Intel’s ‘game changing’ tech another Haifa milestone, says firm

One of the tech giant’s biggest announcements ever has its roots in work done by its Israeli teams

(L) Roni Friedman and (R) Valentin Kaplan hold Skylake SoCs; (C) Shlomit Weiss holds a "fresh from the factory" sheet of Skylake chips (Intel)
(L) Roni Friedman and (R) Valentin Kaplan hold Skylake SoCs; (C) Shlomit Weiss holds a "fresh from the factory" sheet of Skylake chips (Intel)

Intel’s Israel team has come through for the company again. On Tuesday, the company announced its most advanced processor ever, with Intel benchmarking its new Skylake processors at more than double the performance, triple the battery life, and with graphics that are thirty times better than the most popular computers in use today – the five-year-old PCs and laptops that sport a previous generation of Intel processors.

Israel has traditionally been an important development center for Israel, with local teams developing some of the company’s most important products – among them the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors, which are in many of the computers currently in use. In fact, according to Intel, there are some 600 million computers in use today that are based on the five-year-old technology, and Intel would like their owners to upgrade.

The capabilities and performance that Skylake brings will provide that incentive to upgrade, according to Shlomit Weiss, Vice President of Intel’s Platform Engineering Group. Skylake is “a game changer, with capabilities and form factors that we couldn’t even imagine a few years ago.” Although teams from the US and India helped, the lion’s share of development on Skylake was done at Intel’s Haifa R&D lab.

Weiss spoke at a special event Sunday in Intel’s Petah Tikva offices, where Israeli journalists got a sneak peak at the new Intel technology two days before the official announcement Tuesday night California time. “The performance was great on paper, as the technology Intel produces always is,” said Weiss. “But when I saw the actual products with the Skylake technology, I realized that we had something unique.”

Skylake consists of a slew of technologies that will make the new platform a major factor in the computer and laptop market – and “mark a turning point in people’s relationship with computers,” Intel hopes. The new processor, the sixth generation of Intel Core processors, “more than doubles the performance, triples the battery life, and provides graphics that are thirty times better” than the last generation, said Weiss. In addition, the new platform dovetails nicely with Windows 10, the new Microsoft operating system. “We collaborated on some aspects of Windows 10 with Microsoft,” said Weiss. “There are parts of the system that are optimized to work with Skylake.”

Without question, Skylake’s biggest accomplishment is in battery life, enabling users to actively use their devices for as long as ten hours. It does this by radically reducing the energy use of devices. Thus, if an average five-year-old laptop operates at 40 or 45 watts (the amount of power its processor needs to operate at full capacity), Skylake enables similar devices to operate in single-digit wattage figures. At the event Sunday, for example, Skylake Design Manager Valentin Kaplan, showed off a laptop that was running a high-definition movie – even transmitting it wirelessly to a monitor – and running a graphics-heavy game at the same time. “All that activity on the device is using up just 3 watts of power,” said Kaplan. “On an average laptop currently in widespread use, this would have required 30 watts of power. Thus we have reduced power usage by 90%.”

Intel pulls off this trick by radically shifting responsibility for power management to the processor, instead of sharing it with the operating system, as has been done until now. The result is a super-fast processor that saves time and energy, said Intel VP Roni Friedman. In order to change power states (from fully engaged to partially engaged) the processor would check on processing activity with the operating system – a process that took up to 30 milliseconds in Sandy Bridge-equipped systems. By removing the operating system as a player in this process, Skylake cuts down the power state transfer process to one millisecond. Milliseconds may be very short, said Friedman, but “save enough of them and you can reduce power consumption significantly, allowing the battery to last much longer.”

More than just a better processor for laptops, Skylake is actually a family of processors designed for a wide variety of products – from small Internet-connected devices to tablets to notebooks to full-fledged desktop computers and workstations. In the coming months, Intel plans to deliver more than 48 processors in the 6th-Gen Intel Core processor family, and a variety of devices across a wide range of form factors will be available now and over the coming months from manufacturers around the world.

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