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CES: Intel Plays Well With Others, Especially the Ultra-Mobile

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The overriding theme at Intel's events seems to be "collaboration."

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It's been a busy CES for Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), with three events in the last 24 hours. Yesterday saw the company's official press conference, plus a keynote from CEO Brian Krzanich. The chip giant unveiled a number of wearable tech devices, integrated 3-D cameras, and a miniature motherboard called Edison. However, little was said about the PC business that drives nearly two-thirds of Intel's revenue.

This morning, Chipzilla offered the press a sneak peak of its booth, and the computer hardware was in full display. Most of the devices present were tablets and 2-in-1s (see below); Intel has worked hard over the last few years to bring its processing muscle into smaller form factors. Acer (TPE:2353), Asus (TPE:2357), and Lenovo (HKG:0992) have all released Bay Trail tablets for CES, running Intel's latest silicon, and if you're in the market for an eight-inch Windows tablet, the world is quickly becoming your oyster. These devices are light and sleek – Dell did a particularly (and perhaps surprisingly) nice job with the Venue – and they pretty much all claim eight hours of battery life or more, and prices in the $300-$400 range.

Perhaps the most notable development is dual-boot machines like Asus' Transform Book Duet and the Micromax LapTab, which can run both Windows and Android. Last night, Krzanich mentioned Android's well-known security problems and said that dual-boot machines can address these security issues, presumably by leveraging the Windows side of the equation.

Other benefits of dual-boot are less obvious but just as material: OEMs now have the option of designing Android and Windows tablets around a single architecture, opening the door for cost savings; and that architecture is being offered "with full 64-bit support," making Intel the first chipmaker to bring 64-bit capability to Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) operating system. Original equipment manufacturers are more likely to appreciate these benefits than consumers, and generally speaking, it's what occurs behind the scenes that makes Intel so interesting.

The overriding theme at Intel's events seems to be "collaboration." Whether in wearable tech or PCs, Intel is trying to drive the creation (or the preservation) of a third-party ecosystem. Consequently, we have heavy subsidies for the mobile Atom line of processors, and Intel's just-announced Make It Wearable contest. This stands in contrast to Google and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), who have entered the hardware business and gradually limited the openness of their operating systems. In all likelihood, we should expect more of these events from Intel, and an increasingly public presence as it takes on the thankless, but necessary task of herding so many cats.



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