Intel finds the right platform

Intel has already cracked the personal computer and notebook market, so now the vendor is looking to extend its influence and products into key vertical markets. To better enable this, the chip giant has developed its platformisation strategy. Intel’s general manager for the GCC, Samir Al-Schamma, explains what its all about.

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By  the Gitex Times Staff Published  September 29, 2005

|~|intel1.jpg|~||~|Gitex Times: What are your company’s plans for Gitex this week? And what will we see from Intel that is different to what the company has done in previous years? Samir Al-Schamma: Well, as you know, Intel changed direction this year to a platformisation strategy, which sees us being more focused on specific customer segments, so digital home, digital enterprise, mobility, digital health and channel products. We are highlighting the latest developments in these segments: digital home, digital enterprise, digital healthcare and channel platforms. The last platform is mobility, which I think goes across all these themes. GT: The digital home and the personal computer as part of the digital home was of course a major theme for Intel at last year’s Gitex show. Do you think the concept of the digital home has crossed over into the mainstream or is it still a technology waiting to happen? SAS: Last year we were talking about the digital home and we said it was a reality and that proved to be true. There were so many vendors highlighting digital home products. I don’t think there is a vendor now who doesn’t have a focus on digital home, I see that now people are switching from having PCs on their own to having them as part of a digital home. We’re now making the switch from having the end user having to adapt to the PC to having the PC adapt to the end user, we’ve moved away from the big ugly beige box to the entertainment PC sitting in your living room. Moving away from the PC, you come to the notebook and it’s the ultimate adaptation to a person’s style. The PC is also being used with a lot of other consumer devices now; it really is part of the digital lifestyle. GT: Will we see more entertainment PC devices from other vendors at Gitex this week, especially as convergence seems to becoming a hotter issue each year? SAS: I think on the consumer side, the media player will be very big, virtually every vendor will have a media player at this year’s show. Last year there were a few entertainment PCs at the show, we’ll see more this week. I think that over the next year, when Microsoft’s Media Center operating system gets local programme content, then entertainment PCs will really take off here. GT: Another technology that is getting a lot of attention in the industry at the moment is dual-core technology for processors, how important is this technology and why is Intel doing so much to highlight it? SAS: Well, firstly, our current thinking is not to highlight technology for the sake of technology but for usage. In terms of importance, I do think that dual-core processors are the way to go forward for the industry. If you look at the developments we’ve had in micro-processors, then we certainly have come a long way but that creates its own problems going forward. If you take the original Pentium, the heat dissipation was the equivalent of a small hot plate. With the processors that we have now, we’re talking about the heat dissipation being equivalent to a nuclear reactor. If you just keep going by adding gigahertz then it would be the equivalent of a nozzle from a rocket. Hyper threading technology was the first step towards introducing dual-core technology, it helped with things like virtualisation. When we introduced dual-core technology, we also introduced a few features such as active management technology. Clearly, enterprise customers care about this stuff, we’ve made it easier for people to use technology. Let me give you an example, if we have a customer providing technology for a girl’s school in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it can be hard to send an engineer out to work on problems. Now, with the new features, they can do all repairs down the bios level remotely, so nobody has to go the school and have all those problems, it can just be sorted out quite easily. ||**|||~|intel2.jpg|~||~|GT: Let’s take a look at another technology that Intel has done a lot to promote in the past couple of years: hot spots and your own Centrino technology. Here in this region, the uptake of hot spots still seems to be very slow, despite the fact that Centrino-enabled notebooks sell well here. How do you feel about this? SAS: To be honest with you, the adoption levels here I personally find very disappointing. It’s picking up well, but I do still think it could be a lot better here in the region. On the other hand, I would say that when you dig deep, you find a lot more activity than you would expect. I would say that it has not been promoted as well as here in the region as it has been in other parts of the world, but there are actually quite a few hot spots popping up here. Here at Intel, we’ve hired an engineer now whose job is to perform wireless verification, check that the hot spot works with Centrino. That should see the number of Intel-certified hot spots jumping up but that still leaves quite a few for the region overall. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has very aggressive plans for wireless technology, I think they’ve worked very hard on it. If you look at the percentage of wireless-enabled homes that already have PCs and broadband, then I think you would find it in line with the rest of the world. And wireless access points are selling very well in stores there, you go to the shops and the shelves are sold out, so I know people are buying the technology. GT: One possible reason that hot spots have not been promoted very aggressively in the region is that monopoly telecommunications operators do not have to worry about providing additional services, such as hot spots, to win over customers. Will liberalisation of the telecom and internet access market, such as the proposed second operator for the United Arab Emirates, help to drive the adoption of wireless technology? SAS: I think that competition is always good. It will definitely move things faster and I’m sure it will also have an effect on price, which will obviously have an effect on adoption rates. But if you look at the numbers and the growth rate of notebooks in the region, then most of the growth is coming in notebooks. One guaranteed way to get left behind as a PC vendor is to do nothing on notebooks, so demand is there. GT: Intel has done very well in the move from the PC on the desktop to the notebook, what about the handheld market? Where does Intel fit in on the smart phone and personal digital assistant (PDA) market? What device do you think is going to dominate here? SAS: We’re doing very well in this space, current smart phones and PDAs need a powerful processor. In terms of which device is going to do well, I think you’re going to see a combination this year. People don’t want to carry too many devices around with them, so you’ll see a lot of devices that are a combination of different gadgets: people will look at things like answering their e-mail on their phone for instance. On the PDA devices we’re doing very well, and with smart phones we’re seeing very good adoption rates. I think right now that our solutions are still positioned at the high end of the smart phone and consumer devices market but the key vendors all have an offering based on an Intel processor. ||**|||~|intel3.jpg|~||~|GT: Intel is very keen on education initiatives, what can we expect to see this year from you in regards to this? SAS: There’s a couple of things that we’ve started on in the local market and you can expect to see a lot more of them and the team discussing them during this week’s show. There is a worldwide programme, Teach to the Future, which focuses on teaching the teachers on how to use technology for their daily job. We’re going to be doing stuff around that at Gitex. I think what you can expect to see from Intel at Gitex this week is more of how people can benefit from the application of technology in schools. GT: What about the healthcare sector, you said earlier that this was going to be a key platform for Intel this year. Why is that you have focused so much attention on this sector and what can we expect to see from Intel on this? SAS: If you look at the healthcare sector in general, then it is probably one of the least developed when it comes to information technology. Clearly, that is a sector that has massive potential and needs attention. We believe that one of the areas that technology can make a positive contribution to healthcare is in the field of hospital automation, what we call digital hospitals. We have a partner, Shadi Systems in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has developed a digital hospital application which covers all aspect of the hospital. Instead of a doctor having to walk in to see a patient with a huge stack of documents, he can just walk in and see them with a PDA. That has huge implications in terms of savings and efficiency, you get faster turn around times for patient care. We’ll be showing examples of that at Gitex this year, showing how people can benefit from this sort of thing. And, when you start looking at that sort of technology in healthcare, then that is where a lot of other technologies start coming in to play: wireless, RFID (radio frequency identification), all start to be useful. The healthcare is a sector we’ve just started looking at, so we are very excited about it at the moment. GT: On a more personal level, what are you looking forward to seeing at the show this week? SAS: For me, this year’s show is going to be very interesting because there is a lot of things coming up this year for Intel. I’m definitely looking forward to Gitex this week to see how things that we talked about at last year’s show have been adopted. Plus, I’m a gadget fan myself so I’m really looking forward to seeing what stuff is going on out there. ||**||

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