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Intel's next billion users

Posted on 18th Aug 2009 at 08:05 by Clive Webster with 14 comments

Clive Webster
A while back I read an interesting(ish) article on Ars Technica about Intel's drive into into the world of medical computing.

You can see why I added the 'ish'.

Medical computers might not exactly be scintillating, but Ars' angle made the story worth a read as it focussed on Intel's eagerness to enter new markets as being representative of its 'Next Billion Users' strategy. Let me explain...

Intel and AMD have been selling "perfectly good" CPUs for years now, so much so that even ancient PCs can still do all the basic tasks that most computers users need. My Mum is still using my old 1GHz AMD Athlon Thunderbird PC and it still handles the Internet and her emailing and word processing fine. This from a system that's about six years old.

So, how is Intel (or AMD, for that matter) going to sell my Mum a new PC? Quite simply, it isn't - or at least, not easily. Her PC would have to break, or she'd have to develop an interest in video editing for that to happen. That's the situation for a huge amount of people even before the recession bit - they aren't doing things that really tax even an ageing PC, so there's no need for a new computer and a new CPU.

Hence the new strategy - while Intel can push demanding computing tasks, it also needs to find new customers - the next billion. That is, people who haven't even got a PC at the moment.

Doctors are using silly paper and clipboards and things - things that are OLD - so they can be sold an Atom-powered tablet that can access medical records from a Xeon W5500-powered server. And people with in-home care need to be monitored, so they can have a Core Solo ULV PC with monitoring software to keep tabs on them (to be fair, the kinds of things discussed in Ars' article do sound quite nifty for certain uses).

Equally, the developing world needs computers NOW, so Intel is making its Classmate PCs, which is a direct rival to the OLPC project.

There are probably many more Intel 'Next Billion User' projects that I haven't heard of, but here are few of my suggestions for Intel:
  • The Pet PC: Animals need computers too, so this is a PC you strap to your dog that links to a webcam so you can see what it's seeing. I'm not sure Atom has the power to handle a 1.3 megapixel video feed and stream it over the Internet, so this will have to be a Core Solo and will therefore need a 5kg battery pack. This may also result in you needing to upgrade your dog if you've got a particularly small model.
  • Touch-line technology for football: the usual reason for not having some form of technology to the ref out is that having to wait for a verdict on whether the ball crossed the line or whatever would be detrimental to the flow of the game. There'd not be much waiting if you had a eight-way Xeon W5500 server in the dug-out though.
  • ATMs: Although these are PCs already, they're all far too slow - I always find myself tapping impatiently as the machine stutters from one stage to the next. Surely an upgrade to a Core 2 Duo system is order?


Even that list was quite tricky to put together in the end and that's even with the cheat at number 3 and I'm advising selling PCs to dogs. Looks like Intel either has its work cut out for it, or it'll have to spend longer than 20 minutes thinking about its new markets. Have you got any ideas to help Intel reach it next billion users?

14 Comments

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alpaca 18th August 2009, 09:46 Quote
my teddy bear needs a gaming rig too! one that shows me what he sees and let him play crysis all day long while monitoring his healt and baking cookies.
yakyb 18th August 2009, 10:46 Quote
haha would love a husky cam
Dreaming 18th August 2009, 13:28 Quote
I think schools could benefit from becoming more electronic, just because then it's easier for the teacher. Imagine if each classroom had 30 cheap tablet machines that were left there, then each lesson the students sign in and get their learning resources etc. fed to the tablets. You could include interactive media and all sorts. All the students notes and work could be saved and then when it came to revision time they could just print out their notes alongside the teachers notes for each lesson to take home and read - or better yet just convert it to .pdf and email it home.

Whether it's redundant, who knows, but remember we were using chalkboards instead of pen and paper not too long ago.
amacieli 18th August 2009, 14:03 Quote
Next billion users... and nobody said "China"!! Or do they all have PCs already
wuyanxu 18th August 2009, 14:47 Quote
funny you mentioned doctors. we all know how much money the NHS project "saved".

the next big market IMHO is the TV. embedded DSP chips for advanced decoding, embedded processors for going on internet.

general purpose x86 processors can only live for so long. a new, simpler embedded instruction set is needed (such as ARM's) for future's low powered devices.
nitrous9200 18th August 2009, 16:05 Quote
Quote:
they aren't doing things that really tax even an ageing PC, so there's no need for a new computer and a new CPU.

but their PC's are so loaded down with crap software/printer drivers/tray icons/malware that they're too slow to do anything meaningful. Then they get really frustrated and buy one of those new-fangled netbook things, with processors made by, guess who, Intel.
thehippoz 18th August 2009, 17:04 Quote
wonder if they can ever make some software to catch these idiots- it might sell some hardware :p

Ioyt2zzm530

that central healthcare database obama wants in would be a good step with the tablet sales.. the dog cam- whatever!! :)
Xir 18th August 2009, 17:09 Quote
Quote:
Doctors are using silly paper and clipboards and things - things that are OLD - so they can be sold an Atom-powered tablet

And I truely swear that by the time intel makes a Tablet PC for the price of a (doctor's) pen and paper and a clipboard (again suited for a doctor)...
So a TabletPC with the power of a netbook for about 100$ I'll buy one.
Heck I'll buy a few and give them away.

At the moment I'm expected to pay 300€ / 450$ for a netbook too weak to use skype with video...thx
Silver51 18th August 2009, 17:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreaming
I think schools could benefit from becoming more electronic, just because then it's easier for the teacher. Imagine if each classroom had 30 cheap tablet machines...

We trialled that on a small scale with netbooks for a year. There was something like a 20% failure rate in the first two weeks through kids spilling food and drink into their machines, and almost 60% before the end of the year with mechanical faults like broken screens and keyboards. The teachers involved wanted to go back to pen and paper.
thehippoz 18th August 2009, 17:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver51
We trialled that on a small scale with netbooks for a year. There was something like a 20% failure rate in the first two weeks through kids spilling food and drink into their machines, and almost 60% before the end of the year with mechanical faults like broken screens and keyboards. The teachers involved wanted to go back to pen and paper.

they have prometheus boards here for the classrooms.. awesome- it's like a big computer screen basically but it eliminates the need for an overhead- and cleaning tons of transparencies after class

http://farroutlinks.net/blog/tag/prometheus-boards/

kids can't spill anything on it cause it's just like a big whiteboard in the front of the classroom, but it allows the teacher to write on it in front of the class with a digital pen.. good stuff
[PUNK] crompers 18th August 2009, 17:29 Quote
intelligent toilets, it could analyse what went into it, then give you a print showing what you need to eat the next day. or dispense vitamin pills.
Silver51 18th August 2009, 19:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by thehippoz
they have prometheus boards here for the classrooms..

Yep, we have one of these in every classroom with a short throw projector and a multi-core laptop for every teacher. It was originally as intended as an aid and a way of digitally taking registers, but teachers have become totally dependant on them for delivering lessons.
B3CK 19th August 2009, 03:13 Quote
I have never been in a classroom that allowed food or drink in class.
Xir 20th August 2009, 13:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by B3CK
I have never been in a classroom that allowed food or drink in class.

And certainy not when there's electrical equipment and/or chemicals in the same room :D
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