Intel Tries to Fire Up High-End PC Demand With New Memory Chips

  • Chipmaker says new product will remove pain of slow loading
  • Optane package aimed at persuading gamers to upgrade their PCs

Intel Corp. is going back to its roots as a memory chipmaker in a bid to get consumers excited about high-end desktop computers.

The world’s largest chipmaker, whose processors power eight out of ten PCs sold worldwide -- and provide the bulk of Intel’s revenue -- is offering a new memory chip package it says will improve desktop performance in a way that consumers will notice and be willing to pay for.

Every day a typical consumer powers their PC on and off twice and uses 11 different programs, launching each one seven times. A machine equipped with Intel’s Optane memory package will perform those routine tasks much quicker than computers currently in use, Intel said. The new memory module is 14 times faster at loading a program from a standard hard drive. According to research provided by Intel, more than 70 percent of desktops still use spinning magnetic hard disks.

“It’s basically all about responsiveness,” said Gregory Bryant, an Intel vice president. “People are spending too much time waiting.”

For Intel, which was founded in the 1960s as a maker of memory chips, the push back into that business is part of Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich’s attempt to diversify the company’s revenue sources beyond processors for servers and PCs. While previous attempts to return to the market it exited in the 1990s haven’t been successful, this time Intel is bringing a new type of chip not offered by other manufacturers that it hopes will give it a sustainable edge.

Optane packages are based on Intel’s 3D Xpoint memory. They’ll function as a giant fast cache, storing files frequently used by the processor and allowing much quicker load times. The new offering doesn’t replace computer storage or main memory.

The memory chip only works with Intel processors. That may help the company rebuff an attempt by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. to claw back some of the market with a new range of processors it says rival Intel’s best.

It’s also aimed at one of the few areas of the PC market - which has been declining since it peaked in 2011 - that has remained strong: High-end gaming PCs will grow about 12 percent this year, according to a prediction provided by Intel. That growth will be driven by gamers’ willingness to fork out for the highest performing hardware.

Optane is available in two modules, a 16 gigabyte version for $44 and 32 gigabyte package for $77.

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