Intel's next billion users

Written by Clive Webster

August 18, 2009 | 08:05

Tags: #medical

Companies: #intel

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?
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