Years ago, Intel broadened its power as one of the leading manufacturers of the PC industry to improve the quality of & # 39; world laptops with one word: "Ultrabook." Intel cast hundreds of millions of dollars in a marketing campaign for the latest laptops in the industry, but the publicity came with a condition: those laptops had to meet demanding standards for thinness, weight, responsiveness and battery life.
Faced with the great challenge of the then amazing MacBook Air, the PC industry signed a contract – and within a few years the quality of Windows hardware had changed for the better. Floppy plastic machines made way for metal, less lag became the norm and incredible machines such as the Dell XPS 13 and HP Specter x360 emerged from the fight.
Now Intel is again trying to take laptops to a higher level with a new program called Project Athena. But today we learn that Intel has forgotten to bring the most important part: a real brand.
As we discovered earlier this month, Project Athena will not become a meaningless marketing campaign. On the contrary, Intel has committed to losing one of the biggest lies that the PC industry has ever told laptop buyers: battery life.
Intel says Project Athena's laptops need 9 hours of real battery life and surf the web via WiFi, with their screen set to a brightness level (250 nits) that a user can actually have in the real world. This is important because today's laptop benchmarks are anything but – when a PC maker says your new machine gets 24 hours of battery life, they usually measure it by playing a video that barely places the processor on, with WiFi disabled, and low brightness off the screen to boot. Who uses such a & # 39; n laptop?
And today we learn that the battery life is just the beginning. Project Athena laptops must be woken up from sleep within one second, ready to browse the web within two seconds, and have the same response time to the battery they have when they are connected to the wall – plus are supplied with touch screen – screens, precision touchpads (trust us, it's a must), the latest Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and enough RAM (8 GB) and fast NVMe solid-state storage (256 GB) to provide the basis for most to address users.
And Intel does not leave these things to the manufacturers alone. It is going to test the shit of some of these things itself, particularly the battery life and response time, because Intel believes they are the basis for PCs that actually meet the needs of modern users.
In fact, Intel tells the world that it will deter manufacturers from cheating in many of the ways they cheat when they choke on one of the necessary parts of a computer. And Intel says it raises the bar every year, like with Ultrabook, to ensure that the "Key Experience Indicators" (see previous slide) of a good laptop experience are satisfied with every new machine.
I would be in awe if there were no blatant gaps compared to the successful Ultrabook campaign: there is no brand for the brand group that is aimed at the consumer. You will not really see it when you enter a store. It will not be on marketing material. There is no clear way to tell a little less PC-friendly friends and family that they really need to look for a Project Athena laptop to ensure that they get a good experience, rather than something else that can keep their eye on the best. Buy or Walmart or Amazon board.
And that means there is no clear incentive for manufacturers to actually log in, compete effectively to build new Project Athena machines and raise the bar for the entire industry. I suspect that OEM & # 39; s will only submit laptops that they already know will succeed – and I wonder if it will receive much approval. Manufacturers are keen to advertise that their laptop lasts 24 hours on the battery, and I can't see that it's easy to cut that number in half right away.
Intel says they are more likely to get access to technologies developed by Intel, such as the low power screens, but it's hard to imagine that Intel will suddenly hold such ideas with a smaller number of partners if it can benefit from that intellectual property.
Intel says this is only the first year for Project Athena, and it may later include a brand or a marketing campaign. For now it sounds like a good idea without teeth.