No more NUC: Intel’s weirdly named mini PCs seem to be going away

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A stack of Intel's NUC mini PCs.
Enlarge / A stack of Intel’s NUC mini PCs.

Andrew Cunningham

Since 2012, Intel has designed and sold its own lineup of mini PCs. The Next Unit of Computing series (NUC—rhymes with yuck—was always a weird name) was always most closely associated with Mac mini-like desktops, but over the years, it grew to encompass compact workstations and gaming systems as well as mini servers with multiple Ethernet ports.

But Intel is apparently throwing in the towel on the NUC, according to a statement given to The Verge earlier today.

Intel spokesperson Mark Walton said that Intel had “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 statement leaves some wiggle room—Intel could still work with partners to bring NUCs or NUC-like products to market—but it seems like the days of Intel designing its own desktop computers are over.

Walton also said that Intel planned to continue “ongoing support for NUC products currently in the market,” so it sounds like owners of current NUC systems should still be able to get driver and BIOS updates and warranty support for the foreseeable future.

The first NUC, based on a third-generation Intel Core chip using the Ivy Bridge architecture, came out as Intel was leaning hard into its then-new “ultrabook” initiative. A response to Apple’s MacBook Air, Intel gave PC companies part of a $300 million fund to develop new laptops that combined low-voltage (but relatively high-performance) processors, fast solid-state storage, and thin-and-light designs not weighed down by legacy parts like built-in DVD drives. Twelve years later, you still see the ultrabook designation tossed around a bit, but MacBook Air-style laptops have so thoroughly taken over the portable PC market that an “ultrabook” and a “normal laptop” are more or less indistinguishable in most cases.

The NUC was an effort to bring the speed, size, and low power usage of an ultrabook into the desktop realm, replacing boxy, ugly office desktops with something you could hold in the palm of your hand. NUC-style mini PCs didn’t take over the desktop market in the same way that ultrabooks came to dominate the laptop market, but the NUC is still survived by a large ecosystem of similarly tiny PCs, many of which are ultimately cheaper and easier to buy than most NUCs were. Models include but are not limited to Dell’s Optiplex Micro, Lenovo’s ThinkCentre Tiny, HP’s ProDesk and EliteDesk Mini systems, Gigabyte’s Brix systems, a number of models from PC  motherboard makers like Asus and ASRock, and Apple’s Mac mini and Mac Studio.

The end of the NUC is due at least in part to Intel’s recent financial struggles—the company has had a few rough quarters since the end of the pandemic-era PC boom, losing billions of dollars as its consumer, workstation, and server businesses all falter. The company has already instituted layoffs and cut executive pay in response, and it announced plans to sell its pre-built server business in April.

Although Intel is still investing in a few product lines that aren’t processors—the company has said it’s still committed to its nascent GPU business—CEO Pat Gelsinger is betting the company’s future on his “IDM 2.0” strategy, in which Intel offers its chip manufacturing facilities to third-party chip designers. This will put Intel in competition with the likes of Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC), Samsung, and GlobalFoundries.

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