Whilst desktop PC sales continue to slow as the popularity of laptops, convertibles and tablets rises, Intel believes that the growth of mini-PCs such as its Next Unit of Computing (NUC) platform will continue to work against any downward trend.
Incredibly strong growth
The vice president of Intel's PC Client Group, Lisa Graff told Ars Technica that sales of miniature PCs have shot up recently, from next to nothing to over a million units in just over a year. "When I came in there were a number of areas in desktop that were growing, kind of bucking the trend of some of what we're seeing in the PC business," said Graff. "And as we started to drill in, this was one of the areas—all-in-ones were clearly a growth area—but this mini-desktop, really, the growth has been incredibly strong."
An area Graff identified as a "green field" for Intel is the attraction of interest from people who want to use NUCs, and other small systems alike, as Steam Machine-style games consoles. The growing interest in that particular sector has at the same time enlarged Intel's grip in that market. However it must be noted that there are some AMD powered rivals on the way which may make good tiny gaming boxes, the recently launched Gigabyte BRIX Gaming barebones box for example.
The NUC systems are also purchased by consumers for use as home theatre PCs due to their low power consumption, quietness and small size. A guide has been provided by Intel to using the NUC as a home theatre PC using Mint.
Mainly business demand
However the biggest demand for the NUC systems comes from businesses wanting to update their old desktop PCs. Mini-PCs have advantages in size and price over all-in-one-PCs, which tend to sell better to consumers rather than businesses. Intel also tried to address the known factor of weaker performance in mini-PCs, it recently updated its NUC models to include its latest Haswell processors.
The NUC's major business competitor is probably Google's Chromebox, which runs the ChromeOS. Recent announcements of new Chromebox models from Asus and HP have been reported as the Google apps based ChromeOS appears to gain traction. Also, perhaps more significantly on the software side, Google has recently partnered with VMware to allow ChromeOS users to run essential Windows applications through their browsers. However Intel should accept the Chromebox competition as good news as all the latest versions of these rival mini-PCs have used Intel Inside.