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Intel could announce new PC processors at its big developer conference in San Francisco this week and then pack up and go home. But the chip giant has taken to squeezing its hardware into new types of technology and thereby giving the itself a hip edge.

The company will show off a sleek wearable device resulting from its partnership with fashion company Opening Ceremony, featuring an exclusive carrier deal with AT&T to boot. Stephen Hawking and Michael Dell are slated to appear to mark the announcements, respectively, of a “connected wheelchair” and a Dell tablet containing advanced photographic capability. And Intel will bring out some prototypes of devices that use the Edison postage stamp-sized chip for wearables, including a 3D-printed piece of clothing, a spokesman said.

Altogether, these are the sorts of announcements that could give Intel a shot at capturing attention on a day when Apple is expected to announce new iPhones and a wearable device of its own.

“What you’ll see tomorrow and over the course of the next few days is a shift and broadening developer focus beyond the traditional PC and enterprise guys,” the spokesman told VentureBeat ahead of the show. “It’s makers, creators, and even designers.”

So while Intel wants to keep selling chips for servers and other IT gear destined for corporate data centers, and while the company will continue to push its chips into personal computers, the idea is to communicate that Intel can play an integral role in next-generation consumer devices.

Which, in turn, could give Intel a more positive spin as competing chipmakers find success in smartphones and other gadgets. Investors could walk away with the impression that Intel can enjoy growth cycles and more generally a certain buzz in the tech world in the future.

Android phones and tablets

Without a doubt, iOS devices will grab headlines today, but millions of people currently own Android devices, and that’s one area where Intel is targeting its mobile efforts.

A new reference design for tablets running the Android operating system will come out. The work, which will entail software development and better access to Google Mobile Services, should help tablet manufacturers get lots of their products onto the market more efficiently.

Intel will also announce that the Samsung Galaxy Alpha smartphone for Europe and other geographies will ship with Intel’s new XMM 7260 modem. That modem and the similar 7262 model can provide data rates as high as 300 Mbps, according to a statement.

And the new Dell Venue 8 7000 Series of Android tablets will pack new Intel technology called RealSense, Intel will say today. RealSense “creates a high-definition depth map to enable measurement, re-focus, and selective filters with a touch of a finger,” according to Intel’s statement. The tablets packing RealSense will become available later this year.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, liked the sound of the new feature:

RealSense Technology could give consumers a reason to buy a new tablet, and can certainly provide OEMs like Dell an Intel-based differentiator. The ability to scan in 3D images is cool and new, and I like how Intel has focused very closely on specific use cases and apps. It will be key for both Intel and their partners to effectively educate and market this capability or risk going unnoticed by consumers.

But Intel is going beyond traditional mobile devices.

Other gadgets

At this year’s Intel Developer Forum, Hawking is expected to be on hand when Intel rolls out a wheelchair that can connect to and stream data across the Internet. Thought up by a bunch of interns, the doodad could get people thinking about everyday things that historically haven’t been hooked up to the web but could be.

And Intel intends to pull out a wearable with flair, not some ugly and uncomfortable gadget. Dubbed My Intelligent Communication Accessory, the bracelet device could meet the standards of fashionistas who have stood on the sidelines of the connected bracelet phenomenon. Just don’t expect it to cost less than a FitBit.

In addition, Intel plans to inform developers about its platform for storing, processing, and analyzing data coming off of wearables, following its big investment in big-data startup Cloudera. Developers working with Intel-powered wearables will get to use the platform for free, the chip company will announce.

And finally, for those who were wondering if Intel would have any news for the PC crowd, the answer is yes. Developers will get to take a look at new 14-nanometer Intel core chips that will hit next year. That market, it turns out, still matters to Intel.

“The PC market seems to be breathing new life,” the spokesman said. “Turns out maybe it’s not dead after all.”


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