What we can learn from IDF

AT THE recent IDF Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco the electronics giant laid out its plans for the next number of years, showing off several new processors and other technologies that will hit us sooner or later.

By Magnus Nystedt

Published: Sat 1 Oct 2011, 9:33 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:03 AM

Thin and light notebooks are the order of the day as there is no doubt that Intel will talk a lot about Ultrabooks in the foreseeable future and the first units have already started appearing in stores.

An Ultrabook is a thin and light Windows PC. According to Intel it should be less than 21mm thick, start up really fast both when booting, resume from sleep in mere seconds, and cost from under $1,000. Think of it sort of like a Windows notebook but with many of the properties of most tablets: instant startup, thin, light, good batterylife, etc.

What’s really interesting is that Apple already has that and it’s called MacBook Air. Ever since Apple introduced the first MacBook Air in 2009 it has confounded the rest of the industry. Similar to the iPad, it seems like the other computer manufacturers have had a hard time matching the price and specification of what Apple put together. Although the first two generations of the Air had serious problems with noise, heat and lack of performance, Apple has apparently got it right with the latest 11- and 13-inch models. Especially the 11-inch is a marvel of design, engineering and manufacturing; a combination that will be hard if not impossible to beat by all the Ultrabooks.

But if we glance into the future, based on what was announced at at IDF, what can we assume will happen with Apple’s lineup of portable Macs?

Apple’s current portables use Intel’s second generation Core processors, called Sandy Bridge. Next year, Ivy Bridge will hit, promising improvements in both battery life as well as performance. All day computing and long standby time is what you can expect then. Ivy Bridge is built with the forthcoming 22nm manufacturing technology, basically meaning more transistors per processor. Sandy Bridge is based on 32nm technology. The early version of anIvy Bridge chip that Intel presented at IDF contains 1.4bn transistors compared to Sandy Bridge’s 1.16bn. It’s a safe assumption that Apple will incorporate Ivy Bridge when those processors become available.

Further out in 2013 Intel has planned the next generation technology called Haswell. By then expect 24 hours of computing out of one charge and 10 days of connected standby time. In both Ivy Bridge and Haswell, graphics performance will also improves meaning, for most users, there will be less need for a dedicated graphics card.

Solar power was also demonstrated by Intel. A prototype Sandy Bridge PC, powered by a rather small solar panel, was shown. I’m sure this is technology that Apple is already looking at although it will be a long time before we see it in shipping Macs. Imagine the lid of your portable Mac being a large solar panel, which could charge the Mac, albeit very slowly.

It should be pointed out that Advanced Micro Devices AMD, Intel’s main rival, has technology that closely matches Intel’s. But for a Mac user that only becomes of interest if Apple decides to switch to use AMD chips in Macs, something I don’t see happening.

Intel is working on a number of things that will arguably make its way into Macs sooner or later. If IDF is anything to go by we’ll see unprecedented battery life as well as performance within the next year or something I certainly look forward to. —emiratesmac@gmail.com, @mnystedt

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