Intel: Wireless Docking, Charging And Displays Will Drive New Partner Opportunities

Intel shows off wireless docking and display solutions at this year's IDF that will be baked into upcoming Skylake systems by this time next year.

Intel is tackling the Holy Grail of IT headaches – the snake pit of cords that power and connect our PCs and gadgets.

Intel said it is set to release early next year a set of technologies that will drive completely wireless computing. The chip-maker said that by the end of 2015 millions of laptops, 2-and-1 devices and tablets will ship with wireless charging, docking and display technology.

The wire-free opportunities, Intel partners said, is huge. Channel partners said the cord-free movement has been hamstrung by a lack of standards, high prices and a kludge of wireless technology solutions that have been more cumbersome than the wired headaches they aimed to relieve. Intel channel partners said Intel has the reach and OEM clout to drive the wireless charge.

[Related: Intel Developer Forum: 10 Things The Channel Needs To Know ]

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"The vision of no wires resonates better in business than any other segment of the market," said Navin Shenoy, a vice president in Intel's PC client group. "There is a huge business upside with this technology. It's something businesses have been asking for. We think solutions providers will crack open a lot of new opportunities in the channel."

At its developer conference in San Francisco last week, Intel announced plans to add WiDi (wireless display), WiGig (wireless Ethernet) and Rezence (wireless charging) technologies to its road map for its upcoming Skylake microprocessor platform. The trio of technologies will be available ahead of Skylake's scheduled release, slated for the second half of 2015. The aim is to make docking stations, power cords and HDMI display cables extinct in the office.

"Intel has been playing an important role enabling storage, the data center and security solutions," said Jamie Shepard, regional and health systems senior vice president at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider and Intel channel partner. "Wireless is a big part of what we do. And Intel has been leading that path, staying on the forefront and helping us drive new IT revenue streams."

Shepard said that Skylake wireless docking and charging could give his client PC business a nice 15 percent boost in 2015. "Tablets, notebooks, you name it. Wire-free docking and charging is the kind of ease-of-use Intel upgrade that our customers have been waiting for."

A wireless display and port-replicating demo shown at IDF featured a Rubic's-Cube-sized device with only a power cord (see image above). The cube drove both the display, USB 3.0 ports and Ethernet connections on a nearby laptop. Shenoy said retrofitting wireless charging into the solution requires a mat to be fixed to the bottom of a desk.

Shenoy expects there to be more than 300 million WiDi- and WiGig-enabled PCs by the end of 2016. He said that WiGig connections will be integrated into Intel Core M and Core M vPro processors by the middle of next year, and that Intel was working with third-party Actiontec to create $40 WiDI adapters for HDMI display ports.

Cable management is a messy problem, said Douglas Grosfield, CEO of Xylotek Solutions, an Ontario-based solution provider and Intel and Lenovo partner. "There have been a number of companies that have tried to take a crack at solving the problem, but they have been too proprietary, too expensive and spotty when it comes to reliability," Grosfield said.

The $10,000 question, however, is whether or not businesses are willing to pay a premium for wireless docking and charging solutions.

"I absolutely believe companies will be willing to pay more to solve the cord clutter problem," Grosfield said. "But as soon as economies of scale and commoditization take hold, in about two years when Skylake has a big install base, customers are going to expect the technology to be integrated at no extra cost."

Security questions also remain, partners said. Wireless in the enterprise has always come with caveats. One Intel partner specializing in federal government and higher education, that asked not to be identified, said his customers were hesitant when it comes to wireless technology because of security concerns.

"Security is not an insignificant issue," Grosfield said. "The industry has heard a lot of wireless horror stories where a script kitty with a Pringle's can [is] sitting in parked car picking up keystrokes, intercepting wireless print jobs and emails."

Intel said it has made security its top priority with WiDi and related wireless technologies by encrypting connection streams. WiGig and Rezence is part of Intel's vPro platform, a set of features built into a PC's motherboard and other hardware that adds a layer of security, according to Intel.

"Wireless technology will not only drive new business for us," Grosfield said. "It will hopefully put out to pasture the No. 1 help-desk tickets that are resolved by telling end users to, 'Jiggle the cord and then see if it works.'"