Why Intel Quitting Smartphones Matters For PC Gaming

And lo it came to pass on the 29th day of the fourth month (or thereabouts) in the year of some or other lord from antiquity 2016 that Intel did verily smite the Atom processor. Well, mostly. More specifically, what Intel has announced is effectively the end of its ambitions to get into smartphones. It has cancelled a number of future chips designed to achieve that end. You might very well wonder what this has to do with PC gaming. Immediately and directly, naff all. But in the longer term it could be critical and it involves the very meaning of PC gaming. Allow me to explain.

For the record, Intel has binned (and I’m not talking about selecting chips for superior speed) a couple of SoC or system-on-a-chip Atom-branded products that were destined to target the smartphone segment later this year, and also announced a change in company strategy. If you want codenames, Broxton and Willow Trail, for it is they.

Atom will live on for the time being as a chip for tablet PCs, but that’s about it. The big new plan for Intel is to focus on cloud computing and smart/connected devices. Web servers and internet fridges that automatically order milk, then?

Whatever else the move means, the whole phones thing is dead. This announcement isn’t a huge surprise. What is hard to understand is how Intel’s efforts to succeed in the smartphone market have been so poor for so long. Intel’s big competitive advantage has always been the process of chip manufacturing and that ought to have given it a real edge in mobile devices. But they blew it. Time and again.

Microsoft’s Hololens is allegedly Atom powered…

Of course, that observation doesn’t account for the notion that trying to get into smartphones may have been a bad idea from the get go. The per-chip money to be made from smartphones is tiny compared to server processors – small enough for it to be a dubious use of Intel’s cutting-edge chip factories even in the context of billions and billions of units.

Whatever the real reason, and you have to suspect that had Intel been more successful in the segment, they wouldn’t be bailing out, the fact is that Intel’s phone ambitions are toast and that raises the question of what, if anything, this means for PCs in general and, in turn, for PC gaming.

Arguably, much of the discussion here will be borderline philosophical and, at the very least, speculative. But Intel definitely not being in phones certainly will have an impact on the future trajectory of the PC, and if you game on a PC that will certainly matter. I can say that much definitively!

So, the first point is that the dream of the PC taking over as the default client computing solution for literally everything is dead. By PC I mean a computing device with hardware compatible with Intel’s x86 instruction set for processors and probably running Windows, which in tautological terms is really what it means to be a PC.

It’s never been quite clear how that would be achieved. But in rough terms one could imagine that if Intel did well in smartphones, those devices would eventually be powerful enough to replace desktops. In that scenario, the lump in your pocket might serve as both as a conventional smartphone type thing and also connect wirelessly to a big display on your desk or that future low-profile VR display.

Thus it would do all your personal computing. That vision may yet materialise, though technologies like cloud computing and thin clients that are little more than displays further cloud (ahem) that issue. But with this Intel news, if that future does come about, it won’t be what we might think of as a PC that delivers the data. It now looks much more likely to be something with an ARM chip and running Android. Like most smartphones today, in other words.

Of course, if that’s the default personal computing device, wither the PC as a general purpose personal computing device? Can the PC survive as a dedicated gaming platform? Can ARMdroid devices simply take over where the PC left off?

…but could the end of Intel’s phone ambitions mean the future of gaming is ARMdroid?

It’s at this point that the discussion really turns philosophical. Exactly what is it that makes the PC such a great gaming platform? Is it stuff like the mouse and keyboard input paradigm? Is it the relative openness of the PC, its end-user configurability in terms of setup and software? Is it the physical flexibility and configurability? Or is it all of that and more?

Obviously, one can plug a keyboard and mouse into an Android device? But how does ARMdroid compare for openness, flexbility and configurability?

On a related note, is PC gaming already on a path towards being more an intellectual construct – an attitude to games design and playing games – than a pastime wedded to a particular platform? And if so, what does it matter if the device that gave its name dies?

All of this is going to take a long time to shakeout. It’s almost certainly already happening. People are moving away from Windows PCs for casual computing and if nothing else that has to impact things like economies of scale for PC hardware which has long term implications for prices, product development and the broader diversity of the PC hardware ecosystem.

I have no idea what the end result of all this will be. If the PC as we know it does die, maybe the move to a new platform will reboot that intellectual construct of PC gaming very much for the better. In short, it could all be good or it could all be bad. But it will almost certainly be something important. And the end of Intel’s smartphone ambitions is likewise almost certainly a significant milestone along the way to that something.

But that’s what I think. What do you think?

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101 Comments

  1. TillEulenspiegel says:

    those devices would eventually be powerful enough to replace desktops

    This isn’t happening in the near future, except as a cute proof-of-concept that nobody will use. And even in the long term, you can’t technology yourself out of the laws of physics. Heat is a major limiting factor in any fanless device.

    Apple’s rapid progress with ARM has been really impressive, but it can’t continue at this rate. It will be a very very long time before you can run a high-end game from 2016 on an ultra low power CPU/GPU SoC.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Nothing prevents making an ARM desktop. And aren’t there ARM laptops already?

    • Radthor Dax says:

      Well actually, the entire span of human history revolves around us as a species “technologying” our way out of limitations imposed by the laws of physics.

      From simple clubs providing more force than a fist, to wheels allowing transport of heavy things over long distances,to automation machinery, to flight, to space travel, to literally every invention we have ever made. We’ve been using technology to push the bounds of what we can do further and further into the bounds of what we previously thought impossible.

      “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke
      “Every scientist is secretly Gandalf.” – RadthorDax

      • Dangerous beans says:

        The laws of thermodynamics aren’t going to go away. Processing systems will still produce heat, and larger cooling systems will still deal with it better.
        Efficiency may improve, but a bigger box will still offer more performance.

        • Don Reba says:

          Actually, the laws of thermodynamics don’t say anything about information processing having to produce heat.

          • jgthespy says:

            Have you figured out a way to process information without using any energy? A magical information processing machine that doesn’t use electricity or moving parts? That sounds amazing. I’d love to read about it.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            They do
            link to en.m.wikipedia.org
            Though we’re pretty far from these limits.

          • Don Reba says:

            jgthespy, I haven’t, but Edward Fredkin has.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            Ah, but isn’t reversible computing even more theoretical than quantum computing at this point?

          • Don Reba says:

            Well, we _were_ talking about theoretical limits.

          • jgthespy says:

            Err no he hasn’t, and tiny amounts of heat are still heat.

          • Don Reba says:

            Read the paper “Conservative Logic” by Ed Fredkin and Dommas Toffoli, if you really are interested. :)

          • BlueTemplar says:

            Thank, that looks interesting, I will!

          • jgthespy says:

            This paper is interesting but it doesn’t suggest that these mechanisms could process information without any heat. It would still produce negligible heat.

            I was reading about Michael Frank’s work last night and when he talks about building real circuits that produce nearly-zero heat, he says that it would require the circuit to be extremely isolated from the outside environment, so you’re still going to be producing a ton of heat running your pump or cooling system. The chip itself might not be producing a ton of heat, but you’re going to be making it somewhere and you’re going to have to bring that somewhere along with you any time you move your computer.

            I mean this is kinda the point of thermodynamics, right? You can’t process information without changing anything, you can’t change something without using energy, and you can’t use energy without creating entropy somewhere. That said, I’m a math guy so I don’t care about reality all that much. This paper is really cool and I’m going to go finish reading it now!

          • Jeremy Laird says:

            There is absolutely no reason to think heat is a major stumbling block in all this.

            Today’s smartphone CPUs are, at a guess, more computationally powerful than a pipping hot Pentium 4 that consumes orders of magnitude more energy in return for less computation. There’s still quite a bit of scope for massively more computing power using even conventional technologies, even if progress will be slower than it has been.

            Of course, just because it’s technically possible, doesn’t mean it will happen so the question is one of market demand.

            Part of the problem is that the basic rendering paradigm is hyper inefficient. The system renders each pixel in an essentially agnostic manner, regardless of which pixels you are actually looking at. Human vision, of course, only resolves high detail in a relatively tiny part of the field of view. A rendering approach that only did the heavy lifting for the pixels that map to high fidelity human vision would make everything a lot easier!

            One thing I am not sure about is how this ties in the the brain’s visual processing. Let’s say you pipe data direct to the visual cortex. Could you then emulate the mapping I just mentioned? Or would there be an opportunity for pumping in a world view that’s flat in terms of the level of detail – ie high detail everywhere. And would that blow our tiny minds? Imagine your entire field of view was as detailed as that of the fovea…

            But I digress.

          • Don Reba says:

            jgthespy, the paper is about “conservative” computations, which take zero energy; not a little, but none at all. It’s a bit surprising, but it is consistent with quantum mechanics. And it’s nice to meet another math guy.

          • Don Reba says:

            Jeremy Laird, Alex St. John once said that long ago, while he was at Microsoft, they already were experimenting with selective rendering based on eye tracking, and it was convincing already then.

          • jgthespy says:

            “We have shown that abstract systems having universal computing capabilities can be constructed from
            simple primitives which are invertible and conservative. By exhibiting and discussing a detailed classical mechanical
            model of such systems, we have given constructive evidence that it may be possible to design
            actual computing mechanisms that are better attuned with the resources offered by nature. Virtually
            nondissipative computing mechanisms are compatible with general physical principles.”

            It’s subtle but they only talk about completely non-dissipative circuits in the abstract case, not in the physical case. I haven’t found anyone suggesting that it’s possible to make a completely non-dissipative circuit in reality, and I haven’t seen anyone mention any way to create the local environment required by the chip without creating heat. Even if it were perfectly efficient, the larger system surrounding it would require an energy input to keep it working that way.

            And yeah the logic gates might be consistent with quantum mechanics, but totally non-dissipative systems are not. Michael Frank even suggests that one of the reasons perfect efficiency isn’t possible is because of quantum tunneling.

      • Universal Quitter says:

        Perhaps you are familiar with the concept of low-hanging fruit, the law of diminishing returns, and the old adage “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

        Besides, most of human history is a sad, depressing tale of people very slowly overcoming physical barriers, punctuated by a lot of false starts and unnecessary heartache. Taking a long view, it’s possible that the last few centuries are extreme outliers.

        And don’t take this as doom propheting. I certainly don’t know what the future holds. I just have an aversion to magical thinking and blind optimism.

    • Eyegore says:

      The idea that smartphones will replace a desktop is as silly as a solar panel replacing a nuclear fuel turbine generator. Both are completely dependant on a tech that died before most here were born. That same tech that powered a u-boat in 1941 powers your smartphone or windmill- and that tech hasn’t changed nor improved in the 80 years hence—but it sure got a hell of lot more expensive.

      Battery tech died decades ago. It has never gotten better nor will it ever. The battery in my car is no better today than it was in the car I drove at 15–45 years ago. Except of course to get more expensive.

      It’s like analog tech compared to digital. Do what you will to a vacumm tube—it’s still dead tech–and any musician can tell you—your replacing them every couple years no matter how much you pay.

      Smart phones aren’t just powered by ARM chips-they’re powered by criplled and disabled ARM chips–to squeeze a few extra minutes of life from that old dead tech known as a battery.

      Everybody that actually uses their smartphone can be found no further away from the nearest electrical outlet with a charger in hand–and until something comes along that replaces that battery all this talk is simply nonsense–and there’s nothing in sight coming along.

      • AngoraFish says:

        What is this? I don’t even…

      • BlueTemplar says:

        You have a curious definition of “died”.

        Battery technology has seen slow but steady progress, with new research papers coming out every other week promising potential breakthroughs (though only a few of them might see practical applications come to fruition).

        Yeah, there are power and energy density limits, for instance we’re unlikely to replace any but a tiny minority of combustion engines by battery-powered electrical drives, but these limits aren’t that problematic for most computing needs.

        • Eyegore says:

          I’ve been hearing that ever since they came out with the “5 year battery” for your car. Quess what? There was never a 5 year year battery. It was a gimmick—you can’t buy it today.

          It’s dead tech- has been and always will be. Talk of better chips is certainly funny when the current ARM chips are intentionally crippled to cope with the power issue—-you know, that very issue you think isn’t there.

  2. TheDandyGiraffe says:

    I very much like this idea of PC gaming as a certain attitude towards games design. Sure, there’s always a danger of people using it as an excuse for the whole PC-master-race poshness (PC gaming as a separate cultural field, etc.), but there’s no denying that many people already associate PC gaming with certain titles/names and cultural phenomenons (indie revival, the Early Access model, mod scene, etc.) rather than any specific, distinct features. I spend a lot of my time playing on a Macbook – I’m travelling a lot – but I still consider myself a PC gamer more than anything else. Sure, there’s no hardware flexibility, I don’t really use Windows (except for a few rare cases, Stardew Valley being among the most recent ones) and I can’t run many of the AAA titles, but I feel more like a specific kind of a PC gamer than some sort of a separate entity (or a hybrid gamer or whatever).

    Besides, if we no longer associate PC gaming with any specific technical features, it might push game criticism towards an even more open, philosophical and culturally sensitive approach. In other words, it seems like a good step for those interested in the game criticism as a branch of culture studies / cultural anthropology.

    • Adinimys says:

      I’m really happy to see other people seeing the situation the same way I do :D Seeing PC gaming as an open mind toward gaming and more choice in games/ways to play is way more interesting than seeing it as a never ending competition of big graphic cards and super resource intensives AAA titles (not that the second is bad in itself, it’s just way too reductive)
      I’m personally gaming on Linux and I think that it can only be good for PC gaming to free itself from it’s attachment to one OS only. (meaning => more choice for everyone => you get to choose what you prefer)

  3. Kuipo says:

    “By PC I mean a computing device with hardware compatible with Intel’s x86 instruction set for processors…” I think you could just leave it there. Mac’s run Intel chips as well and are interested in faster and more efficient chips from Intel as well.

    • pullthewires says:

      And the different flavours of linux and other OSes too. But while true, it is still fair to say Windows dominates the desktop market, especially when it comes to gaming.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      I think he should have said “desktops” instead of PC’s…

    • ElementalAlchemist says:

      I’m sure the Mac and Linux faithful will have conniptions, but as far as gaming goes they are pretty much a rounding error. If we take Steam’s hardware survey as broadly representative of “desktop” gaming, then Macs constitute just over 3.5%, and Linux doesn’t even manage to scrape to a single percentage point. So PC gaming is, for all intents and purposes, directly tied to Windows.

      Now this might change in the future, but seeing as the Windows 10 adoption is probably at its highest amongst gamers (it has overtaken Win 7 as the most popular gaming OS in Steam’s data at 38%, vs a global install base of around just 15%), it’s not going to change in the immediate future.

      • Adinimys says:

        You might be interested by this litle article : link to gamingonlinux.com

        Sure, it is true that PC gaming is currently tied to windows but a lot of reason are pushing me to think that Mac + Linux aren’t a rounding error.
        First the stats of the steam survey are probably flawed. There is a first issue with it in the fact that it’s never showing if you start in Big Picture mode meaning that it won’t appear on any vanilla SteamOS (which is really dumb from Valve but it seems that they need valve time to fix it…). Plus -and this may not be true as it’s not backed by data- a lot of Linux gamers (me included, having been playing on Linux for 2 years now) report that the survey seems to appears less frequently on Linux (but this might not be true so I admit it’s not the strongest argument ever but still…)

        Then you have to factor in the technological issues. Most of the time a game is difficult to port because the devs used Windows-specific technologies (DirectX, XNA, or any Windows-only library). But the non-Windows-specific libraries are most of the time (OpenGL and now probably Vulkan if Apple isn’t too dumb…) usable on Mac and Linux meaning that the game will run on the 3 OS. This leads me to think that to consider the proportion of non-Windows gaming you should in most of the cases consider both Mac and Linux at the same time meaning that the proportion is increased.

        Another issue with the steam survey is that it’s only considering the accounts and not the game played. There might be a huge proportion of the players who mostly restrict themselves to CS:GO/DoTa/someotherverypopular game. Thus it might increase the numbers without it being a relevant data in term of sales.
        If you were to take the data of Humble Bundle (it may be flawed by a demographic effect, bundle-buyers may not be totally representative of all gamers but neither is the steam survey for the reason exposed previously) you would see that the money generated by Linux+Mac accounts for 10-15% most of the time which is far from negligible.

        I’m not trying to argue that Linux+Mac gaming are super strong and are going to dominate Windows. It’s just that the current tendency (and we should all be happy with that because it means more choice for everybody) is showing that gaming can happen out of Windows (the majority of the top10 games in steam are playable on Linux…). I think that there is a reason for big names like Valve or Paradox to continuously support Linux (+ Mac) and a lot of other are slowly moving toward a broader support (during the last weeks I was playing Payday 2 and Alien : Isolation on Linux strictly).

        Pweh… this was a long one but I thought that it was needed to expose some facts that a lot of people seems unaware of.

        Good gaming everybody ! :D (on any OS ^^)

        • Adinimys says:

          Wow, posting on RPS for the first time I just remembered that there is no edit button so now that I notice mistakes in my writing… Well I hope it’s not too bad ^^

        • ElementalAlchemist says:

          Even if you use the far more flattering general desktop OS statistics, Mac is around 9.5%, and Linux is around 1.7%. It’s still a completely negligible market segment for the big boys, and is likely to remain so for the next half a decade at least. What happens in the wake of Windows 7 official support in 2020 will be interesting. Will that be a tipping point for migration to non-Windows platforms? I doubt it, but time will tell.

          Now for indie developers, it’s a different case. They need all the marketshare they can get, and Mac/Linux is an under-served segment that is generally worth the effort to tap (but even then not always, depending on who you speak to).

          As to Humble Bundles, of course Linux/Mac users are the most generous contributors. If you are familiar with Raw, they are literally the starving man in a desert given a cracker.

  4. liquidsoap89 says:

    I assume that explains the layoffs at Intel then?

    • Shuck says:

      That’s part of their move away from being PC-centric. Because PC sales have been way down.

      • Michael Anson says:

        Dominating the market isn’t being tautologically equivalent to the market, however. PC means Personal Computer, not Computer Running Windows, after all.

        • BlueTemplar says:

          Yeah, and smartphones are much more personal than desktops. Hardly anyone shares them.

    • whoelse says:

      Intel suffered a few set backs. X86 virtualization from VMware then also Microsoft slowed individual server sales, and public/hybrid clouds continued this. In the desktop space, windows vista/8 slowed desktop sales, while windows 10 is designed to run on existing hardware, not drive sales of new and better. Mobile and tablet seriously cut pc sales deep and this article is correct, ARMdroid is now going to be unrivaled in mobile in both android and in the smaller apple market. Intel never found a way to outperform Qualcomm’s expertise at the middle or top, or the Mediatek cheap clones eating the bottom end of the market, and with Samsung doing well and others entering the mobile SoC market, this is a smart move to refactor back to the core business and more adjacent businesses that have far more scope to grow. I feel bad for staff though, up to twelve thousand jobless!

  5. Ethaor says:

    Last I heard Intel was right in the middle of a whole restructuring which sole strategy is to detach the company from PC and focus on other markets. “Intel has been working to transform our company from a PC company to a company that powers the cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices” said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.

    Ever since that guy took the head of Intel 3 years ago he’s done everything he could to steer away from PC.

    Both Intel CEO and CFO stated and expects the PC market to plummet throughout 2016 and in the future.

  6. GenialityOfEvil says:

    So, is the fear that personal computers will all become sealed-case devices? I guess that might happen but I doubt it’d replace gaming rigs. If it became that severe then PC gaming hardware would simply become folded into the enterprise side of hardware manufacturing. I doubt workstations will be run off smartphones any time soon. Businesses don’t like having to replace entire systems when they need a bit more capacity.
    So, pre-built rigs might become a thing of the past but their numbers were dwindling anyway. I don’t see the hardware for custom rigs going anywhere.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      “Businesses don’t like having to replace entire systems when they need a bit more capacity.”

      I’m sure Intel (and the other majors) realise that and will make provisions for it. I agree with you that “rigs” will always exist, though.

      • Chillicothe says:

        Well, the issue is that the market could end up with us (even me and my mid-tier overclocked rig would be in this designation) as an outlier with none of the support from general desktop users as there would BE no great number general desktop users any more. That does hard stuff to what is for sale.

    • LacSlyer says:

      In my opinion, this whole concept of “replace your PC” is simply being marketed to older generations. The upcoming generation is technologically savvy enough to build their own PCs, among other things, and that’s why the PC market hasn’t started to die down even with the abundance of portable alternatives.

      Once they start marketing and developing for a generation that doesn’t need its hand held we may actually start seeing some real progress.

      • alphager says:

        You have contact to a whole different group of young persons than I have.

        I volunteer with adolescents and from my experience, the percentage of computer-savvy people is pretty much constant (low; just the geek crowd). Sure, all youngsters have smartphones and use facebook/snapchat/whatsapp/$whatever_cool_app_of_the_day, but that does *not* translate into general computer skills (many can’t differentiate between locally saved files, copies of those files in another local folder and cloud copies of said files) or even hardware knowledge.

      • Premium User Badge

        Oakreef says:

        “The upcoming generation is technologically savvy enough to build their own PCs”

        Maybe amongst your circle of friends. This is not *at all* true for young people in general.

    • Cinek says:

      People have been talking about sealed PCs ever since the first PCs appeared on the market.

      And yet nothing like that happens (even Macs allow quite significant degree of flexibility, nowhere near the custom-built machine, but still).

  7. Spuzzell says:

    I don’t think Intel abandoning Atom means that they are abandoning phones.

    The convergence into one portable computing device is happening already with Surface, and will take another step when the first Surface phone is released in 2017, running Windows 10.

    Atom was never ever going to scale into a genuine alternative to ARM in exisiting handsets, and was never designed to run full fat Windows on premium devices like the Surface line.

    Killing off Atom makes sense for Intel.. there’s no market it excels in now and it can’t scale to the future. Abandoning the clear and logical path of convergence into one device for personal computing doesn’t.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      I think you are massively overstating the importance of Surface.

      • Spuzzell says:

        I don’t think I am.

        The Surface line is an absolute dream for enterprise IT departments and has driven the development of competing products that have to be of a comparably high standard, which is in turn exploding demand for Windows on hybrid tablets.

        YOY growth for Windows tablets is 53.3%. That’s ridiculous, and is predicted to increase to 74.6% YOY by 2020 (International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker forecast)

        Microsoft pulled a Nexus with the Surface Pro 3, and the 4 is even better.

        Full fat Windows on beautifully designed tablets is deservedly going to take over the world, and if Microsoft can really shrink the concept down to a small form factor phone (with Continuum to output to a screen) as is widely rumored then there’s really no IT buyer in the world that won’t be tumescent…. and Intel will be providing the hardware.

        • Themadcow says:

          Microsoft is also banking on universal windows apps to provide a single format for developers to work with across all Windows devices. It might take a few years to get there, but the surface phone (or copycat devices) might well become the one size fits all device that controls the modern connected home.

        • Cinek says:

          Surface is a big thing in a corporate environments. It’s not a machine built for people visiting RPS, so I’m not surprised many think that it’s unimportant piece of hardware, but it’s far from it.

          • FriendlyFire says:

            Speaking as someone browsing RPS on a Surface Book right this instant, I find the opposite: the Surface is the ideal companion to our big and bulky desktop machines. It’s super thin and light, it remains powerful, it’s masterfully crafted and it has best in class touch and pen input to complement our mouse and keyboard antics for when you need something more playful/freeform.

            I personally use both at the same time to make diagrams and then type up accompanying text on my desktop.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        IMHO the Surface Pro 3 is a magnificent piece of hardware, even though the price still hurts for now.
        (Finally an “EeePC-like” that’s fast enough not to be aggravating!)

        Laptop/tablet hybrids like that will be ever more popular in the coming years.
        Hopefully we’ll see some good touchscreen games soon, rather than bad Android/iOS ports that aren’t even touchscreen-compatible.

        But they won’t be able to run the latest and greatest games, and Windows looks to be on it’s way out.
        So this is mostly offtopic for this thread anyway…

    • BlueTemplar says:

      I doubt they will make a Windows phone, considering how Microsoft wants to kill off Windows to get a part of the “apps cake” (and considering how it would have to run on Intel chips, and Intel is killing off Atom).
      And how many Win32 programs are adapted to run on small touchscreens anyway?
      In a few generations we’re likely to get back to a Surface (and eventually Pro) without Windows, only Tiles, like the first two Surfaces were.
      And hardly anyone (besides those using Steam) will care, as the software will have moved to Microsoft’s Tiled garden.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        It’s pretty clear that Microsoft is about to announce some kind of “Surface Phone” soon, actually.

        • BlueTemplar says:

          And you’ll be able to run software from all the way back to Windows 95 on it (plus DOS emulation)? I doubt it.

          • Spuzzell says:

            Yes, of course you will. It’ll simply be a complete PC, but in phone form.

  8. bfar says:

    “On a related note, is PC gaming already on a path towards being more an intellectual construct – an attitude to games design and playing games – than a pastime wedded to a particular platform”

    Nailed it in a sentence! But I’d argue it’s been that from the very start. It’s what sets it apart and is exactly why it so popular and enduring. Ironically its only the biggest publishers, who have the resources to understand their markets in depth, who seem to struggle to see it as anything more than another fairweather platform.

    • Leland Davis says:

      It’s not that the biggest publishers “don’t get” PC gaming, it’s that they’ve actively tried to end PC gaming on several occasions. EA stands out in particular, because it went on a buying spree in the 90’s, seemingly to eat up every cool developer I knew and either shut them down, or put them to work making XBOX games. Bungie did well enough with that, but a lot of devs didn’t.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        Did you mean Microsoft instead of EA? Also, the first Xbox was released in 2001.

    • silentdan says:

      Yeah, PC gaming has always been a primarily intellectual construct for me, too. There are two major things that keep the “PC” as my favourite platform: freedom of hardware (especially wrt input device — kb/m, gamepad, HOTAS, steering wheel, etc.) and freedom of vendor (Steam, GoG, itch.io, et al.) Mac and Linux gaming are just PC gaming with a little freedom of OS thrown in. Consoles are not PC gaming because of the gatekeepers (if MS says no, you will not be on XBox) and the hardware orthodoxy (gamepad only, 99% of the time, with identical hardware for all consoles of the same vendor and generation.)

      I’ve never really gone for the PC Master Race thing, at least not in the sense that I look down on console gamers. I don’t like it when bad console ports show up on PC, but that’s because I look down on bad ports, not consoles. I want an FoV setting that respect my choice to sit at a desk, instead of on a couch. I want reasonable options for input devices, and not an alert bubble telling me to go out and buy an XBox controller or I can’t play on PC. Considering the massive amount of work that goes into creating a AAA title, I don’t think some button mappings and an FoV slider is too much to ask.

      I think the openness of the PC platform fosters a more flexible, unpredictably exciting environment for games to flourish, providing fertile ground for everything from arthouse indie titles like Papers, Please to niche markets like flight simulators, to full-on Call of Duty releases with the attendant lowest-common-denominator marketing blitz. Consoles have a far narrower possibility space, precisely because they’re deliberately restricted in ways the PC is not. As long as I can keep the PC-style openness I’ve come to depend upon, I won’t be overly concerned with labels or ancillary tribal affiliations (read: fanboyism.)

  9. The Sombrero Kid says:

    PC means open hardware and open software, that is an end user can pick the hardware and the software that runs on that hardware.

  10. Insidious Mental Pollution says:

    This article seems to ignore the possibility for AMD to step in. I suspect a reduced PC market would still be enough to support them, especially if Intel vacated altogether. Unless I’m missing something.

  11. racccoon says:

    Cloud is such a bad idea it has no baring on the PC as it is.
    The PC is personal computer system developed to make our machine our personal computer and we have built in all these tools to help us do what we want to do with it. Its what makes a PC great!
    Shoving shit up in a cloud (massive server) does not achieve anything. Its basically just gives it a one space to be destroyed in! instead of the now, of individual PC’s of a billion + spaces plotted around the world, they can’t be all be tampered with, just played with slightly. PC users get warnings from the virus’s that have infected the few. Its what makes us tick.
    Everything in a cloud is just asking for trouble.
    I’ll use my PC the way it supposed to be used out of the cloud.
    Shit…. I think its going to be raining virus’s
    Think all this as bullshit Cloud(massive server) as like when we were first introduced to the plastic bank card. “Please take one it won’t cost you anything ever! we promise!”
    Yep we are loses & mugs!

    • LacSlyer says:

      While I’m not a fan of the Cloud technology for my personal use, you can’t deny it’s obvious benefits, especially to average users.

      From an IT professional’s standpoint, the Cloud is everything average users need to maintain their data across multiple devices with minimal input from both the admin and the user. While it being an online remote service makes it more vulnerable in some ways, the benefits far outweigh any issues that have arisen because of its vulnerability.

      To me, being anti-Cloud technology is similar to being anti-Steam, to put it simply. Because while the DRM, server overload, and technical issues of Steam can be annoying, they can’t even attempt to outweigh the benefit it provides.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        Both the “cloud” (back to the mainframes of the 80’s?) and the Steam monopsony are perhaps good things in the short term for the “average” user, but they are likely to be bad in the long term for everyone.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        Of course it is, seeing as Steam is basically “cloud – based”…

      • BlueTemplar says:

        link to forums.ashesofthesingularity.com


        Do you really mean to say that I can’t join the game my friend is playing at all? If so, that is totally insane. Why would you split the online community like that? Do you plan to release paid map packs and paid for armies or units, too?! Since those kinds of DLC are a great way of splitting the community further..

        The platforms provide the networking services these days. GOG has theirs. Steam has their own. Unless we wanted to build out an entire networking infrastructure for this, we can’t do it. Eventually we hope to actually do that but no time soon.

        The short answer, unless Valve/GOG create some sort of shared MP platform, that’s the way it is.

        Creating a lobby is easy. Creating a worldwide internet connection infrastructure is a different thing. Same thing happens on XBOX vs. PS4 games regularly too.

        Conclusion : “PC gaming” in terms of openness (in opposition to “console gaming”) is being killed off by SteamWorks.

        • BlueTemplar says:

          RPS quoting doesn’t seem to be working?
          First quote is by “Splitterbruch”, second by “Frogboy” aka Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock.

        • Cinek says:

          The sooner SteamWorks cancer dies, the better.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            I’d rather see a market with good competition and Steam with a more reasonable market share (be it “buying” or “selling” games).
            But I’m afraid that the multiplicative effect of the Internet doesn’t work that way, and we’ll only see it if/when Windows dies as well.

  12. skySoulsGeralt says:

    “Exactly what is it that makes the PC such a great gaming platform?”

    I have four reasons, all of which I’ve seen expressed by others on this site at various times:

    1. I can continue to play games when they get old. I can still play Deus Ex, but I have to find a working console and cartridge/cd/etc. if I want to play something like Silent Hill 2.

    2. I have much more choice over things like gamepads, controllers, joysticks, etc.

    3. The performance is as high as I am willing to pay for it or tweak for it. I don’t have to wait 5-10 years for a hardware upgrade if I don’t want to.

    4. Modding, when it’s available. I love using them and making them.

    The latter three are really a big “I like Customization.” I hope I can always build my own rig.

  13. geldonyetich says:

    Though I consider myself a PC gamer first and foremost, I regret that it’s hard to deny PC gaming is in decline.

    AAA games are a lot fewer and further between now than they were 20 years ago. Developers blame how easy it is for the end user to pirate them, meaning that peopke who do this for a living need to move on to less pirated platforms. The end user blames the developers for making nothing but boring derivative concepts and further annoying with DRM. They’re both right.

    Intel has stated the PC sales are plummeting, and it’s because smaller, cheaper devices are becoming more and more capable. Your average smart phone has a quad core processor in it, each core 10 times faster than a PC 20 years ago. (Approximating years here.) The only thing holding them back is the interface.

    I am honestly quite surprised at Intel’s cutbacks. A brand that was dominating CPU performance for so long, losing economically, is unthinkable. Inguinity is supposed to yield reward.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Is piracy really *that* much easier than before the access to the World Wide Web was widespread?
      link to google.fr

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      It is easy to deny. Profits are up, piracy has declined, there is a deluge of diverse quality games being released, the market is expected to grow 8-10% per year for a couple of years. Most cross-platform AAA games these days include the PC. Most hopeful indies struggle as always, but in absolute numbers more of them have struck big than ever before.

      If you want to see shaken confidence, look at console manufacturers.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Yeah and I mean the sheer amount of indies means there just isn’t room for all of them, and never will be. That’s really no different to the amount of people trying to make it as successful authors though and the vast majority never will.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        Yep. Hell, I daresay PC’s never been in this good a position: after years of envying consoles’ “close to the metal” software advantage, we’re finally getting a piece of that pie with DX12/Vulkan. On top of that, publishers finally are coming around to the fact that PC is sticking around and are releasing more of their games on the platform.

        Go back even just five years ago, would anyone ever think there’d be a Metal Gear Solid game on PC? Platinum games? How about Dark Souls considering PC gamers first class citizens instead of getting a shitty late port?

        • Faults says:

          I thought Intel were nixing Atom because they were focusing on Core M for small form factor devices? It makes sense to not split your product lines too much. Whereas Atom was pretty radically different from their desktop chips, Core M is more just a low-power variant. Being able to scale a production node to almost any number of different devices is A Good Thing™.

          • Faults says:

            EDIT: Sorry, this wasn’t meant to be a reply in this sub-thread. Oops.

    • Cinek says:

      Yea, yea, PC gaming in decline, I hear that BS all the time since the 90s, when I started playing on a PC.

      While in reality it only gets better and better every year.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      I wonder if it’s because they feel that they can work towards putting their main line of products in everything pretty soon. They already have Surface Pros running slightly cut down i5 and i7 processors. Given that very little is requiring frequent CPU performance boosts these days, their approach seems to be on making it more power efficient and probably smaller too. I wonder if they decided it wasn’t worth their time splitting their R&D and are focusing on their core range, even if they know it’s not at the stage yet where they can put it in phones etc.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        Well, the big budget games generally require very beefy graphic cards, you won’t see that in reasonably priced slim laptops any time soon.
        And a lot of people seem to hate how Surface’s fans have to blow at the maximum when playing a mildly demanding game (and how the CPU/GPU tends to be throttled, but these kinks will be worked out with time).

        But there are not only big budget games out there…

  14. manny says:

    The future of pc is pc as a service. Or should I say windows as a service, everything runs in the cloud. This will make things alot more affordable as internet becomes ubiquitous, and becomes free nationwide. (like Japan) Pay more money and get better graphics/more bandwidth. (Also much cheaper surveillance)
    This is also supported by nintendos new console being distributed computing. As well as next generation game engines being distributed as well. Pay more money get faster internet get better graphics. This will be embraced by devs as well as it will combat piracy. (constant internet authentification)

    Which means the future of pc gaming is linux, but probably not android as google is a bad os designer. Unless some new leader arrives, looks like a dark age for pc gaming.

    • Don Reba says:

      You can’t run many games in the cloud, because you need client-side prediction to hide latency.

    • Don Reba says:

      Oh, and it gets even worse with VR, which is even more sensitive to latency. With late latching, they compensate for rotation late in the rendering pipeline.

    • Cinek says:

      God forbid. It’s enough I have to struggle my way through most of the games being “as a service” instead of a product that it actually is. Last thing I need is doing the same for hardware and processing power.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    I think the future of the PC does indeed lie in the cloud. If that quantum computing ever takes off, and if internet speeds continue growing like they do now, the future is that all of our devices are simply terminals connected to a quantum computer.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Can’t break the speed of light. OnLive’s failure has shown us it’s not that easy to achieve.
      Also, we don’t even know if/when we’ll be able to build a general-purpose quantum computer that’s faster than what we have now.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        The speed of light is much faster than what we currently achieve however. The New York-Sidney jump is just 53 ms, and you can reasonably expect datacenters for such cloud gaming platforms to be a tad more distributed than that.

        What’s slowing us down right now is aging infrastructure coupled with many routes being awkward and requiring many turns and detours.

  16. ZombieFX says:

    Very little Information for so much talk.

    Intel doesn’t do phones anymore.
    Might focuses more on PC.

    There.

  17. LuNatic says:

    I think you’ve misinterpreted this Jeremy. With the release of Skylake, other formerly Atom based devices such as Surface tablets and Compute Sticks are switching to low end i3 processors. Chances are Intel phones will follow suit.

  18. Cinek says:

    Wow, so much time spent blurring terms that absolutely don’t need to be blurred. I feel like I just wasted few minutes of my life, reading this article.

  19. qrter says:

    Is this article making fun of some other heavily retweeted article on some tech site I don’t read..?

    Certainly feels like a chain is being yanked quite forcefully..

  20. Urthman says:

    To me, the definition of PC gaming is playing games on the same kind of machine that was used to create them.

    That’s always going to offer advantages in performance, flexibility, control and ownership of your gaming machine, and the ability to to participate in innovation.

  21. Cederic says:

    ARMdroid? Really? No.

  22. bill says:

    I think PCs may actually be in big trouble this time, although not immediately.

    While the “games consoles kill PCs” thing was focused only on gaming, it forgot that PCs were essentially ubiquitous in modern life. Only a small percentage were used for games, but when there were billions of them that was fine.

    The problem is that we may be heading towards a point where that is no longer true. The number of people, mainly young, who only access the internet by mobile device is increasing.
    That means an increasing number of homes without PCs, which means less people getting into PC gaming and culture.

    The question is what will happen in business, where PCs are still more efficient than mobile/touch devices. But if more and more businesses are running clod services then they’ll only need dumb terminal devices, and a chromebook / android device with a keyboard and mouse can access cloud services as well as a PC, and at a fraction of the cost.

    So where does that leave the traditional PC? And if the traditional PC does start to die out then does that mean there’ll no longer be enough profit to maintain the more niche gaming scene? Or will that scene simply transition to hardware based more on mobile devices and we’ll simply have another form of PC?
    Hard to say…

    • Don Reba says:

      How will the monetization strategies change as PC gamers increasingly become well-off types who buy hardware explicitly for gaming rather than for “doing homework.”