Intel avoided talking tech at IDF

IDF 2012: Two keynotes, one conference, zero excitement

Intel - logoAlthough it is a hard thing to say, IDF 2012 was probably the worst SemiAccurate has ever attended. Why? What little content there was seemed to have been put out in spite of the company’s wishes, not because of it.

There was a pall over IDF, and it was a sad thing to see. Walking out of the first keynote, the entire technical discussion was about nothing, but they mentioned Haswell a lot. What was said? That it uses <10x the power of Sandy Bridge, not Ivy Bridge. There was a demo of Haswell GT3 vs Ivy Bridge, with the latter using 17W and the former about half that while handily outperforming it on the Haven demo. Nice touch until the eagle eyed Nico Ernst spotted that Intel was faking it. Whoops.

The explanation about how it is better would have been riveting news, but it seems actually talking tech at IDF is a punishable offence. Intel didn’t explain it at all, but there were a lot of group hugs given out. SemiAccurate wrote up the tech more than a week before Intel didn’t say anything worth a (technical) damn at the keynote. It was sad, more so because this is one of the most interesting products Intel has had in years.

Instead, Intel was talking about ILC, that is an acronym we just made up for Intel the Lifestyle Choice. What tech does the company make? Who knows? What are their advantages over AMD or ARM? They don’t want to say for some reason. Instead, they showed a coke machine with an interactive touchscreen powered by an unnamed Intel product. It could even take your picture and upload it to various social networks if you wanted to put all your info and passwords in to a public vending machine via a sometimes working touch panel. Annoyance, thou art powered by an Intel product.

New products were shown off too, sleek new form factors for the failed Ultrabook category. The first one, a Sony slider tablet/laptop running Windows 8 crashed. One of the next ones was a reference tablet design, it didn’t work either but a second version of it functioned as intended. Slim, shiny, and altogether far less useful than their predecessors while costing a lot more. The fact that Intel can milk the stupid for more money seems to be the only technological leap they are interested in shouting about.

The second keynote was even worse. The technical content? Nothing. Really, we are not joking, they never actually mentioned silicon. Intel has a gesture based API, you know, the thing that 23 other companies have been doing better for years. According to the keynote, you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a high end laptop CPU for that to work, but two weeks prior there was a Hot Chips keynote with something better running on an ARM based phone. I guess Intel didn’t realize that a $10 chip could do what theirs did for hundreds more, but the ARM boxes weren’t as prone to crashes.

And then there was McAfee, you know, Intel’s CPU cycle sucking bloatware with upgrade nag screen technology that fails at securing a wet paper bag much less Windows. The big leap from McAfee? Social Networking Protection that is not a condom. Condoms can be useful, Social Networking Protection (SNP) is not, but it will annoy you far more than any latex wrapper.

The demo was pretty dumb on it’s face. The ‘problem’ this keynote made up is that if you post your picture on Facebook, people can take it and do nefarious things to it. To be fair, it is complete bull, but how can a security company be expected to sell upgrades without a new and nebulous threat to you and your precious kids? Luckily, McAfee leaped to our defense and came up with a solution to the non-existent problem they just made up. What timing! The Lone Ranger, Lassie, and Batman together couldn’t have done better.

If you install McAfee SNP on your machine, Windows only, and the social network installs a version on the back end, you can manually make up tedious lists of people that can actually see your picture. As long as they have the same McAfee SNP software on their PC, Windows only. If they are using their phone, well tough for them. Al-Qaeda uses phones you know, buy McAfee to be safe.

If you make yet another list of people that can see the picture, edit, or whatever else you allow, it will decode for them transparently. As long as they are on a Windows PC and have bought the McAfee software. And you can control what they can do with the picture, if you bother to make a list of granular rights for anyone who wants to looks at your Facebook page, and do it preemptively. And then hope the bad guys don’t know how to hit the printscreen button or take a picture of the screen with their phone. Talk about convenience!

So the big leap for Intel, other than a gesture recognition API that ties you to Intel hardware, is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist running on hardware that Intel doesn’t want to talk about. They managed to take something as simple as an HTML image, wrap it in expensive software tied to a single OS, and everyone that wants to view your picture has to have purchased it, installed it, and be using their PC, not a phone or tablet. What was a simple and solved problem now becomes expensive, DRM laden, touchy, and failure prone bloatware that consumes hundreds of times the CPU power that the free version did. Now you see why Intel loves this monstrosity? Instead of dealing with actual malware, McAfee “rescues” us from this terror. Go progress.

The first few days of IDF had a pall over them. What little tech there was had to be pulled out of an unwilling Intel. Lifestyle choices you can make by using Intel CPUs were all over everything, but actual tech wasn’t. You would be forgiven if you walked away after day two thinking, “Intel’s roadmap is to sell the fabs and invest in Facebook stock while it is low”. It was that bad. No, worse, you didn’t have to sit through it. The only highlight was the Day 3 keynote, but that is another story, literally.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate