Intel President James on wearable tech, Microsoft partnership

Intel president Renee James says new Quark chips will drive chip maker into wearable market

Intel president Renee James

Intel president Renee James

After calculators, PCs and mobile phones, Intel is now jumping into wearable devices with an extremely low-power chip called Quark, which was big news at the company's annual Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. Leading the charge into the new market is Intel's new leadership team consisting of CEO Brian Krzanich and President Renee James, who also articulated on plans to achieve fast growth in the mobile market while trying to reinvigorate PC sales.

It's been an especially busy few months for James, who became Intel's president on May 2 after running the company's software unit as executive vice president and general manager of the software and services group. She is laying the groundwork for Quark chips to succeed in areas such as eye wear, personalized medicine and cloud services. In an interview with the IDG News Service, she talked about the wearable market, Quark and partner relationships.

IDGNS: Where do you see the wearable market going?

James: I think it's way beyond wearables, I think it's about integrated computing. I don't think we know the boundaries of that. The silicon patch -- the thought of just ripping something off like a band-aid, putting it on your arm, your doctor being able to know what your vitals are at that moment, that sounds like science fiction, but it's real. That's where we are at. That's today's outer boundary of where we are going with computing.

IDGNS: When do you see integrated computing becoming a practical market for Intel?

James: For Intel it is a practical market right now, we have different products and platforms that are being developed. That is why we introduced Quark. We believe in the things that you saw -- they are not three, five or ten years out, they are in the next 12 to 18 months.

IDGNS: Will you sell wearables directly to consumers? Intel is already planning to launch a TV service.

James: We tend to believe that our business model is best helping other people build things. It's in these really highly integrated designs, you need to build one to know that everything is working systemically. We tend to build reference platforms, and we're going to stick with that.

IDGNS: Quark is really low-power, but will it replace the Atom platform?

James: No. It's the low Atom. You should think of Core, Atom, Quark. I love the Quark name, it's so nerdy and funny. Quark is intended to look below Atom. It's 10 times more power efficient, and it's five times smaller. Atom is teeny, Quark is the smallest thing we've ever built.

IDGNS: Intel and low-power still raise a question mark today. How will Intel achieve low-power on Quark?

James: No, no, Intel and low power are not a question mark. We have lots of low-power products. It's not a question at all. May be that was five years ago. If you look... at Haswell 22-nanometer, that product is a four-watt product with Core i5 performance and Core i5-level graphics in fanless [devices]. That's the most [power-efficient] product ever built, anywhere.

IDGNS: Are you offering licensing or customizing Quark chips for third parties?

James: What we are offering is the ability to connect their intellectual property around ours. We also are offering fully designed products as well. It's a broad range that we're going to offer to customers in this category.

IDGNS: Intel is looking beyond Windows and moving to Android and Chrome for tablets and PCs. How is your relationship with Microsoft?

James: Our relationship with Microsoft is as good as ever. They are going to participate in IDF and you will hear from them about what's going on with Windows 8.1. I think it's just a matter of balance. Microsoft is not the only client operating system anymore. The same way for years and years Microsoft balanced between Intel and AMD, we're in the same situation now. Our customers want choice, and we offer choice.

IDGNS: What's the next big thing for Intel?

James: Integrated computing is the next big thing, I think it is the future of what we are going to do. It's not going to be necessarily about this device or that device, it's going to be about what problems we solve through computation. The final barriers, the things we don't understand, and what does it mean to have a mesh network of connected devices with cloud services and how does it change what we think about. That's the final frontier.

IDGNS: How important is your software background in leading a company that is traditionally focused on chips?

James: It's actually more useful than people would imagine. It's very relevant to the level of integrated platforms that we see people starting to build, even the way PCs are built now, servers, different workloads, what happens in the cloud. More so than ever on a forward-looking basis, the way computing is developing is going to be about the application, the workload, the right kind of compute for the right kind of task. The other thing is building system-on-chips and products today is very software oriented.

IDGNS: What is Intel's direction in chip development?

James: The direction for us is to continue with "tick-tock" for the microarchitecture, but to consider how to do derivatives... using the system-on-chip methodology.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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