Intel Prepares for Entry Into Mobile Processor Market

Andrew Froehlich, Network Engineer & IT Consultant | 1/13/2012 | 29 comments

Andrew Froehlich
Intel is finally ready to compete in the growing mobile computing market, which is dominated now by the UK firm ARM Ltd. The newest Atom CPU, "Medfield," is Intel's first mobile system-on-a-chip design. It greatly reduces energy consumption, which has been the major drawback for Intel chips in competing with ARM designs.

But getting phone manufacturers to consider using the Medfield chip is going to be a challenge for Intel. Most of the manufacturers are very comfortable licensing and using ARM-based CPUs.

The new 32-nanometer processor has one advantage over ARM's products. It is a bit more battery-hungry but more than makes up for it in processing power. This differentiation could be the key to Intel's success. The CPU could run apps that would choke ARM processors. Therefore, Intel will likely target the high-end market first, since these people likely require superior performance.

To mark its entry into the mobile processor market, Intel is showing off a smartphone and tablet at the CES in Las Vegas. Intel designed the devices in-house with the help of LG. And here's the kicker -- Intel is offering the designs for free to any manufacturer that wants to use them.

Free reference designs are not uncommon in the technology industry. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can use the reference design as a "proof of concept," and it reduces the time and money they need to design their own products. In Intel's case, it wants to get into this market while it has a competitive advantage over ARM, and OEMs can use as much or as little of the reference designs as they choose to build their own devices.

Intel hopes that OEMs will get on board, and that we'll see Medfield-based smartphones and tablets by the end of 2012.

The company is showing off a reference phone running Android 4.0. This is big news. Previous versions of Android did not support Intel-based processors. But Google announced in September that it would create x86-optimized versions of Android. This gives Intel an opening into the growing Android market.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the Medfield chips can run the Microsoft Windows 8 operating system. ARM processors can also run Windows 8, but the performance edge the Medfield processor holds is a major advantage and provides yet another avenue for Intel to creep into the tablet market.

It looks like 2012 will finally be the year we get a real choice of processors in our smartphones and tablets. About a year from now, we'll see if Intel's work in chip design, reference models, partnerships, and marketing has allowed it to make a dent in this market. But the steps Intel has already taken suggest it is off to a great start.

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nimanthad   Intel Prepares for Entry Into Mobile Processor Market   2/12/2012 11:49:14 AM
Re: The wheel that doesn't stop turning
Yes lets hope it will turn out well because in the end you and me will either face beneifts or issues out of it.
nasimson   Intel Prepares for Entry Into Mobile Processor Market   1/31/2012 6:46:17 PM
Re: faster processor with lower battery time? No way!
While the battery makers may have improved a lot, that still is not good enough. There might be some physical limits to the technology and thats understandable. But as a matter of fact, battery time is holding the consumers from doing more, its holding the entire industry to compe up with more power-hungry gadgets, ever-running apps in the background.

Its high time, a disruptive battery technology gets in.
David Wagner   Intel Prepares for Entry Into Mobile Processor Market   1/31/2012 6:10:24 PM
Re: faster processor with lower battery time? No way!
To be fair to battery makers, they have extended battery life for our devices, but at the same time we're asking more out of those devices. i got my first lap top in the early 90's. It had 2 hours of battery life. My current lap top has roughly 2 hours of battery life but is significantly more powerful. I suspect if I could take the battery from my current laptop and put it in my early 90's laptop, it would run all day long.

i think we need to give battery makers some props for haning in with chip makers.
nasimson   Intel Prepares for Entry Into Mobile Processor Market   1/31/2012 5:56:53 PM
faster processor with lower battery time? No way!
Touch screens, memory, processing power have made big strides. What has not caught up is battery. Its frustrating to see that smartphone battery lasts only half a day.

Now if Intel has a faster processor with lower battery time, its not going to fly IMHO. We mostly underutilize the processing power, but run out of battery time. So if Intel could have come up with a lower processing power but extended battery time, that would have a bigger chance of success. 
keveend   Intel Prepares for Entry Into Mobile Processor Market   1/27/2012 4:39:57 AM
Re: The wheel that doesn't stop turning
Well if all goes well finally we'll have another giant on the mobile processing market.
nimanthad   Intel Prepares for Entry Into Mobile Processor Market   1/20/2012 11:07:48 PM
Re: The wheel that doesn't stop turning
That is what I also feel. I always like to see the positiveness of something even if its dieing. Obviously Intel must have studied the market before entering and they will have better plans in coming out really well.
keveend   Intel Prepares for Entry Into Mobile Processor Market   1/19/2012 8:22:12 PM
Re: The wheel that doesn't stop turning
Well I guess there's only one way to find out. We'll have to wait and see whether people will dig their new processors. Even if they don't, I'm sure Intel will come up with something innovative in some other field.
nimanthad   Intel Prepares for Entry Into Mobile Processor Market   1/17/2012 11:06:42 PM
Re: The wheel that doesn't stop turning
Yes it needs some going but I'm pretty sure that is possible for a company like Intel because they have been in this kind of a situation more often than the others.
keveend   Intel Prepares for Entry Into Mobile Processor Market   1/17/2012 10:44:52 AM
Re: The wheel that doesn't stop turning
My point exactly.
keveend   Intel Prepares for Entry Into Mobile Processor Market   1/17/2012 10:42:32 AM
Re: The wheel that doesn't stop turning
Yes. I'm sure they will. Intel is like the Rolex of the computer processor market but that doesn't necessarily give them any upper hand in the mobile processor market. True, they have all the financial resources and all the employees they need but so does many other companies. And it'll take some work on their part if they even want to compete with other giants in that particular area of the market.
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