Human Brain Poses Challenges for PC Design as Researchers Discover that the "Flow" of User Experience Trumps Pure Performance.

 

Buyers, it turns out, are complex and we are just beginning to scratch the surface of what they really want. To better understand that elusive consumer, researchers are digging deep into the recesses of the human psyche to learn how technology can be created that connects the emotional and rational parts of the human brain.

 

At Intel, researchers have gone a step further and are employing neuroscience to understand what consumers want. David Ginsberg leads the Insights and Market Research Group that is seeking to better understand buyers' conscious and subconscious preferences. Ginsberg, who left a career in politics to join Intel, speaks here about vectors that are prompting researchers to rethink the fundamentals of their business.

 

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At the Intel Developer Form, Ginsberg discussed the essential human need to create and share and to lose ourselves in the "flow" of the creative experience.

 

You have an untraditional background for Silicon Valley. How did you shift from politics to technology?

 

I spent my career before coming to Intel mostly working in the White House and on presidential campaigns. I was involved in the Clinton, Gore and Kerry campaigns. I wanted to try something different. So I joined a market research firm in D.C. that was most known for its work in politics, but really made most of its finances from corporate work. While I was there, Intel came in the door as a client. I've always been kind of a technology geek at heart, and even though I planned to stay in politics, I started doing more and more work with Intel.

 

Friends of mine who are still in politics -- many of whom work in the White House now -- say things to me like, "Aren't you bored working at a company compared to the big issues we dealt with in politics?" And my response is lots of times in politics you feel like you're dealing with big issues, but you're really just dealing with a bunch of name-callers back and forth. Whereas here at Intel, what we do really makes a difference in the world. Every single day. And that inspires me.

 

How do you explain what you do as leader of Intel's Insights and Market Research Group?

 

Our mission is to passionately represent the voice of the end user in all of Intel's business strategy, product innovation and marketing decisions. It means that our company is paying attention to what consumers are saying more than we ever have in the past.

 

I think once upon a time, market research at Intel was viewed as a marketing-only activity. And this group has really made an effort to say, "You know what? All of us need to be paying attention to what our end users are saying," whether you're making business strategic decisions or you're a product planner or a marketer.

 

What counts as an "insight"?

 

The best definition that I've heard is it's "a statement that is retroactively self-evident." The most profound insight -- when you actually hear it -- makes you have the "well duh, yeah, that's obvious" moment, but it's only obvious once you've heard it. It's like a gestalt shift; it reframes how you see everything. If you're coming up with those every week, you're probably doing something wrong.

 

What are your biggest challenges right now?

 

We're in a time of rapid change in the industry and there are two main vectors that are causing us to rethink basically how we do everything.

 

The first is the proliferation of data. For a long time, market research based on surveys or qualitative focus groups was the only game in town to understand how consumers think. Today there are so many sources of data -- like search, social and Web analytics -- that you can almost get lost in it, or worse, draw the wrong conclusions. How do you use this stream of information to supplement traditional research?

 

The second big change is that for the last 50 or 60 years, market research as an industry has relied on an understanding that people make decisions based on rational conscious thought processes. The learnings happening now in both the hard and social sciences are turning that fundamental belief on its head, and are telling us that really, most decision making happens at the non-conscious level. So lots of times we're asking consumers questions that they can't answer because they themselves don't know the real reason of why they made a decision.

 

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Ginsberg joined Mooly Eden, general manager of Intel’s PC client group, on stage at IDF during his Ultrabook keynote address. Ginsberg explained how his group strives to discover what people want from technology, not just at a functional level, but also at a deep emotional one.

 

So you can't be sure people are telling you the truth?

 

Well, they aren't aware that they aren't telling the truth! There's a pretty famous study around jams. These scientists asked a big sample of consumers to rank jams on taste, ordering them from top to bottom. The results were remarkably similar to what the experts at Consumer Reports put together. Then the scientists re-did the study with a different, but still statistically representative, group except this time they asked the sample to put the jams in order of taste and write down why. The result when they did that was that the order literally flipped, so the ones that were best tasting in the previous group, these consumers were ranking worst, and the ones that were worst, they were ranking best. The reason was because you were asking the conscious brain to suddenly get involved in something that it really doesn't know, and suddenly there are all these sort of social pressures and other things coming into play that really just created a haywire situation.

 

How have the two vectors you mentioned influenced your research approach?

 

For nearly 400 years, the thought has been that our conscious, rational brain is president and CEO of all of our decisions, and that the emotional and non-conscious part of our brain is this deep, dark, kind of secretive, Freudian place that needs to be controlled. Also, there was an assumption that the conscious brain can explain why it made the decision it made.

 

The reality is these basic tenets are simply not true. Many decisions are made at the non-conscious part of our brain. But the conscious part of your brain still wants to think that it's in charge. So it will come up with a reason why it made a decision. For example, you will tell me I bought this laptop because it's got 2.6 gigahertz and it's the fastest thing in the world. In reality, you bought it because you liked the rounded edges and it was red. But you don't know that. It's not that you're suppressing it; you literally don't know that.

 

All of this raises pretty profound questions for a market researcher. How do we really get close to our end users to understand their needs and wants and desires?

 

And what have you come up with?

 

We're really pushing the envelope about what market research is. We're literally hooking people up to EEG machines and monitoring what parts of their brains are lighting up as they're watching certain ads.

 

Now when we do certain types of product development research, we'll use approaches that are based in psychology and psychotherapy to understand early memories and memory structure that people have around a certain topic so we know what it is that they're actually craving. Why do they love desktops? What is it about certain super-thin designs that attract people?

 

What's the most surprising thing you've learned?

 

When you ask people what matters most when they buy a computer, they'll say "performance." And then you'll say what do you mean by performance? And they'll tell you speed. And then you say what delivers the speed? A good chunk of them will have no idea, but a good chunk of them will say the microprocessor.

 

Based on that, you'd think we're golden. We don't need a marketing department; everybody believes in the processor. But the reality is that's not how people often buy. People often go down the aisle at a store and say, "Oh, I like that red one."

 

There was something else happening. We realized that maybe we don't really understand what people mean when they're saying performance. Using these new feelings, we dived into the non-conscious and emotional feelings around when a person's computer is working best. What we uncovered -- from both mature and emerging markets -- was really surprising to us.

 

You never once heard, "I was sitting at my desk downloading something off the Internet while ripping a CD while crunching on some Excel spreadsheet, and the processor was just humming." Nobody actually thinks that way.

 

What we did hear were a lot of stories that went something like this: "It was a rainy Saturday morning. I had my laptop on my lap, and I just got lost. I was flipping from site to site; there were no interruptions. And hours went by and I didn't even realize it."

 

In many ways, it was the opposite of speed, right? It was the ability to get lost in your technology, to have a seamless, immersive experience. And you notice the computer is slow when that experience is interrupted. So when suddenly an hourglass comes up, or the video gets jittery you come out of that experience and remind yourself, oh, I should be mowing the lawn.

 

So how does this market research translate to product design?

 

Well, the key word that came out of the research was that what end users are looking for is they're in a state of "flow." And flow is a critical notion, because it crosses that border between your human experience of performance and your technology experience of performance.

 

And so this notion of flow -- we use the word "responsiveness" with engineers -- is a key part of the Ultrabook decision. One of the four vectors that Ultrabooks has to deliver is flow. That's why it has the fastest startup time and some of the other responsiveness features in it.

 

Recommended Reading:

 

 

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Former InformationWeek.com managing editor Benjamin Tomkins has joined Intel Free Press as its new managing editor. Tomkins, who has a strong background in technology journalism and communications, had been with TechWeb/United Business Media since 2008. He served as executive editor of bMighty.com and then moved to InformationWeek where he managed editorial operations of the online business technology publication for large enterprise. He also served as interim editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com in 2011, and during a prior stint with the company in 2004-2005 was editor-in-chief of InternetWeek.

 

"Ben brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our fledgling news service and we're really excited to have him on board," said Bill Calder, who will hand over day-to-day editorial operations to Tomkins and assume the role of executive editor. David Dickstein will continue in his role as staff writer and copy editor, and Ken Kaplan will continue as staff writer and multimedia producer. Go here, to learn more about Intel Free Press staff.

 

"Intel Free Press is a groundbreaking platform for engaging stories and quality journalism about technology and innovation," Tomkins said. "I'm thrilled to be joining the team here and working with them to take this site to the next level."

 

Intel Free Press is a tech news beta from Intel, covering technology and innovation stories that are often overlooked or warrant more context and deeper reporting. The stories are reported and produced by staffers employed by the company with a focus on people, technology, events and topics relevant to Intel.

Challenged by New Gadgets and Slowing Growth in Established Markets, the PC Industry is Facing Historic Shifts in Demand

 

In the midst of a steady stream of gloomy economic news, an up and coming Asian economic power has snatched a high-stakes, tech industry crown from the U.S.

 

China was the world's largest personal computer market in the second quarter of 2011. This marked the first time that more PCs shipped in China than in the U.S., according to research firm IDC. Despite the on-going debate over the presumed death of the PC, an estimated 350 million are expected to be sold this year even amid the growth of tablets and smartphones.

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Bike messenger with boxes of Lenovo laptops

 

This historic shift comes as emerging markets are expected to see 11 percent growth in PC sales over last year, according to research firm Gartner. By contrast, PC sales in mature markets are forecast to drop 3.7 percent between 2010 and 2011.

 

Over the past few decades, China has evolved from an agricultural and heavy industrial base into a more open, diversified economy that draws upon information, knowledge and global connectivity and collaboration. While cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai have robust, mature economies, China still has enormous potential for emerging market growth from its inland cities and a population that dwarfs the established U.S. PC market by more than a billion potential customers.

 

"China has a surprisingly high number of advanced and wealthy users although this percentage is very low compared to the percentage of 'developing' users," said Steve Paine, consumer technology reviewer at UltrabooksNews.com. The pace of change is obviously fast in these huge, emerging parts of the China market."

 

China is now "the first market for Intel," according to senior executive Sean Maloney who recently was named chairman of Intel China. Maloney, who once served as head of Sales and Marketing for Intel in the Asia Pacific Region, was tapped to help harness the growth potential and lead Intel's overall efforts in China.

"The PC still has room to grow and we need to kick-start that," said Maloney.

The momentous growth of PC sales in China in the second quarter pushed the market more than a million units ahead of the U.S. IDC estimates that approximately 18.5 million PCs were shipped in China.

Although IDC predicts the U.S. market will hold a slim lead of just more than a million units shipped for 2011 in total, China is expected to dominate next year. IDC forecasts that China will outsell the U.S. by more than a billion dollars, shipping 85.2 million units versus 76.6 million units in the U.S. in 2012.

 

"China's lead in the PC market is a huge shift that reflects the rising fortunes of emerging markets as well as the relative stagnation of more mature regions. While the immediate economic circumstances in the U.S. and other markets had a significant impact on the timing of China's move to the lead, they have not changed the trend, but accelerated it," said Loren Loverde, program vice president of IDC's Worldwide PC Tracker.

 

PCs More Affordable in Emerging Markets
People living in emerging markets such as China, Brazil, Mexico, India, Turkey and Indonesia are seeing computers becoming much more affordable, according to data that Intel CFO Stacy Smith shared with investors in May. The cost of an average-priced laptop in China, for example, has dropped dramatically from 174.7 weeks of average income back in 1995 down to just 7 weeks of income in 2010. By 2014, the cost will drop to the equivalent of 2.6 weeks. That will put China very close to the worldwide average of 2.3 weeks of average wages.

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Kids playing with new laptop inside an electronics store

 

Overall demand for personal computers, however, is being hotly debated amid the rapid popularity of tablets and smartphones.

 

Gartner's September report shows economic woes in many parts of the world are hampering PC sales, especially in the U.S. and Western Europe, as is increasing demand for smartphones and tablets.

"More worrisome for the long term is that Generation Y has an altogether different view of client devices than older generations and are not buying PCs as their first, or necessarily main device," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, when the report was released. "For older buyers, today's PCs are not a particularly compelling product, so they continue to extend lifetimes."

 

Gartner actually lowered its 2011 worldwide PC shipment estimates from 9.3 percent to 3.8 percent, bringing it more in line with the IDC estimate of 4.2 percent, which was trimmed from 7.1 percent in June.

 

PC Industry Sees Change as Emerging Markets Rouse
China and other emerging economy nations are becoming the sales growth engines for PCs as sales slow in more mature market economies, according to IDC.

 

Taiwan-based PC maker Acer recently reported its first-ever revenue-losing quarter. Dell and HP also reported declines in PC sales to consumers, all occurring in the quarter when more PCs were shipping in China than the U.S. for the first time.

 

In late August, HP said it was inclined to spin off its $40 billion PC business, the world's largest. The company then clarified its commitment to the future of personal computing with print ads that said, "We see a future where they will be able to own a PC for the first time, giving them the ability to learn more, create more, produce more and improve the quality of their lives – things that simply can't be done on other kinds of devices." HP claims that it sells two PCs every second somewhere in its market of 170 countries.

 

China-based Lenovo, which bought IBM's PC business in 2005, is currently the third-largest PC maker after HP and Dell, according to IDC. Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing recently told the Financial Times that "emerging markets, including China, continue to grow and outpace" the overall PC market, while in mature markets the corporate PC replacement cycle "remains strong and consistent."

 

Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini said during Intel's July earnings call that emerging markets such as Turkey and Indonesia were up 70 percent, India was up 17 percent, Russia was up 15 percent, China was up 14 percent and Latin America as a whole was up 12 percent. He pointed to growth in Brazil that would make that country the world's third-largest PC market next year, after the U.S. and China.

 

"It's the real-time dynamic of these markets waking up, an increase in disposable income, a decrease in the cost of computing and bandwidth for connectivity all coming together," said Otellini.

 

He also talked about what he sees as a common approach by many people in emerging markets.

 

"When it's your first time to buy a TV or computer, you want value," he said. "You want something that will last, that's going to be good for your family for more than a year or two and that tends to have you buy up a bit."

 

Further Reading:

 

 

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The Intel Industrial Computer in Concert is embedded with seven integrated computer systems each powered by an Intel Atom processor.

 

The tech world is rife with conductors, but this one has nothing to do with transmitting heat, electricity or light. In this case, the conductor leads a robotic orchestra, synchronizing a host of plastic and metal percussion instruments that ping, pong, bong and blink blue-hued light each time a nearby paint gun strikes them with a tiny rubber ball.

 

Dubbed the Intel Industrial Control in Concert, this machine-to-machine-controlled collection of digitally connected vibraphones, xylophones, high-hats and other sound-making devices is intended to demonstrate the simplicity of building a state-of-the-art smart system using off-the-shelf technologies based on common x86 chip architecture, according to Intel's Drew Pool.

 

The crowd-pleasing project cost approximately $160,000 to build and debuted at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

 

The orchestra's conductor is a palm-sized computer motherboard powered by an Intel Atom processor surrounded by dozens of wires and white PVC tubing that snakes from one instrument to the next. The seven embedded Atom computer systems operate a video security camera to sense accuracy of the moving parts, a digital synthesizer for the sound, digital signage and a multi-touch interactive display that allows people to see what makes the whole operation hit the right notes.

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Rubber paintballs are fired by the sensor-equipped, computer powered system to create a song that has 2,372 notes.

 

"This was done from concept to creation in 90 days," said Marc Christenson from Sisu Devices, an Austin, Texas-based technology integration company that builds motion, vision and machine control automation.

 

"This thing has seven Atom processors total, from three different generations, that are working together harmoniously to play the song," said Christenson, whose company co-built the musical demonstration project with Intel.

 

"It's running three different operating systems, including Windows-embedded XP as a real-time operating system," he said. "It has 250 industrial interconnects, 36 paintball hoppers that shoot rubber, glow-in-the-dark paint balls to play 2,372 notes in the song."

 

The high tech syncopated orchestra was inspired by the 2004 song "Pipe Dream" by Animusic, an entertainment company that makes 3-D video renderings of instrumental music, according to Drew Pool, a product marketing engineer for Intel's Embedded Computing Group.

 

Intel's developer conference was just the opening performance for this maestro-less orchestra. Pool said that he plans to take the robotic ensemble on tour to other tech industry events.

 

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Computer Controlled Orchestra

To add pizzazz to his photos of family vacations, Horst Haussecker recently bought a GPS-enabled camera that identifies the location where each shot was taken. Instead of being excited about the latest feature, however, he found himself wanting more.

 

"It was the most disappointing experience, actually," said Haussecker, who works for Intel in Santa Clara, Calif. "The camera had the capability but no way to see the photos on a map without a major effort, and even then it didn't visualize the photos in a 3-D setting. It merely pinpointed the location on a Google map."

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"Vibrant Media" transforms flat pictures of a conventional photo album into multi-dimensional data collections.

 

For most people, returning the camera for a full or partial refund is pretty much the only solution, and Haussecker might still make a trip back to the store. But as director of Intel's Experience Technology Lab, he is in the rare and enviable position to actually be part of the solution.

 

At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Haussecker and his team demonstrated the results of their efforts to develop tomorrow's photo collections where flat pictures transform into multi-dimensional data collections. The hope for this new technology is to "open new windows into perception, memory and imagination," according to the 10-year Intel Labs veteran.

 

Haussecker and Intel call it "Vibrant Media," and within 2 years users will see some aspects of it on their PCs, including Ultrabooks and tablets, and eventually on their smartphones.

 

The prize of Vibrant Media is a captured moment that the user can return to and explore. For example, a photo of a batter taken in a baseball stadium would not have just the hitter as the subject, but a peanut vendor in the background, also in focus, making an amazing behind-the-back toss. Such detail might be lost in today's cameras.

 

Technology that captures photos and makes 3-D models is already in the marketplace in the form of plain optic cameras and like devices that can fire off a sequence of images with miniscule delay. However, that's but one aspect of what Intel and other developers are working on.

 

"There's much more to photos than just having models – that's only the first step," Haussecker said. "The next step is to create something that isn't static. There's much more to this world than a static 3-D shape. The real world is live. Things are moving. Things are happening."

 

The ultimate challenge, and one in which Intel is seeking industry collaboration, is to create media capabilities that allow consumers to extract details from a photo to give the user more information.

 

"We need to stop chasing the perfect shot. There is no right or wrong answer in capturing a scene," Haussecker said. "We must change the paradigm. Today, creation and consumption are considered two different things. The future paradigm will combine these two aspects."

 

By virtue of the new paradigm, the user will browse media in more interactive ways. Creation and consumption will become one.

 

"You're not creating an artifact that you save for eternity and do nothing else with it," he said. "Instead, you're capturing very rich data sets with a large number of images that tell you something about the orientation of the camera, who is in the photo and when you're taking the photo. You're not just passively watching."

 

The concept is so novel that Intel and its development partners are still figuring out how consumers might use the technology.

 

"We have a toolbox of brand new hardware and software capabilities. What we don't have is full knowledge of what technologies people need," Haussecker said. "That's why we need to work with social scientists and ethnographers to help us understand the needs and desires of what people want in the first place, and then designers to work on the interaction and device capabilities. Next is working with the tech team to build algorithms to create the perfect photographic experience.

 

Intel, taking on the role of computerizing all this, is hopeful that "vibrant media" becomes a feature people want for a new class of 'personal computing' and a range of new devices, including Ultrabooks, tablets, and smartphones..

 

"Intel knows that people are yearning to be more creative with their photography, and we want to deliver the goods that satisfy this need." Haussecker said. "We're long past the day when people only took pictures for documenting important events. Today, people are using cameras in much more playful ways. You're in a bar and take a photo that might never be used."

 

With "vibrant media," that random picture taken at the bar could be as rich as a potent mudslide.

 

"A simple photo of friends having a good time wouldn't be simple at all," Haussecker said. "It would be more than a photo or collection of photos. It would truly capture the moment to be re-experienced in vivid ways. The day of the fleeting, random photo is coming to an end, and that's very exciting."

 

 

Vibrant Media: Future 3-D Photography

Users will soon be able to move photos back and forth between smart phones, tablets and PCs and extend caller IDs and chat capabilities from the phone to the desktop. The application software made a surprisingly low-key appearance during Intel President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Otellini's keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, which emphasized placing the user at the center of the computing experience.

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Photos move between an Android-based Samsung Galaxy 2 smart phone, a Toshiba Portege Ultrabook and an Apple iPad 2 with Intel Pair & Share.

 

Intel Pair & Share, which enables cross-platform sharing of photos over Wi-Fi, and Intel TelePort Extender, which notifies users of incoming mobile calls and extends SMS to the PC, are part of a joint effort underway in Intel's Software and Solutions Group and PC Client Group.

 

Intel Pair & Share allows users to connect any Intel PC running Windows 7 with Android and Apple iOS mobile devices to move photos between the devices over a Wi-Fi connection. In the Advanced Technology Showcase at IDF, Intel's Ellen Chi demonstrated the software by moving photos between an Android-based Samsung Galaxy 2 smart phone, a Toshiba Portege Ultrabook and an Apple iPad 2.

 

The free Pair & Share PC application will be available for download from Intel in October, as will the free Pair & Share mobile applications from the Android Market and Apple iTunes Store. Following Intel availability, Best Buy Marketplace and other retailers will also offer free downloads of the PC application. The PC application is expected to ship preinstalled on select Acer, Samsung and Toshiba PCs in time for the winter holiday season.

 

Editor's Note: Intel Pair & Share is now available for download.

 

After the applications are installed, connecting devices with Pair & Share is as simple as pairing a Bluetooth headset to a mobile phone according to Chi. "Once you identify the device, you click, you connect and then you enter the code," she said. On first pairing, users must enter a six-digit code, but afterward devices connect automatically when on the same Wi-Fi network.

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Chat session extended from an Android smartphone to the PC desktop using Intel TelePort Extender.

 

Intel TelePort Extender allows users to connect any Android smartphone with any Intel PC running Windows 7 over a Wi-Fi network to receive notifications of incoming calls and engage in chat sessions on the PC. The software can "untie a user from their phone, but still never miss a call," said Intel's Balchandani Sonesh who demonstrated the technology at IDF.

 

A user can connect multiple phones to a single PC and a single phone to multiple PCs. TelePort Extender integrates a user's phone contact list on the PC, allowing caller ID to display on incoming call alerts that users can choose to answer on their phone or send to voicemail from the PC. In addition, users can engage in chat sessions using their phone's SMS on a PC and search archived chats.

 

The free TelePort Extender PC application will be available for download from Intel in late fall, as will the free TelePort Extender mobile application from the Android Market. The PC application is expected to ship preinstalled on select PCs in early 2012.

 

 

Smartphones, Tablets, PCs Connect with Intel Apps

No one would ever confuse the Intel Developer Forum with Burning Man, but the upcoming tech industry event in San Francisco will boast at least a hint of the annual counter-cultural festival in the Nevada desert.

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The completed SiMan towered over attendees at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

 

He's called SiMan, short for Silicon Man, and on the second day of Intel's big geekfest, he will stand an imposing 18 feet high inside Moscone Center West. While that height pales in comparison to the 50-foot-tall effigy that burned to the ground earlier this month to the delight of some 50,000 desert-dwelling self-stylists, some wearing nothing but a free spirit, SiMan promises to be a behemoth impressive in his own right.

 

Besides being regaled by a fully clothed crowd and remaining indoors, SiMan isn't destined for a fiery end. Rather, he will be gloriously illuminated with 1,500 LED bulbs strung together with 180 feet of wiring. And his masters plan to let him live on to serve as a beacon for an embedded future.

 

"SiMan was created especially for IDF, but my hope is that he will be used for other events," said Steve Reed, director of industry marketing for Intel's Embedded and Communications Group. "We want him to send to as many people as possible the message that embedded technology makes an intelligent connected solutions life possible. SiMan symbolizes that we are already living that life through devices driven by embedded technology."

 

While a cynical mind could discount SiMan as just a 700-pound marketing stunt, Reed and his team are hoping developers walk away from this towering 360-degree experience feeling that the sizable challenges involved in making an intelligent connected world a reality can be overcome through collaboration.

 

What Sleeping Beauty's castle is to Disneyland, SiMan promises to be the iconic symbol of this year's IDF Technology Showcase, where on the first floor of the convention center more than 150 companies will demonstrate their newest innovations. Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, who worked at a frantic pace with the help of a single assistant, Intel's Embedded and Communications Group has a set schedule planned for the dawn of its creation, and is hoping for community involvement during the entire build.

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SiMan won’t match the flaming Burning Man phenomenon that occurs annually in the Nevada desert, but he is sure to impress the throngs of techies descending on San Francisco next week for the Intel Developer Forum.

 

The climax, dubbed "SiMan Glow Time," is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Wednesday (Sept. 14), but before the embedded giant is lit up like a Christmas tree at New York's Rockefeller Center with IDF revelers waving glow sticks provided by Intel, SiMan will have gone through several stages of construction. Those who sit through a short video at the in the "Embedded Zone" inside the technology showcase will earn a die-shaped connector piece that they'll place directly on SiMan, be it on his 25-pound head or other body parts that will be attached starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. In what sounds like a live demonstration of the familiar children's song "Dry Bones," the two-day plan is for the torso to be connected to the head, the right arm to be connected to the torso, and so on. SiMan's first attempt at standing will be aided by motors and beams.

 

SiMan is the brainchild of a team responsible for driving traffic to the Embedded Zone, where communications infrastructure, machine-to-machine, medical, retail and digital signage will be among the embedded sectors showcased. Several ideas were considered, including a trivia challenge and dancing flash mob, but the concept of a glowing Goliath stuck, and timing was "perfect" with Burning Man having concluded less than 2 weeks prior to IDF.

 

"We were looking for a 'wow factor,'" said Len Klebba, event marketing team manager for Intel. "We whittled the ideas down to the one we thought was the most fun and had the most legs."

 

SiMan has two, each weighing 80 pounds, but Klebba was referring to the marketing opportunities, of course. SiMan is a rogue beast, one of a kind, with body parts adorned with processor images used to represent Intel's embedded and communications business. He was conceived to balance art with a high-tech "geek" appeal. With IDF often referred to as "the world's biggest geekfest," sounds like the perfect birthplace for the big fella.

For many people around the world, especially 2.5 billion people living in China, Latin America and Eastern Europe, computer prices are dropping quickly relative to average weekly incomes. The trend in wages and prices may mean new growth opportunities for computer manufacturers even amid the growth of tablets which are often priced beyond the reach of many consumers outside the U.S.

 

According to data released earlier by Intel, the cost of an average priced laptop in China was equal to 174.7 weeks of average income back in 1995. That shrunk dramatically to just about 30 weeks of average income in 2005, and slipped to 7 weeks of income in 2010.

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A motorcyclist in Egypt brings new meaning to ‘mobile’ computing. The prices for computing are dropping relative to wages in Egypt, a trend that is expected to continue even amid the revolution last Spring. In 2009, a PC cost on average less than 14 days of work and is expected to be 6.6 days of work by 2014, according to data from Intel.

 

By 2014, Intel estimates the cost of an average priced laptop in China will drop to the equivalent of 2.6 weeks, putting China very close to the worldwide average of 2.3 weeks of average income.

 

This rapid drop in PC prices relative to weekly wages is having a major impact, pushing emerging markets to account for more than 50 percent of Intel's revenues, according to Stacy Smith, Intel's chief financial officer.

 

"It comes down to a simple economic equation," Smith told China's CCTV. "[Technology] is very desirable and important in people's lives in emerging markets and the affordability of that technology has moved to a point where there are billions of people who can afford the technology."

 

Just 6 years ago, the average person living in India would have to work more than 440 weeks in order to amass enough wages to buy a PC. In 2010, the number of weeks dropped to less than 31. In 2014, some estimate a decrease to about 10 weeks of wages.

 

In Latin America, which has a population of approximately 714 million, the cost of a PC fell from 41 weeks of wages in 1995 to 6.5 weeks in 2010. In 2014, it is expected to cost 3.4 weeks of wages.

 

PCs are becoming more affordable more quickly for the 402 million people living in Eastern Europe, where a PC cost nearly 48 weeks of work 1995. In 2010, it took 5 weeks of work to afford a PC, and that is expected to slip to a little more than 2 weeks in 2014.

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In China, it took an estimated 175 days of work to purchase a personal computer in 1995, and by 2010 the price dropped it to just above 7 days of work, according to Intel. Photo by Mira Images

 

Compare that with more established economies of North America (348 million people) and Western Europe (432 million people), which dropped from 4.9 and 5.6 weeks of average income respectively in 1995 to .8 and .9 weeks of income in 2010. By 2014, an average priced laptop is expected to cost a half day's wages in North America and .6 weeks of wages in Western Europe.

 

According to the Intel data, the worldwide average has dropped from 25.7 weeks of income in 1995 to 4.2 weeks in 2010. It is estimated that by 2014, an average-priced laptop will cost 2.3 weeks of average income.

 

Smith estimates that approximately two out of every three PCs will be sold to emerging markets, and that nearly two out of every three PCs will be sold into the consumer segment. Smith also estimates that about two out of every three PCs sold will be notebooks.

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