2012: A Year of Innovation?

by Ben Bajarin   |   June 7th, 2011

One of the things I look at in order to get an idea of what the next years worth of innovations will bring is the semiconductor industry. Given what I am seeing from the various ARM vendors like NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Marvell and TI as well as from Intel and AMD, I am encouraged.

The primary industry that stands to gain from new semiconductor innovations is the mobile industry. Namely the hot category of tablets and smart phones. That is not to say that the PC will be left out, for example Intel brought attention to the concept of “Ultra-Books” at this years Computex.

NVIDIA at this years Mobile World Congress already demonstrated a quad-core chipset code named Kal-El. If quad-core tablets become available this year, then its almost certain we will see eight core tablets and smart phones next year.

In the X86 camp, both Intel and NVIDIA are continuing to move to new process technology. This move by both companies allows them to do things that will help hardware manufactures innovate.

AMD is bringing a full scale GPU onto the same chip with the core processor in a new chip called Llano. This will bring new performance benefits to PC’s, as well as bring costs down for innovative new hardware.

Intel has announced something similar with its next line of mobile processor called Ivy Bridge. Ivy Bridge will be based on a new 22 nanometer process technology which will bring more performance benefits at a lower power draw, benefiting PC’s with longer battery life.

Regardless of the number of cores, what these innovations in semiconductors will lead to, are new and exciting form factors in every major computing category.

Innovation in PC’s
With this new generation of silicon we will innevitebly see innovative form factors in PC’s. I expect us to see PC’s that are extremely thin and light, even thinner and lighter than the MacBook Air. Intel is calling this category “UltraBooks.” Whatever the label, pushing the limits of size, specifically around portability, is something I am looking forward to.

We will also see innovation in form factor. This is already happening with two specific examples. The first being the Asus Transformer tablet hybrid and the second being the Acer Iconia Dual Screen notebook. Both of these devices are good examples of innovative form factors that challenge the traditional expectations of personal computing.

Based on what I am hearing from PC OEM and ODM’s, I am anticipating some exciting PC’s coming out in 2012.

Innovation in Tablets and Smart Phones
Even though tablets are still new, 2012 will be a banner year. Primarily because we will see lower price tablets hit the market from Apple and others, but there will also be a wider variety of choice for consumers to choose from. This category is being taken very seriously by many companies in the industry, as it should be, and because of that we will continue to see many innovative new devices in 2012.

Smart Phones may also be one of the areas we will see some of the most innovation. Primarily because there are so many players and so much competition. Because of that, companies who make smart phones will face major competitive challenges, which will force them to innovate to stay relevant. Smart Phones also represent a much larger and much more global opportunity, which raises the stakes at every juncture.

Innovation In Other Electronics
The availability of lower power and higher performance processors will also lead to powerful silicon making its way into devices that traditionally have not had them. This is already happening with TV’s and set top boxes. Intel with their Smart TV strategy, is already aggressively pushing a line of their Atom processors geared specifically for Smart TV. Other ARM chipset makers are also already aggressively pushing for more powerful processors in TV, which will enhance the intelligence of a TV allowing it to do more than transcode a broadcast signal. Even the category of automotive will see some innovations of smarter technology.

If you put all these pieces together, from the advancements in silicon, the emergence of new categories, form factors, and the global opportunity, I am convinced that 2012 will be a year packed with innovation.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio
  • http://twitter.com/wimbet Taylor Wimberly

    Sounds like Qualcomm and Samsung will be the first with 28nm mobile processors in 1H 2012. However, I’m more excited to see new display technologies (like Mirasol) appear in a smartphone.