Farewell to Intel’s Next Unit of Computing: The Rise and Fall of NUCs

The NUC 13 Extreme compute module. Source: Intel
The NUC 13 Extreme compute module. Source: Intel

In a surprising move, Intel has announced its decision to step away from the Next Unit of Computing (NUC) business, marking the end of an era for the chipmaker’s beloved miniature PCs. This strategic pivot will see Intel shifting its focus towards enabling ecosystem partners to drive NUC innovation and growth, rather than investing directly in the development and production of NUCs.

While Intel clarified that this decision will not impact its Client Computing Group (CCG) or Network and Edge Computing (NEX) businesses, it does signify a significant shift in the company’s overall strategy. Intel will no longer introduce any NUC products that have not been officially launched, effectively halting any upcoming releases. However, customers can continue to order existing NUC products through Intel’s distribution network until September 1st, 2023, with an expected last shipment date of September 30, 2023.

The discontinuation of Intel’s NUCs comes on the heels of the recent sale of the server-grade systems division to Taiwanese factory giant MiTAC. This move indicates Intel’s intention to detach itself from system design activities and instead concentrate on the development and fabrication of chips, aligning with its core competencies.

Intel’s NUCs, first introduced in 2013, quickly gained popularity for their compact size and efficient utilization of low-wattage laptop-level silicon. Initially designed with a 4×4 inch chassis, expandable SODIMM slots, and storage options, NUCs evolved over the years to accommodate more powerful components, catering to gaming, edge computing, and IoT applications. The Raptor Canyon NUC, launched in November, boasted a high-performance 13th-Gen Core processor housed on a motherboard resembling a PCIe card, complete with external I/O connectors for additional expansions.

Despite their diminutive size, NUCs found diverse applications beyond personal computing. Chick-fil-A, for instance, utilized NUCs as edge nodes in its restaurants, while Scale Computing offered preloaded NUCs with their hyperconverged infrastructure platform, targeting power-constrained edge environments. These compact powerhouses became a favorite choice for low-power compute clusters and edge computing scenarios.

Intel assures its partners and customers that it is actively collaborating with them to ensure a seamless transition and fulfillment of all current commitments, including continued support for existing NUC products. However, the duration of ongoing support for recent NUC systems remains uncertain, leaving users to wonder about the future of their devices.

This move by Intel to exit the NUC market may not come as a complete surprise. Last year, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger announced a plan to reduce annual spending by $10 billion, leading industry observers to speculate about potential restructuring measures. With the declining demand for traditional PCs and Intel’s shipment of 10 million NUC units over a decade, it became apparent that changes were on the horizon.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of small-form-factor PCs from other manufacturers like Minisforum, Asus, MSI, HP, and Lenovo to fill the void left by Intel’s NUCs. These alternatives offer comparable compactness and performance, ensuring that users seeking compact computing solutions will still have ample choices.

As we bid farewell to Intel’s Next Unit of Computing, we recognize the impact and legacy these tiny powerhouses have left on the computing landscape. While Intel shifts its focus towards new horizons, the NUCs’ loyal devotees will undoubtedly cherish the memories of these small yet mighty PCs that revolutionized the way we think about compact computing.

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