AS THIS YEAR'S Intel Developer Forum (IDF) reached its end, we had mixed thoughts about its impact.
On one hand, Intel is continuing its unchallenged performance lead in the x86 market, which is where most microprocessors are in all this while, fortunately or not. Intel's Sandy Bridge E / EP family buries any hopes for AMD to renew a performance battle at the high end, core for core, anytime soon. Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge, which will enter at the mainstream 4-core segment of the processor market, has used the extra transistors in its 22nm process to massively boost GPU capabilities, addressing all of the issues that were affecting its predecessor Sandy Bridge in the graphics competitiveness department. So, even though AMD's 'Trinity' next generation Fusion APU will likely have an even faster HD7000-series GPU, it will be a tough fight for AMD. And Intel's Haswell generation, its next major core revision lined up for 2013, was shown at IDF already working and running Windows.
On the other hand, Intel had to put hard work into convincing vendors in the ultra-popular - whether for real or just a fashion fad - tablet and smartphone market. There as we said, Intel is an underdog, a rare position for Intel to be in. Intel's new reference tablet design using the current 32nm Atom SoC offerings look just as slim, compact and sexy as the Ipad, with an even larger 1280x800 display to boot. Basically, Intel has completed all the hard work including cramming everything into the space, longer battery life, LCD panel fitting, buttons, you name it. The vendor just needs to customise whatever it wants, or if it is really quickie-focused, just choose the casing style and colour, and it's ready to run.
However, with ARM having a strong installed base, and its group of vendors unleashing faster performing parts too, tablets will be an interesting battle to watch.
The Ultrabook seems far more interesting, and attractive, after seeing the things. First, as Mooly Eden rightly said, we need devices for creation, not just consumption. Yes, the issue itself might become as serious as facing a herd of literal consumer androids - pun intended - addicted to their Ithing or Android device content and not even watching when crossing the road, not to mention ignoring the people and world around them, compared to what computers were originally created for, which is accelerated creation, whether it is solving a scientific problem, designing a building or creating an artwork.
An Ultrabook is barely larger than most tablets, but it is a full fledged PC with a proper keyboard and mouse yet only around a centimetre thick and less than a kilo in weight. In fact, two pounders will be common, including HD+ displays, SSD storage and 4GB of RAM at least, with proper dual-core Core i5 or faster CPUs. And with an Ultrabook you can create all you want and never depend on anyone's 'application store', installing whatever you want from the internet or your storage device like, say, a USB hard disk or DVD drive.
So, if we have a 900g Ultrabook with all this, and maybe we get a model using a rotatable screen with tablet-like touch functionality on demand, why do we need a tablet? Well, we don't. How is that for a counter attack?