Intel has been on a multi-year journey to diversify themselves from a PC and server play to an IoT leader spanning the endpoint to the datacenter and everything in-between. So far, the company has seen its biggest differential success in the data center maintaining their giant compute share and growing in networking and storage and just laid out their AI strategy. They’ve done well in industrial strength IoT gateways and end points like security cameras where performance matters but of course, intend to go further. Intel has one big tier 1 4G LTE design win in the Apple iPhone 7 and needs to prove it’s more than a one hit wonder. In 5G, Intel is way ahead of where they were with 4G at this point in the standard development process, too. Intel’s objective at CES 2017 is to further advance their end to end solutions march, so how’d they do?
Automotive GO platform
Intel isn’t new to automotive and the company says that they have $1 billion in design win revenue in cockpit wins driven by 40 OEM wins, 33 teir 1 wins and 30 vehicles on the road. Surprised? I was. I was also surprised when Intel announced their big BMW self-driving car win, too. Intel is full of surprises these days.
At CES, Intel unveiled the latest evolution of their connected and self-driving car capabilities with a new automotive brand called Intel “GO”. As part of their announcement, Intel announced a pair of Intel GO in-vehicle development platforms that are automotive grade and designed for autonomous driving. These development kits will range anywhere from 2 to 24 cores and supplement Intel’s existing presence in automotive. In addition to the Intel GO development platform, Intel also announced their Intel GO Automotive 5G platform. This is the first 5G platform for automotive allowing automotive manufacturers and tier 1 suppliers to proof their designs for 5G. In addition to their self-driving and 5G platforms, Intel also announced their Intel GO Automotive SDK which will help utilize the power of Intel’s technologies including their deep learning toolkits. lntel is helping to proof these designs at their self-driving facilities in Chandler Arizona where they already have some operational test mules that help them proof their platforms.
GO is a good move to turn automotive point solutions into a scalable solution to address more partners, more quickly and at a lower cost. Intel always does better with platform plays given their deep pockets and big resources as long as they are delivering the right product. I think Intel is focusing on the right things, but I’ll need more time to assess their competitiveness.
Intel’s first 5G Modem
Having seen Intel’s most recent design win with Apple in September with the iPhone 7, it was up to them to follow up with the next phase of their modem business. This next phase is the introduction of their first 5G modem and what Intel claims to be the first global 5G modem. This modem supports both mmWave and sub-6GHz bands of frequency and is heavily involved in 5GNR standards and implementing 5GNR in their development platform. The modem reflects Intel’s vision that 5G will exist in both mmWave and sub-6GHz bands of spectrum, which is really a good thing because it means that the entire industry will move towards supporting 5GNR outside of just mmWave. Intel currently has 6 partners for interoperability to validate their modem and transceiver for infrastructure.
This is possible due to their new 5G transceiver which Intel claims to be the first 5G RFIC to support both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G modes. Intel is also shipping one SKU globally to support different 5G spectrum worldwide. This means Intel’s new 5G RFIC supports 3.5 GHz, 4.5 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum to date which are the majority of early 5G deployments. The new 5G transceiver is shipping this month and the complete module with the modem and transceiver are sampling in the second half of 2017. Commercial availability should come shortly thereafter. As with automotive, I need some more time to gauge competitiveness.
Second wave of 7th Gen Core
The new 7th generation of Intel Core processors have already started to roll out, but now Intel is launching their desktop processors and remaining notebook processors. Intel is focusing on the right near-term growth segments with their new 7th Gen Core processors like gaming, VR, content creation and PC consoles. They are also taking endpoint security extremely seriously through more robust security technologies that utilize both hardware and software to harden the authentication.
Therefore, Intel is introducing new technologies with the 7th Gen Core products like their Optane memory technology as well as their Authenticate security tech. Intel’s Optane technology is a great high-end user play that allows Intel to continue to deliver the highest performance products to their biggest fans. I’m a big Authenticate fan as identity fraud and damage from it are at an epidemic level, and I see Authenticate as part of the solution. I seriously cannot understand how enterprises can skimp on security. Solutions like Authenticate and Windows 10 are available and if there’s a major breach, it’s company’s own faults. I understand the reality of test and deployment times, but there’s just no excuse now.
For the mainstream, Intel has already brought both 4.5W to 12W processors to the market which are focused on 2-in-1s and ultrathin computers for consumers and small business users and are now following through with these same processors for consumer enthusiast laptops, Intel Iris Plus and business devices. The 7th Gen Y-series is focused on 2-in-1s and fanless clamshells while the U-series is still focused on thin and light, 2-in-1s and mini PCs with some mini PCs featuring Iris Plus. The H-Series are the i5 and i7 processors which deliver up to quad cores. These new processors also support 4K playback via Netflix and other UHD services like Ultra 4K movies and Fandango Now. I have seen some of the lasted 7th Gen notebooks, they are stunning and I’m pretty confident we will see major 2017 enterprise deployments. The lingering question is in consumer volumes as the industry still struggles to communicate the incredible benefits this new crop of PCs bring. Some of the industry’s smartest are attacking this challenge, I have been party to these discussions, and know the industry will do better than it’s done in consumer in years.
With the 7th Gen Core processors, Intel is also reasserting their commitment to overclocking with new overclocking features for processors like the 7700K as well as new overclocking processors that didn’t exist before. Intel will have an overclocking contest with their new 7th Gen processors in conjunction with HWBot on January 4th and will show off some new added overclocking features. Two new features are bclock aware voltage and frequency curves and an AVX offset ratio, both of which allow overclockers just a little bit extra wiggle room when overclocking Intel’s processors and testing them in benchmarks to win HWBot rankings. Intel is also announcing a new Core i3 overclocking processor which is a dual core without hyperthreading, but is still a K-series processor in that it has an unlocked multiplier and is optimized for overclocking. The new Core i3-7350K should result in some very interesting single core processor benchmark scores if it ends up being a good overclocking chip. I can’t say I fully understand why one would want to overclock an i3, but it could have something to do with competition. We’ll see.
As I had mentioned before, security is an important area for Intel and they are not backing off with the implementation of technologies like Intel Authenticate. However, Intel Authenticate isn’t the only thing that Intel is doing to protect business and user data. Intel also has technologies like Intel Data Guard which provide persistent, hardened protection for files by default and at the point of creation through to the cloud. The keys are protected with Intel SGX technology built into Intel’s hardware and supported with software and hardened biometric factors. Data Guard is designed to be easily integrated into existing corporate identity and managed by IT and can be enhanced further by Intel Authenticate.
In addition to the enterprise security, Intel is also implementing hassle-free password experiences with 7th Gen Core processor devices using biometric security and a trusted execution environment. Intel is currently working with companies like Paypal and Visa to enable trusted secure online transactions that simplify online transactions while also making them more secure. I really hope the industry gets this right and I’m inspired by the level of cooperation between Intel, Microsoft and PC OEMs.
Intel is really starting to shape up their IoT vision with their big, end to end automotive moves and 5G wireless technologies. Intel continues to surprise with their wireless capabilities, especially after their last few challenging years in the mobile space. With Intel starting to deliver on endpoints, connectivity and datacenters, they are one of the few players in the semiconductor space that can truly allow a customer to implement an end-to-end solution that offers cutting edge security and performance.
While some of Intel’s efforts are still in their early days, like their 5G modem and transceiver, they also have some very well established platforms they can still rely on like enterprise and consumer PC compute. Since self-driving cars is still a very slow growing market and we probably won’t see real commercial volume of 5G products until 2020, these new products are very clearly Intel’s vision for the future of computing and the company.