Intel's UMPC is still a crap idea

4th Apr 2008 | 00:33

Intel's UMPC is still a crap idea

IDF Spring 2008: But Atom, SSDs and Larrabee make IDF Shanghai spin

The smorgasbord of technology, slightly crazed enthusiasm and side-stepped questions that is the Intel Developer Forum is over. Here's our take on the key highlights of IDF: Shanghai and what they mean for computing's future.

It's a long way to go...

At this IDF, Intel fleshed out speeds and feeds for the first ultra mobile variant of its Atom processor. But that was about it regarding significant announcements relating to Intel's core computer chip activities.

For that, thank a conference call a few weeks prior to IDF Shanghai that dished out details on both the upcoming Nehalem CPU architecture and the Larrabee graphics chip. Not enough news, perhaps, in return for the typically monumental IDF carbon footprint.

The UMPC is still a crap idea

Intel may have given the UMPC concept a new name - the Mobile Internet Device, or MID for short. But it's still the same lame idea. Indeed, when pressed to discuss the pocket-busting proportions of the MIDs shown at IDF, the typical reaction of Intel suits was to get a little shirty. We've a feeling Intel knows that MIDs are not the answer.

Splitting the Atom

In the long run, we've little doubt that future revisions of Intel's Atom Centrino mobile platform and CPU promise revolutionary performance and software compatibility improvements for mobile digital devices.

But if the oversized MIDs on show are anything to go by, the first iteration is simply too bulky and power hungry to change the world. We therefore suspect Atom will actually make more impact on traditional form factors. Expect to see some astonishingly cheap Atom-based desktops and notebook systems before the year is out.

Larrabee remains a mystery

Intel may have come clean with its intentions for the mystical Larrabee processor. We now know it is unambiguously targeted at Nvidia and AMD's graphics boards. In fact, Intel reckons it will kill those cards stone dead.

And there's little doubt Intel is hoping Larrabee will drag the entire graphics industry over to ray-tracing tech. But we remain clueless as to Larrabee's true potential in traditional raster-based 3D rendering scenarios. And that is what will make or break it, in its initial iteration at least.

Critical mass for solid state drives

Intel is nothing if not the absolute bomb when it comes to economies of scale in silicon chip production. So, confirmation that it is planning the imminent roll out of a full family of solid state drives (SSDs) looks awfully promising in terms of driving prices down.

In partnership with STM Microelectronics, Intel will shortly unleash SSDs spanning a range of capacities from 32 to 160GB. With any luck, the spinning hard disk will be dead for all but seriously high capacity bulk storage by mid 2009.

Political posturing

Is Intel shameless enough to go on stage with a straight face and talk about an energy saving partnership with China... all the while with the Chinese reportedly commissioning a new coal fired power station every week? You betcha!

Intel was also happy to give stage time to the jocular but somehow slightly sinister looking Chinese Minister for Railways. We're not sure about his presentation skills, but he certainly looked the kind of guy who can make the trains run on time. So, it was no doubt a great week for Sino-Intel relations. Just don't mention capital punishment or widespread human rights abuse, umm-kay?

Intel puts TechRadar on a par with The Economist...

...And The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and BusinessWeek. At least that was the august company we shared (in our outgoing Tech.co.uk guise) in the form of a foil festooned with quotes from leading publications during the opening keynote on day one. No other technology publications made the grade.

Shopping in Shanghai

...And finally, don't go shopping in China unless you are prepared to haggle for Britain – don't be surprised to see the Chinese shoehorn in haggling as a demonstration sport at Beijing this summer. And if you do manage to beat your opponent down to your target price, for goodness sake don't then change your mind and flatly refuse any purchase at all. You'll be lucky to get out of his market stall alive.

If that makes shopping in Shanghai sound like a chore, try this for size. You can still have a suit made to measure and delivered to your hotel room within 24 hours. And all for around £70. Long live the Chinese experiment in capital-socialist fusion!

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