It’s been a year of learning: Intel’s Corporate VP Chris Walker talks about 2020, Tiger Lake and Intel Evo
We spoke to Intel’s Corporate VP Chris Walker to learn more about plans for 2020, Tiger Lake and the Intel Evo. Read on…
It was just last month that Intel launched Tiger Lake - the 11th Gen Intel Core for “the laptops of the future”. These 11th Gen Intel Core processors are the first in the industry to come with hardware-supported Dolby Vision and are expected to deliver 2x game performance over the previous generation.
These processors are going to be powering the new range of laptops launching later this year and over the next year and more. There's a lot in the pipeline, clearly. And that's not all, Intel also introduced the Intel Evo platform brand for laptop designs which are verified to second edition specification and KEIs of the Project Athena innovation program. More than 20 verified designs are expected this year which are to be based on 11th Gen Intel Core processors with Intel Iris Xe graphics.
To learn more about all of this, we chatted with Chris Walker, Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Mobile Client Platforms Group at Intel, to ask him about Tiger Lake, Intel Evo and of course, how 2020 has been for Intel.
Here are excerpts from our conversation -
On the back of the Tiger Lake launch, what are your plans for ensuring Intel stays at the top of its game in the computer chips market?
I think on the backdrop of it is, with our 10th Gen chips, both consumer and commercial, we’d started actually moving in many of the directions you see us taking full advantage of in Tiger Lake - real world application performance, bringing AI to the PC in practical ways for the users.
So, with Tiger Lake, it brought together a lot of factors. Our ability to make more than generational leaps in performance across all sectors - productivity, entertainment, yes, you can even game on these ultra-thin and light systems; while at the same time not sacrificing battery life or performance while on battery.
For us, Tiger Lake from an architecture standpoint is a very big step in terms of meeting what the end-users need and we maintain our annual cadence of our leadership products in all the segments. Now, we do them at different times. So, we have dedicated chips for high-end gaming laptops, we have desktop chips, we are doing more of our entry products for things like parts of education or people’s first PC. So, we continue to execute on our range of our portfolio. We have the broadest portfolio out there, but we target it to different segments. So, Tiger Lake, specifically, is going to be consumer, commercial, and available for a late fall/winter selling season.
Given the current pandemic situation and how things have been and how things have changed for the laptop and the PC market in general, how do you see Tiger Lake helping out in a situation like that? How do you see yourselves optimising it?
Many of the attributes to a great laptop when you are in a coffee shop or traveling are some of the exact things that you still need if you are in your home and moving between your desk and your couch or your bedroom, or if you’re fortunate to be able to get outside and work. So, the biggest attribute is its performance. And also how responsive it is, along with the performance while you’re unplugged too.
I think what we see in the market from others is that sometimes they sacrifice on performance when they go off the wall charger or when they unplug. We have made sure that we maintain a similar performance whether you are plugged in or on battery.
What we also see in these pandemic times and people spending much more time on their PCs - they have to take them through multiple aspects of their day.
They may start their day with a call like this, collaborating on Zoom, Teams, or something like that. Then you’re going to have to go in, whether you are a student or working, do some content creation, be productive. And then that laptop’s taking you into entertainment. It’s how people are watching their movies, it’s how they’re doing some gaming or e-sports.
So, Tiger Lake is better on productivity, great for content creation, great for entertainment and gaming. There are a couple of big things on top of that. Like connectivity is super important. So, WiFi 6 helps with faster speeds and better reliability. And then there are some features that we had originally thought of, for things like voice services. Think of your Alexa-type services.
But actually, the features sets on the Evo platform, we ensure that we are working with PC manufacturers to make sure it has got great microphones, great stereo, or great sound for things like doing so many calls.
We actually put in special AI hardware to help with background noise removal so you don’t hear traffic noise or family members in the background on calls and helps do that at a very low power state. So, there is some things that, you know when we first designed Tiger Lake, obviously we didn’t have pandemics in mind, but finding different uses or finding their place as people basically live most of their day with and through their laptops.
How have your plans changed since March of this year to right now? Did you have to completely realign everything for 2020, keeping the new circumstances in mind?
I think, in some cases, just from an Intel operations standpoint, we’ve had to learn, with both our teams in India and our teams around the world, we’ve ourselves had to, technically, had to figure out new ways to do co-development, work with our partners more remotely.
And there has been a lot of software work, and system design that are done in new and novel ways than before. From the product line itself, I think a lot of increased emphasis on trying to meet the need of education as well. So, we have our product line specifically for our entry devices – both Windows and Chrome – that continues to grow and we are looking to meet that demand.
But we’ve had new products coming to market, new products on the drawing board. That didn’t change a lot over this time because many of the nature of how people use their PC has only been accentuated by the pandemic. It hasn’t caused us to change our product lineup.
And right now the focus with Tiger Lake and 11th Gen, is getting it in the hands of as many people as possible. Because we continue to see good response to people wanting and needing a new PC because the one that maybe they have is three or four or five years old just isn’t meeting their needs of today.
In general, a lot has changed since the pandemic and how the world in general uses their laptops and PCs. Are there any significant usage changes that you have witnessed in the Indian market, ever since the entire lockdown and our reliance on laptops and PCs have increased?
I think globally, and it’s true for the Indian market as well, we’ve continued to see big growth in how people are doing gaming and e-sports. What was already hot in terms of PC usage and bringing that to notebooks, has really increased dramatically. This is both for the kind of new titles and also some older well-loved titles. So, I think gaming’s been the one that we’ve seen just a tremendous amount of increase.
And then, everybody in the India market, in particular, there are a lot of conference calls, a lot of Zoom-type calls, whether it is for work or just study or keeping up with family. So, I think, those are the kind of uses that continue to rise, and I think what we have put into the product is particularly well suited for.
Tell me about the positioning of Intel Evo? And how do you see that shaping up?
Evo came out of what we have been calling our Project Athena innovation program and it really starts with really in-depth user studies. We have social scientists, ethnographers, thousands and thousands of hours of not just surveys but in-depth work with people – sometimes in the past, you know pre-pandemic, going to people's homes, really understanding how people use their PC.
They might be students, might be people who travel or lot or people who are running the business on a PC. And they wanted three big things. They wanted PC to help them, always focused, or they wanted it to act more like their phone, be always ready, and help them adapt - go through their day like they do. So, we took those three visions and pillars and we worked with our partners across the globe, about 150 partners in all - PC OEMs, people who make components, OS etc - to really focus on a laptop that was super responsive.
So, people flip through tons of tabs, they want to lift the lid and be right into their work. So, that responsiveness was super important. The best of our connectivity - WiFi 6, Thunderbolt - so it’s just easy and simple and you’re getting the fastest and best speed. And then great battery life. And when we talk about battery life of nine-plus hours, this is how people typically use their system. Intensive apps, a lot of background cloud services going, and at typical screen brightness.
So, it is really based on taking a suite of tests, running them, ensuring the whole system meets this promise. And we felt that was important enough, and a big enough to milestone with the systems we have worked on with our partners to do our first brand in well over a decade, with Evo.
We do not really know how things are going to get back to normal or what is the new normal. Are there any other plans that you guys have as far as your offerings are concerned?
Well, I think what we’re able to do is share new products, yes, but one thing that we do for companies too we are bringing the same capabilities to laptops or commercial laptops provided by companies. It is important as people are moving their operations to people’s homes. The level of capability is probably more important than maybe when people were just mobile in the office.
So, having capabilities for better security, better manageability of systems through the lens of a corporate or IT continues to be important and we’ll bring our vPro technology to these platforms as well.
That is probably the one that I would say is coming soon is, you know, the ability to bring all these capabilities but also the way IT needs to help people manage and remotely work and keep the PC healthy too in a corporate environment. We will continue to bring those technologies forward.
Is there any India-specific plan you can tell us about?
A lot of the innovation and things that we see in Evo and future platform and form factor development actually heads out of our India team. So, we have a very close team here. We do a lot of our form factor innovation and some of the co-design work.
And so, one thing that we’ve shown in the Evo platform is our ability to do things like miniaturise the components of the motherboard that’s inside the system, which allows people to get thinner, sleeker systems or more battery life. There is a lot of such hardcore innovations that comes from our work with our India team.
That leads to work with our PC OEMs for some really exciting form factors that you see coming to market. You have wider screens in smaller physical size as well as thinner, lighter – they’re at the heart of a lot of that innovation.
If you just compare the demands of laptops which have more computing power and more energy, better battery life vs the laptop that is perhaps sleeker with a big screen. Which direction have you seen the demand moving more towards?
I think what we’ve tried to achieve with the 11th Gen is that we give you the best of both worlds. We’ve seen the demand continue to be strong across screen sizes – 13-inch through 15-inch. In many cases, docking or the use of the laptop with the external monitors, maybe dual monitors continues to grow in popularity as people are set up and doing more at home.
And that is where technologies like Thunderbolt - where you can just have one cable that does your power, does your networking, does multiple monitors, back storage, you know, a lot of things all through the simplicity of one cable.
The trend we continue to see is people working with their laptops, sometimes at a fixed kind of workstation editing place but then being able to move that around in the home too. But in terms of one screen or one form factor, the demand’s been pretty evenly spaced across multiple form factors.
Okay, if I speak specifically of the Indian market, is there a preference there?
I think a lot of times, what we see is 15-inch systems continue to do quite well as some people might not have space for a second monitor, especially for gaming and entertainment, or a much wider screen. Especially as now a lot of our PC partners do very thin bezels on the side, so it’s a much more immersive experience. This is a trend that we see growing in the Indian market as well.