Intel has disclosed today that it will halt further development of its small form factor Next Unit of Compute (NUC) PCs. The tech giant expects its partners to take over and keep serving markets served by its NUC systems as it focuses on much more profitable chips businesses. 

"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," a statement by Intel reads. "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."

Intel entered PC business with its ultra-compact NUC desktops in 2013, around the time it exited motherboards market. Initially, the company only targeted SOHO market with its NUC barebones and PCs, but eventually it greatly expanded its NUC range with systems aimed at corporate users that need things like remote management and appropriate support, and even gaming machines. 

Intel's NUC systems have garnered considerable popularity over the years, going toe-to-toe with similar offerings from established PC brands. While small form factor existed before the NUC (and will exist after), Intel's efforts to invigorate the space with its NUC designs were by and large successful, and a lot of the public experimentation we've seen done in the space over the last several years has come from Intel.

Nevertheless, Intel's OEM partners/rivals haven't been standing still during this time, and Intel has fallen behind in some areas. None of Intel's NUCs ever moved to being powered via USB Type-C (something ASUS already does), and Intel's more recent enthusiast NUCs have struggled to differentiate themselves from the competition. Overall, maintaining a wide variety of desktops and laptop platforms has been somewhat taxing (if not distracting) for Intel, whose primary focus lies in the semiconductor industry, rather than finished devices.

While Intel isn't citing any specific reasons in their decision to wrap up development of new NUC PCs, given the contracting PC market and the intense rivalry therein, we wouldn't be surprised if Intel was being rocked by the same market forces that have been putting a squeeze on other PC OEMs. Intel has already reduced its focus on NUCs in the recent years, never offering Performance versions of its 12th and 13th Generation NUCs – and we cannot say that that those machines were missed by the audience. Meanwhile, Intel's enthusiast-grade Extreme NUCs have evolved to be more like fully-fledged desktops rather than compact systems, getting farther and farther away from the NUC's tiny roots. And while the add-in card form-factor used by the NUC Extreme lineup has always looked promising, it is unclear whether they have even been a success for Intel.

Ultimately, as Intel has continued to shed and shutter non-core businesses, it is not entirely unexpected that Intel is axing its NUC program. In its place, the company is urging its OEM/ODM partners – whose bread and butter is designing and selling complete systems – to continue producing and innovating on compact machines for the small office/home office market, business clientele, and gamers. This leaves Intel free to refocus on the highly lucrative chip manufacturing business, as CEO Pat Gelsinger has made a priority over the past couple of years.

Intel's NUC will not be the first business divested by Intel in the recent years. To focus on development on leading-edge CPUs, GPUs, and other lucrative products, Intel left the NAND memory and SSD businesses, axed Optane SSDs, ceased development of notebook models, and even sold its prebuilt server business to MiTAC.

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  • Kevin G - Tuesday, July 11, 2023 - link

    The oddity is that the NUC line wasn't for just consumers as many designs were rebranded by various other companies and sold as appliances. This will have some ramifications there as those companies will have to migrate to another provider. For customers this will sting too as for various reasons they did prefer the NUCs over other options from Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus, Zotac etc.
  • ballsystemlord - Tuesday, July 11, 2023 - link

    Could you go more into detail?
    I never saw any appliances based on NUCs.
  • Kevin G - Wednesday, July 12, 2023 - link

    First off is that the NUC was the premier platform for Intel's Unite wireless display platform. Other companies like Dell, HP and Lenovo were also offering prebuilt systems for this a few years ago.

    An a competitor to Intel's Unite wireless display platform, Oblong's Mezzanine used NUC hardware as the basis for several models. In particular were the Hades Canyon rebranded models that could drive six displays. That skull on the case seemed really out of place where that appliance was being sold.

    Kramer Electronics has their own Intel Unite competitor for wireless display and conference sharing. Not only did they use Intel's NUC hardware, their software is eerily like Intel's own enough that I think a licensing deal involving both hardware and software exist here.

    There were several MS Teams Room/Zoom Room appliances based on various NUC models. They lost favor for a bit as they didn't include native HDMI input cards, though the most recent lineup of models added one to reclaim some market share in this area but didn't catch on in time. Much like Oblong, various units with skulls were placed into conference rooms. Intel had a lot of competition here from the major OEMs like Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus etc. Also worrying for Intel is that neither MS or Zoom are offering fully support yet for Alder/Raptor Lake putting these systems on 10th or 11th gen processors.

    I recall a white boarding system built around the NUC platform a few years back. The NUC usage was eventually deprecated in favor of OPS form factor PCs that would slot into large commercial touch screen displays.

    I've seen various software based media players based off of NUC hardware. A few even came with PoE hats to run without a normal AC adapter.

    I know of a backend retail point of sale system based around NUCs with three shipped to each location. The management system is pretty slick running containers for the on-prem applications and local redundancy.
  • meacupla - Tuesday, July 11, 2023 - link

    NUC always felt like a pet project product.
    They were always designed weirdly, overly complex, and not in a way that made much sense.
  • nandnandnand - Tuesday, July 11, 2023 - link

    PUCK: Previous Unit of Computing (Killed)
  • aisuperlord - Thursday, July 13, 2023 - link

    You need to replace P with F (Former).
  • ballsystemlord - Tuesday, July 11, 2023 - link

    Given the power consumption of recent Intel products, I don't think they can continue using SFF for their CPUs and compete with AMD in performance.

    Also worth noting is that SFF systems are being developed on a much smaller scale, like the EOMA68 project. Which sadly never debuted, but is still being actively developed.
  • meacupla - Tuesday, July 11, 2023 - link

    Power consumption of desktop Intel is very high, but the P and H series can be used in SFF.
    Ryzen 7940HS is a 45W part and a popular choice for sff. Intel H series is also a 45W part, so I don't see how one can be used, but the other not.

    I think there is more to it than power consumption.
    My guess would be cost.
  • ballsystemlord - Wednesday, July 12, 2023 - link

    *...and compete ... in performance.* is what I wrote.
  • Foeketijn - Wednesday, July 12, 2023 - link

    He might be right. Alderlake NUCS are LOUD. Unsellable.

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