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Intel has confirmed the formation of a new netbook and tablet computing group and shifted Doug Davis, Intel vice president and general manager of the Embedded and Communications Group, over to lead the effort. The move happened several weeks ago, but was only confirmed officially today by an Intel spokesman in a New York Times story. Ton Steenman, currently vice president and general manager of the Low-power Embedded Products Division, will become the new general manager for the Embedded Computing Group. Intel President and CEO also said today the company was tracking 35 tablet design wins and said he expected more news at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January, see related Intel Free Press story.

 

 

Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini defended the PC market today and said the company is still on track to have the "best year ever" amid the rapid growth of tablets and smartphones where Intel is currently behind competitors.

 

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Speaking to investors at a Barclays Capital event in San Francisco, he said demand for the company's latest Core microprocessor line, codenamed "Sandy Bridge," is "very very strong" and is shaping up to the "best product we've ever built."

 

"It's fashionable to write off the PC but it just keeps going," Otellini said, invoking a term former Intel CEO Andy Grove once used, calling the PC a "Darwinian device." In terms of sheer scale, PCs are also shipping in the millions per day, compared to a several million per quarter for the iPad.

 

Otellini said what is driving PC growth, in addition to a strong corporate refresh cycle buoyed by sales of Microsoft's Windows 7, is the trend toward higher incomes and multiple PCs per household even outside the United States. He showed data that indicated the cost of buying a PC over the past several years has gone from about 5 weeks of income to less than half a week of income in the United States, and from 30 weeks to 7 weeks in China. He said the company is seeing similar trends in Eastern Europe and Brazil, Latin's America's biggest market.

 

"Going forward the PC will get more affordable not because the price is coming down but because incomes are going up," Otellini said.

 

Similarly, the trend toward multiple PCs per household, already above one per home domestically, was trending the same way in Eastern Europe and other geographies.

 

He was bullish on the company's upcoming Sandy Bridge launch.

 

"This is the best product we've ever built, demand is very, very strong, and our customers are excited," he said. "It has better energy efficiency, better floating point performance and better visual performance. This is the first time we've used our leading-edge manufacturing technology to build the graphics directly onto the silicon die. "

 

Otellini said the result of integrated graphics, leading-edge manufacturing and built-in accelerators meant Sandy Bridge graphics would now outperform low-end discreet graphics cards and result in lower cost for Intel's customers. He also hinted at additional features the company would disclose at the official product launch next month at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

 

"We are very excited about this product and we are shipping for revenue as we speak," he said, foreseeing high volumes but stopping short of offering specific numbers as the company is in its traditional quiet period and the product hasn't launched yet. "This will be our fastest ramp ever; the product is very healthy."

 

He also addressed some of the tension around tablets and smartphones, where Intel is behind other competitors and has yet to make significant progress in terms of volumes and design wins.

 

"On tablets, our strategy is very simple: We're going to offer best-in-class hardware and support all the viable operating systems," he said, predicting a series of demos and announcements from customers at CES. He said the company is tracking 35 design wins and listed a few devices currently shipping with Intel processors, including the Cisco Cius for business. But he said the real shift to Intel architecture in terms of consumer devices would come next year and for now, the iPad isn't hampering sales of notebooks as some have suggested.

 

"I don't think tablets are cannibalizing noteboooks, but they are a competitor for discretionary income," he said. "On the other hand, I have not seen a kid who takes a tablet to school versus a laptop. So I see [the iPad] as a fun device that is additive to the market."

 

On phones, Otellini reiterated statements made to investors earlier in the year that the company is viewing the challenge in terms of a marathon and not a sprint, yet still promising smart phones with Intel silicon by the second half of 2011. He went on to talk about important chip architecture transitions over the years, and predicted Intel would eventually gain a competitive advantage. This comes amid growing criticism from ARM and its licensees that Intel won't be able to get power down far enough to compete in smartphones.

 

Dr. Herman Hauser, a co-founder of ARM, even suggested that Intel's business model might be flawed in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal. "The reason why ARM is going to kill the microprocessor is not because Intel will not eventually produce an Atom [Intel's low-power microprocessor] that might be as good as an ARM, but because Intel has the wrong business model," Hauser said.

 

"Typically, these architecture transitions take a decade, "Otellini said. "But we have the best silicon technology, a persistent and consistent architecture, a large ecosystem of customers, and global scale. We can do it big, we can do it over the long term and we can do it on a big scale. No other company has this capability and that's what makes us unique."

 

Otellini was asked whether there was anything that Wall Street misunderstood about Intel and its strategies, given the sluggish growth in its stock amid record revenues and financial performance.

 

"To make this much money and have the stock where it is is disappointing," he acknowledged. "We said we'd have double-digit growth over the next several years and we've never done that. So you can wait until the stock goes up or you can buy it now."

 

And speaking of buying stock, Otellini said the company had resumed buy-backs of its stock after more than a year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consumers who bought Intel Core i5 or Core i7-powered PC’s and completed a short online entry recently earned a spot in a random drawing for a trip to the Sokol Air Base and MiG manufacturing plant in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and a flight in a MiG-29. The jet took each of the winning passengers on a one-hour flight achieving speeds of Mach 2.5 (about 2,000 mph). Singapore photographer Raymond Phang was one of lucky winners of the Intel promotion in Asia and snapped this shot at 85,000 above the Russian hinterland at the edge of space. - Photo courtesy (and copyright) Raymond Phang

One of Intel's big selling points for its Core i5 and Core i7 processors is something called Turbo Boost Technology. It's a feature that dynamically adjusts processor speed if the user needs additional performance, and then saves energy when he/she doesn't.

 

With Turbo Boost heavily marketed since it debuted with the Intel Core i5 and i7 in January, we wondered how the marketing campaign is coming along as these products enter their first holiday shopping season. So we recently asked salespeople at the computer departments of several Sacramento, Calif. area retailers a simple question: "What is Turbo Boost?" Responses ranged from impressive to yikes. Always purposely standing in front of an Intel Core i5 when the question was posed, here's what we got:

 

  • "Turbo Boost is on the i5 and i7. It makes your computer go a lot faster when you need it," said Steve with accuracy at the Best Buy in Roseville.
  • "What is Turbo Boost? Good question. None of these have them, but that one does," said Scott at the Office Max in Roseville. (Among the array of laptops he said didn't have Turbo Boost was an Intel Core i5 and the one he said did was a Core i3, which doesn't.)
  • "Turbo Boost is kinda like a safe way to overclock your processor. It's on the i3, i5 and i7," said Kenneth at the Best Buy in Citrus Heights. (Accurate response except for the i3 part.)
  • "Turbo Boost? Yeah, I heard it's on the i7. I know they're making it for Windows 7 and the i3 and i5. They're working on it now," said Joe at the Costco in Roseville. (Again, not on the i3 and the i5 already is being sold at Costco.)
  • "You mean ReadyBoost? I don't know what Turbo Boost is. I think you mean ReadyBoost," said Ron at the Sam's Club in Citrus Heights. (ReadyBoost is a disk cache component of Microsoft Windows and unrelated to Turbo Boost.)
  • "It's like having turbo in your car. When you need the extra power you get it. Turbo Boost lets you run big programs at once without noticing a differentiation in power," said a spot-on Paulo at Fry's Electronics in Roseville.
  • "Turbo Boost gives you extra speed when you need it. It's on the i5 and i7, but the i7 is so powerful you really don't need it. When you play big games like 'Call of Duty: Black Ops' you will really appreciate it, especially on the i5," said a manual-quoting Matt at the Best Buy in Folsom. (We swear he doesn't work for Intel.)
  • "It's on the i3, i4 – that series of processors," said Curtis at the Staples in Roseville. (As noted, Turbo Boost isn't in the Intel Core i3, and Intel doesn't make an "i4.")
  • "Turbo Boost enhances the speed of our computers. It's for more efficiency when running multiple programs. It's on Intel's i3, i5 and i7," said Ron of the Fry's Electronics in Sacramento. (So close.)
  • "I don't know what 'Turbo Boost' means," said Joseph at the Walmart in West Sacramento. "Sounds like something new."

 

We asked holiday shoppers the same question. Check out what they said in this video.

 

 

Tim Westergren is having the time of his life. Not long ago he was a struggling musician, trying to earn a living traveling from town to town building a fan base one venue at a time. Today, he’s holding town hall meetings across the United States, lobbying congressmen on Capitol Hill, and negotiating high-stakes deals with the powerful Recording Industry Association of America.

 

Oh, and revolutionizing radio along the way.

 

Revolutionize is a term often overused in the technology industry, but when you see what Westergren is up to and recognize the potential it has to disrupt the traditional radio business, you get a sense this one might qualify.

 

Westergren is the chief strategic officer and founder of Pandora, the fledging Internet radio service that began initially as a music e-commerce site 10 years ago but only in the last 5 has blossomed into an Internet radio phenom with over 65 million listeners.

 

“This is radio writ large,” as Westergren likes to say, whether talking to the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, TV personality Stephen Colbert or a group of listeners at Babb’s Coffee House in Fargo, N.D.

 

Revolutionizing the Radio Business: Pandora’s Tim Westergren on the Next Big Thing

 

Westergren, 44, is like the Pied Piper of Internet radio these days, appearing in dozens of newspapers, magazines, TV outlets and online interviews with his boyish good looks and his signature gray T-shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes. He looks more like the laid-back jazz pianist he was and still is, if not the guy-next-door, than one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2010.

 

Radio is at the beginning of a period of extremely rapid change and I don’t think the traditional broadcast radio business knows that yet,” he said. “Technology is changing what radio means and what people’s expectations are.”

 

Pandora is like your favorite radio station on steroids, where you decide what you like -- an artist, genre or theme -- and they serve up that and more all subscription free. It involves discovery and “serendipity,” as Westergren says, and that is key to what distinguishes it from other music experiences. You may have a thousand songs in your pocket with iPod, but you aren’t getting regular recommendations for new music as you listen to your own library. You may be listening to Internet radio, but you don’t have a bunch of people in a room somewhere helping deliver a more refined and personalized version of radio based on your likes or dislikes of every song you hear.

 

Pandora uses a sophisticated template to define and “score” songs using distinct musical characteristics. Every song ends up with unique attributes -- a musical DNA -- that allows Pandora to serve up songs you may like based on your preferences. It’s a laborious process but it’s Pandora’s core strength; 800,000 songs are in the database and 10,000 new ones are added each month, all scored manually.

 

“Delivering targeted, personalized radio is incredibly hard to do,” Westergren said. “We try to make it look easy, but we have a decade of experience and 30 to 50 people doing it manually day in and day out,”

 

This unique algorithm and capability is what allows Pandora to deliver a highly personalized radio experience. And this mix is working across musical genres, attracting new people to the service at a rapid pace.

 

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Tim Westergren, has come a long way from the days of being a struggling musician. The Pandora founder now finds himself in an enviable position as one of the leaders defining the Internet radio experience and bringing personalized radio to life.

 

According to the New York Times, Pandora may generate something on the order of $100 million in revenue this year from various advertising and licensing deals. Not bad for a company that has never advertised its service. But Westergren doesn’t like to talk about revenue and growth projections, preferring instead to focus on the artists, the experience and the listener.

 

Altruistic perhaps, but it hasn’t always been easy. Westergren started the Music Genome Project in 2000 as an e-commerce site making music recommendations just as the dot.com implosion happened. He found himself “wandering around in the wilderness,” often with no salary, searching for venture capital believers and trying to stay true to the music.

 

After re-launching as an Internet radio site in 2005, Westergren almost pulled the plug a few years later due to a federal Copyright Royalty Board decision to double the performance royalty that Web radio stations pay to performers and record companies. After mobilizing listeners, orchestrating a grass roots campaign and getting a crash course in how to lobby Congress, the ruling was reversed and the company survived.

 

At a recent meeting in Portland, Ore., Westergren displayed a graph showing the rapid growth in listeners just over the last year, from 49 million to 65 million. “Broadcast radio doesn’t really have an answer for this,” he said. “You can’t just take KFOG and make KFOG.com and stream it online because people are looking for something different, they are looking for a more personalized experience.”

 

As those listeners flock to Pandora, Westergren says broadcast radio is slowly losing share.

 

“I don’t think the broadcast industry really knows this is happening yet, but two years from now it’s going to look like a tornado hit,” he said at the Oregon meeting, and then paused to show a picture of an iPhone on the screen behind him. “And it’s because of this.”

 

Like so many other services, the iPhone has transformed Pandora’s business. According to Webcast Metrics the number of people listening to Pandora shot up 50 percent after the launch of the first iPhone App, and the company is now activating something on the order of 100,000 new listeners a day on smart phones alone.

 

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Pandora’s listenership skyrocketed following the first iPhone app and the company is now activating about 100,000 new smart phones a day.

 

“Overnight we went from a stationary computer-based experience to being radio, period,” he said. “ You could buy a $3 jack and plug it into your car stereo and people began doing that. More than 50 percent of people who have iPhones have used Pandora in their cars, and that’s a big growth area for us.”

 

 

Indeed cars are the next “holy grail” for Pandora, and it’s easy to see why. According to Frost and Sullivan, Internet radio is one of the biggest trends sweeping the automotive apps and services market. They estimate that the hybrid connected model -- running apps off phones brought into the car vs. embedded -- will have an addressable market size of more than 5 million units by 2015 in North America alone.

 

Aside from cars, Pandora is seemingly everywhere in consumer devices these days -- from smart phones, HDTVs, Blu-ray disc players, dedicated Internet radio boxes, after-market car stereos and more. And Westergren says they are planning to add talk radio, sports and weather.

 

All of this means growth for Pandora, and potentially dire consequences for traditional broadcast and even satellite radio. He seems to enjoy the roll of disrupter, but Westergren says they are trying to stay true to the music, the artists, the personalization and a simple business philosophy that grounds the company.

 

“The best way to run a business is to ask ‘why are you doing this?’” Westergren said. “We’re doing it because we want to be part of this musical revolution. We want to help people discover stuff and help artists find their audience. If all you do is chase money you can lose your identify and ultimately that will come back to bite you."

 

Could new legislation cause a dramatic uptick in the purchase of new laptops and other mobile technologies for federal workers? If President Obama signs the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 into law and many expect he will the answer is, maybe.

 

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 which passed the House of Representatives and was sent to Obama last week requires each executive agency to establish a policy under which federal employees would be able to work remotely to the maximum extent possible without impacting performance or agency operations. The issue has been discussed for years but supporters are cheering the recent passage of the bill which they say will increase worker productivity, save money, and help save the environment.

 

More federal workers teleworking could be a boon to technology suppliers, according to some of the companies who supported the legislation and are part of the Telework Exchange, a public-private partnership that supports telecommuting among Federal employees. But while the prospect of more laptops seemed a natural conclusion to such legislation, the Telework Exchange had no immediate predictions or government IT purchases as a result. According to the Telework Research Network, however, the bill could save taxpayers over $15 billion a year, and the savings would pay for the five-year cost of implementing the programs (approximately $30 million) in just one snow day.

The digital equivalent to paintings that look more like photos may well be the surreal and super realistic images being created by today’s digital photographers using digital cameras, a personal computer and something called HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography processing.

 

Photos of dramatic landscapes with greener than green grass, or lavender bushes with purple flowers that almost look three-dimensional.  These are often created from multiple photos that are merged using computer software to pull out highlights, saturate colors or tweak the overall tone so the final image looks nothing like the shot you get from a single click of a camera shutter.

 

San Fransisco after HDR enhancement

San Fransisco after HDR enhancement

San Fransisco before HDR enhancement

San Fransisco before HDR enhancement

“HDR photography is a technique of taking digital photos and then bringing out the details that are normally not captured in a single photo,” explains Mike Fard, an amateur photogragher who works at Intel and spends a lot of time taking and manipulating pictures in his spare time. “The HDR technique let’s you capture a scene’s depth and color the way your eyes would see it, vibrant and full of detail.”

 

“Cameras, by their basic-machine-nature, are very good at capturing “images” - lines, shadows, shapes — but they are not good at capturing a scene the way the mind remembers and maps it,” wrote HDR pioneer Trey Ratcliff in his blog StuckinCustoms.  “You will find that as you explore the HDR process, photos can start to evoke those deep memories and emotions in a more tangible way. It’s really a wonderful way of “tricking” your brain into experiencing much more than a normal photograph.”

 

Increasing the dynamic range reveals details in shadow areas while retaining details in the bright highlights. These photographs are generally created using several consecutive – or bracketed -- shots of the same scene taken with a variety of exposure settings. The shots are then “fused” into one image and enhanced using computer software that boosts color saturation, tones, contrast and brightness, resulting in photos that are amazingly life-like or otherworldly, and sometimes mystical or even haunting.

 

HDR image of Cabo San Luca

HDR image of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

But this form of digital enhancement may not be for everybody. Internet blogger Mike Panic says he doesn’t like HDR photography, especially when it’s taken to the extreme. “I’m fine with HDR as an art form, but perhaps the purist in me deems that this much manipulation to a photograph no longer makes it a photograph,” writes Panic on his Photoletariat blog.  “I’ll freely admit that every single one of my digital photos has some form of digital retouch, I don’t think any of them push the limits as far as some will in HDR.”

 

It may be art, but there’s also a science to HDR photography that is brought to life by software and computer processing, which creates an image that resembles what meets the eye more than what’s actually captured by a digital camera.

 

“Digital cameras can meter a scene the best it technically can, typically in the range of 4 to 9 f/stops,” wrote Kevin L. Moss, publisher of Digital Photography Daily. “Our own eyes and brain view a scene, and can interpret approximately 9 to 14 f/stops. That’s quite a difference. This is the primary reason, as you recall, that you often shoot scenes that appear to you straightforward, but when you view them on your computer or LCD screen, the image lacks detail in shadow areas, or has blown out highlights in the lighter areas of the image. An HDR image, when shot and processed properly, will give you detail in a much larger dynamic range than a normal photograph can present.”

 

 

This is exactly why Fard spends time processing his favorite travel photos using HDR.  “I like to extract all of the details, as much of the fidelity of a scene as possible so it resembles how I really saw a place and how it made me feel when I was there,” he said.

 

One of the first credited with developing HDR imaging is Charles Wyckoff, whose detailed pictures of nuclear explosions appeared on the cover of Life magazine in the mid 1940s. HDR has come a long way since then, considering that today a much scaled-down derivation of HDR is available on iPhone 4 and other smartphones, helping bring new interest in HDR photography from people experimenting with photos they shoot, edit and upload from their phones.

 

While some may discover HDR first on the phone, the most amazing works today are created using digital cameras and computer software.  “The raw image straight out of the sensor has much more detail than you can observe with the eye, and that can be extracted from the HDR software on a PC,” says Fard.  “When I’m really cranking, I have multiple instances of the program running at the same time, allowing me to enhance and process many images simultaneously.”

 

Fard’s tips for creating HDR photos include:

            
  • Use a digital SLR camera with wide angle lens to capture landscapes and buildings. A point-and-shoot camera will work, but you need to be able to shoot in “manual’ mode.
  • Use a tripod whenever possible, or use any stable surface when you’re outside.
  • Always shoot in RAW format (not JPEG or another compressed format) so the digital camera can capture as much data as possible to create the image being shot
  • Use the camera’s exposure bracketing function(using shutter speed) to capture a rapid succession of shots that include an under-exposed, normal, and over-exposed photo, which will be fused together by the HDR software.
  • Use the lowest ISO setting as possible and shoot in the afternoon as the sun is going down to capture beautiful colors and clouds.
  • Experiment with different free HDR software, which can be downloaded from a variety of Websites, such as Photomatix
  • Create an online photo account like Picasa Web Albums or Flickr to store and share your images.

 

Slideshow:

Computer animation has come a long way since the story of a boy's beloved toys coming alive and learning how even the greatest of challenges can be overcome with friendship.

 

Technical advances since have made computer-animated features even more jaw-dropping, taking us to a day when skyscrapers slide down detail-rich streets to leave a city in a turbulent cloud of dust in its wake – all in state-of-the-art 3-D and looking as real as unreal can get.

 

That's an actual scene from DreamWorks Animation's newest 3-D movie, "Megamind," and the destruction of "Metro City" is one of the more visually stunning moments in the film. Metro City's structural loss is the audiences gain, one could say. And to think that just a few years ago studios couldn't build complex cities because rendering one would crash the computer system.

 

Intel has been providing software engineering expertise to DreamWorks Animation developers since 2008, developing a strong technical relationship with the Glendale, Calif.-based studio that capitalizes on new scalable, multi-core computing necessary for computer animation today.

 

MegaMind.jpg

 

"DreamWorks Animation needed to transform the way they make movies," said Renée James, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Software and Services Group. "We were coming out with the new Xeon processors and recognized in the course of that timeframe that we have a group at Intel that can help them achieve their goals on a bigger scale."

 

The initial collaboration on 2009's "Monsters vs. Aliens" included the companies' inaugural joint effort of InTru3D, which culminated in a 90-second sneak peek of the animated feature film that aired on broadcast television in 3-D during the Super Bowl. Including a pair worn by President Barack Obama during a White House Super Bowl party, 150 million glasses using InTru3D were distributed in a marketing effort described at the time by DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg as "perhaps the biggest media-advertising event in history."

 

The power (and challenge) of three

"Megamind" is the third feature film released by DreamWorks Animation this year. Moviegoers who stay for the credits will see the Intel logo, which also appears on the crawls of the studio's "Shrek Forever After" and "How to Train Your Dragon," two films currently among this year's Top 10 domestic grossers, the latter also among the current top-selling DVDs in the United States.

 

While the collaboration with Intel isn't the reason DreamWorks Animation was able to release three features in a single year, an accomplishment touted as "unprecedented" by the studio, it did offer significant advantages.

 

"The work we're doing on the scalable multi-core architecture allowed our engineers to maintain their focus on those three films and ensured that we as a technology group were delivering the highest-end computer graphics software to the artists on those movies," said Kate Swanborg, technology executive at DreamWorks Animation. "Our partnership with Intel provides a unique and incredibly valuable collaboration between their software domain experts and ours."

 

A "no-brainer" is how Swanborg described her company's decision to tap Intel's shoulder for the job. "We recognize the value of serving as a lighthouse for Intel to showcase the power of multi-core technologies and remaining on the forefront of innovation," Swanborg added.

 

Working side-by-side with a dedicated Intel team based at and near the studio, DreamWorks Animation R&D engineers solve such challenges as rendering times that increase as images become more and more complex and rich -- and that's even before they're authored in 3-D.

 

"'Megamind' pushed our tools to the limits, literally hitting computational load peaks as much as 50 percent higher than any previous production," said DreamWorks Animation CTO Ed Leonard. "Intel's combined contributions to performance and throughput delivered in both software and hardware arenas."

 

From a software side, "Megamind" benefited from the adoption of Intel's compiler and contributions by Intel engineers to performance-tune DreamWorks Animation's rendering and simulation tools for both single and multi-core processing. Hardware-wise, the filmmakers augmented their batch compute capability with more than 3,000 Intel Xeon processor cores.

 

"We could talk about the tremendous compute required to model the enormous coordinate system and the unprecedented details of the turbulent flow, but in the end, it was the combination of faster software and greater capabilities in compute that allowed us to put it all on screen and deliver the excitement and emotion our artists imagined," Leonard said.

Amid all the recent news on new smart TV products from Sony and Logitech, the message from analysts and researchers who study humans for a living seems to be: Don't make TVs into PCs.

 

Logitech last month became the first company to unveil a set-top device running Google's new Android-based TV platform, followed by Sony with a host of slick new HDTVs and a Blu-ray disc player. All of these devices are powered by a chip originally designed for computers, but customized for consumer electronics to enable 1080p video, Dolby 7.1 surround sound, DTS and more. And while there have been connected TVs for some time, Google TV is the first to marry the Internet with broadcast TV in an entirely new way.

 

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A customer tests out the latest Sony Smart TV’s at a local Best Buy store near Portland, Oregon

 

According to analysts, something on the order of 300 million digital televisions ship every year, so it's a big market for all the companies involved, and growing.

 

Speaking to Computer World, analyst Rob Enderle predicted that in the right format and with the right usage model and customer experience, people could adopt Google TV. "Folks probably won't be doing much browsing on their TV," he said. "But consuming Internet media? Certainly. Up until now it has been too difficult for most to do that."

 

Ironically, as TVs and other consumer devices get connected, they take on more compute-like function and capability. But according to researchers, if smart TV takes off the industry has to avoid the mistakes of the past by making the user experience more compelling.

 

"Do you want to live in a world where your Tivo says, 'I'm terribly sorry that before you can see this next show I have to defrag myself?'" asked Intel Fellow Genevieve Bell, who has been deeply involved in understanding what consumers want and expect from their television viewing experience through a series of research efforts.

 

"People don't want their televisions to turn into a computer," she said. "People actually love their televisions because it turns out they're nothing like computers."

 

Bell, who heads up the Intel Labs' Interaction and Experience Research group, is adamant that the smart TV push will work because it is about the TV experience, not just the Internet.

 

Intel’s Genevieve Bell on why Smart TV has to be different than the PC

 

In an interview with PC Magazine, Creative Strategies research analyst Tim Bajarin said "If you just have the TV emulate the PC experience, then I think that approach will fail. On the other hand, if you turn the various Internet sites that might work on a big screen into channels, with viewing at the heart of the experience, and deliver an experience that consumers are used to on a big screen, then the chance of success is better."

 

The concept of bringing the Internet to the TV set has been a hot topic for over a decade, Bajarin said, but only now are we "starting to see products that deliver the promise in a way that consumers may actually find interesting."

 

Learning what works, and doesn't, is one of the lessons of the Viiv PC platform, said Brian David Johnson, Intel Labs futurist and author of Screen Future: The Future of Entertainment, Computing, and the Devices We Love.Viiv was Intel's effort to grow the market for PC-based TV and consumer living room experiences, based on a collection of Intel chips and technologies and Windows Media Center.

 

From a user perspective "we failed with Viiv," Johnson said. "We learned a lot of things, the most important being we tried to turn the television into a computer."

 

“People saw the Internet as a way they could get whatever they wanted on demand.” —Brian David Johnson

 

Intel's Gary Palangian, a Google TV program manager in the Digital Home Group, agrees that Viiv was about putting a PC in the living room, while smart TV is about putting your Internet on the TV.

 

He pointed out, for example, that Viiv was powered by PC chips, while the Intel Atom CE4100 was designed specifically for consumer electronics, offering home theatre-quality audio/video performance, signal processing, surround sound and 3-D graphics in a super small package that also enables fan-less designs due to its low power.

 

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Smart TV products like the Logitech Revue set-top box are just now starting to appear in retail stores like Best Buy

 

Another key factor in the attempt to get a better grasp of what users want research project led by Bell's group called "The Social Lives of Television."

 

Johnson and a team of Intel anthropologists and ethnographers visited hundreds of people in their homes in India, the U.K., the U.S. and China to learn how they engaged with their TVs so that Intel could better understand what consumers actually wanted.

 

"When we started working on the concept 4 years ago, we figured the No. 1 thing people would want in the future is movies-on-demand," Johnson said. "But our focus groups revealed that what people really wanted on their TVs was Internet access. People saw the Internet as a way they could get whatever they wanted on demand. Watching what they wanted, when they wanted it, and where they wanted was a profound and liberating experience."

 

Intel and many other companies are betting big this knowledge will pay off as television evolves and becomes more PC-like, but without all the trimmings of the traditional PC experience. Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini recently predicted that "TV is about to change more in the next year than it has in the last 50." For that to happen, according to analysts and industry gurus, it will need to be an entirely different kind of computing experience.

First of all, congratulations on a successful launch! I've been reading your articles with interest, especially the one about "Netbook's Death,” a topic that has been covered in a variety of newspapers and tech sites, particularly taken from the whole "vs iPad" perspective.

 

Despite how much has been talked about, I think that the different views on the topic sometimes forget how different things are in less developed countries, such as mine, Argentina. The dichotomy between iPad/Netbook simply doesn't exists here. Our economy forbids it! You see: here, the cheapest iPad comes about for around $850 US, or 3,400 pesos, our local currency. An Atom-powered Netbook, which has 3G connectivity, more ports and runs full blown applications, can be bought subsidized from a cell carrier for less than $400 US. Given the way technology is viewed in the USA, it may not seem like much of a difference, but here, the average wage is about $500 US. So those $350 saved from not buying an iPad make a big difference in your month to month financing.

 

I think that the clearer example of  how things are around here is to ask you, as an American, how would you feel if you had to pay for an iPad almost two full monthly wages, because that is exactly  what happens here. I think that iPads and netbooks are different devices, with different uses, and don't see them overlapping, at least not in my country.

 

Tony Gardella, Argentina

Intel’s software acquisitions can best be described in terms of buckets of capabilities, according to Renée James, senior vice president and general manager of the Software and Services Group.

 

When asked to put some of the recent acquisitions into context in terms of these “buckets,” she listed graphics, embedded systems, parallel computing and security as key capabilities.

 

 

IFP: Tell us about Havok and how that improved Intel’s graphics capability.

RJ: Havoc is a leading company in real-time physics simulation. They also are the leading middleware company for games with their products creating more realism for the game player and ease of development for the game studio. Acquiring that company enables developers in the digital animation and game communities to take advantage of Intel's innovation and technology leadership in the creation of digital media.

 

IFP: What about Atom?

RJ: OpenedHand is one. As we built Atom and moved it into new market segments, we needed an operating system. As the second-largest contributor to the Linux kernel, we had the skillsets to build the core of the operating system, but we needed the ability to put a face on the OS for users to interact with.

 

IFP: What about the embedded systems bucket?

RJ: [System-on-chips] SoCs are built by putting different IP blocks together, so the software for each SoC likely needs to change based on the configuration and the IP blocks in use.  For software developers to take advantage of each different combination, they need a platform emulation system to mirror what the final silicon product will look like. That’s why we bought Virtutech.

 

IFP: And Wind River?

RJ: That acquisition provides us software capabilities in embedded systems and mobile devices, both important growth areas for the company. This multi-billion-dollar market segment is increasingly becoming connected and more intelligent, requiring supporting applications and services as well as full Internet functionality.

 

IFP: And parallel tools?

RJ: Simply adding more cores and threads to our processors does not immediately translate into increased performance or speed for the software. The code has to be written to take advantage of the parallel threads.

 

IFP: Which acquisitions satisfied the parallel tools need?

RJ: Cilk Arts and RapidMind are the leading companies in task and data parallelism. Their technology is being added into our parallel tool products to give developers more access to the capabilities of Intel architecture silicon.

 

IFP: And security is the newest capability bucket?

RJ: As more and more devices connect to the cloud and add additional compute power, more attack surfaces can be exploited. We believe there is an opportunity to provide hardware-enhanced security that will lead to breakthrough innovations going forward. Bringing software closer to the silicon will allow Intel to strengthen security to more effectively counter the increasingly sophisticated threats.

Semiconductors are the silicon-based bread and butter for Intel, but what used to be the company’s “best-kept secret” is anything but these days.

 

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Intel’s Renee James presides over a growing software organization within Intel.

 

With each new acquisition and news announcement, Intel’s Software and Solutions Group steps farther away from the shadows. Intel has always had a software arm, its origins rooted in the need to create tools for customers who would otherwise not be able to do anything with the silicon Intel produced. Today, in addition to providing software to support its chips, Intel is expanding its software focus into more tightly integrated product lines, such as phones, embedded products and tablets.

 

“Software has been Intel’s best-kept secret up until the past couple of years,” said Renée James, who, as senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Software and Services Group, is responsible for making sure Intel hardware and software work together. But it is more than just compatibility. James is also tasked with how Intel offers a profitable complete software stack on top of its silicon.

 

“Intel is no longer a silicon company only,” James said, acknowledging the growing importance of software in everything from laptops to smartphones. “We need to expand our capabilities and build more of the product stack.”

 

A key to fulfilling this need and growing capabilities sought quickly is acquisitions. In 2009 it was embedded software company Wind River for $884 million, and a few months ago Intel spent $7.68 billion on security software powerhouse McAfee. Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini has said that security will become one of the key “pillars” of computing alongside energy efficient performance and connectivity.

 

Even before the McAfee purchase, Intel said that its software group would be among the world’s Top 10 software companies if it were an independent organization. It got there with names that are anything but household: Havok, Rapid Mind, Offset, Sargeva, OpenedHand, Virtutech, Cilk Arts, Neoptica, Elbrus/Unipro, Swiftfoot Graphics. Whatever the level of recognition each has, these high-tech companies share one key commonality that is a household name: Intel.

 

Not a software empire

James insists Intel is not trying to build a software empire with a flurry of acquisitions. And don’t even think about calling either Intel or its software chief a collector of companies.

 

“I bristle at that notion,” James said from her Hillsboro, Ore. base. “I think measuring the corporation or your personal accomplishments by the number of companies or the size of the organization falls in the same category as measuring the title you have. It’s what you do and contribute, and I’ve seen a team of 40 people do the most amazing work. It’s not the number of people or individual companies.”

 

Similarly, Otellini has said he doesn’t have an acquisition strategy per se, but instead will look to add strength in existing areas where it makes sense to support current business objectives. Expanding through acquisitions is actually standard operating procedure in the software industry, according to James.

 

“Software companies in general are usually small groups of people with wonderful ideas and aspirations,” she said. “Many, many companies are built through those pieces coming together into a platform. Microsoft was built through a series of acquisitions, Oracle the same way. Our software group is no different.”

 

James, herself, is a result of an acquisition. She joined Intel in 1988 with the purchase of Bell Technologies.

 

The not-so-softer side of Intel

SSG operates in more than 20 countries, and under the well-traveled James the division takes on developer programs along with building and distributing software and services. Throwing the future in the equation, in the form of R&D of next-generation software, the softer side of Intel is anything but soft – not when the company literally puts its money where its mouth is with a single wave of a wand worth nearly $8 billion.

Once a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel, reporting into James, McAfee will satisfy a core capability in software the company needed as part of its overall computing platform, James said.

 

“Hardware-enhanced security will lead to breakthroughs in effectively countering the increasingly sophisticated threats of today and tomorrow,” James said at the August announcement. “This acquisition is consistent with our software and services tactic to deliver an outstanding computing experience in fast-growing business areas, especially around the move to wireless mobility.”

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James is now a regular keynote speaker at Intel’s Developer Conferences, traditionally an audience of mostly hardware developers.

James, who declares herself “a lucky person” to have the ardent support of internal staff and leadership along with “amazing CEOs” from acquired companies, said she relishes playing a key role in the company’s shift from being a world leader in silicon innovation to what Otellini, her boss, describes as a full-fledged “computing company.”

 

Besides acquisitions, James and her group also orchestrate key collaborations between tech industry leaders with common interests. One such endeavor is MeeGo, a Linux-based software platform that supports multiple hardware architectures across a broad range of device segments. Spawned by a merger of Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Maemo projects, the MeeGo operating system, coupled with the Intel AppUp application store for Atom-based devices, has “made software a vital piece of Intel’s efforts to win in the tablet and handheld devices space,” according to Greg Richardson, analyst with Technology Business Research.

 

From PCs to smart phones to tablets and cars, as well as any number of Internet-connected consumer devices, James and her team clearly have their work cut out for them.

 

So where does Intel want to be inside next?

 

“I don’t know that I have anything specific in mind,” James said. “I think we’re always looking for areas where software is pushing the edge or what can be done to take silicon in a new area like embedded, devices or what have you.

 

“It’s about assembling disciplines, and I’m sure there’s something out there. It’s just a matter of where or when.”

Google TV that is.

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Intel employees were offered up a special preview of sorts to the latest smart TVs from Sony featuring Google TV and judging by the numbers, these products are sure winners -- at least among the geeks at Intel. Over 700 employees stood in line in the first few hours to get access to product demos basically -- inside a cramped conference room at the company’s Hillsboro, Ore. campus.

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But there was also an incentive: a limited-time employee discount from Sony and a chance to win one of the new sets. The new Sony HDTVs and Sony Blu-ray disc player are all powered by Intel’s Atom processor, and lest we say it, are ushering in a new era in television where broadcast meets Internet. We’re sure it was this that drew the crowds, not the free cookies.

With all the excitement around the iPad and predictions of dire impacts to the netbook market and perhaps even laptop sales, we got to wondering: Is the netbook really dead?

 

Nifty, low-cost netbooks hit the scene in late 2008 and sold over 36 million units in 2009, according to ABI Research. Even with projected sales of 35-43 million units this year, the future of these diminutive laptop-like computers is being pulled under a dark cloud of doubt as new tablets grab the limelight and spare cash from consumers.

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Collection of new netbook designs on display at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco in September 2010.

 

“The all-in-one nature of media tablets will result in the cannibalization of other consumer electronics devices such as e-readers, gaming devices and media players,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. “Mini notebooks will suffer from the strongest cannibalization threat as media tablet average selling prices (ASPs) drop below $300 over the next 2 years.”

 

Not so fast, say people who are looking at the robust sales of netbooks, which were one of the fastest-ramping consumer devices in the PC world and are still selling tens of millions of units per quarter.

 

“Early adoption of media tablets is not outpacing netbooks,” said ABI Research principal analyst Jeff Orr. “Forty-three million netbook shipments is good growth, just not the meteoric pace of the past couple of years.”

 

While some believe the category or netbook name may dissolve into something called an ultraportable laptop, there’s keen interest in innovations aimed at keeping netbook sales robust well through 2011, including new, thinner designs, faster dual core processors, less expensive solid state drives, multi-touch and instant-on.

 

“I’m looking forward to a very exciting 2011,” said Sascha Pallenberg of Netbooknews.com, speaking on a panel at the AppUp Elements event for software developers in San Francisco in September.

 

Pallenberg gets excited about the vigorous competition among chipmakers and netbook designers that he believes will bring better performance, longer battery life and new applications fit for these small companion devices.

 

“Intel estimates there will be hundreds of millions of netbooks based on Intel Atom processors in market over the next few years,” said Intel’s Anil Nanduri, whose team created the world’s thinnest netbook prototype first shown at Computex in June.

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The worlds thinnest netbook prototype codenamed Canoe Lake, developed by Intel with Intel Atom dual core processor inside, first shown at the Computex event in Taipei in June 2010.

 

“Even though it looks like the growth rate of netbooks is flattening out, they are still at a very, very high level,” said Pallenberg. “Netbooks have a market share of about 20 percent or more of the whole computing market right now. I’m pretty confident that this is going to happen again next year because right now many first-time netbook users will move over to the dual-core powered netbooks, which will generate sales and excitement in the development community.”

 

Update:  Pallenberg clarified that "netbooks gained 20 percent of teh mobile computing market.  Sixty percent of all PCs that are getting sold are notebooks and 20 percent of them are netbooks."

 

Netbooks are considered laptop or desktop companion device best used for surfing the Internet and enjoying digital media while moving around inside or outside a home or office.

 

“When you see a netbook, you see a computer,” said Hubert Nguyen, cofounder of consumer technology blog Ubergizmo. “You expect it to react like a bigger computer, but people will be making trade-offs for having a smaller size, like getting less performance. Tablets will bring a new usage model with instant-on and they will be used for things you can do very quickly, whereas the netbook is an extension of the PC.”

 

“A netbook is easy to get; it’s just another computer.” said Juuso Huttunen, a netbook hacker and video blogger at jkkmobile. Tablets are different. You need to figure out where they fit in. I don’t use tablets for work, only for reading or watching something.”

 

In an interview with CNET, IDC researcher Bob O’Donnell said he sees some similarities between the netbook craze and today’s tablet excitement.

 

"Two years ago, netbooks were going to kill the notebook market. Now, a few years later, we can look back and say 'no, not really’,” O’Donnell said. “A similar phenomenon happens with tablets. People may short-term delay the purchase, but when they need to get a new notebook, they're still going to get a notebook. In other words, they're going to use both of these things simultaneously."

 

“I think what people want most is more battery life and instant-on operating system,” says Nguyen.

 

Although hackers such as Huttunen are exploring ways to tweak their netbooks to power on instantly, a fast boot up is one of many things most netbooks don’t deliver today.

 

In his research about netbook usage around the world, O’Donnell discovered that that the lack of software features and services for syncing netbooks with other computers could be keeping netbooks from being a truly trusted companion.

 

Putting more emphasis on “companion” has been a focus spot for developers creating netbook-specific applications.

 

 

“It’s not just netbook-specific apps that have made the mobile computing space interesting, it’s the secondary mobile computing PC space that have made apps and the mobile computing space more interesting,” Nicole Scott of Netbooknews wrote in a email interview with Intel Free Press.

 

It’s about “apps that realize netbooks, smartphones and tablets are secondary devices to your home or work PC,” Scott pointed out. “These next-generation apps allow you to transfer your data between devices, whether that data sit where you are on in ‘Angry Birds’ or information about your current work obsession.”

 

Netbooks have succeeded so well that they have become irrelevant, according to Avram Piltch of Laptop Magazine. In his September story “The Netbook Revolution is Over, So What Did You Win?” he concludes:

 

“Dual-core processors are just the latest in a long line of improvements to the netbook that make it nothing more than a 10 or 11-inch ultraportable laptop, a far cry from its radical beginnings as a secondary Web-focused device. How long until vendors give up the ghost, stop calling them netbooks, and begin to market them as 10-inch notebooks? Tiny as they are, many people use them for Microsoft Office, photo editing, or even playing ‘World of Warcraft’ at a low resolution.”

 

 

We've come a long way from the moment when a couple of engineers at Bell Laboratories named John Bardeen and Walter Brattain used paper clips and razor blades to make a rudimentary three-terminal device – the first so-called “point of contact” transistor. That was 1947. A couple of Nobel Prizes and a few more innovations (like the integrated circuit) and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Early Fairchild Semiconductor Planar Transistor. Soruce: The Computer History Museum

 

Today, Intel makes an estimated 10 billion transistors per second in the process of manufacturing hundreds of millions of chips a year at factories in the United States, Ireland, Israel and, soon, China. These are among the world’s most sophisticated modern factories making tangible things -- in this case the world's most complex machines with dimensions so small it takes a scanning electron microscope just to be able to see them.

 

Ironically, these tiny machines require huge capital investments and very large factories which, in the semiconductor business are called fabrication facilities or “fabs.” Intel just made a big announcement to build a new development fab in Oregon and upgrade several others in Oregon and Arizona to accommodate its next-generation 22 nanometer (nm) technology. But those facilities are only part of a global manufacturing network.

 

Click on the locations below to see and learn more about Intel’s global network of fabs.

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