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Intel reaches for all-new experience at CES2016

Intel reaches for all-new experience at CES2016
by Don Dingee on 01-06-2016 at 1:30 pm

When Gary Shapiro introduced Brian Krzanich for Intel’s keynote at #CES2016, he just possibly may have been the last person to say “Moore’s Law” outside of a museum ever again. Krzanich was about to take Intel into new territory, where “Copy Exactly” and tick-tock also don’t matter.

Experience now matters. Krzanich opened, “We are entering a new era of consumer technology where consumers are choosing experiences over products.”

This is as profound a messaging change for Krzanich and Intel as the digital dreams vision for Steve Jobs and Apple was almost 20 years ago. Intel’s legendary manufacturing prowess and innovation is worth far less to a new generation of consumers unless it attaches to compelling moments.

What also no longer matters are a near-flat PC market, two decades of all-but-missed opportunity in smartphones (which we chronicle in “Mobile Unleashed”), several failed attempts to get cooler by recruiting social media also-rans, and a few promised products that have yet to materialize. Krzanich made no apologies for a lack of mobile strategy or a late entry to the IoT or even the irritatingly juvenile “PC Does Whaaaat?” campaign.

Audiences at Computex last spring got a peek at the new Intel tagline: “Experience what’s inside.” Developers at IDF have seen the traditional product-centric messages. CES these days is much more about pop culture and where technology might go than it is about concrete new product announcements. Intel went on offense, throwing its marketing might into an umbrella strategy that ties all its efforts together with a surprising cast of characters.

Intel has the right idea, saying experiences are enabled by three trends: devices are smart and connected, computing is undergoing sensification (right from their slide), and the technology is simply an extension of you, the user. The lead example was a short film from Intel’s latest acquisition, drone maker Ascending Technologies, reimagining the noisy, smoky, dirty fireworks show with a polished lightshow featuring synchronized drones and live orchestral music.

Next, Krzanich rolled out a cult hero: @MissHarvey from the professional gaming community, giving her gushing review of how good Rainbow Six: Siege is with the latest Intel chips. One of Krzanich’s people grabbed an HP 2-in-1, shot a few pics of @bkrunner, and inserted him into Fallout 4 using Uraniom. They then showed the compulsory LeBron James clips visualized in freeD replay technology. The demos were all quick and trendy but not earthshattering.

Then Krzanich pulled out his old friend for its second annual debut – Curie, the button-sized IoT module. Honest, folks, we’re sampling now and this time we’re shipping it by the end of 1Q16 at less than $10. The parade of stars began to show what that could mean for experiences.

Out came a hobbled John Skipper of ESPN to explain that Intel technology including Curie was enabling sensors on extreme sports athletes. Skipper said his X Games audience is young, tech savvy, and wants action with real-time data – and Curie would be on athletes at Aspen this February with a new suite of graphics illustrating the action in new ways. A pair of bike freestylists did tricks on stage including jumping over Krzanich, all with graphics showing height, speed, and angle. Andi Gall of Red Bull Media House brought out freerunner Jason Paul with a similar message, demonstrating live on stage how the audience could see tricks and data.

That prompted skepticism, not for the technology itself but more aimed at Intel’s track record and commercial sponsorship:

See what you get when Intel lathers up a CES audience in 2015 and then ships nothing, and comes back in 2016 with fewer product details and some video clips. But this is a long game, and it certainly isn’t targeting my generation that used the 8088 and EPROMs and DOS. It’s not even targeting the IDF audience directly, but instead reaching into a much deeper pool of makers and entrepreneurs with new ideas.

The real Intel message centers on RealSense, not so much the processor inside. We were discussing just the other day if embedded vision could help drones, and there it is: a Yuneec Typhoon H drone with RealSense tracking a mountain biker and avoiding trees as it navigated the course keeping the biker in the shot. There was a tease for Oakley Radar Pace, a coaching device built into sunglasses. Then there was a new partnership with New Balance, working on 3D printed running shoes and a new smartwatch. Next was the Daqri smart helmet, designed for industrial workers with an Intel 6[SUP]th[/SUP] Gen Core processor and wireless connectivity running RealSense for image recognition and cueing – shipping today. (And the crowd cheers.)

Creativity then took the stage, and honestly if Intel executes here this could be the biggest hit. The danger in trotting out will.i.am always was missing a wide swath of the audience. To back wearables this time, Intel went for bigger names and several styles.

First AR Rahman showed off Curie-based wearables strapped to wrists and ankles, each commanding a virtual instrument. Then the earth shook – Intel is collaborating with Haus of Gaga and partnering with the Grammys in February to create something, and who cares exactly what if it looks and sounds cool? Millions of people will see it and talk about it in social media.

Krzanich then brought back the Xiaomi ninebot with its Segway technology, but this time used the magic words open platform. Makers can add their own mechanical parts and software to extend its capability. And speaking of makers and social media, Intel and Mark Burnett are launching a new reality show hosted by none other than Chris @Hardwick – “America’s Greatest Makers”, with 24 teams competing for $1M creating stuff with Intel technology.

How much of this is “real” product? There was a disclaimer across the bottom of the live stream indicating almost none of it is shipping today. The beauty in this was Krzanich hardly used the words wearables or IoT or said much about his products outside of RealSense. When you have ESPN, New Balance, Oakley, Lady Gaga, and Chris Hardwick to do the talking, not all of it has to stick – but a lot will. Krzanich wrapped up with his socially responsible conflict-free message, again cutting right to the hearts and minds of a new generation talking about causes, not product.

I know, we’re usually all about 14nm this and power and protocol that and what comes after mobile. A lot of folks still don’t believe this “IoT” thing is even a market. Intel now has a much higher level message aimed at stimulating consumer demand in a time when things have obviously and permanently changed for the semiconductor industry. One lesson from consumer electronics over the years: if you can create demand through improved experience, the rest of the technology and manufacturing problems (assuming there is capacity) are usually solvable. This is the all-new Intel.

More articles from Don…

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