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Intel: End Of Core+ Brand Doesn’t Reflect Change In Optane Strategy

An Intel spokesperson tells CRN that the decision to discontinue the Core+ brand, which bundled eighth-generation Core CPUs with Optane memory, does not reflect a change in its overall strategy for the performance-boosting memory technology.

Intel has discontinued a line of processor bundles that combined eighth-generation Core CPUs with Optane memory, but the company said the decision does not signal a change in its overall strategy for the non-volatile memory technology.

The Intel Core i+ brand, which has also been referred to as Core+, was discontinued Monday "due to lack of market demand," according to a notice issued by Intel on the same day. The notice said the impacted product —the Core i7+8700, i5+8400 and i5+8500—can be ordered until Sept. 30 while supplies last.

[Related: Intel Reveals Long-Awaited Ice Lake 10nm CPUs At CES 2019]

In a statement to CRN, an Intel spokesperson said the decision "is intended to simplify Intel’s branding strategy as we have found that customers are better served with individually boxed products for Intel Optane memory and Intel Core processors."

But discontinuing the line of processor bundles should not be taken as a reflection of Intel's overall Optane strategy, according to the spokesperson.

"We still offer Intel Optane memory boxed products and continue to see momentum for this game- changing technology," the spokesperson said. "In no way does this direction represent a change in priority of the sales and marketing of Intel Optane memory and storage technology."

Intel declined to provide sales figures for Optane memory, but interim CEO Bob Swan said on an earnings call last summer that the semiconductor giant had shipped “over 1 million client Optane memory modules” during the second quarter in 2018. The company’s memory business grew 21 percent to $1.1 billion in the third quarter.

When the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company announced the bundles last April, it called Core+ an Intel Core platform extension that would promote the bundling of eighth-generation processors with the performance-boosting Optane memory module. Optane memory, which was introduced in 2017, is meant to complement DRAM and speed up the responsiveness of SATA-based storage drives.

Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based distributor, said the low demand for the Core+ bundles doesn't mean there has been low demand for Optane. Instead, he thinks the poor bundle sales were likely the result of customers seeking more flexibility with which processors they wanted to combine with Optane, which is compatible with seventh-generation Core processors and higher.

"It just turns out people weren’t interested in the two things being bundled together," he said.

Tibbils said it's also possible some customers decided to skip the bundle in anticipation of Intel's ninth-generation Core processors, which came out last fall.

While Core+ bundles saw higher interest with online retailers, they didn't pick up as well with systems builders because of the flexibility issue, Tibbils said.

"It's much easier with your processor choices and inventory management to keep those two things separate," he said.

Optane memory is based on the 3D XPoint nonvolatile memory technology that has been jointly developed by Intel and Micron Technology. After first revealing the partnership in 2015, the two companies announced last year that they would develop new versions of the technology separately in the future. On Monday, Micron announced that it was buying Intel's interest in IM Flash Technologies, the joint venture behind 3D XPoint development, for roughly $1.5 billion.

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