Insights from International Consumer Electronics Show 2013 Part 1 of 5

This year at CES 2013, the world’s top chipmakers did not disappoint when they revealed their next generation mobile technologies.

CES2013 Next Generation Chip Performance for Learning

This is Personal
It would be safe to say that we are at the dawn of a wonderful new era of personal computing. Smartphones and media tablets have reshaped our expectations for battery-life, mobility, apps, services, and new form factors for mobile experiences. Mobile is the new personal computing. These mobiles devices know and share more about you, your whereabouts, your friends, your memories, and your buying habits than ever before. If that is not deeply “personal computing”, I am not sure what would be.

Even with mobile’s influence, consumers and professionals still want the power and capabilities they have come to expect from their game consoles and desktop PCs. The introduction of the re-imagined Windows 8 further blurs the lines between devices classes (e.g. tablets, Ultrabooks, notebooks, all-in-ones, and workstation PCs.)This is the perfect canvas for innovation and convergence in 2013.

propeller hatWhen we first showed the technical preview of Windows 8 at CES 2011, we shared that this would be the first version of Windows to run on System-on-a-Chip (SoC) architectures. Back then, I wrote that unless you were accustomed to wearing hat attire adorned with colorful propellers, that announcement probably missed your highlight reel. Now, the SoC architectures from Intel and AMD on the well-known x86 platform and the Qualcomm and NVIDIA architectures on the ARM platform are now primetime and ready for Windows 8.

Chip Primer

Before we get into the CES 2013 highlights, I want to provide a brief primer for my readers who are not fluent in techno-lingo. I will start by defining SoC. In nutshell, SoC combines all of the key components of a computer (e.g. memory, CPU, graphics, storage, etc.) on to a single chip. In the past, all of these components were separate and that made for some rather large and noisy desktop computers and hot-and-heavy laptops. SoC devices can be significantly smaller and typically, do not require a fan to keep them cool. All of this means that you can have thin, light, quiet, cool, and all-day battery device for mobile computing. This is all good news for our increasingly mobile lifestyle.

There are really two camps providing SoC technologies for the industry-the x86 camp and the ARM camp. If you have used a Windows PC in last 25 years, you have been in the x86 camp. If you have used a Mac PC since OS X 10.4, you have been in the x86 camp. Most of the planet is super familiar with x86 technologies and applications. Prior to SoC designs, most people defined a PC as a large device that sat on or under a desk. Put simply, x86 has been the primary computing platform of your PC. A PC could be portable, like a laptop, but it certainly was not considered a mobile device. With x86 SoC designs, those previous definitions of “what is PC device” are all being rewritten.

The mobile segment has been most personified by ARM-based devices like smartphones; and more recently, media tablets. For the most part, ARM devices have always been SoC devices. They are low-powered; which gives you the ability to go all day on a single battery charge depending on your usage. Today, most media tablets are descendants of their smartphone ancestors. They have larger screens for new use-cases. Windows RT, a new member of the Windows OS family, now runs on the same ARM-based processors and provides a host of new mobile experiences.

The Next Era: Pure Mobile

Overall, I am excited about what the four industry leaders had to say about mobile computing in 2013. Intel continues to push the performance envelope; and now combines power-efficiency with their chip designs. Qualcomm the mobile leader is expanding their expertise to bring ultra-high definition, cinema-quality experiences to mobile devices. AMD is positioning its assets as the definitive no-compromise performance provider for premium-class tablets and ultrathin laptops without the sticker shock. Finally, the graphics powerhouse NVIDIA is redefining mobile expectations to rival next-generation game consoles and more.

All of these technologies are smoking hot and provide a lot of promise to our learners and leveling-up their classroom experience. These new chips are crucial to meeting the expectations students and teachers have for their learning environments–both physical and digital.  While computer chips do not always rank high on the must-have list for next generation learning strategies, these are the critical components to immersive and competence-based learning.

To give you some flexibility in digesting all of this content, I have broken this article into four additional parts focusing on each of the major chipmaker stories from CES 2013:

In the final article, I will wrap on some key observations for educators and education decision-makers as we continue the digital transformation to next generation learning. At a high-level, I can tell you that this is all great news for schools and families. You will discover the reasons why in the wrap up. So read what interests you most or read them all. Do not forget to share your comments below.