Intel has had a few hard years as rival Advanced Micro Devices made gains because of its Zen-based architecture for x86 processors. In the second quarter, AMD’s share of the overall x86 central processing unit (CPU) market was 18.3%, up from 10.6% in the third quarter of 2018, according to market researcher Mercury Research.
But Intel had a brief moment of respite this month as it launched its code-named Tiger Lake processors that are being sold as the 11th Gen Intel Core Processors. The company also launched its Intel Xe 12th Gen integrated graphics processing unit (GPU) to compete against AMD and Nvidia.
Dozens of new laptops are debuting with the chips, which are made in a 10-nanometer manufacturing process that uses a SuperFin transistor design that delivers better performance than the previous 10nm manufacturing process. I spoke with Gregory Bryant, executive vice president of client computing at Intel, about the company’s efforts to stay competitive in the core PC processor market.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
VentureBeat: It must feel good to be able to unload another shot at the market.
Bryant: Thousands of engineers have worked hard bringing the product to life. Any time you get to launch a new product, it feels great. A lot of folks are proud of the work that they’ve done. Obviously you want to deliver a leadership product, and you want your customers to be delighted. Our customers have been very excited. So far the design ramp looks great. Demand is strong. So far, so good.
VentureBeat: I saw there were 50 laptops that were coming here, and 150 designs in the works overall. How would you describe what’s coming up?
Bryant: The only thing I’d add is the number of designs by the end of the calendar year continues to increase. We have 50 for the holidays, and we’re up to 100 before the end of the calendar year. And then 150 overall. That’s very strong. To put it in perspective, it would be in the top two design ramps that we’ve done.
VentureBeat: Looking at how the OEMs are pitching the appeal of the machines, what are some of the most noticeable things they’re saying?
Bryant: Our partners, when it comes to the 11th-generation core, it’s this no-compromise combination of CPU performance and real-life responsiveness with great graphics. We demonstrated the content creation, some exciting new examples of content creation capabilities that this platform can do with this massive board and our Xe graphics architecture. Add to that great media display and collaboration capabilities, and then add to that the ability to fit in a very thin and light device. You’re able to play games. We shared some real triple-A titles for the first time. In the past you would not be able to play those games well on something that thin and that light.
To have all of those things in a small package with great battery life is the excitement. It’s not just one thing. It’s the “and,” the no-compromise device.
VentureBeat: The one thing that got me excited was to wake up a laptop in a second.
Bryant: When we talked about Intel Evo and the experiences we’re trying to deliver with responsiveness, one of the metrics we use is, as you just said, wake up in less than a second. It’s simple, but it’s so powerful when you show someone that. I’m using an 11th-gen system. I can’t tell you whose it is. They’re launching and they don’t want me to tweet a picture or something. But I’m using it on this call today. I can tell you from my own experience — you can imagine I have the privilege of trying a lot of new PCs, and the response of this thing is markedly better. Applications launch faster. I can task-switch quicker. Conferencing tools run better. It’s noticeable in everyday use. That’ll come through.
VentureBeat: When you have things like face recognition for waking up, does that add some time to it, or does that actually happen that fast?
Bryant: It depends on whether it’s a consumer PC or whether IT wants two levels of verification. But the idea was, put it to sleep, open it up, and boom, it’s in Windows. If you add a login you can immediately log in to it. But what you don’t want is to open the notebook and it’s just blank and sitting there, taking 5, 6, 10 seconds to wake up. That’s what we were trying to improve.
VentureBeat: As far as games go, I’ve done some gaming on laptops, and it’s still an experience where you have to have a machine with a big screen and a big fan. It looks like these machines are going to be thin and light with a lot less noise, even though you’re playing games.
Bryant: Sure. I always like to step back and say, we create processors for the desktop and musclebooks, if you will, that are purpose-built for gaming as their primary function. That’s what they do, and they do it extremely well. They’re high-performance. Sometimes they include fans that make noise because they go full tilt. You can imagine that inside of Intel, you have a lot of people who are into esports and gaming. They have incredible rigs, and we build processors for those.
What makes this special is that you can play triple-A games. They’re playable for the first time in something that’s thin and light, and not a musclebook form factor. We build products for musclebooks, because a lot of people want those, and that’s great. But this is back to how the PC market isn’t one segment, one size fits all. There are different segments. People want PCs that are optimized for their life and their interests and their focus. We provide the broadest portfolio of products in the industry.
This one is special in that — it’s not just gaming. If you look at the media and content creation, we showed some examples of up-rezzing photos and colorizing things. You get into Adobe software, Creative Suite. There’s far more intelligence built into the software, and now it’s optimized to work with the platform to help users do more. It’s an exciting time.
VentureBeat: What do you credit SuperFin for? What does it do for you?
Bryant: The great thing about SuperFin is we’re able to increase the performance of the transistor and our ability to drive frequencies without increasing the voltage dramatically, without taking a big voltage hit. That’s why you see such great performance, our ability to scale to frequencies that before, you would typically see in a desktop. That frequency and strong per-core performance matter a lot in gaming, for example. Being able to do that without the penalty, or without as big a penalty, means you can have a system that’s thin with good battery life.
VentureBeat: As far as beating AMD here, there were a couple of examples where you had direct comparisons. Did you feel pretty good about that?
Bryant: One thing that I’m trying to do, and this is a more strategic change for us, with the Evo platform and the 11th-gen core, is we’re trying to ground the direction we take — I mean this holistically. The way we drive our road map, the way we drive CPU architecture, the connectivity, the graphics, we’re grounding that work in real-life experiences, use cases, deep research, to understand and break down what impacts the experience that people have on this platform.
The vision is the PC is the platform that people go to focus, to create, to connect with friends and family, and the things that matter most to them. We decided not to try to turn the PC into something that it isn’t. Let’s make it great at what it is. There’s a lot we can do, a lot of innovation, a lot of engineering, a lot of work with partners we can do to make it great, make it better.
It sounds simple, but if you work back from that and start studying — well, what are the real experiences? How do people use their PCs? What things get in the way? What are the pain points? You start breaking those down, our technical leads start breaking those usages down into technology and architecture and software, that’s how we’re lining up the business. What you saw expressed in this launch, in the 11th-gen core and how we talked about Intel Evo, it’s not about a synthetic benchmark, something like Cinebench that represents less than one percent of usage on the PC. It’s about, how does this thing run when I’m trying to edit my photos? When I open it up, does it respond in less than a second? If I’m trying to change formats when I edit a video, how long does it take me to do the conversion and export that thing?
Honestly, I think it will take time for that to sink in. It’s harder to talk about it. I’ve engaged a lot of industry analysts trying to figure out how to talk about real-world battery life, when everybody wants to throw a big number out, 20 hours or 30 hours, even though we all know that as soon as you deal with real screen brightness and doing real work, you don’t get that 20 hours. It’ll take time. I’m going to need help, and we’re going to need help, communicating real-life experiences to the industry and consumers. But to me it’s the right thing to do. We’re committed to doing it.
VentureBeat: How do you feel about Intel these days as far as — you had a few setbacks. I assume it feels good to be in this position.
Bryant: I’m excited to be at Intel. I’ve been at Intel for quite a while. One thing I love about working at Intel is that when there are bumps in the road, we just zero in and get after things like nobody else. The company rallies around challenges. I’m confident that we can build leadership products. You saw a great example of that. I’m excited about our road map. We have a great team of people. This is one great step forward, and you can expect more from us.
VentureBeat: As far as the timing for these machines coming out, in the midst of the pandemic, what’s the sales pitch like as far as the timing for these machines and how they can help people at this time?
Bryant: You’ve got it. One thing that rings true to me, that’s become clear to me, is the role technology can play in helping people navigate the pandemic. I have kids. I still have one school-aged kid in the house and three that are out, using PCs for education, doing that from home. I’ve been working from home. My friends and family are working from home. People are turning to the PC more than ever to get through. That’s an awesome responsibility for us and our partners in the industry, to step up to that and do our best to make things easier, make things better.
We’re learning a lot as we go. I’m proud of how we’ve been able to safely execute with our partners through this pandemic to make systems available and get them out there. It’s been incredible seeing people rally and take the responsibility so seriously. Getting these systems in people’s hands, I’m proud of it. It’s timely. It’s important. I feel that a huge part of what we do, Intel’s mission — our mission statement is literally to create world-changing technology that improves the lives of every person on earth. That rings truer now than at probably any other time.
VentureBeat: What’s interesting as far as where Tiger Lake fits in your timeline? What’s coming up? How should people think about this right now, and what else do they have to look forward to?
Bryant: We’re excited about the Tiger Lake launch. We have all our customers — the first 50 designs will be available for holiday, with 100 before the end of the year. That’s a great ramp. We’re excited to get those out and in the hands of consumers and businesspeople and schoolchildren around the world. I can’t reveal any new secrets today, but you’ll see some more great products for us as we get into the end of the next year and into next year. We’re excited about the road map we’ve built.
At Intel it’s all about delivering leadership products to the market, products people care about, and delivering the best experience. That’s what we’re focused on. That’s what we’re committed to. You’ll see us continue to invest and deliver that.
VentureBeat: As far as people who’ll say that this isn’t 7nm, but rather 10nm, and so they’re not that excited about it — I guess you can argue that SuperFin is important?
Bryant: It is. Process technology is important. It’s one of the six pillars of our architecture and technology leadership that we drive in the company. You probably heard us talk about that if you saw our architecture day. It’s not the only thing, but it’s important. You see that come to life in the product. At different times there are new innovations in process or packaging or new CPU architectures or connectivity. All six of those things come together to create a leadership product.
I will say, just to your point, and this might be a little too modest, but I think SuperFin, as an innovation, is the largest single intra-node enhancement that we’ve made in our history. We showed a graphic talking about how we went from 14nm to plus, to plus-plus, to triple-plus, and we got a node’s worth of improvement across all those pluses. You get all that and even more than that equivalent improvement just in SuperFin. That helps put it in perspective. It’s a great innovation, and it’s an important part of this leadership product.
VentureBeat: On the graphics side, the gaming is impressive, but are you going to come up with some kind of list that says, “Hey, we can play the top 30 PC games, the top 100 on a laptop,” something like that? I’m curious about how much more Xe is penetrating into the hardcore triple-A gaming space.
Bryant: Our software and driver teams are working very hard every day to deliver great performance and work with game publishers and developers to make sure we have the best experience possible. They’ll be doing that as we go forward on Xe. As we said, Xe architecture, which is inside Tiger Lake, is the basis for our discrete graphics efforts, which are progressing on plan. As we scale up in the performance of our discrete products, we’ll continue to work with the ecosystem to have great drivers, great performance. We’ll eyeball the details on which titles, but that’s what they’re all focused on.
VentureBeat: Is there anything else?
Bryant: The PC has become an essential tool, more important than ever, and we’re committed to delivering the best experience possible. I’m pleased that we were able to deliver the 11th-gen core and the Evo platform, and we’re pleased with the customer demand for it and the excitement around it. The 11th-generation core is the best platform processor we’ve built. We’re proud of that, but we’re committed to continuing to drive leadership in the future as well.