LAS VEGAS -- In one of his first major appearances since taking the helm of Intel (INTC), CEO Brian Krzanich asserted to the audience at the annual Consumer Electronics Show on Monday that his company will play a key role in the latest computing revolution.
His keynote speech at the show's opening comes as Intel has struggled to find its place in the emerging post-PC era. While the company has long dominated the market for PC processors, sales of PCs are shrinking as consumers are buying tablets and smartphones instead. Unfortunately for Intel, processors based on designs by rival ARM dominate those markets and Intel has largely failed to make inroads.
Picking up on some of the expected themes of this year's show, Krzanich demonstrated Intel technologies at work in wearable devices that included smartwatches, 3D cameras and printers and tablet computers. He also showed off some products outside of Intel's comfort zone, such as a pair of earphones that can track users' heart rates and a device that can monitor an infant's temperature and sleep state.
"We want to make everything smart," said Krzanich, who took over Intel last May.
Krzanich also showed off a new chip that Intel hopes will give it an entry into new technology markets. Dubbed Edison, the chip is about the size of the memory card for a digital camera and has built-in radios that would allow devices using it to connect to Wi-Fi networks or, via Bluetooth, to other gadgets.
Perhaps the most striking demonstration of Edison was the infant monitor. Krzanich and his colleagues showed how a half-dollar sized device placed in a baby's onesie could send a signal to a "smart" coffee cup that would make the cup light different colors, depending on the baby's mood. When the baby was hot or fussy, the cup would turn red. When it was calm, the cup would glow green.
Krzanich showed how the same technology could also automatically trigger a bottle warmer to begin heating up some milk as the baby woke up.
"With Edison, the opportunities, we believe, are endless," he said.
Intel doesn't appear to be developing Edison-based products on its own. Instead, it plans to follow its usual model of partnering with other companies, Krzanich said. The company is hoping to spur the development of other new products through a contest. It's offering $1.3 million in prizes for people who come up with compelling wearable product ideas based on its technology.
Krzanich also noted that Intel has designs on the gaming market. He brought onstage Gabe Newell, the co-founder of Valve, which runs the online game distribution service Steam. Newell touted the new Steam Machines, small game devices that will allow users to play PC games on their big-screen TVs. The gadgets, which will be available from a variety of vendors, all run on chips from either Intel or its rival AMD.
While Valve has drawn a lot of excitement for the new devices, they could face a tough reception from consumers, due to the steep price. They each cost at least $500 -- the same price as Microsoft's new Xbox One console -- and some cost well more than a thousand.
While wearable gadgets, which include smartwatches, fitness and health monitors and "smart" eyewear such as Google (GOOG) Glass, have been among the highlights at this year's CES, the market for such devices is still nascent and it's unclear how much demand they will generate.
But Intel is hoping to be a player in more than just wearables. Krzanich indicated that the company would make another big push to be a player in the tablet market.
He showed off several convertible devices that can switch between a traditional laptop computer and a tablet. He also demonstrated a tablet that can switch between running Windows and running Google's Android software at the touch of a button.
Such tablet-laptop hybrid devices have been hyped for the last two years at CES, but have done little to rejuvenate the flagging PC market. Meanwhile, with tablets running Android becoming ever more powerful and capable on their own -- and little demand in the market for Windows-based tablets -- it's unclear how much interest manufacturers will find for devices that can switch between the two systems.
Contact Troy Wolverton at 408-840-4285 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.mercurynews.com/troy-wolverton or Twitter.com/troywolv.