Consumer technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) are dominating the halls at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco this week, as the chip giant tries to emphasize flashy “maker”-style projects over old-school electronics.
The halls are filled with video-game-looking demos and new smartphone applications. It used to be that Intel dominated the PC world and strove to show it was relevant in other walks of life. At IDF, Intel is showing it wants to be all about IoT, using a saturation blitz to create the image of ubiquity.
As Ina Fried of Re/code pointed out, CEO Brian Krzanich’s Tuesday keynote had little to do with chips. Instead, Intel filled the keynote with flashy demos involving robots or wearable technology. A BMX biker jumping over Krzanich’s head was one highlight.
In its quest for prime-time attention, Intel is even sponsoring a reality show, America’s Greatest Makers, to be produced by Mark Burnett, the same guy who did Survivor and way too many other TV shows.
Only late in the keynote did Krzanich announce he would talk about about computing. That drew a smattering of applause that sounded a lot like sarcasm.
Intel is still using IDF to court developers; it’s just that the barrier to being a developer has lowered considerably. The job even sounds simpler, now that we have the word “maker.” Processors have advanced to the point where computing can often be taken for granted; most developers want to hear about tools and software resources.
As technology’s role in everyday life grows, the big public companies will be compelled to hype up the marketing. Cisco has been doing it for years, most recently trying to become synonymous with security.
Intel Does Still Sell Chips
Intel did have at least two chip announcements at IDF on Tuesday. There’s a chip-level security technology called enhanced privacy identification (EPID) that it developed with microcontroller vendors Atmel and Microchip. Krzanich mentioned it briefly during his keynote but didn’t give details.
And at the end of Krzanich’s talk — the part where he actually talked about computing — he announced 3D Xpoint, a dense and fast memory technology that Intel developed with Micron over the course of 10 years.
Krzanich said nothing about Intel’s microprocessor roadmap — but Intel’s most interesting work lately seems to be outside the microprocessor anyway. Take rack-scale architecture, for instance. (Another topic that Krzanich didn’t bring up.)
The announcement most likely to steal the show this week is RealSense, a depth-sensing technology useful for 3-D modeling and, yeah, video games. This week, Intel announced RealSense will support pretty much every operating system out there, from the obvious Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, and Android to the embedded operating systems most people have never heard of. It’s also powering some of Intel’s most eye-catching demos at the show, including a 3-D selfie (saved in a laser-etched block of clear plastic) and a host of video games.
The Security Angle
Making stuff out of software has certainly gotten easier, but there’s a down side: Hacking a network has also gotten easier, due to the tools available.
That — along with the migration to the cloud — is one of the obvious reasons why the volume keeps getting turned up on security, noted Chris Young, senior vice president of the Intel Security Group, during his Tuesday afternoon mega session (Intel’s word for the keynotes).
To fight back, developers should use the same tactic — take advantage of the relatively simple tools lying around. Young’s keynote featured guests from vendors such as Gigya and CyberArk, offering services or tools that can help developers build security into a system rather that bolt it on afterward.
“We need to make sure that the code that we build, and what we test and ultimately ship, is rock solid,” Young said.
That’s hardly a new message, but it’s true — security ought to be at the foundation of any new product — and the fact that we keep hearing people say it makes me think some projects still are not taking security to heart.
Young’s keynote featured its own bit of media glitz: Intel is sponsoring a contest to hack the company’s vehicle subsystem — the nerve center for the connected car. The first contestant will be Chris Valasek, one of the guys responsible for the Jeep hack detailed last month in Wired.
The grand prize? It’s a car.
“Hopefully it’ll be a secure car,” Young quickly pointed out, “secured by all of you.”