since Sandy Bridge launched Intel has made very little process in CPU performance. I'm a gamer and there has been absolutely no reason for me to upgrade my i5 2500K @ 4.7Ghz to anything newer. Most desktop users are using them for performance reasons and if there is no progress when it comes to CPU performance it's going to hurt Intel's bottom line.

Sure, tablets are popular. But they're mostly replacing laptops for people who don't need the extra functionality. If all you do is surf the web, email and play mobile games you don't need more.

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By LordBinky on 3/21/2014 12:14:37 PM , Rating: 2
I'm with you on that. There was also a large number of people that bought desktops over laptops not because the laptop wasn't powerful enough for their needs, but because of aspects such as horrible screens( resolution and size of screen) or annoyingly bad keyboard/touchpad interfaces. Now that progress has eliminated such user interface issues, desktop isn't getting the consumers who want the 'it just works' computers.

What do they expect when the users don't see a difference like they used to especially those that used to buy the entire package each time they needed an upgrade. Have desktop monitors correspondling improved at the pace of mobile devices? No, companies called what they had good enough, and mobile catch up. I can't see how companies can complain about any situation between mobile and desktop when they had stopped trying anyways.

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By bug77 on 3/21/2014 1:53:49 PM , Rating: 3
I'm still happy with my i5-2500k as well. Don't even need to overclock it yet (and yes, it can do 4.2GHz no sweat, I tested it the moment I got it).

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By domboy on 3/21/2014 2:38:12 PM , Rating: 2
ure, tablets are popular. But they're mostly replacing laptops for people who don't need the extra functionality. If all you do is surf the web, email and play mobile games you don't need more.

That is what I've experienced as well... tablets aren't replacing desktops, they're replacing laptops. My wife replace her laptop with a Nexus 7, I replaced mine with a Surface, but my desktops aren't going anywhere.

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By Strunf on 3/24/2014 10:03:19 AM , Rating: 2
Upgrades don't even count on the statics, the stats are about new complete systems, even if Intel multiplied by 10 the performance of their desktop CPU it would still not matter, people today are past this and do not really want a bulky PC anymore, also even if CPU were 10x faster than 2 years it still doesn't change the fact that a 2 years old CPU is more than enough.

"Most desktop users are using them for performance reasons" No, most desktop PC are used for office work and other minor tasks that for sure don't require performing PCs.

Plus the number of persons that really need a powerful PC is on decline, I'm a PC gamer and it's a fact that gaming on PC is not what it used to be, consoles account for more than PC on the gaming industry.

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By Ammohunt on 3/21/2014 1:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
I would disagree that PC gamer are a minority i feel the opposite is true with the exception of the workplace Gaming rigs dominate the desktop arena. The fact is serious gamers use PC's not consoles or any other device; they are migration in droves to the PC gaming platform.

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By Warren21 on 3/22/2014 11:23:03 PM , Rating: 2
What he is saying is that PC gamers/enthusiast desktops make up a very small percentage of all computers; especially when you include tablets.

Of the people buying desktops anymore, I agree that the balance is shifting to higher-end machines. Enthusiast/performance and SFF are the only markets left for desktops now. They're either big and powerful or small and efficient.

The days of the generic mid-tower box are gone.

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By bug77 on 3/21/2014 1:56:47 PM , Rating: 2
...once they get home a tablet is more than enough for surfing the web and play some games

Personally, I still find entering an URL on a touch-only device to be a painful experience.

RE: "Back from the brink"?
By ppi on 3/22/2014 6:25:27 PM , Rating: 2
As Core2Duo owner, I can assure you, it's good enough to run many current games, except for the state-of-the-art-graphics-bonanza (i.e. I am not installing Titanfall, and I need new desktop for Witcher3), of course coupled with reasonable graphics card and settings tuned down a notch.

All in 1 has the greatest profit margin.
By Arxiv76 on 3/21/2014 1:20:46 PM , Rating: 1
I personally hate every all in one and find tablets to be toys. I feel in 20 years we will finally have powerful enough full featured device/s that can fulfill the needs of the core computer workers.
The commercial with the 27in all in one being passed around the family like a puppy was the most ridiculous piece of brainless media pump garbage I have seen in the last 20min.

By coburn_c on 3/21/2014 5:36:23 PM , Rating: 2
All-in-ones are the profit future for desktop. For the industry as a whole probably... the gadget saturation and whatnot.

How many years have they been trying to get a PC in the kitchen?
Now is the time to get an under counter arm-mounted touch screen in there. They just have to get over this smart watch stupidity and design some novelty AIOs.

Black Book
By XZerg on 3/21/2014 12:41:49 PM , Rating: 2
I am somewhat interested in this if it allows upgrade/changing of selection components, namely hdd, battery and memory, and sufficient ports: gigabit lan, hdmi, usb3. the days of changing cpu in small form factor on their way out which I do have a small problem with but not with the performance of most chips, i can re-purpose it to be htpc or nas or smth.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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