Intel needs to generate a lot of excitement at its annual developer conference this week -- not just around the company but around the whole PC industry.
After lowering its third-quarter revenue forecast last Friday, industry analysts say the world's largest chip maker will be walking a fine line between trying to create buzz around the ailing PC market and trying not to sound nervous and defensive about it.
"Phones and tablets have been getting the lion's share of press and Intel needs to change this," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "Intel needs to show that the PC still has room to grow in advanced and forward-looking usage models. There are many problems the PC can still solve, but with Microsoft focused on thin clients and phones, it is up to Intel to carry the water."
Intel executives will have their hands full, because analysts also note the company needs to show that while the PC is alive and well, the chip maker is able to branch out to smartphones, tablets and anything else that's coming down the road.
The company is having its annual Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco this week. The first keynote comes Tuesday with the conference running through Thursday.
And the conference comes at a good time, since there hasn't been much good news of late for the PC industry, which has been repeatedly hammered by the growing popularity of tablets and several years of a slow economy.
And all of this has been affecting chip makers. Last month, industry analyst firm IHS iSuppli downgraded its 2012 forecast for the global semiconductor market based on slumping economic conditions and chip revenue.
The company reported that the worldwide chip market, which had been expected to grow by less than 3% for the year, now is projected to decline by 0.1%
But this week, Intel, speaking to developers from around the world, will have a chance to polish its image and build some good buzz.
"Intel is the strongest standard bearer for the PC industry, with the possible exception of Microsoft," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "So if anyone is going to, and needs to, defend the PC industry, it's Intel... The message has to be that you have solutions for whatever anyone wants, phones, tablets, PCs, etc."
However, Olds was quick to add that Intel needs to make sure it doesn't come across as feeling defensive and desperate about its own state or the PC industry. "There's a danger in doing this too explicitly," he added. "It can make them look too defensive. Intel wants to be seen as advancing the state of technology, not defending existing technology... And don't be scared. You want to talk about the cool new world of PCs."
Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT, said there's little reason to be defensive, because while the PC market may have fallen off a bit, it's still a robust industry.
"For all the problems the PC industry has gone through, there's still more than a million PCs a day being sold worldwide," King noted. "That is not a small industry. It's an industry certainly undergoing some changes right now, but as popular as the iPad is, the PC is still an incredibly popular device and form factor and it isn't going to go away any time soon."
King added that he expects Intel will put great focus on ultrabooks this week.
"The main focus is going to be on the value of this strategy," he said. "The whole bit with ultrabooks has really been that you can have it both ways. You can have all-day battery life with full-blown PC performance."
And while ultrabooks have created some good buzz in the industry, many have been waiting for the price to drop. King thinks this week would be a good time for Intel to announce some lower-priced ultrabooks.
"They need to deliver something that not only has great performance and specs but a great price, as well," said King. "I do think we'll be seeing increasingly attractive ultrabooks at increasingly attractive prices."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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