In an age of iPads and iPhones, the laptop is starting to look a little stodgy – like yesterday’s technology. That’s a problem for Intel, whose processors power so many of today’s laptops. And Intel’s fortunes are of great interest in Israel – because the company is one of the biggest employers in Israel (and not just Israeli hi-tech), with nearly 7,000 workers here.

Many of the company’s breakthroughs in laptop processor technology were made at one of Intel Israel’s numerous R&D facilities here, and development and production are still going strong. But Intel has seen the future – and the company realizes that it is going to have to come up with some new tricks in order to compete with Apple on form and function, and not find itself relegated to a producer of components for commodity hardware.

This week, Intel provided what could be a hint of where it intends to go: The company announced that it is sending Mooly Eden, of late an Intel corporate vice president and general manager of the PC client group, to lead Intel Israel as local CEO. Eden, who has been with Intel since 1982, was instrumental in the company’s development and adoption of processors (Banias and its descendants) that have powered a generation of Intel-processor laptops. He worked at Intel Israel for years, and was sent to the U.S. by the company nearly a decade ago, where he took up the position of VP.

But, perhaps even more significantly, Eden is now also head of Intel’s Perceptual (sometimes called Contextual) Computing unit. What is perceptual computing? Check out this description by Intel CTO Justin Rattner, as presented at the 2010 Intel Developer Forum:

By combing hard sensor information such as where you are and the conditions around you combined with soft sensors such as your calendar, your social network and past preferences, future devices will constantly learn about who you are, how you live, work and play.

“Imagine a device that uses a variety of sensory modalities to determine what you are doing at an instant, from being asleep in your bed to being out for a run with a friend. By combing hard sensor information such as where you are and the conditions around you combined with soft sensors such as your calendar, your social network and past preferences, future devices will constantly learn about who you are, how you live, work and play.

“As your devices learn about your life, they can begin to anticipate your needs. Imagine your PC advising you leave the house 10 minutes early for your next appointment due to a traffic tie-up on your way to work. Consider a ‘context aware’ remote control that instantly determines who is holding it and automatically selects the Smart TV preferences for that person. All this may sound like science fiction, but this is the promise of ‘context-aware’ computing and we can already demonstrate much of it in the lab.”

In other words, Intel’s vision – and its strategy for developing the “next level” of processor development – is building the processors that will enable PCs, laptops, and other Intel-branded and partnered devices to be “context aware.” With Eden running both Intel Israel and the company’s Perceptual Computing effort – and with his track record of success in chip design – chances are good that Intel Israel will again be leading the way for the company in what it hopes will be its next wave of success.