#OI2Dublin – Intel CTO predicts next generation of PCs will challenge standalone tablets (video)

21 May 2013

Justin Rattner, Intel's chief technology officer

Intel’s chief technology officer Justin Rattner has predicted that the arrival of the next generation of PC devices that will run energy frugal processors like Intel’s forthcoming Haswell chip will lead to a rebound in demand for PC devices, like ultrabooks and hybrids.

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com at the Open Innovation 2.0 conference at Dublin Castle, Rattner said the versatility of the next generation of PC devices will restore consumers’ faith in PCs in terms of performance versus standalone iOS and Android tablets.

Rattner said the world is at a very interesting point in the evolution of technology when you consider 5bn app downloads from the Apple App Store, 900m Android activations and the advent of a new generation of Windows 8 devices and apps, not to mention the arrival of new form factors like Google Glass.

“I like to say that if you can imagine it, we can build it. It really feels that way. I think designers, architects, engineers have such a vast array of technologies available to them that really new products and services ideas are more limited by our own ability to imagine them.

“That’s not to say teleportation is around the corner or similar exotic technologies, but things that rely on IT, I agree I think in the last few years its gone beyond this point of we can barely do this, more often than not we can do it and it’s just a matter of putting it together.”

Intel’s chip designers work to a philosophy espoused by Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on a chip double every 24 months. Rattner addresses whether in 2013 Moore’s Law is holding true as Intel moves to 22nm processors and beyond.

“I like to think that Moore’s Law has ended more than once or twice in my recollection. We built silicon gate MOS transistors for four decades and then in one instance we went to high grade metal gates and built them for a couple of generations and now we are talking about vertical Tri-Gate transistors so we’ve seen this rapid evolution in transistor architecture.

“Now, nobody declared the end of Moore’s Law when we stopped building silicon gates but in some sense Moore’s Law ended for silicon when gate oxides were getting too thin and Moore’s Law started for metal and now we are at vertical transistors.

“We are seeing lots of innovation and I like to kid some of our materials friends that they are once again rulers of the roost developing new materials and new processors with 3D transistors. We may get back to a stable point but right now we are seeing huge innovation at the fundamentals and that will ensure that Moore’s Law will continue for at least another decade. And I’m pretty comfortable with that.”

Rattner on the future of the PC

The advent of modern tablet computing in 2010 with the arrival of the iPad from Apple in tandem with the rise of smartphones served to disrupt PC sales, resulting in reports from Gartner and GfK sounding the death knell for PCs and celebrating the triumph of mobile devices.

While acknowledging the rise of mobile devices – an area that Intel has a pretty healthy interest in, anyway – Rattner believes the PC market will return to growth as more powerful but lighter and more energy-efficient models based on Intel’s Haswell chip architecture enter the fray later this year.

“The PC itself is far from dead although lots of people have declared it dead so many times.

“I think what has happened and what Intel has addressed itself is bringing the PC into 21st century.

“Phones and tablets were conceived of as internet dependent and their whole operating model depends on being connected to a high-speed wireless network. PCs have that connection but their roots go further back and what we are doing with the ultrabook and hybrids is bringing the PC up to the level of the other mobile devices that came to market with those features.

“I think you are going to see over the next year, particularly with the introduction of the Haswell processor, we can talk about ultrabooks with 10 hours of battery life and days and days of standby time. People will be examining the trade-offs. If I can have an ultrabook with a keyboard I can just pop off and now I have a high-performance tablet, would I really want to buy a standalone tablet?

“There’s a lot of innovation. Some of the new products just around the corner that I have seen for the holidays are really amazing and having people rethinking purchase decisions almost immediately.”

Europe as an innovation powerhouse

One of the things that has become clear as a result of the Open Innovation 2.0 conference is that Europe needs to get better and faster at translating research into viable products and services.

“The key thing in deriving value from innovation is to understand that it’s not enough to just to have great technology. Europe has always had great technology but it struggles with how to get that tech out of the lab and into the products and services and in particular how to do that I a timely and efficient way,” Rattner said.

“Here’s where I think open innovation can be a godsend for Europe: it takes all the mystery and politics out if it and gets it into the open.

“Particularly when engaging communities and societies in technology and science it is important to realise that they represent a pull for that technology and that helps societies like Europe to free those bonds and begin to see that tech flow to the market quickly and efficiently.

“Open innovation is a key model for Europe and hopefully a transformational one,” Rattner said.

More on Open Innovation 2.0:

Innovation Luminary Awards celebrate innovation leadership

Interview with Alexander Osterwalder of Business Model Canvas fame (video)

Interview with Mikko Huuskonen, Finnish government (video)

Interview with DG CONNECT’s Bror Salmelin (video)

Intel’s Martin Curley: we will need two Earths to support human life (video)

SolarPrint and Intel demo energy harvesting device at innovation event

Innovation about execution, not just invention, says EIT’s Alexander von Gabain

Dr Stephen Hawking says world needs a more sustainable trajectory

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years