Peter Drucker, the famed management consultant, educator and author, had a reputation for accentuating why innovation is required in any successful business. The adage of the above headline could not be more appropriate when evaluating the energy and resources that Intel is putting into its Evo platform. The first phase of Intel Evo was unveiled in 2020 and represented the second iteration of Project Athena, launched in 2019. At their very essence, these undertakings represent Intel’s future vision of the PC space, not merely at the silicon and feature level but from a form factor and usage model standpoint as well. While the traditional PC OEMs do (and have done) terrific work in the product innovation area over the past several years, the entire PC industry looks to Intel for providing a detailed glimpse of where they believe the PC market is headed.
At CES 2022, Intel took the wraps off its third edition of Evo. The new incremental key specs are wholly focused on creating a breakthrough laptop experience, built around “anywhere” responsiveness, “real world” battery life, “instant” wake, fast charge and enhanced “intelligent” collaboration. At a high level, it’s obvious that Intel’s marketing and engineering team recognizes that tomorrow’s laptops must dramatically evolve to address the usage model changes (and challenges) that remote working has presented for today’s users.
Specifically, Intel denotes the following specs in a laptop to be acknowledged as a third-edition Evo solution:
Intel has added what it describes as “Intelligent Collaboration” to the original Evo spec. This capability is particularly intriguing as it underscores Intel’s emphasis on delivering high-end video and premium audio to the video conferencing experience. In practical terms, this means that an Evo laptop could be running multiple collaboration apps at the same time (certainly not an unlikely scenario as most remote workers will attest to) without degrading overall system responsiveness and battery life. Taking it a step further, Intel’s Connectivity Performance Suite utilizes AI and the company’s Wi-Fi 6E implementation to optimize wireless network experience while managing crucial communication traffic). Finally, given the background filter world remote workers (not to mention podcast producers) today, AI acceleration can streamline camera imaging effects.MORE FROMFORBES ADVISOR
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What are the CPU implications of Intel’s next-generation Evo spec?
At CES 2022, Intel broke some news announcing that some 12th Gen Intel H-series systems are now included in the Evo platform spec. Laptops with these CPUs, according to Intel, must comply with the Evo spec as mentioned earlier, as well as use H-series CPUs that draws 35W to 45W TDPs and utilize Intel’s Arc Discrete GPU with Intel Deep Link. Intel also believes that these laptops must employ a “creator-oriented” display between 15” and 16” in size.
This change is significant. While the phrase “creator-oriented” is somewhat ambiguous, this spec change to the original Evo guidelines expresses Intel’s belief that laptop displays larger than 15” are needed for professional content creators. It would not be surprising if PC OEMs who implement this spec will also utilize minimum brightness levels and potentially HDR support that further differentiate these products in the marketplace.
Foldable PCs are coming
Foldable displays in the smartphone category made a big splash a couple of years when Samsung announced its Z Fold, and sales have not precisely scorched the earth due to cost and durability concerns. Not to be outdone, Intel showed off its “Horseshoe Bend” proof of concept at CES 2020, essentially a 17” touchscreen tablet that could fold into a traditional clamshell laptop configuration. Around the same time, Lenovo announced its ThinkPad X1 Fold, but product reviews were lackluster as its price was high and offered relatively mediocre performance.
With the latest iteration of the Evo spec, Intel now believes it has the appropriate platform for a truly useful foldable laptop as display technology has ripened to the degree that it will be more practical and cost-effective to incorporate in more models. Intel was mum about which OEMs might be offering foldable models, but I suspect 2022 might be the year of a truly appealing, no-compromise foldable laptop.
Some closing thoughts
While Intel’s innovation track record has been impressive over its 54-year history, the company has had its share of some conspicuous stumbles, including its slow embrace of SoC offerings, being caught off-guard by the rise of smartphones and tablets, as well as unexpected manufacturing miscues in producing smaller chips that have power management and battery life benefits without compromising performance.
Those matters aside, it’s hard not to be impressed with Intel's progress in the laptop innovation area. Few companies on the planet have the marketing and engineering resources in any technology category, not to mention the credibility, for creating a North Star for the laptop market and industry to rally around.
The remote work phenomenon has created an incredible opportunity for Intel to continue to showcase its technology innovation chops but provide business users and consumers with solutions that solve real-life problems. Today’s remote workers need laptops with all-day battery life that charge quickly and run at top performance regardless of whether it's tethered to an AC outlet or not. The company has led the charge with driving new form factors (such as the 2-1 and convertible designs) that have reimagined the laptop category over the past decade. Foldable display laptop designs offer another level of innovation potential that will be fascinating to observe over the next year, especially given these recent Evo platform enhancements.
Put simply, Intel knows that it must try things that have never been attempted before. That’s certainly easier said than done, but Intel’s remarkably close PC OEM relationships, which have been cultivated over decades, put them in a very strong position to articulate its vision of the future. Like Project Athena, Evo is ultimately Intel’s blueprint for what the company believes is the archetype premium laptop, constructed on its comprehensive research about how users utilize their devices in a real-life manner, as well as their pain points. Along with the vast usability improvements that Windows 11 has comprehended over the past couple of years, the assortment of exceptional laptop devices with innovative form factor designs has never been better in the marketplace. And that’s a great thing for business users and consumers who value optimized productivity, work style flexibility and uncompromising system performance.