Intel Corporation's Broadwell Has Impeccable Timing

After several delays, Intel's new chip could be in PCs just as tablet growth slows.

May 20, 2014 at 12:30PM

While it seems inevitable that tablets will overtake PCs as the primary computing device, that hasn't come true as fast as many have predicted. Though the heyday of the PC is long over, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) investors have something to look forward to as the company's new Broadwell processors ship later this year, just as tablet sales are slowing. This news could even improve if Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) decides to add the processors to a revamped MacBook Air.

What makes Broadwell so special?
Intel showed off its Broadwell chip back in September, but the processor has suffered a few setbacks since then. This week, though, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich guaranteed that Broadwell would be ready for the holiday season "... and not at the last second of holiday," he told Reuters.

Broadwell will be a significant jump forward for PCs because it's built on 14-nanometer tech, allowing the processors to use up to 30% less power than the current Intel Haswell chips while maintaining the same processing power. Haswell chips are currently built at the larger 22-nanometer size.

The combination of increased processing power and increased battery efficiency will help Broadwell differentiate itself from older PC chips.

Perfect timing
In a recent investor note, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty reduced her tablet sales projections, citing week demand and a lack of diversified products. Here's what she had to say:

We lower our 2014 tablet growth forecast to 12% from 26% on the back of increasing penetration rates and the lack of new, differentiated products. Although slower tablet growth should help PC demand, our global PC model remains largely unchanged at -5% in 2014 and 2015.

She's not the only one that feels this way. Earlier this month, Tom Mainelli, of IDC said, "The rise of large-screen phones and consumers who are holding on to their existing tablets for ever longer periods of time were both contributing factors to a weaker-than-anticipated quarter for tablets and 2-in-1s."

While PC shipments may not necessarily be on the rise, lower tablet demand could help boost PC sales this year and Broadwell could help make it happen.

New chip for a new device?
Aside from better power management and processing speed, Broadwell chips are also capable of running in fanless devices like tablets or even the rumored 12-inch fanless MacBook Air. While Apple obviously hasn't made any mention of a redesigned MacBook Air, there's been a lot of talk in the media about a new fanless Retina display Air that could debut before the end of the year. Broadwell could power such a device quite nicely, while still keeping with the Air's current 12-hour battery life -- or bump it up even higher.

Foolish thoughts
While the PC market is clearly in a long-term decline, the slight stabilization of the industry can definitely help Intel. The company gets 80% of its revenue from PC and server processors, and it's no secret the company's mobile revenue isn't doing so hot. In the first quarter of 2014, Intel's phone and tablet business posted a quarterly operating loss of $900 million.

While Intel investors can't stake the company's future on Broadwell, it's still a good thing that the chip is debuting at a time when tablet growth seem to be slowing and PCs sales are decreasing at a slower rate. If Intel can score its Broadwell processor into a new MacBook Air design or future MacBook Pros, it could be yet another small bright spot in its PC business.

Intel's next step 
Investors know that Intel can't bank on the PC market forever, but they many not realize that nearly every major tech company will soon need to embrace a new wave of mobile technology. While Intel is only at the beginning stages of making the change, there's one company that may be better poised to benefit from a future steeped in wearable technology. The Motley Fool's put together a free report on this wearable tech play, and you can access it now for free -- just click here.

Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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