Intel unveils Project Athena: Chipzilla tells lappy makers how to build their own kit

OEMs toe the line for that sweet, sweet marketing moolah

This week at Computex in Taiwan, Chipzilla finally shared the specific details about Project Athena – its valiant attempt to tell PC makers how to do their job.

This “innovation program” [PDF] focuses on laptop design and choice of components, but not the components made by Intel. Instead, it aims to create specifications for the bits of a system that impact battery life, startup time, compatibility with modern machine learning systems and cyber security.

By doing this, the chip maker is no doubt hoping to breathe new life into the expensive “ultrabook” device category, which would translate into shifting larger numbers of expensive chips.

The existence of Project Athena was officially confirmed in January at CES, and Intel said the qualifying laptops would mostly be based on Ice Lake, its perpetually-delayed, low power 10nm processor family.

Before sharing any details, Chipzilla announced that laptops certified with the program would appear in the second half of the year across both Windows and Chrome devices – even though the two architectures couldn’t be more different.

This, and the deluge of buzzwords like 5G and artificial intelligence firmly established Athena as yet another marketing exercise - although one with participation from Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, HP, Samsung, Quanta and other businesses whose bottom line depends on PC sales.

Even the video produced for the occasion featured somebody playing Anthem (the video game) with a wireless PlayStation 3 controller on PC – something that’s not technically possible.

As part of Athena, Intel promised an annual review outlining platform requirements, benchmarking targets defined by real-world usage models, co-engineering support, and certification.

Intel also outlined some of the hoops vendors would need to jump through to get certified with Athena.

The 1.0 target specification is based around KEIs, or “key experience indicators”. These (obviously) include having a Core i5 or i7 processor, at least 8GB of RAM and more than 256GB of SSD storage.

Teacher despairs at pupil's poor arithmetic

Intel CPU shortages + consumer stock bottleneck = no computer sales growth in EMEA for 2019


They also include a “consistent responsiveness on battery” – i.e. the laptop doesn’t care if it’s plugged in. In practical terms that mean at least 16 hours of battery life in local video playback mode and at least nine hours under real-world performance conditions, and system wake from sleep in less than a second.

It will come as no surprise that most of the platform-level requirements mandated for Athena are simply 10th-gen Core CPU features – like integrated Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6 support.

The first laptops to support Athena are Acer Swift 5, Dell XPS 13, HP Envy 13 and Lenovo Yoga S940.

The entire project reminds us of the cringeworthy “PC Does Whaaat?” advertising campaign that Intel cooked up with Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo and HPE back in 2015, as it was trying to convince the market that old laptops are no longer fit for purpose. It wasn’t received well. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • AMD claims its GPUs beat Nvidia on performance per dollar
    * Terms, conditions, hardware specs and software may vary – a lot

    As a slowdown in PC sales brings down prices for graphics cards, AMD is hoping to win over the market's remaining buyers with a bold, new claim that its latest Radeon cards provide better performance for the dollar than Nvidia's most recent GeForce cards.

    In an image tweeted Monday by AMD's top gaming executive, the chip designer claims its lineup of Radeon RX 6000 cards provide better performance per dollar than competing ones from Nvidia, with all but two of the ten cards listed offering advantages in the double-digit percentages. AMD also claims to provide better performance for the power required by each card in all but two of the cards.

    Continue reading
  • Google opens the pod doors on Bay View campus
    A futuristic design won't make people want to come back – just ask Apple

    After nearly a decade of planning and five years of construction, Google is cutting the ribbon on its Bay View campus, the first that Google itself designed.

    The Bay View campus in Mountain View – slated to open this week – consists of two office buildings (one of which, Charleston East, is still under construction), 20 acres of open space, a 1,000-person event center and 240 short-term accommodations for Google employees. The search giant said the buildings at Bay View total 1.1 million square feet. For reference, that's less than half the size of Apple's spaceship. 

    The roofs on the two main buildings, which look like pavilions roofed in sails, were designed that way for a purpose: They're a network of 90,000 scale-like solar panels nicknamed "dragonscales" for their layout and shimmer. By scaling the tiles, Google said the design minimises damage from wind, rain and snow, and the sloped pavilion-like roof improves solar capture by adding additional curves in the roof. 

    Continue reading
  • Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module
    Anything that uses proximity-based BLE is vulnerable, claim researchers

    Tesla Model 3 and Y owners, beware: the passive entry feature on your vehicle could potentially be hoodwinked by a relay attack, leading to the theft of the flash motor.

    Discovered and demonstrated by researchers at NCC Group, the technique involves relaying the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals from a smartphone that has been paired with a Tesla back to the vehicle. Far from simply unlocking the door, this hack lets a miscreant start the car and drive away, too.

    Essentially, what happens is this: the paired smartphone should be physically close by the Tesla to unlock it. NCC's technique involves one gadget near the paired phone, and another gadget near the car. The phone-side gadget relays signals from the phone to the car-side gadget, which forwards them to the vehicle to unlock and start it. This shouldn't normally happen because the phone and car are so far apart. The car has a defense mechanism – based on measuring transmission latency to detect that a paired device is too far away – that ideally prevents relayed signals from working, though this can be defeated by simply cutting the latency of the relay process.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022