The Intel Developer Forum has fully transformed into an Internet of Things (IoT) conference and a maker showcase, and there’s every reason to expect more of the same when IDF returns to San Francisco this week.
IoT is hot, but along with Intel’s data center business, it’s also a necessity for Intel as the company faces the reality of a post-PC world. Both IoT and the data center will be represented in a Wednesday keynote by executives Venkata “Murthy” Renduchintala and Diane M. Bryant, respectively.
And of course, CEO Brian Krzanich will deliver the main keynote on Tuesday, which Intel says will be about “the power of a smart and connected world.”
One question for Intel’s IoT division will be its plans for Nervana, the startup it acquired earlier this month. Nervana was working on chips for deep learning, a branch of artificial intelligence focused on intuition-based machine learning — an intelligence closer to the way humans think.
Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed, but Recode has reported the price might have been as high as $408 million.
But Intel’s future in the security business is uncertain. In June, rumors began spreading that Intel might be ready to sell off its security division, which is comprised mostly of the $7.7 billion acquisition of McAfee.
Selling the business for that same amount — $7.7 billion — would be reasonable given the “flattish revenue trends of the business since 2010 and flattish profitability metrics,” wrote analyst Amit Daryanani of RBC Capital in a note published in June. Revenues for the security business were $2 billion in 2015, so $7.7 billion would also be on par with the valuation of comparable security companies, he writes.
Even in IoT, some things are changing. ARM had been an up-and-comer, with chipmakers beginning to produce its 64-bit design. This could challenge Intel’s higher-end chips in data center servers. But ARM is now being acquired by Softbank, which seems more focused on ARM’s smartphone-chip franchise than on data center possibilities.
Intel’s core business is changing as well. Moore’s Law, the postulate that the density of chip circuitry can double every 18 or 24 months, appears to be coming to an end, because the economics of those ultra-dense chips just don’t work. The emphasis in recent years, for Intel and for ARM’s partners, has been on packing multiple smaller cores onto one chip.
That technology represents an interesting return to Intel’s roots. Not everyone in Silicon Valley remembers this, but Intel started out as a memory-chip vendor.