Intel introduces ‘best ever’ processor

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Intel took the wraps off a family of computer brains code-named “Skylake” Tuesday, calling them “best ever” processors that will usher in the next generation of personal computers.

 By enabling longer battery life, better graphics and low power consumption, the chips are expected to bring new thinness to laptops and notebook-tablet hybrids without sacrificing computing ability.
 “The industry has been talking for a long time about having PCs that have the characteristics of tablets,” said analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights and Strategy. “I feel like for the first time we are there.”
File: Exterior view of Intel headquarters in Santa Clara on April 16, 2007.

He said the new chips mean that manufacturers will be able to make laptops that are very thin and light — with all-day battery life and touch screens — that are priced between $499 and $699. “Before, you would have had to pay $1,000 to $1,500 to get this level of capability,” Moorhead said.

The degree of Skylake’s success should show where the PC business is headed, he and other analysts agreed.

 Intel is hoping that the combination of the new chips — officially called 6th Gen Intel Core — and Windows 10, which was released this summer, will reignite the slumping PC market.
 The Santa Clara chip giant noted that there are an estimated 1 billion PCs that are 3 years old, and 500 million 4 to 5 years old, or even older, that need replacing. That’s assuming their owners want something newer.
 Analyst Alex Guana of JMP Securities said his company remains in the “show me” camp. “It would be nice for a change to see a demand-driven PC environment where the combination of Windows 10 and Intel excites the consumer imagination,” he said.

Skylake probably won’t turn PC sales around, but could help level off an expected 9 to 10 percent decline in PC sales this year, one analyst said.

“I wouldn’t expect Skylake to bring growth in the PC category, but it will stabilize what has been a PC decline,” said Tristan Gerra, a chip industry analyst with Robert W. Baird.

Technology analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates said Skylake “should help” PC sales, “but it’s not going to turn them around. You can’t avoid economics — China’s tanking and that’s a huge marketplace. But this will give the vendors, the Lenovos of the world, the ability to do some things they weren’t able to do before — lighter, thinner, all of that.”

Selling chips for PCs is Intel’s biggest business, although it is dominant in computer servers and also has been diversifying into products for the Internet of Things and services for the cloud.

Last fall’s Broadwell processor and this year’s Skylake are designed with 14 nanometer technology. By comparison, a human red blood cell is 6,000 to 8,000 nanometers across.

Skylake is being released late by historical standards, said Mark Hung, an analyst with Gartner. “Typically, when Intel launched a new platform, it was usually available by back to school. The last couple of years it slipped to being available for the holiday season. This year, it looks like in the holiday season, not everyone is going to get it.”

Intel said there will be Skylake-powered computers of all types — desktops, laptops, notebook-tablet hybrids — available for the holidays. But store shelves will feature a mix of computers, some with the older Broadwell chip and some with Skylake.

“Not every device that hits the holidays is going to be Skylake,” Intel spokesman Scott Massey said.

Massey said the new chip “is getting out ahead of the holidays, which is really the prime buying season. We’re opening the door to some pretty awesome stuff for consumers. We think we’re going to make people get off the couch and go check out what’s out there and buy a new PC,” he said.

Compared to a 5-year-old laptop, a new laptop with Skylake can be half as thick and half the weight, and will offer three times the battery life and 2.5 times the performance, with vast improvements in graphics and security. Another new feature is wireless docking and display for laptops.

“They are trying to get excitement back into the PC market,” said analyst Moorhead. “I think this will have been their best shot at doing this in the last five years.”

 

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