Wintel Update – CES 2012 Daze One

Apologies to Fox Mulder

Disclaimer: Patrick is a 15 year veteran of Intel where he held a number of marketing positions implementing Wintel and industry programs during the 1980s and 1990′s.

This year’s CES is the largest ever and the crush of over 150,000 attendees was on. I’ll comment about what’s new later. I decided to continue my focus on the follower state of Wintel by attending the keynote of Paul Otellini, Intel’s CEO.

In technology marketing there’s an old saying, “When you can’t sell the present, sell the future”. The Intel presentation was exactly that, a vision of the company direction. I do give Intel credit for at least waking up and realizing the rest of the world was moving on without them. The presentation though showcased how far they have to go to catch up.

The presentation started with an amazing consumer commercial showing a fuller, richer consumer experience. Gone (I desperately hope) are the Intel silly commercials of dancing Intel Fellow rock stars and mythical robot workers in the company cafeteria. I was becoming hopeful. However Paul then went into fabrication investment, nanometer fabrication statistics and compute enabling. He reverted to presenting Intel technology vs. presenting consumer benefits.

As I stated before, Intel is behind and following in many major consumer markets. Intel management also is muddled internally since it shut down its Digital Home Group last October. It was amusing to watch Paul’s speech of “innovation” built about smartphone and Ultrabook PC/tablet design prototypes created by the now defunct Group.

The gleams of hope that Intel is finding a direction.
o Intel’s first smartphone product
An announcement of the first Intel smartphone product through Lenovo (a PC manufacturer) and China Unicom (the second largest telecom vendor in China), available in Q2. To give you an idea of how much of an uphill struggle Intel has to overcome in smartphones, at CES NVidea was showcasing 6 smartphones, including Samsung and Motorola; Microsoft showcased 14 smartphones from Toshiba, Acer, Samsung, ZTE, HTC and others; and Marvell had a display of 26 smartphones/ebooks/tablets with representation from most major brands.
o A multi-year announcement with Motorola
Corporate announcements are fine, but execution is the key. Most corporate cooperation agreements either go no where or fail. This within weeks of the Google-Marvell announcement to create a reference design for Google TV.
o Ultrabook Demos
I appreciate Intel’s promotion of this new, light form factor. I appreciate that over 75 Ultrabook designs are in the market or coming. I just can’t get excited over what I see as the Apple Macbook Air clone program of 4 year old technology. The Ultrabook reference design prototypes showcased a “innovative” sliding screen from PC notebook to tablet. Everyone in technology knows this notebook/tablet design has been done before and is at least 10 to 15 years old.
o Thunderbolt I/O
Finally something I can appreciate. Even though I have read of Thunderbolt, the demo of copying a gigabyte movie in less than 20 seconds was impressive. Now if only my cable Internet supplier would offer anything close to that download speed.
o NFC
The demo of swiping your wallet against the PC was silly. I’m not impressed with NFC as Intel innovation. Especially since it is not. Intel joined the NFC board last year. However, wrapping McAfee security somehow, somewhere around mobile devices and personal or financial data would be a major coup.

The keynote concluded with a visit from Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. Let’s call him Willy since the “.” is childish b.s. The Intel announcement to send off Willy as an ambassador of technology around the world, and wrapping the buzzword of social networking around it is mostly lame advertising. It’s not even marketing. The hope and immediate focus is Willy will promote the new Ultrabook form factor. That’s fine for the PR on existing products and the meeting this quarter’s immediate sales quota. It doesn’t promote the long term of Intel, new PC usage or next generation products/technologies. I repeat, it is lame advertising trying to look “cool”. For music technology history fans, check out the Intel NY Music Festival in the late 90’s. It not only promoted music and PC sales, but stimulated new technology development and music usage by being the first 24/7 online concerts.

I left the speech feeling like Fox Mulder of the X-Files. Disappointed. Still, I (desperately) want to believe.

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