PCs with Intel's Haswell chips coming in first half of next year

Haswell will double battery life and performance on ultrabooks compared to Intel's current Ivy Bridge processors

Laptops and desktops with Intel's next-generation Core processor, code-named Haswell, will be available in the first half of next year, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said during a financial conference call on Tuesday.

The Haswell chip will succeed current Core processors code-named Ivy Bridge, which became widely available in April. Intel has said that Haswell will deliver twice the performance of Ivy Bridge, and in some cases will double the battery life of ultrabooks, which are a new category of thin and light laptops with battery life of roughly six to eight hours.

Intel shed some light on Haswell at its Intel Developer Forum trade show in September, saying its power consumption had been cut to the point where the chips could be used in tablets. Haswell chips will draw a minimum of 10 watts of power, while Ivy Bridge's lowest power draw is 17 watts. Intel has splintered future Haswell chips into two families: 10-watt chips for ultrabooks that double as tablets, and 15-watt and 17-watt chips designed for other ultrabooks and laptops.

Haswell will be "qualified for sale" in the first half of 2013, said Stacy Smith, chief financial officer at Intel, during the conference call. Chips go through a qualification process internally and externally, after which Intel can put the chip into production.

The Haswell chip could provide a spark to the ultrabook segment, which has stagnated in a slumping PC market. Worldwide PC shipments dropped between 8 percent and 9 percent during the third quarter, according to research firms IDC and Gartner. They said ultrabook sales were lower than expected due to high prices and soft demand for consumer products.

Many ultrabook models with Ivy Bridge processors are expected to ship in the coming weeks with the launch of Windows 8, which is Microsoft's first touch-centric OS. Otellini said more than 140 Core-based ultrabooks will be in the market, of which 40 will have touch capabilities. A few models -- between five and eight -- will be convertible ultrabooks that can also function as tablets. A majority of the ultrabooks will have prices either at or above US$699, with a few models perhaps priced lower, Otellini said.

The new graphics processor in Haswell will support 4K graphics, allowing for a resolution of 4096 by 3072 pixels. Ultrabooks with Haswell will also include wireless charging, NFC capabilities, voice interaction and more security features.

Otellini said Intel can't tell how the segment will perform in the coming quarter. A number of factors needed to be considered including Microsoft's Windows 8 and the launch of new ultrabooks, he said. Intel reported a profit and revenue decline in the third fiscal quarter of 2012.

"We saw a softening in the consumer segments" in the third fiscal quarter, Otellini said. "The surprise there was China, which was strong, [but] turned weak on us."

Tablets have changed the way people use computers, and Microsoft is bringing touch to mainstream PCs for the first time with Windows 8, Otellini said. PCs with Windows 8 are expected to ship later this month, and it's hard to predict what the response will be until people go out and play with the devices and the OS, Otellini said.

"I see the computing market in a period of transition," with an opportunity for breakthroughs in research and creativity, Otellini said. New usage models for laptops are emerging with detachable touchscreens, voice recognition and other features, and Intel is trying to tap into those opportunities, Otellini said.

The company has a history of overcoming slumps through research and innovation, Otellini said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

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