Intel (INTC) is a very technologically driven tech company. They spend massive amounts of money on research and development, as well as sporting one of the highest capital expenditures budgets in the semiconductor industry. I have always maintained that the best way to truly figure out the long term value of a technology company is to take a look not only at the competitive position of its current products, but to aggressively attempt to sneak peeks into the next generation of their technology.
Introducing The Intel Developer Forum
The Intel Developer Forum, commonly abbreviated, "IDF", is an Intel-run event that occurs at least twice per year where people from across the technology industry meet to hear about the latest advances in Intel's technology. This year is particularly exciting, as the company will be hosting a number of technical sessions that are very relevant to current and potential investors. Here are some of the ones I believe will be particularly important to analysts and investors:
1. "Technology Insight: Intel Next Generation Microarchitecture Code Name Haswell"
According to the description, this session will give nitty-gritty details on how this next generation CPU will offer "significant improvements in performance and energy consumption, as well as supporting additional enhancements for graphics and support for powerful new instructions".
This is particularly exciting, as this first that even on the same 22nm "tri-gate" manufacturing process, the company will manage to meaningfully improve performance and power efficiency. According to Anandtech:
"Internally [to Intel] Haswell is viewed as the solution to the ARM (ARMH) problem. Build a chip that can deliver extremely low idle power, to the point where you can't tell the difference between an ARM tablet running in standby and one with a Haswell inside. At the same time give it the performance we've come to expect from Intel"
The implications here are fairly dramatic: if Intel is successful, not only do traditional notebooks, as well as "ultrabooks", see significant performance and battery life improvements (spurring upgrades), but this could very well give Intel a huge competitive advantage in the high end tablet segment (for example, the Surface Pro from Microsoft (MSFT) ).
That's not to mention that a high performance, even more power efficient CPU core will bring about dramatic performance and power efficiency improvements in higher performance desktops, workstations and servers.
2. "Tablet Platforms with Next Generation Intel Atom Processors and Microsoft Windows 8"
This presentation will be about the "significant architectural changes in the next generation Intel Atom processor for tablets and tablet convertible platforms with the Microsoft Windows 8 operating system".
This should give analysts and technologists a clue as to how competitive Intel's tablet platform will be against products from the ARM SoC vendors such as Qualcomm (QCOM), Nvidia (NVDA), and Texas Instruments (TXN). If Intel can achieve at least price, performance, and battery life parity to the solutions from the aforementioned ARM camp, then tablets based on these chips will likely be more popular than the ARM based ones that are forced to run on Windows RT, which is incompatible with existing Windows programs.
3. "Intel Architecture Based Smartphone Platforms"
This presentation will give investors insight into Intel's reference smartphone platform. Intel will present "highlights on future platform evolution and capabilities in aspects such as media accelerators, power management, and wireless communication" and will show evidence of the innovations by demonstrating "compelling Android applications".
This presentation is likely to be particularly exciting, especially as the "reference design" will likely continue to prove attractive to carriers in emerging markets as well as domestic carriers looking for a quick and easy path to deploying Intel-based phones.
There will be a lot of other exciting presentations, for instance:
- "HPC Fabric Performance Overview": Remember when Intel purchased QLogic's (QLGC) InfiniBand business? It will be interesting to see how Intel develops what it inherited from them, especially as Mellanox (MLNX) currently totally dominates this space, seeing itself "one or two years ahead of the technology that Intel acquired".
- Solid State Drives: Judging by the number of presentations lined up on the topic, Intel seems particularly excited by solid state drive technology, in no small part due to its joint NAND flash manufacturing arrangement with Micron (MU). Intel offers a whole line of solid state drives, from consumer SATA drives to ultra-high performance PCI-Express, and it seems that the company is very bullish on SSD technology across the compute continuum going forward.
- "Media Innovations in the Next Generation Intel Microarchitecture Code Name Haswell": In addition to beefing up CPU performance and efficiency, Intel is taking aim at improving their integrated graphics solutions significantly. AMD (AMD) is still the leader here, but Intel's recent "Ivy Bridge" chips have closed the gap significantly. Further, as Intel takes the integrated graphics processor more seriously, it is possible that initiatives to use the GPU as a co-processor for non-graphics things could really start to gain traction.
There are plenty of other technical sessions, and I encourage every investor and potential investor to take a look at the catalog beforehand and to view the presentations as they become available online.
IDF As A Catalyst
While glimpses into next generation technology is absolutely critical for the long term investor, I believe that IDF could be a catalyst for a stock movement due primarily to two forces:
- Analyst Updates: It's a pretty safe bet that analysts will be there, scrutinizing every presentation, asking the tough questions, and generally getting a feel for Intel's future. A strong IDF could lead to several analyst upgrades, and a weak one will likely lead to some downgrades.
- Major Phone Announcements: Intel is very likely to announce or elaborate on partnerships. For instance, we know that Intel announced a "multi-year, multi-device deal" with Motorola Mobility (GOOG) at CES earlier this year, so we may get additional details regarding the products and the scope of this deal. In addition, we may see design wins from additional phone vendors.
- Windows 8 Tablets: Intel has already demonstrated their "Clover Trail" platform and reference tablet design for Windows 8. Investors will likely get a glimpse of the quality of the designs that will be coming out, giving further color on Intel's tablet strategy.
In short, this will likely be the most important event of the year for Intel investors as it will give further color to Intel's long term strategies in its core segments going forward.