Now, Intel has taken that a step further with a new category of "hybrid," "convertible," or "two-in-one" devices, all describing the same product: a detachable tablet that can be docked to a keyboard for stability and extra battery life. Two-in-ones will use Intel's "Bay Trail" Atom chip, which offers both dramatically improved battery life as well as increased performance, eliminating the sluggishness that characterized the previous "Clover Trail" notebooks. In the tablet configuration, these new designs offer the thinness that we've come to associate with tablets, as opposed to the relative chunkiness of Microsoft's Surface.
The bottom line: So far, this looks like the next step in the evolution of the mainstream Windows notebook.
3. But Atom isn't low-power enough
And the Core begat Atom, which begat Quark...simply put, Intel realized that even optimized for low power, the Core could only go so far to address the emerging market for all-day computing. Thus, Intel designed the Atom -- which arguably went a bit too far in establishing a low-power foothold, with not enough performance.
Now Intel has reached the same crossroads: the Atom is simply too big and bulky for the Internet of Things, and a new architecture was needed: Quark. Chatter among the press and analyst corps says the Quark architecture is some sort of cut-down Silvermont chip, the technology underlying Bay Trail, the Merrifield chip for phones, and the Rangeley networking processor.
Quark is one-fifth the size of the Atom and will operate at one-tenth the power. Those numbers are vague enough that we can't intuit much. But the power goals and the fact they're synthesizable says that they're an attack on ARM, whose embedded chips seem to have an inside track on the Internet of Things. Intel's facing an uphill battle, of the likes it fought with AMD: using the brute force of its advanced manufacturing capabilities as a broadaxe to wield against the nimble rapiers of the ARM licensee legions.
4. Natural-user interfaces are a blessing in disguise
Turns out that the real world is a complicated place, filled with unknown objects and unfamiliar people, all interacting in complex and seemingly unpredictable ways. That poses an enormous and lucrative problem for any number of companies, from interpreting speech and gestures, to finding directions, to altering recommendations based on the proximity of friends. As the hardware interface between the virtual and real world, Intel is well positioned to suck in petabytes of data that can be analyzed by third-party software and services -- all running on Intel hardware, of course. And what it can't do with its own CPUs and graphics chips can be done with new lines of optimized silicon that Intel is specifically creating.