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Microprocessor Report: Intel, Fix the PC!

By - Source: Barron's | B 64 comments

There is little doubt that the PC market could use some uplift these days as tablets and smartphones have clearly captured the mindshare of consumers, press and analysts.

However, Linley Gwennap, editor of the Microprocessor Report, believes that tablet and smartphone processors are merely a distraction for Intel and do not have enough potential to make up for the potential loss of notebook and desktop processor revenue.

Gwennap stated that persistent low growth rates are evidence that the PC processor is in a crisis, which may be partially homemade. He criticized the fact that performance of CPUs isn't growing fast enough to find the interest of consumers.

"Even counting a modest boost for the new Sandy Bridge CPU, performance is increasing at just 10 percent per year for desktops and 16 percent for laptops, a far cry from the good old days of 60 percent annual performance increases. As a result, PC users have little incentive to upgrade their systems," Gwennap wrote.

The key for Intel to remain successful would not be so much in mobile application processors that could barely make up for 5 percent of Intel's processor revenue, if Intel were to hold all the available market outside of Apple and Samsung, but to "stay the course" and make PCs more competitive again.

"It can’t do the job alone, but it knows how to work with Microsoft, PC vendors, and other ecosystem players," he wrote. "Having redefined the PC form factor, the next step is to rework the PC’s functions to include performance-hungry capabilities such as voice/gesture recognition and intelligent agents in ways that benefit end users."

Of course, making the processor special again could help as well. In 2005, Intel changed its marketing strategy to turn microprocessors into a commodity product that was sold with relatively cryptic sequence numbers. The idea was to not market the clock speed, but integrate a CPU into a PC almost invisibly as the engine that enables a certain form factor and feature set. Seven years later, the CPU and its sequence number has become largely meaningless to mainstream customers. Perhaps it would be a good idea to highlight the strength and performance of x86 once again.

 

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Top Comments
  • 45 Hide
    jkflipflop98 , December 24, 2012 6:10 PM
    The problem is there's no "killer app" for PC's that make people clamor for more horsepower. Sure there are specialized computer functions some of us use for work, but for the general population an i5 is good enough. Even gaming has slowed down because all we generally get is half-assed xbox ports.
  • 28 Hide
    samwelaye , December 24, 2012 6:44 PM
    HERE is why the pc market is slowing down:

    Take almost any PC sold within the past 4-5 years.
    Try and do anything the average consumer uses a PC for.

    If it works fine for them, why would the masses upgrade?

    Its not that people are waiting for bigger performance gains before upgrading, that is only the small enthusiast market. Its that people no longer have a need to upgrade, processors have long reached the speed of "good enough" for most consumers
  • 26 Hide
    sacre , December 24, 2012 6:41 PM
    Yes, having a tablet is awesome. But just because its awesome doesn't mean the PC is dead, why? because there are still millions of gamers and developers and PC enthusiasts that just can't do on a tablet what the PC can do.

    That, and the comfort of sitting at a desk and doing your work with a keyboard/mouse.

    Also, one reason why the CPU performance jumps aren't increasing all that much is because there really isn't a demand for it, why? Because the Top of the line CPU's right now are handling every game on the market just fine.

    Shit I have an Intel I5 2500K and its still handling all games to date at max graphics just fine. Why get a new CPU with a boost of 60%?

    Game developers need to start making games that'll truly challenge the PC through graphics (not bad programming) but unfortunately they want to make them for the Consoles as well, (actually other way around). So now when they port it to PC the graphics are all compressed and crap.

    The days of PC specific games, that are truly made for keyboard/mouse, seem to be gone.

    But anyways, PC won't disappear any time soon. Analysts are f--king idiots if they think "PC IS DEAD DUR".

    They don't know what animating, gaming, programming, etc requires. Obviously. Ever try playing far cry 3 on a tablet? Animate a video on a tablet? Process larges amounts of data on a tablet? Create CGI on a tablet for a movie?

Other Comments
    Display all 64 comments.
  • 22 Hide
    TunaSoda , December 24, 2012 6:03 PM
    In my eyes tablets and smartphones don't replace the pc, people already have pc's at home and don't need to upgrade, the time will come...
  • 45 Hide
    jkflipflop98 , December 24, 2012 6:10 PM
    The problem is there's no "killer app" for PC's that make people clamor for more horsepower. Sure there are specialized computer functions some of us use for work, but for the general population an i5 is good enough. Even gaming has slowed down because all we generally get is half-assed xbox ports.
  • -4 Hide
    WyomingKnott , December 24, 2012 6:24 PM
    Maybe the PC market has "matured," and can no longer be supported by the latest whiz-bang feature each model season.
  • 26 Hide
    sacre , December 24, 2012 6:41 PM
    Yes, having a tablet is awesome. But just because its awesome doesn't mean the PC is dead, why? because there are still millions of gamers and developers and PC enthusiasts that just can't do on a tablet what the PC can do.

    That, and the comfort of sitting at a desk and doing your work with a keyboard/mouse.

    Also, one reason why the CPU performance jumps aren't increasing all that much is because there really isn't a demand for it, why? Because the Top of the line CPU's right now are handling every game on the market just fine.

    Shit I have an Intel I5 2500K and its still handling all games to date at max graphics just fine. Why get a new CPU with a boost of 60%?

    Game developers need to start making games that'll truly challenge the PC through graphics (not bad programming) but unfortunately they want to make them for the Consoles as well, (actually other way around). So now when they port it to PC the graphics are all compressed and crap.

    The days of PC specific games, that are truly made for keyboard/mouse, seem to be gone.

    But anyways, PC won't disappear any time soon. Analysts are f--king idiots if they think "PC IS DEAD DUR".

    They don't know what animating, gaming, programming, etc requires. Obviously. Ever try playing far cry 3 on a tablet? Animate a video on a tablet? Process larges amounts of data on a tablet? Create CGI on a tablet for a movie?

  • 28 Hide
    samwelaye , December 24, 2012 6:44 PM
    HERE is why the pc market is slowing down:

    Take almost any PC sold within the past 4-5 years.
    Try and do anything the average consumer uses a PC for.

    If it works fine for them, why would the masses upgrade?

    Its not that people are waiting for bigger performance gains before upgrading, that is only the small enthusiast market. Its that people no longer have a need to upgrade, processors have long reached the speed of "good enough" for most consumers
  • 7 Hide
    kyee7k , December 24, 2012 7:06 PM
    I'm still playing games satisfactorily with medium settings on a E6600 and MSI 460 card. No complaints but will probably have to upgrade within the next 2 years.
  • 2 Hide
    wemakeourfuture , December 24, 2012 7:20 PM
    sacreYes, having a tablet is awesome. But just because its awesome doesn't mean the PC is dead, why? because there are still millions of gamers and developers and PC enthusiasts that just can't do on a tablet what the PC can do. That, and the comfort of sitting at a desk and doing your work with a keyboard/mouse.Also, one reason why the CPU performance jumps aren't increasing all that much is because there really isn't a demand for it, why? Because the Top of the line CPU's right now are handling every game on the market just fine.Shit I have an Intel I5 2500K and its still handling all games to date at max graphics just fine. Why get a new CPU with a boost of 60%? Game developers need to start making games that'll truly challenge the PC through graphics (not bad programming) but unfortunately they want to make them for the Consoles as well, (actually other way around). So now when they port it to PC the graphics are all compressed and crap. The days of PC specific games, that are truly made for keyboard/mouse, seem to be gone. But anyways, PC won't disappear any time soon. Analysts are f--king idiots if they think "PC IS DEAD DUR".They don't know what animating, gaming, programming, etc requires. Obviously. Ever try playing far cry 3 on a tablet? Animate a video on a tablet? Process larges amounts of data on a tablet? Create CGI on a tablet for a movie?


    Analyst are concerned about market growth, revenue, margins and broader consumer buyers not the small percentage of users.

    If all the lay folks stop buying desktops/laptops for their use cases Intel will be crushed. Not saying this is what's going to happen, but the analyst is saying they need major improvements in PC CPU to compel people to want to buy PCs to avoid the chance that tablets, or some hybrid tablet with keyboard docks, etc will takeover
  • 17 Hide
    psychobob , December 24, 2012 7:24 PM
    Too bad AMD can't take advantage of this.
  • 4 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , December 24, 2012 7:31 PM
    You're all underestimating the power of Intel. They have so much money that they can buy their way into any market. Who's hear of ultrabooks a while ago? Yet here they are, from all manufacturers, getting more and more affordable. Ultrabook kicks any tablet's a$$ in terms of productivity and usability. All Intel needs is to market this some more, and that's enough. Who wouldn't want to replace their old crappy fatass HP/Dell/Compaq/younameit with a shiny new SSD-enabled Ultrabook with a long battery life?

    Only a smart guy like me for whom a non-removable battery and non-accessible memory slots (that is, if the RAM is not soldered to the board) are a deal breaker, but even I feel myself giving in to the temptation.
  • 2 Hide
    dante01010 , December 24, 2012 7:37 PM
    time to say good bye to x86 arch and make something really new
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , December 24, 2012 7:40 PM
    without competition there will be no change even if there would be a killer application intel would not bring the performance gain without a hefty price tag...
  • 5 Hide
    SuperVeloce , December 24, 2012 7:43 PM
    Quote:
    a far cry from the good old days of 60 percent annual performance increases

    60% annually? what a load of bullcrap. Some of us actually have a working memory in our brains... yes, 386->486 was 100% increase in arhitecture alone. 486-> P5 was almost 100%, awful Pentium 4 (netburst) to amazing core arhitecture was a jump forward... But thats like once every 10 years, while every year we were lucky to see 10% increase in frequency or sth..
  • 1 Hide
    SuperVeloce , December 24, 2012 7:48 PM
    Quote:
    Only a smart guy like me for whom a non-removable battery and non-accessible memory slots (that is, if the RAM is not soldered to the board) are a deal breaker, but even I feel myself giving in to the temptation.

    Not to say some of us need more powerful opencl hardware.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , December 24, 2012 7:55 PM
    Hate to break it to you, but Intel knows the traditional PC market is stagnant and they know they really can't do anything about it.
    Look at their 'Next Unit of Computing' systems.
    Look at Haswell, with it's very modest performance increases, but huge efficiency jump.
    Look at Broadwell, which they have already dropped the PGA package and may be dropping the LGA package depending on Haswell's sales.
    Look at Clover Trail, a half baked chipset that they rushed to market ASAP because they saw where the table market is going.
    Enthusiasts and power users are going to have to get used to the fact that there are billions of users who just want to get on the internet and do some word processing. Xeon will always be there for the power user, but Core is going mobile.
  • 8 Hide
    HDmac , December 24, 2012 8:01 PM
    Once the new Xbox or PS3 comes out, it should boost gaming PC sales once again. I think the problem in that area is consoles are holding back the PC sector in terms of gaming. The current generation of consoles is so old and under powered compared to an average PC today that 1. Studios are not taking the time to optimize their games (assassins creed 3 for example) at all because the raw power of the PC can just chew though it (one thread, 50% gpu usage) and 2. Studios do not want to take the time to redo all assets (wire frames, DX versions, textures, shades etc. ) just to comply with the higher end PC's.

    So in the end it is really money+ laziness = our current situation (PC gaming sector)
  • 5 Hide
    abbadon_34 , December 24, 2012 8:31 PM
    This person is talk about "the new Sandy Bridge" ? how old is this? are really qualified to speech on the subject ?
  • 6 Hide
    wemakeourfuture , December 24, 2012 8:34 PM
    HDmacOnce the new Xbox or PS3 comes out, it should boost gaming PC sales once again. I think the problem in that area is consoles are holding back the PC sector in terms of gaming. The current generation of consoles is so old and under powered compared to an average PC today that 1. Studios are not taking the time to optimize their games (assassins creed 3 for example) at all because the raw power of the PC can just chew though it (one thread, 50% gpu usage) and 2. Studios do not want to take the time to redo all assets (wire frames, DX versions, textures, shades etc. ) just to comply with the higher end PC's. So in the end it is really money+ laziness = our current situation (PC gaming sector)


    Gamers make up a small % percentage of the global desktop and laptop consumers
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , December 24, 2012 8:49 PM
    Who cares what an editor think? We'd be better off hearing from the scientists and engineers who discover and design 'market-making' technologies, not the ones who point at a graph and say if it is flat, bring it up! The acme of excellence is not in being captains of obviousness, to paraphrase someone.
  • -3 Hide
    Marcus52 , December 24, 2012 9:27 PM
    The modern CPU and its supporting chipset are very limited as products for my purposes. There are too few PCI lanes, no on-board Thunderbolt support, and much is wasted by software engineers who refuse to take advantage of multiple cores, and it becomes apparent that the CPU and OS are going to have to force software into better performance by making use of the added cores themselves. The SATA 3 interface is already being saturated.

    The ATX mainboard form is sadly out of date, and there seems to be no mainboard manufacturer willing to support someone who might want to build a system with a decent RAID card, 3 graphics cards, and a decent sound card. If you want any one of those you are okay, but all 3, you are SOL.

    Could we get like at least a PCIe x1 slot above the first PCIe 3 x16 slot? Could we get some PCIe slots that aren't covered up by PCI x16 video cards? Hasn't anyone figured out a modern high end graphics card takes up at least 2 expansion slots worth of room?

    I have a 2560x1440 LCD that can overclock to 120Hz, and I'd like to run 3 of them in surround, but I'd also like to slap in a decent sound card, too. I don't really need a RAID card (well of course it's all one giant toy anyway, so I don't "need" any of it, heh), but I don't see why I can't build a high-end rig that's really high-end all the way. I could use the power today - and what will the future bring? What happens when we start getting real high-density monitors, capable of running decent refresh rates to support those high frame rates that give us nice smoothness when we pan our cameras in games?

    I'm looking forward to Haswell, but at the same time, I wish the whole industry would get out of yesteryear thinking and bring us into what we all know is possible.
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