Sixth-generation Intel core processor offers PC makers a lifeline

Computer Weekly looks at whether the next generation of Intel desktop and mobile processors can help the ailing PC industry

The sixth generation of Intel's Core processor could offer the industry a new approach to computing.

While the introduction of Microsoft Windows 10 is expected to lead to a short-term surge in demand for new PCs, the fact that Microsoft has offered it as a free upgrade has not helped stimulate PC sales and turn around the long-term decline in PC shipments.

But PC manufacturers have become ever-more inventive with new form factors such as hybrid devices to lure buyers away from low-cost Android mobile and tablet devices to low-cost Windows-powered PC devices.

Windows 10 should be a significant contributor to the PC market, providing an upgrade path from Windows 7 for commercial users and a range of features that boost convenience and integrate the user experience across platforms.

Nevertheless, changes such as the free upgrade option for consumers and platform integration are not expected to drive a surge in new PC shipments, according to analyst house IDC.

The firm expects the commercial segment to evaluate Windows 10 before deploying it, with most new commercial PCs likely to be replacement systems.

The consumer transition to Windows 10 should happen quickly, but the free upgrade reduces the need for a new PC, and IDC expects many consumers will continue to prioritise spending on phones, tablets and wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch.

"Microsoft and PC vendors still need to convince users of the advantages of the new operating system and new PCs, which will take some time," said vice-president of IDC's worldwide PC tracker programme, Loren Loverde.

"In addition to educating clients, they'll face tough competition from other devices and weak spending in many regions. As a result, we see PC shipments stabilising in 2016, followed by limited growth for the next few years."

Intel's sixth generation of its Core processor marks another milestone in the PC industry’s efforts to stem the decline in PC sales. It says the new family of chips offer up to two-and-a-half times the performance and triple the battery life when compared with the computers many people currently own.

Read more about PC upgrades

Industry turning point

The processor manufacturer claims the launch marks a turning point in people's relationships with computers. The sixth-generation Core processors deliver enhanced performance and new, immersive experiences at the lowest power levels ever, and also support the broadest range of device designs, Intel said.

"The sixth-generation Intel Core-based systems are more responsive than ever with enhanced performance, battery life and security. And they can enable amazing new PC experiences such as logging into your computer with your face and having a personal assistant respond to your voice," said Intel senior vice-president and general manager of the Client Computing Group, Kirk Skaugen.

"The combination of sixth-generation Intel Core processors, Windows 10 and beautiful new systems from PC manufacturers makes this the best time ever to buy a new computer."

Thinking outside the box

Higher performance can certainly be expected from Intel, as it strives to deliver a compelling reason for organisations to upgrade to the latest hardware. But way down the specification list is support for Thunderbolt 3, a new form of USB connector capable of delivering 100w of power and supporting bandwidth of up to 40Gbps.

This opens up the possibility of using external peripherals such as high-performance graphics cards on portable devices that have traditionally been hampered by poor graphics. A tablet or hybrid PC would not necessarily need to pack in all its functionality within the confines of the product’s dimensions and form factor. Instead, PC designers could quite literally think outside the box, offering additional functionality externally.

Such features may attract those consumers who want the latest, fastest, sleekest device, but it may not fit so well in the world of corporate desktops.

Dale Vile, founder of analyst firm Freeform Dynamics, said: “There are certain types of users who require multiple devices connected to their machines, but most people want a self-contained big laptop as a desktop replacement.”

However, he said, developments such as wireless display connectivity – which Intel has promised as part of the new processor launch – and even wireless docking stations would fit well with corporate IT.

Read more on Computer peripherals and printers

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Help...? Sure. Exciting (to some)...? Absolutely. Save the ailing PC industry...? Not so likely.

I suspect the PC will morph back where it began. A business machine. Slimmer, trimmer and astonishingly more powerful, but used for serious work. The rest of us will be carrying all the computing power we need in our pocket.
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