Intel’s pay to unlock hardware performance idea may be a Pandora’s box

Intel’s new CEO, Pat Kissinger, recently said in an interview that he would launch a paid-to-unlock hardware performance service similar to Tesla. Since Tesla introduced features such as paid unlocked seat heating, 100-kilometer acceleration, and improved battery life, this gameplay has attracted the attention of large companies.

Intel's pay to unlock hardware performance idea may be a Pandora's box
Intel will push to pay to unlock hardware performance

Pay to unlock ad-free services and pay to unlock professional functions. In the software field, paying to open some new parts is not uncommon, but paying to unlock new functions is less common in the hardware market. Because, unlike software that can be updated online, hardware unlocking new parts requires related function modules built into the hardware itself; otherwise, it cannot be unlocked through an online update. Therefore, the premise of the realization of the hardware payment online update function is to configure the same functional modules on all hardware specifications so that the online update service can be provided when the user needs it. However, this will undoubtedly significantly increase the cost of hardware. Considering that the profitability of the hardware itself is not high, only a few companies with high hardware profits and a complete ecosystem have made similar attempts before Tesla.
However, since Tesla introduced features such as paid-to-unlock seat heating, 100-kilometer acceleration, and increased battery life, this gameplay has once again attracted the attention of large companies. For example, Nvidia has launched a paid upgrade service earlier, and corporate users are buying. After the relevant hardware, you can unlock some new hardware features by paying. After Nvidia took the lead, another semiconductor giant Intel, its newly appointed CEO Pat Kissinger, also said in an interview recently that it will find ways to increase revenue at the software level and launch a similar to Tesla. Pay to unlock hardware performance services. Oh, does this statement mean that you don’t plan to squeeze toothpaste in the future and switch to selling “DLC”?

Intel tests hardware pay-to-unlock feature.

For ordinary consumers, paying to unlock new features is not uncommon in some professional and commercial software. Still, in the field of processors, it seems that nothing similar has been heard. Intel has always provided similar services in the enterprise market. For example, enterprises can pay to unlock more functions of related professional software. However, it is only limited to the software level. And the performance and parts of the hardware are still set from the beginning. Intel’s processors are often divided into different models according to specifications in the consumer market. Users can only enjoy the corresponding performance and functions after purchasing the related model.
The Core processor is an example; one of the models on sale is divided into i5-12600K and i5-12600KF. The former is a version that supports overclocking and built-in nuclear display, while the latter supports overclocking but has no built-in atomic display. Versions, users can choose an arrangement to buy according to their own needs, and the price difference between the two also fluctuates around 10%. In addition, there are versions without English suffixes, such as i5-12400, which do not support overclocking but have a nuclear display. However, in consumer processors, the fact that the CPU supports certain functions does not mean that users can use it directly. It is also necessary to consider the support of the motherboard. For example, Intel previously enabled the overclocking function on the Z series motherboards. In short, if you buy an Intel processor that supports overclocking, but use a B series motherboard that does not support overclocking, then you also cannot enable overclocking. It’s also an enduring joke in PC forums.
If it is said that the processor supports paying to unlock the hardware function, the following scenario can not help but emerge in Xiaolei’s mind: After purchasing an Intel processor and installing it, turn on the computer, and several options will pop up: You can pay for the upgrade service, pay 200 yuan to unlock the overclocking function, pay 300 yuan to open the nuclear display function, and pay 500 yuan to unlock more computing cores. From this point of view, in the future, Intel’s processors will not need to be divided into K, KF, and F. One processor directly solves all user needs, and if you want any functions, you can add money to unlock it. Is this a good thing? For the average consumer, the advantage is that it saves the time to compare the prices and functions of different models. And the parts can be upgraded in the follow-up according to users’ needs, without the need to replace the CPU. However, the cost of the processor is directly linked to the volume of the water. And more cores and core displays now require larger wafers to accommodate, so there is no doubt that the unit price of the processor will be raised, which will virtually increase the hardware purchase cost. Moreover, the motherboard must also purchase a model that supports full functions to enjoy the upgrade service. The price difference between the Z series and the B series motherboard is slight.
Of course, the above is just Xiaolei’s speculation. Intel has no plans to pay to unlock hardware functions in the consumer market. Currently, it only intends to try it in the enterprise market, but it does not rule out the possibility of advancing to other markets, at least technically. Not a big deal.
It is reported that Software Defined Silicon (SDS) may appear as early as the Sapphire Rapids processor to be released in the first half of this year. The processor uses the same architecture as the 12th-generation Core processor but provides a version with 64 cores. Interestingly, the number of seats in the default version may only be 56, and the remaining cores may require users to choose whether to pay for unlocking according to their needs. Therefore, if it is applied to the consumer-level field in the future, it may not be a joke to unlock eight cores into 12 cores.

Pay to unlock more hardware features, good or bad?

From Tesla to Intel, paying to unlock hardware functions seems to be a trend. Although not many companies follow up, if the effect is significant, other companies will not miss this opportunity. For consumers, the hardware purchased with money is limited in some functions, and it takes extra money to unlock it, which will directly affect the experience.
Similar things have already happened in a market with a high degree of overlap with consumer electronics consumer groups. If you are an old player with more than ten years of experience in single-player games, you will find that the number of DLCs in AAA games has surged in recent years. , Many games put additional story sets and gameplay into DLC, and players need to pay for them to play.
So many old players have now ridiculed: most of the current games are semi-finished products, and after all, DLCs are counted. It is a complete game. Of course, DLC can be rapidly popularized in the game industry. The main reason is that the game itself belongs to software and can be updated by uploading and downloading. However, the hardware update is not convenient, and it also requires manufacturers to pay the hardware cost.
However, if a similar routine enters the consumer electronics market, what kind of experience will it bring? In the PC hardware market, perhaps similar things are not intuitive enough. What if the service that pays to unlock hardware functions is put into the mobile phone market? You may as well think about it. And you can pay to unlock and upgrade various mobile phone modules, such as paying to unlock the 4K resolution display if you care about the screen display effect, paying to unlock higher pixel options and additional camera algorithms, and even paying for the image performance. You can open a more robust performance mode online for those with high-performance requirements. In this way, is it possible to allow users to combine a mobile phone with personalized customization needs? Moreover, users who are not interested in other functions or have low requirements can ultimately save the cost of upgrading and do not need to buy high-end flagship mobile phones in pursuit of an exemplary screen as they are now.
Although the idea is excellent, it is tough to realize reality. Compared with the chip market, the price of most consumer electronics products is directly linked to their cost. Taking the mobile phone just mentioned as an example, the cost gap between a 1080P screen panel and a 2K screen panel may more than double, and the same situation exists for image modules.
Therefore, manufacturers have to use high-specification hardware on all mobile phones if they want to achieve an operation similar to Tesla. Even if large-scale procurement can reduce part of the cost, this part of the hardware cost will still be directly passed on to consumers (want to It is impossible for manufacturers to digest it internally). The result may be that the average unit price of mobile phones rises rapidly, and consumers pay extra for hardware that they do not need.
Although, the current mobile phone market is also paying extra premiums for functions that they cannot use to some extent. For example, users with high screen requirements have to pay high prices to buy flagship mobile phones. On the whole, maybe only 40% The cost is spent on the screen, such as image performance, etc., are features that are not needed but have to be purchased.
However, these functions are directly open to you to experience, so it is not a loss. You still enjoy the excellent all-around experience brought by the flagship mobile phone. Paying to unlock means you have to pay extra for hardware, but you have to pay additional to enjoy the experience improvement. The first ones to laugh at are mobile phone manufacturers and hardware manufacturers.
Therefore, at least in the consumer field, except for large-scale commodities such as cars that cost hundreds of thousands or hundreds of thousands, ordinary consumer electronics products do not have the soil and possibility to pay to unlock the hardware function for the time being. At the very least, modular phones may be more feasible for personalization.
In Xiaolei’s view, paying to unlock hardware functions is not a promising future for consumers. I don’t think any consumer wants to see that the hardware they bought for tens of thousands of dollars is a castrated product version. It costs extra money to get the whole experience. I hope Intel’s Software Defined Silicon doesn’t expand into the consumer space.

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