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The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off tomorrow (Wednesday) night with a keynote address from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Chief Executive Officer Steve Balmer. But the big attraction at the Las Vegas conference will be the so-called "combination chips" expected to be unveiled by Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (Nasdaq: AMD).
The highly-anticipated chips could deliver one of the biggest advances in years for the
technology that powers laptop and desktop computers, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
The new chips are designed to incorporate the microprocessors that calculate formulas and run the software on most personal computers with the more obscure graphics processing units (GPU) - the devices responsible for rendering images in video games and movies and converting audio files for listening.
The integrated chips are expected to allow lower-priced PCs to perform complicated tasks like displaying high-definition movies and video games that had previously been reserved for more expensive units with faster processing speeds.
By putting the central processor and GPU on one piece of silicon, the new technology cuts the distance electrical signals must travel. That could drastically speed up processing, reduce the size and number of components, and slash production costs for computer-makers.
The innovative chips are "going to change the way people build PCs and buy PCs," Intel CEO Paul Ottelini predicted earlier this month at an investor conference.
The new chip represents a major overhaul of Intel's Core product line, which has roughly an 80% share of the microprocessors used in PCs.
Code-named Sandy Bridge, the chip combines GPU circuitry previously offered on separate chipsets with Intel's Core processor. The new chip will deliver improved video capabilities and other undisclosed technologies Intel is planning to launch with a marketing campaign called Visibly Smart, The Journal reported.
The debate surrounding the combination chips centers on whether they will perform as well as the separate components.
Officials at Nvidia Corp. (Nasdaq: NVDA), a major GPU chipmaker, contend the new Intel chips aren't capable of running some of the more complicated applications, which require a Microsoft programming technology called DirectX 11.
Intel insists Sandy Bridge will adequately run the most widely used applications, although the chip giant so far hasn't released performance estimates for the new chips.
For its part, AMD is using the CES trade show to introduce a GPU/microprocessor chip which is aimed at laptops in the $200 to $500 range after its efforts to build a higher-end combination chip called Fusion took longer than anticipated.
The benefits of the new technology won't be revealed until after the CES show, which is when computer makers are expected to disclose their plans for using the combination chips.
The Future on Display
Intel and AMD won't be the only companies using the CES to showcase the new technologies that will end up under the tree next Christmas. The world's largest gathering of consumer electronics makers typically thrills salivating techies and throngs of journalists with revolutionary new products.
Among items that have been introduced at CES over the years were the VCR in 1970, the camcorder and CD player in 1981, and HDTV in 1998.
More recently, exhibitors introduced 3D HDTV's, tablet computers, and smartphones.
CES is put on by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which predicts that tablets and 3D TV's will continue to attract attention.
However, the biggest story in 2011 will be the delivery of Internet-based content to the television set, according to Shawn Dubrovac, CEA's Chief Economist and Director of Research.
Unlike last year, "This won't be about the technical feasibility of bringing the Internet to the TV, this will be about the meaningfulness for the end-user of marrying the TV with the Internet," Dubrovac told RTT News.
Because consumers do not replace TVs frequently, Dubrovac expects an increasing number of set-top boxes (and accompanying services) will be launched at the 2011 CES.
Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOG) TV products like Logitech International SA's (Nasdaq: LOGI) Revue may be on display despite rumors that the Internet giant would rather refine its software before showcasing at CES.
While on-line TV will be on the front-burner in Sin City next week, tablet computers will continue to be a hot topic among the more than 125,000 attendees and 2,500 exhibitors.
Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) likely sold more than 10 million iPads in 2010, with the only real competition for technophobe's dollars coming from Samsung's Galaxy.
Several companies are looking to enter the market in 2011, and many are expected to unveil tablets running on Google's popular Android operating system.
Research in Motion Ltd. (Nasdaq: RIMM) and Toshiba Corp. (PINK: TOSBF) are a few key players expected to enter the fray, while Samsung is expected to up the ante with a newer version of the Galaxy tablet.
News & Related Story Links:
- Wall Street Journal:
Intel, AMD to Unveil Combination Chips
- RTT News:
CES 2011: Internet TV, Tablet Computers To Take Center Stage
- Money Morning:
Hot Stocks: The iPad Proves It's Not What Apple Sells, It's How Apple Sells It