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Intel is leaving PCs behind to highlight VR and IoT at IDF

Agam Shah | Aug. 16, 2016
This week's Intel Developer Forum is Intel's most important ever as the company lays out a new future

Intel's Navin Shenoy with a VR headset

For decades, PCs were at the center of Intel's business, but not anymore.

Self-driving cars, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence are more attractive to Intel, which no longer views PCs as a priority. That's the message the company will try to deliver at Intel Developer Forum, starting on Tuesday.

IDF attendees will see drones fly around and robots roaming the floor, and they will be able to try on cool wearables and VR and AR (augmented reality) headsets.

Unlike past years, attendees won't be wowed with a lot of blazing laptops and desktops running upcoming PC processors. Instead, Intel will provide an insight into its internet-of-things and data-center strategies. 

PCs have been at the heart of Intel's operations, but that's changing. In April, the company started rebuilding itself around the fast-growing markets of servers, IoT, and connectivity, with the shrinking PC market becoming a lower priority.

It was a painful decision. The company laid off 12,000 people as part of the restructuring. Soon after, it jettisoned its pursuit of the mobile chip market, a doomed effort that cost the company billions of dollars.

Top Intel executives want the water-cooler talk among their employees to be about the new areas of focus, not about PCs. If the employees buy into the new focus areas, the change to a new Intel will be swift and successful, executives have said.

At IDF, the chip-maker will highlight virtual reality, IoT, and machine learning. Intel will show FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays), which are reprogrammable chips for servers, cars, and IoT devices.

"I still think we will see a little about their PC plans, but more on IoT and the data center," said Patrick Moorhead, president at Moorhead Insights and Strategy.

Intel won't spend a lot of time talking about its upcoming PC processors code-named Kaby Lake, which succeed the current crop of Skylake chips. However, Intel will likely demonstrate Kaby Lake PCs because the chip release is close. Asus and HP are readying products with the chips, and Lenovo and Acer will announce Kaby Lake PCs ahead of the IFA show in Berlin next month.

Intel will show off VR and AR headsets developed both internally and by partners. The company will show what seems like its version of Microsoft HoloLens, called Remote EyeSight, a set of head-worn AR smart glasses for remote collaboration.

Many of the VR and AR announcements will focus around its RealSense 3D camera, which can recognize objects, measure distances, and like Microsoft's Kinect, track gestures.

PCs still generate the most revenue for the company but ultimately could be replaced by data-center products like server chips and networking and storage equipment. Servers are involved in machine learning and in analyzing data sent from IoT devices, which will be a big focus at the show.

 

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