CEO Pat Gelsinger is working to turn Intel into the power it once was. Intel has some significant advantages, like its own FABs, which remain entrenched in enterprise standards worldwide. But years of neglect for core businesses are hard to overcome. One of the first things to do is recapture the interest of developers. What is sad about this last is that Gelsinger is considered to be the founder of IDF, the old Intel Developer Forum that a predecessor, operating tactically, killed. Intel Innovation is the replacement for IDF. It’s smaller than any IDF I remember, likely because folks still don’t want to travel. This event is happening during a shift on interest between ARM and RISK V which could provide an interesting opportunity for Intel to recapture some developers.
This week, let’s talk about what Pat Gelsinger shared at Intel’s Innovation keynote.
Software-defined silicon enhanced
As noted above, Intel is in the midst of a turnaround with a greater focus on software in the future and what appears to be a shift towards providing services to other companies. Intel is using a term that the company avoided throughout most of its life, a term that has become so popular that back in the early 2000s, Microsoft and IBM, who both avoided that term, also pivoted to it. That term is “open.” It embodies where customers, huge enterprise customers, want their vendors to go and where those vendors are moving to embrace the related concepts aggressively.
Concepts like Intel Shuttle aim to educate and train the next generation of engineers. Gelsinger announced that he is committed to expanding this kind of educational engagement significantly in the future.
Gelsinger announced Intel’s new line of HPC GPUs, which are used as accelerators in high-performance data centers. This new area for Intel provides some interesting background. When Gelsinger last left Intel, he left due to a prior failed GPU effort. That wasn’t his fault, but resulted, like so many failures I’ve studied, from an unwillingness to recognize that the path Intel was on was the wrong one and working groups actively covering up that the technology didn’t work. Gelsinger was blindsided which gives him a unique motivation to get it to work this time.
At Innovation, he also spoke about gaming, and while Intel’s new ARC GPUs aren’t going to be competitive with the best from AMD or NVIDIA, they will provide a low-cost alternative to their mid- and entry lines. The strategy is penetration pricing-based, which makes funding-related marketing problematic, but if Intel invests adequately, it should be successful.
Intel has an interesting play here, providing a very affordable alternative to more expensive cards from competitors with what should be better upscaling and AI support for that price point. It will require some impressive marketing to get users to see what a great value this card potentially is, but the strategy, assuming the card performs as promised, is compelling.
Intel developer cloud
Innovation is a developer conference, so Gelsinger brought one of the Intel developers on stage. Given that Intel has been defined by old white guys like much of the technology industry, the developer Gelsinger called up was fascinating. Ria is an 18-year-old out of Harvard who has been working at Intel for years and is a prodigy. It is essential to get young people excited about STEM, particularly engineering, and showcasing a young woman as a significant portion of Gelsinger’s keynote should draw attention to Intel’s diversity efforts, where they are sincerely trying to make a significant difference in this segment.
In watching this, I was reminded of the problems of scripting a presentation like this with teleprompters and the need to assure people are comfortable with the technology. Ria, the youngest on the stage, actually took to the effort well and arguably did as well or better than her older peers.
They walked through some of Intel’s AI modeling tools focused on Computer Vision and AI modeling. They presented a relatively simple but impressively capable Intel AI creation tool. The example they gave was targeted at farming which is often at the low end of the scale for technology innovation but is an area where there is currently a massive effort to create solutions that avoid pesticides and help create crops that are more resistant to climate change to help avoid what would otherwise result in worldwide famines. It showcased how farmers, with little training, could train AI models themselves to increase farm yields potentially.
Gelsinger announced the launch of Intel GETi (available in Q4 this year) to help enterprises create and modify AI models. The related demo with Chipotle used PreciTaste and OpenVINO in combination with Intel’s AI tools to optimize restaurant operations and reduce operating costs. I’ll be happy if they can make Chipotle’s chips edible (our local store puts so much salt on their chips they’re practically inedible). Given that this is computer vision-based, assuming the cameras can see the amount of salt, they could fix my problem with our local Chipotle. Currently, this technology is in a limited test, but they announced they would be rolling the technology out to their stores shortly.
Intel was once heavily involved in gaming, sponsored LAN partie,s and aggressively supported video game companies. Gelsinger took the company back to those roots and showcased a game developer, Inflexion Games, on stage using the Unreal Engine. She was able to run up to eight game instances at the same time for debugging and scene modification. The game being demonstrated was Nightingale, which appears to be an RPG steampunk fantasy game; it looked very realistic.
13th Generation Intel Core
Gelsinger announced Intel’s 13th generation platform (due next month to market) and argued it has the most robust single-threaded performance of anything on the market. It will be interesting to match it up against the new Ryzen processors that AMD also announced this week (I have an AMD system in test, which is impressive, setting a high bar for Intel to overcome). They promise 6 GHz out of the box at the top of the line, which is an impressive performance.
Text to image
This technology, which I first saw at an NVIDIA GTC event years ago, allows a person to describe a picture which the computer then creates. I’m looking forward to using GAUDI2. Both my mother and my first stepmother were artists, so you’d think I would be able to draw, but to my eternal embarrassment, my art skills suck. Gelsinger also announced and showcased a GAUDI2 accelerator which did a decent job of creating attractive pictures from descriptions.
Samsung Extended Screen and Intel Unison
PCs are screen-constrained, and Samsung, Lenovo, Motorola, and others have been exploring foldable displays. What Samsun brought on stage was a slidable display. Just pull the edges of the display, and it grows from 13 inches to 17 inches. It reminds me of a future computer I saw in an old Gene Roddenberry TV series years ago. It was an impressive demonstration, and I can hardly wait to see one of these screens in person. Coupled with this new display, Intel showcased a new feature called Intel Unison which featured single-tap connections to peripherals, and they showcased it working with the Samsung Slide display. Acer, HP, and Lenovo will be the first to market with this option.
This USB-sized connector used fiber optics to create an extremely high-speed fiber optic connection. The implication is that future USB optical optional connections provide wired networking speeds vastly faster than we can get today.
To close out the talk, Linus Torvalds came on stage. Torvalds is considered the father of Linux and one of the founders of the Open-Source movement. He created Linux on Intel technology, and his initial effort resulted because he couldn’t afford to buy UNIX, so he wrote his OS, which has grown to become one of the true industry powers primarily driven, at least initially, by volunteers. It is interesting to note that Torvalds doesn’t consider himself a visionary but a plodding engineer who works on current problems but doesn’t concern himself much with what will happen decades in the future. Gelsinger gave Torvalds the first-ever Intel Innovation award.
In closing, Gelsinger gave us a near-term peek into the future, one that promises a more open, more agile, and more user-focused Intel.