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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 February 2006, 07:57 GMT
Intel looks beyond the microchip
Spencer Kelly
By Spencer Kelly
Click presenter

Intel's new CEO, Paul Otellini, outlines new directions for a company best known for making computer chips.

Paul Otellini
The direction in which our products are going and the markets that we serve are changing
Paul Otellini, Intel CEO
Of all the companies in the technology community, Intel has to have had the hardest job of selling itself.

It makes one of the smallest devices in the computer, which you never see, and which is probably one of the most technically complicated devices available to the consumer.

Yet the vast majority of us know the manufacturer's name - no mean feat.

When big computers roamed the earth there were only a small number of people involved in buying them; they cost so much and were so specialised that only the richest of companies could have them.

So, like the mainframes that went before it, there was little clue as to what was inside and actually drove the first PC. This was a relatively new device and the microprocessor was only 10 years old and almost unknown outside the hi-tech world.

However, by the late 1980s Intel's name was on millions of PC users' lips, and, as the number of PCs in the world rumbled into the hundreds of millions, it was soon to be on the lips of more.

Intel logo
During the 1990s Intel consolidated its position as the number one microprocessor manufacturer. But 2006 sees major changes: new processors, a new logo, and a new CEO, Paul Otellini.

Despite the new logo, Mr Otellini says the company has not fundamentally changed.

"We're still a technology company, we're still the world's largest semi-conductor company.

"But the direction in which our products are going and the markets that we serve are changing. We felt this was important enough a change to be able to signal that to the public at large.

"And today the whole marketing approach of the company, the product definition approach has to do with: What do consumers want to solve particular problems in their businesses, homes, healthcare etc.

"To do that we thought that we needed a different and fresher image."

Core product

Intel has tried to simplify the way we think of their chips, although it is not clear if it will work.

All microprocessor chips have a core. The current Intel core, the Pentium, is on its way out, to be replaced by a new core, called "Core".

Consumers can select within a given family the best product to meet their needs
Paul Otellini, Intel CEO
It all sounds a bit like Intel's hijacking a technical term and trying to turn it into a brand name.

These new Core chips come in two flavours. Solo Core is a single core processor, and Duo Core is a dual core processor.

I can tell the difference between a Celeron and a Pentium, but if we have two Solos side by side how are we going to be able to tell which is better than which?

Mr Otellini says: "We have that same consideration today with our Pentium line or other manufacturers' lines.

"We provide - at least for the consumers who care - very detailed references of the specifications. There will be a numbering scheme that suggests what are the features, what's the speed, what's the performance and so forth.

"So consumers can select within a given family the best product to meet their needs."

Entertaining future

Perhaps the biggest announcement from Intel so far is the Viiv standard.

Viiv is less technology and more a shopping list of technologies. Aimed fair and square at the home entertainment market, it defines the latest generation of media centres that are capable of playing anything from MP3 songs to high-definition films.

One of the features of Viiv is a very fast boot-up and switch on.

"We are not just a hardware company," says Mr Otellini. "We ship over one million lines of software with every microprocessor that goes out the door to be able to handle all of the functions around the microprocessor: the audio, the video, the graphics, and things like the power management.

"You see that every day in your notebook. The notebook is very efficient at managing power.

"All we've done with Viiv is take some of those same power management techniques - instant on, instant resume - that we've developed for mobile technology, and now we're taking it in a different fashion to things for the living room.

In two to five years time, the typical home PC will, says Mr Otellini, still have the same basic functionality of a computer.

"It does all the things you do today with a consumer PC: internet access, storing digital media, videos, home music. None of that is going to be different.

"What will be different is how you see it and where you see it.

"This technology allows us, instead of walking up to that two-foot screen on your computer in your den or kitchen or wherever you have it, to sit in the comfort of your living room with a single remote.

"You can access not only all the content that was on your machine in PC mode, but also you'll be able to go on to the internet and bring down this premium content, mostly high-definition, and enjoy that on the big screen in the house, and move it around the house."

Intel launches marketing makeover
30 Dec 05 |  Business
Intel eyes entertainment market
06 Jan 06 |  Technology
Intel PCs target the digital home
24 Aug 05 |  Technology

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