This week, Intel announced CEO Bob Swan will be replaced by VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger. Facing stronger competitive challenges, Intel has struggled. Recently, the company has come under pressure by activist investors to make significant changes. Wednesday brought one such change. Gelsinger is no stranger to Intel.
Lenovo Group Ltd. is capitalizing on two booming markets, Chinese stocks and the global PC industry, to list in Shanghai. The company is the world's largest maker of personal computers and is well-known for acquiring IBM's ThinkPad unit and the Motorola Mobility smartphone business. The news that Lenovo would join the STAR Market, China's answer to the Nasdaq, boosted its Hong Kong-traded shares, which on Wednesday hit their highest level since 2015. A series of Chinese technology companies have recently listed in mainland China or in Hong Kong, amid heightened tensions with the U.S. Beijing has also encouraged companies to join the fledgling STAR Market, also known as the Science and Technology Innovation Board, by introducing more relaxed listing rules and other requirements compared with other Chinese markets. Lenovo and Megvii Technology Ltd., an artificial-intelligence startup specializing in facial recognition, will be among the first companies to make use of a structure known as a Chinese depositary receipt to raise funds.
The new ThinkPads are here, and they're packed with exciting new features. Fresh for the all-virtual CES 2021 exhibit, Lenovo has dropped four new models: the 9th gen X1 Carbon, the 6th gen X1 Yoga, and the brand new X1 Titanium Yoga and X1 Detachable. We're especially curious about the X1 Detachable, which is basically Lenovo's version of the Microsoft Surface Book 3--a laptop with a completely detachable screen that turns into a tablet. Unlike a tablet with a keyboard folio, the Surface Book 3 feels like a classic clamshell laptop when the display and keyboard are connected, and we expect the X1 Detachable will have a similar feel. The ThinkPad X12 Detachable could be a long-due rival for the Microsoft Surface Book 3. This is one of the most interesting releases of CES.
With tablets and full-size laptops as pervasive as they are, it can be easy to forget that -- for a few years there, at least -- netbooks were all the rage. And why wouldn't they be? What they lacked in pure power, they made up for with portability and cost-effectiveness. It's no wonder some people get nostalgic over them; we just didn't expect them to be in a position to pitch new products at Lenovo. Enter the NEC Lavie Mini: a sort of modern take on the classic netbook that, with the right accessories, doubles as a Switch-style game console.
Have an idle laptop sitting on your desk on a kitchen counter? Lenovo has a novel idea: Turn it into an Amazon Echo Show, complete with Alexa. Slated to debut on various Lenovo Yoga and IdeaPad laptops later this year, Lenovo's Show Mode brings the Echo Show interface to a Lenovo PC, complete with support for voice commands and smart home control. With Show Mode enabled, a Lenovo laptop or desktop system would essentially act as an Echo Show smart display. Just as with a standard Echo Show, you could ask Alexa questions, command her to turn your lights on and off, get weather reports, play music, read your schedule, or make calls to other Echo speakers.
In a sign of the profound changes being wrought in computing by artificial intelligence, Toronto-based AI chip startup Tenstorrent on Wednesday announced it has hired legendary chip designer Jim Keller to be its chief technology officer. Keller most recently served at Intel and before that re-invented the microprocessor architecture at Advanced Micro Devices. Keller said in prepared remarks, "Software 2.0 is the largest opportunity for computing innovation in a long time. Victory requires a comprehensive re-thinking of compute and low level software." Added Keller, "Tenstorrent has made impressive progress, and with the most promising architecture out there, we are poised to become a next gen computing giant."
The year 2020 will be remembered for a lot of things, among them a global pandemic, social justice and a historic election. These grabbed center stage because they have huge societal implications. Another big trend in 2020 has been the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). Historically, AI has been used by scientific institutions, big pharma, oil and gas and other data-heavy industries. Today, all businesses are data-heavy, and AI is being infused into everything and is being made available everywhere.
So far, we've been nothing but impressed with NVIDIA's RTX 3000 video cards: The RTX 3080 offers a tremendous amount of performance for anyone willing to shell out $699 for a video card, while the 3070 is more practical at $499 but still offers plenty of power. Earlier this month, it unveiled the $399 RTX 3060 Ti, the cheapest entry in its new lineup. Given just how successful NVIDIA's new Ampere architecture has been, I expected the 3060 Ti to be a solid improvement over its predecessor, the RTX 2060 Super. Despite costing just $399, the RTX 3060 Ti is even faster than the RTX 2080 Super, which launched at $700 last year. For most gamers, it'll be more than enough to play modern titles in 1080p and 1440p, and it should keep them satisfied for years to come.
The world's largest semiconductor companies face a growing competitive threat: their biggest customers making their own chips tailored to the supercharged areas of cloud-computing and artificial intelligence. Chip making has long been ruled by big manufacturers and design houses such as Intel Corp., Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and graphics-chip maker Nvidia Corp. Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Google are getting into the game in the hunt for improved performance and lower costs, shifting the balance of power in the industry and pushing traditional chip makers to respond by building more specialized chips for major customers. Amazon this month unveiled a new chip that, it says, promises to speed up how algorithms that use artificial intelligence learn from data. The company has already designed other processors for its cloud-computing arm, called Amazon Web Services, including the brains of computers known as central processing units. The pandemic has accelerated the rise of cloud-computing as companies broadly have embraced the kind of digital tools using those remote servers.
We've come to hold Apple devices to a high standard. They have a track record of performance, quality materials, and seamless integration (if only with each other). The HomePod Mini is exactly what we expected: Apple quality and Apple's proprietary ecosystem. It feels heavy in the hand, the power cord is thick and has a sturdy connection to the Mini's base, and the lights on top are beautiful, swirling colors like you'll see when you summon Siri on and iOS device. But how does it stack up to comparable smart speakers?