Intel is bowing out of making its own mini PCs. The chip designer has confirmed to Engadget that it's ending its "direct investment" in its Next Unit of Compute (NUC) business. Instead, the company will rethink its approach to help partners foster the NUC PC market. The firm will honor its existing commitments, including support for NUC systems already in customers' hands.
The company doesn't explain why it's ending production of first-party NUC machines. However, there's little doubt the company is reeling from a bleak computer market prompted by both a rough economy and the early pandemic surge in sales. Intel's revenue has plunged by more than a third in the past two quarters, and its PC-oriented Client Computing Group has been one of the worst-hit divisions. As ServeTheHome notes, a move like this lets Intel offload a non-essential business and focus on making chips. The company sold its server business to MiTAC earlier this year.
Intel launched the first NUC in 2013 as a tiny, barebones PC kit meant to showcase both the latest processors as well as the possibilities for compact desktops. Over time, they evolved into more complete systems with robust performance and, in some later incarnations, dedicated GPUs. You could use them at home, but they also had a following in business — they were useful for compute clusters and other situations where size and simplicity mattered.
The NUC faced a number of challenges, however. While some models were better-suited to gaming and other demanding tasks, it became a challenge to stuff increasingly power-hungry CPUs and GPUs into compact cases. Intel also faced increasingly stiff competition. In the home market, the Mac mini is arguably the best-known mini computer. At work, brands like Dell and Lenovo offer more flexible configurations and stronger support for the corporate crowd. Simply put, there's not as much reason for the NUC to exist as there was a decade ago.