One of the bolder claims Intel made at the IDF in San Francisco is that the energy required for "meaningful computing" will approach zero by the year 2020. The chip giant didn't really delve into the details though, and sites like ExtremeTech are pretty sceptic about Intel's claim. Meaningful computing for instance is hard to define, and even if Intel manages to magically shrink the energy consumption of processors and SoCs to nearly immeasurable levels, there's still the issue that the cost of computing already accounts for less than half the total energy expenditure of a smartphone or other handheld device. The other half is consumed by touchscreens, radios, speakers, cameras, and other components.
Looks great, but ignores the fact that transistors don’t scale like they used to. Remember, the point of near-threshold voltage and the research into replacing silicon is intended to move the bar forward bit by bit, not to re-enable the classic Dennard scaling of the 1980s and 1990s. That era is gone, and nothing short of a miracle material that fulfills all the roles of silicon will ever bring it back.
Intel’s decision to present on the zero cost future of computing is disappointing because it flies in the face of everything the company has said in the past year and ignores the previously-acknowledged difficulty of scaling all the various components that go into a modern smartphone. The idea that 2020 will bring magical improvements or suddenly sweep neural interfaces to the forefront of technology is, in a word, folly.