Leslie Fiering

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IDF Highlights New Approaches to Reduce Healthcare Costs

by Leslie Fiering  |  September 16, 2010  |  Comments Off

This is a guest blog from Angela McIntyre, a research director in Gartner’s Client Computing Markets team.

While not a headliner at IDF 2010, the topic of healthcare definitely deserves an honorable mention.  One of the sessions right after Otellini’s keynote was, “Interoperability and Mobile Standards to Jumpstart Healthcare Solutions.”  Intel has taken a leadership role in setting interoperability standards and creating platform reference designs for health monitoring devices in the home.  Intel’s efforts in healthcare are important for productizing technologies that will make it easier for the elderly and infirm to receive medical care.   Yet as a multi-national corporation, Intel recognizes medical devices a fast-growing, multi-billion dollar opportunity, and its healthcare effort could well place x86 architecture at the center.

In-home health monitoring is one approach to slowing the growth of ballooning medical expenses as an increasing portion of the global populations become elderly.  In the U.S. for example, the baby-boomers are now in their 60s. Their need for medical care will contribute to the U.S. expenditure on healthcare doubling from USD 2.11 trillion in 2006 to USD 4.28 trillion in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.  

The in-home tracking of health will lower costs by reducing the number for routine office visits, allowing elderly patients to spend less time in residential care, and enabling doctors to treat problems early to reduce hospitalization.  A hospital stay is sometimes billed at $10,000 per day and care at a residential facility (nursing home) can cost elderly patients $6000 per month. 

Here are some highlights of how Intel has been enabling in-home healthcare:

Driving Technology Standards

  • Continua Health Alliance (CHA): CHA is a worldwide organization with about 235 companies participating to develop interoperability standards among medical devices and to create a product and services ecosystem around them.  Intel drove the formation of CHA in 2006 and their Director of Personal Health Enabling, Rick Cnossen, is also president and chairman of the board. 
  • Dossia: In 2006, Intel and other global employers founded Dossia, a framework for lifelong electronic health records in the U.S.

Developing Products and Licensing Reference Designs for Healthcare computing platforms

  • Intel Health Guide: A table-top health computer for the home that serves as the hub for collecting vital signs and transmitting them to a physician, video conferencing with doctors, and learning about health-related topics.
  • Mobile Clinical Assistant: The reference design for a rugged tablet PC used by clinicians at the point of care.  It has been productized by major OEMs, which have sold over 100,000 units since 2008.  

Creating technology centers for independent living:

  • Intel established four major centers, focused on Alzheimer’s and aging in place, for the development of technology to assist the disabled in their daily lives.

Of course, Intel’s business interests are well served as disease management in the home is potentially a billion dollar per year global market for hardware.  The standards and reference designs Intel creates will not only benefit the health care industry, but will also benefit Intel by increasing silicon sales.

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Sandy Bridge Improves Graphics Performance in Line with Growing Market Requirements

by Leslie Fiering  |  September 16, 2010  |  Comments Off

This is a guest blog from Christian Heidarson, a principal analyst with Gartner’s semiconductor industry team.

The tagline for the 2010 IDF event was “Visibly Smart”, communicating the major leap in graphics processing capabilities that will come with its new Sandy Bridge processor architecture.  In 2007, Intel promised to put more emphasis on graphics, publicly aiming for a ten-fold improvement in performance by 2010.  Intel claims that Sandy Bridge will actually deliver 25 times the 2008 performance. While the 2008 baseline was at that time below the demands of even mainstream media applications- and the products won’t hit the street until early next year- this is still a remarkable achievement. Since 2008, Intel has

  • moved its graphics engine design from 90nm to 32nm,
  • implemented its graphics engine with “real” GPU cores with appropriate 3D graphics-specific optimizations
  • optimized its graphics engine for high-end media processing needs
  • set the foundation for an architecture that can tackle the parallel processing problems of the future, with support for OpenCL and DirectCompute
  • integrated the processor and graphics engine into a unified chip architecture, that delivers performance gains and power savings
  • complemented its specialized graphics engine with effective extensions to the traditional processor core micro-architecture

As impressive as Intel’s achievement is, the performance of Intel’s integrated graphics should not be over-stated.

  • Sandy Bridge does not support DirectX 11, Microsoft’s latest graphics framework that delivers spectacular new visual features, nor the latest version of OpenGL which is used by Apple.
  • Intel has been frank (when prompted) in declaring that its graphic performance targets are limited to the growing requirements of the mainstream market- NOT at the traditional gaming enthusiasts or graphics intensive workstations. The mid-range and high-end of the discrete graphics market will remain even after low-end discrete graphics  are displaced by integrated processor/graphics products.

Furthermore, Sandy Bridge processors will likely not hit the mainstream market until the second quarter of 2011, and will only transition gradually across segments through the year.  Until the fourth quarter of 2011, both Nvidia and AMD will have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of Intel’s current graphics limitations. In conclusion, Intel has not killed discrete graphics, but rather protected the processor status quo against building threats from the graphics industry.

Two questions remain:

  1. To what extent will integrated processor/graphics products hit margins in the mid-range discrete graphics market segment?
  2.  Does AMD have the marketing muscle to push mainstream graphics requirements beyond what Sandy Bridge can deliver?

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Classmate PC: Bringing Computers and Learning Software in the Classroom

by Leslie Fiering  |  September 15, 2010  |  Comments Off

This is a guest blog from Annette Jump , research director, and Lillian Tay, principle research analyst, in Gartner’s Technology and Service Providers Research group.

During IDF, Intel announced the 4th generation of  its clamshell Classmate PC and the 2nd generation of its convertible device. While originally Classmate PCs were targeted at emerging markets, they are now finding their way into growing numbers of K-8 schools in mature markets of the US and Western Europe.   The new models of classmate offer:

  • Greater ruggedness and the ability to withstand a table height drop
  • Waterproof keyboards
  • A textured surface that is less slippery and is anti-microbial.

At the same time, Intel announced the new Intel Learning Series Education Channel on the AppUp Store where Intel Learning Series Alliance members can post their applications for free trial and sale to end users.  The new education channel will also be an important tool to help teachers and parents choose the appropriate applications to customize the learning environment on each child’s Classmate PC.

Applications that will be immediately available on the Intel Learning Series Education Channel include:

  • Algoryx – interactive physics instructions
  • Brain POP – animation application
  • Core Learning – thinking games
  • Dreamalings – application for creating storyboards
  • EasyBits – family education games
  • Edu2000 – interactive math and science
  • Netsweeper – for setting up parental controls for safe web surfing.

The new Classmate PC models are highly targeted to the needs of lower school students.  The new distribution channel is designed to make education applications more widely available for educational organizations, parents and even kids.  Both of these advances should serve to integrate the Classmate PC even further into education programs as well as help both Intel and its partners expand Classmate PC sales in the next 12-24 months.


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Atom Environment Continues to Grow

by Leslie Fiering  |  September 15, 2010  |  Comments Off

This is a guest blog from Martin Reynolds, a vice president and Fellow in Gartner Research.

Intel continues to invest in Atom, aiming to grow outside of its traditional netbook and desktop market. There are three prongs to Intel’s attack.

First, continued investment in software components that attach to the processor and provide value to OEMs that use it. The AppUp store provides a way for developers to get applications into the Atom environment. Intel offers full support for Meego, Android, Windows and other operating systems. And Intel will accelerate delivery of software components as part of the Atom support structure.

Second, continued enhancement of the Atom product line, integrating silicon to address markets from cellphones to tablets to TVs to cars.

And finally, Intel is encouraging other silicon vendors to provide support chips for Atom that allow the technology to migrate into specialized markets. A particularly interesting example is a SIP (system in package) device integrating an Atom processor with an Altera FPGA, which will allow for smaller, more sophisticated products in narrow markets that cannot afford custom silicon. Examples would be medical, test and measurement, industrial control – and startup companies in garages.

However, the challenge that Intel faces is that the products built from these fine components somehow come out to be less than the sum of the parts. There were plenty of Atom tablet prototypes on show, but our observation is that these devices must offer compelling capabilities to stack up against iPad and forthcoming Android devices. This challenge springs from the inabilities of Intel’s manufacturing partners to deliver the polished and near-flawless experience needed to compete against an Apple device. All too often, the devices offer a few standout innovations, but fail to meet baseline requirements in important areas such as, for example, battery life, portability, usability, reliability, price, connectivity .

One area bearing close observation is Google TV, where streamed entertainment will drive change across content and carrers. This segment could be a boon to Atom, opening up opportunities in the connected TV market. However, Atom-based products have to deliver meaningful advantages against ARM-based solutions such as AppleTV to succeed in this space.

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Sandy Bridge is the Big News at IDF

by Leslie Fiering  |  September 13, 2010  |  Comments Off

This is a guest blog  from Steve Kleynhans, a research VP in Gartner’s Client Computing Group.

The biggest announcement of this year’s IDF is the first public introduction of Intel’s next generation mainstream microprocessor architecture, codenamed Sandy Bridge.    For many, the announcement of a new Intel processor might seem like a non-event, kind of like announcing the sunrise.  After all Intel releases a new processor each year as part of its “tick-tock” development process and hasn’t skipped a beat in over 5 years.  However Sandy Bridge is an important step, and likely will be one of those processors we look back on as being a critical milestone. 

To put things in context, last year Intel introduced the Westmere family of processors.  These processors, which came out under the Core i3, i5, and i7 monikers, were the first to use a 32nm manufacturing process.   Westmere introduced a number of new technologies and features all of which paved the way for the changes coming in Sandy Bridge.  Sandy Bridge will be a family of processors that are fully optimized for the 32nm process and will introduce a much higher level of integration than we have seen with previous PC class processors.  These changes include:

  • New graphics engine integrated into the processor:  This moves Intel graphics from the just good enough level of performance, to be competitive through the mainstream.  By putting this level of graphics in every CPU, software developers can begin to develop richer applications and leverage new types of user interfaces.  It will also undoubtedly continue to shift to rich media as a primary data type for users.
  • New AVX instructions:  These new instructions unlock new levels of floating point performance and will enable much greater levels of data analysis, simulations, and media handling as app developers begin to tweak their applications to use them.
  • Enhanced turbo mode:  Building on the turbo mode capability introduced last year, the Sandy Bridge processors have the ability to run significantly faster than their rated   speeds when conditions permit.  This enables greater performance in confined devices like notebooks without requiring significant re-engineering to deal with heat and power issues.

The bottom line on all of this is that Sandy Bridge is not just a faster processor, but a processor with some new inherent capabilities.  Intel is not providing any detailed performance specifications yet, but the demonstrations shown in the keynotes and around the conference are teasing us with some very impressive gains compared with previous processors.  

Sandy Bridge processors won’t actually be available in new machines until early in 2011.  However once they become mainstream the potential is there for whole new types of applications to emerge, as developers learn how to leverage the new capabilities.

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Intel Lays Out Its Strategic Directions at IDF

by Leslie Fiering  |  September 13, 2010  |  Comments Off

Paul Otellini’s kick-off keynote is always an important event at the annual Intel Developer Forum. Otellini, Intel’s president and CEO, lays out Intel’s future directions and key strategy points. Since the Intel planning horizon is five years, the results may not be immediately visible, but the keynote positioning always helps to provide context for Intel’s investments and product roadmaps.

The kick-off keynote at this year’s IDF (which is taking play right now in San Francisco) was no exception.

Since Sandy Bridge has been billed as the unquestionable star of this year’s IDF, there was significant discussion about the importance of Sandy Bridge to the industry (and Intel, naturally). There was a welcome downplay of speeds and feeds replaced instead with a strong focus on what Sandy Bridge could do for customers and users. (Hopefully a leading indicator of what we’ll see from Intel’s revamped and reinvigorated marketing initiatives.)

Less obvious, but perhaps even more important, was Otellini’s discussion of his major strategic initiatives:

  • Full platform solutions:  Extend Intel’s chip design, manufacturing process and software expertise (yes, Intel does write software – all those instructions that run your processors and chipset) into integrated hardware, software and related services platforms.
  • Smart devices: Extend Intel’s products into “smart” devices (such as TVs, cars or digital signage) that currently or in the near future will connect to the Internet
  • Device continuum:  Ensure architecture and instruction sets remain consistent from high-end servers through smart devices with embedded processors so that all can readily communicate and interoperate
  • Security:  Make security a design pillar for all platforms so that hardware and software can work evolve from trying to keep malware out and to ensuring that only good code and applications will run.

Evidence of these initiatives is already visible but Otellini’s speech certainly provided context for tying them together and understanding some of Intel’s more recent acquisitions. It will be several years before the final results will be visible enough for us to judge the success of Intel’s current initiatives.

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Intel’s McAfee Acquisition is a Smart Strategic Move

by Leslie Fiering  |  August 19, 2010  |  1 Comment

Intel’s announced acquisition of McAfee is not a one-off opportunistic deal. It is part of a larger strategy to enhance Intel’s security capabilities as it follows other recent acquisitions of tenCube and Trust Digital. The goal is to collect and develop IP that can go directly to silicon and bring security down to the hardware level. The embedded security will run outside the OS with a broad variety of software developer hooks. It is highly unlikely that that Intel will make any of these proprietary or in any way specific to McAfee.

Bringing security down to the hardware level is particularly critical at a time when exploits at the OS level are getting more sophisticated on PCs and mobile OSs are still highly immature in the security arena. This move particularly enhances Intel’s mobility strategy by adding security as a differentiator as the company girds up to combat the incumbents in the smartphone, ATM, appliance and embedded processor markets.

McAfee is to be run as wholly owned subsidiary reporting through the Software and Services Group to Renee James. In addition, McAfee’s 80% margins will complement rather than dilute Intel’s margins.

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