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Intel's forum signals market shift from PC to mobile devices

Part of IDF was upstaged by Apple's iPhone 5 launch, but Intel stuck to the message that it remains relevant

By Agam Shah
September 14, 2012 04:05 PM ET

IDG News Service - This year's Intel Developer Forum was upstaged by Apple's iPhone 5 launch event, which to some show attendees felt like a reprise of last year, when IDF had to compete with Microsoft's Build conference.

Apple's event dominated the second day of IDF, with many attendees and press talking about the merits and drawbacks of the iconic smartphone rather than news from Intel. The company's jovial software chief, Renee James, joked about being the "opening act" for Apple in her speech soon before the iPhone event started.

To some analysts and attendees, the clash between events this year was indicative of the industry shift from PCs, which is dominated by Intel, to mobile devices such as smartphones, where Intel is still trying to make its presence felt. Sales of PCs are fading as users turn to smartphones and tablets as alternatives.

Attendance at IDF this year was up slightly to 4,100 compared to 4,000 last year, according to an Intel spokeswoman, with those at the forum hearing about the new Haswell chip, the future of ultrabooks, and other emerging server, storage and networking technologies. Some found the conference useful as it offered sales leads and a chance to network.

Intel will remain relevant, especially with Microsoft's Windows 8 OS coming up, but this year it's at a crossroads with the market shifting and PC sales declining, said David Kanter, who runs the technology consulting firm Real World Technologies.

"This IDF was unique because you have an opportunity to contrast next door the iPhone 5 launch. In some ways that embodies the shift in the industry," Kanter said. "We have these new classes of devices emerging and there is some financial tension there."

But some attendees were disappointed with IDF.

"It's not been the best IDF. We've been coming to these events for many, many years. Seems like more Intel, less customers," said Stephen Gentile, senior vice president for strategy and business development at Insyde Software, which offers PC, server and tablet firmware and software development tools.

However, Insyde is a key partner for Intel, so the company decided to attend. The company has yet to decide whether it will attend again next year.

There was not much foot traffic at a booth for storage company Virident, which was staffed by inside sales manager Constantine Tikhoniouk. But he found there were other reasons to attend IDF.

"It's more of a forward-thinking conference than going after existing technologies. From that perspective it is very useful," Tikhoniouk said.

The show was surprisingly light on smartphones and tablets, with the focus squarely on ultrabooks, an emerging category of thin-and-light PCs with tablet features. Intel talked about new hybrid ultrabook models in which screens can be detached to become tablets, and new forms of touch, gesture and voice interaction with ultrabooks. Intel's message was clear -- ultrabooks are multifaceted devices that can be powerful laptops, but also tablets for those who desire mobility.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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