Some huge news today. Intel has started to notify its ecosystem saying that it will stop direct investment in the Next Unit of Compute (NUC) business. For the handful of STH readers who are unaware, Intel not only makes chips but they also make systems. Earlier this year, we covered that Intel was exiting the server business and selling it to MiTAC. Now its line of PCs is being sunset as well.
Intel Exiting the PC Business as It Stops Investment in the Intel NUC
Intel NUCs are awesome. These mini PCs have really defined a space serving as everything from desktops to portable VMware/ Ubuntu/ and other enterprise software cluster nodes, to even being the backbone of Enterprise Restaurant Compute with Kubernetes at Chick-fil-A. The small size, and to be very frank, Intel’s support of the platform has made them very popular. There is a gap between the support experience with an Intel NUC and many of the mini PC vendors that exist today.
Over the years, the Intel NUC line has expanded to much larger form factors, even encompassing Intel Xeon CPUs in chassis large enough to have GPUs as well. If anything the NUC line has grown over the years from small boxes to all kinds of form factors.
That has led to a strange market dynamic. As it was doing in the server business, Intel was in a position to compete with its major OEM customers. That brings us to the key question: does Intel add value by competing on motherboard and chassis design, rather than chip design? For the past few years as the mini PC space has flourished perhaps the answer has been no.
We had an initial heads-up, then heard from a second source this morning that Intel sent a note to its partners today saying:
“Intel has decided to stop direct investment in the Next Unit of Compute (NUC) product line…” (Source: Intel e-mail to partners)
Instead, it is going to rely on industry partners to continue innovating in the NUC ecosystem. Companies like ASRock are already making their own NUC-size motherboards. We review many of these on the STH YouTube channel. You can subscribe to the channel here.
Its e-mail to partners also said it expects to enable its partners on growing the NUC ecosystem.
We have done many NUC reviews since they make such great edge compute platforms. They are great, albeit the newer ones feel too small as thermal requirements increase and fans get louder. Despite the fact that I personally think they are great systems, this is one that has always made little sense to me. We have a series of 1L PCs from Lenovo, HP, and Dell called “Project TinyMiniMicro“. Those systems have the support of large OEMs that can do on-site service. It has just felt like Intel competing with OEMs on sheet metal, PCB, and so forth was not the winning solution, but I had resigned myself to being wrong on this front until today.
Farewell to the amazing line of Intel NUCs! As Intel focuses on streamlining its business, it seems like those parts of the organization that are not core to making and selling chips are being slowly sunset or sold off. With the Intel Data Center Solutions Group’s sale to MiTAC earlier this year, the company signaled it was changing its position with regard to competing with OEM customers. Now using a similar logic, it seems as though the NUCs are following that path.
We have reached out to Intel on this one for official confirmation, but the e-mail is out to partners and looks very clear. We will update this piece with Intel’s official statement when it arrives.
Update 70 minutes after this piece went live. Intel just sent us the official confirmation:
We have decided to stop direct investment in the Next Unit of Compute (NUC) Business and pivot our strategy to enable our ecosystem partners to continue NUC innovation and growth. This decision will not impact the remainder of Intel’s Client Computing Group (CCG) or Network and Edge Computing (NEX) businesses. Furthermore, we are working with our partners and customers to ensure a smooth transition and fulfillment of all our current commitments – including ongoing support for NUC products currently in market. (Source: Intel)