You'll want a PC with Intel's new chip for the battery life alone

Next generation of Haswell-based ultrabooks running Windows 8.1 poses a problem for large screen tablets

Intel's latest chip, its 4th generation Core processor code-named Haswell, will take a 6 hour battery and make it last for 9 hours.

The 4th generation Core may be the first chip from Intel that can extend -- in a single generation -- PC battery life by 50%.

Intel built energy savings into earlier chips, but Haswell is a redesign of its PC chip and was created from the ground up with low power utilization in mind, said Nathan Brookwood, a chip industry analyst at insight64.

It's taken five years to produce Haswell, the time it takes to redesign a chip, said Brookwood. "It takes a while, and it has taken a while, but I think they are there," said Brookwood of the new power economies in Haswell.

The Haswell chip will be released early next month.

One of the design techniques used for reducing energy consumption as well as boosting performance, involves graphics.

Intel added more graphics hardware to run processes in parallel. By doing so, the chip can operate at lower clock speeds, said Brookwood.

Intel says Haswell will double the graphics performance on laptops.

The 22-nanometer chip can turn transistors on and off as it dynamically adjusts power usage. Faster interconnects to speed data flows, reducing the amount of time the chip spends processing data, is another improvement.

Haswell arrives at precipitous time for the PC industry.

IDC said Tuesday that it expects worldwide shipments of personal computers to fall by 7.8% this year. Reasons for the declining shipments include a still-struggling economy, along with increasing reliance on other mobile platforms.

Shane Rau, an analyst at IDC, doesn't believe that Haswell alone can help the PC. But the chip combined with other things soon to arrive will provide a boost to the PC market, he added.

For instance, by next year PC makers will be producing the fourth generation of ultrabooks, and the building blocks for a strong product have been coming into place, he said.

Along with the improved battery life, Rau said touch capability will become more ubiquitous in laptops, and the devices will be increasingly lighter, thinner, and more durable and affordable than today's PCs.

Next generation PCs will also support gesture controls, such finger wags.

Meanwhile the Windows 8.1, slated to be available in June, may address some criticism that Windows 8 received over its user interface.

"The vision of ultrabooks is still being played, out," said Rau.

Haswell will be used in tablets as well, but PCs still have a big advantage over tablets when it content creation, say analysts.

Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group, said Haswell coupled with Windows 8.1 could mark the beginning of the end for large, 10-in. to 12-in. tablets, except in vertical industries like health care.

The hardware and software updates should bring laptops into the range of tablets in price, performance, and battery life. As that laptops are more useful, "it should begin the process of taking share back," said Enderle.

"It'll take about three to five years to fully reverse this trend, but I expect Haswell will have a lot of folks asking why they need a tablet," said Enderle.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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