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Intel gets aggressive with pricing, OS tuning, and looks ahead to die shrinks

"It's a question of whether you'd rather have a jet engine or two propellers," Intel Corp. (INTC) mobile chief Mike Bell tells CNN Money in a new interview.

I. Intel: We Have the Better Chips

Intel currently trails ARM Holdings Plc's (LON:ARM) coalition of chipmakers in the mobile chip market, with the ARM alliance owning over 95 percent of smartphone and tablet processor sales by volume.  At the 2013 Mobile World Congress, Intel is trying different strategies to lure buyers away from ARM.  It has scored some design wins with its new Lexington chip, the Intel Atom Z2420, which is popping up in Android tablets as cheap as $250 USD.

That aggressive pricing could help Intel.  At a 2013 Consumer Electronics Show press event, an Intel executive told us that his company is finding itself in a foreign position in which it has faster hardware, but is being rejected by some OEMs because of (alleged) backdoor dealings with ARM.

ARM
ARM owns 95+ percent of the mobile processor market. [Image Source: ARM/Facebook]

On paper one disadvantage that Intel's Atom smartphone processor carry is a lower core count.  While ARM chips like Qualcomm Inc.'s (QCOM) Snapdragon 600 or NVIDIA Corp.'s (NVDA) Tegra 4 typically have a quad-core layout, Intel's current smartphone chips are single-core.

And yet Intel still manages to beat many multi-core ARM chips in benchmarks due to its strong single-threaded performance, indicating that core-count may be a misleading metric.

II. Tuning the OS

Intel is also looking to get an inside track via working with operating system makers to fine-tune OS code for mobile x86 chips.  Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android is, of course, the biggest target.

Android statues
Intel is working with Google to optimize Android on Atom. [Image Source: AndroidModo]
 
"To be successful in this industry, simply building chips is insufficient.  We can write software that helps us get the most out of our hardware.  We have a great relationship with Google.  We can do as good a job optimizing our systems as anyone, and Google has never told us 'no' when we have said we'd like to improve performance somewhere," says Mr. Bell.

Intel is also co-developing a new Linux-kernel operating system called Tizen with Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930).  The Version 2.0 test build of Tizen was shown at MWC 2013 running on demo hardware.  Early builds appear unimpressive -- comments  PCMag's Alex Colon, "[Tizen] was also pretty slow. Now, this build of Tizen is only weeks old, but I experienced a lot of lag in pulling down that notifications menu, not to mention uncomfortably long load times for apps."

But Samsung may be eager to refine the new operating system as a means of ditching Google and keeping more mobile advertising revenue itself.  That could in turn boost Intel, the official Tizen hardware partner.

Intel is bringing its 22 nm mobile platform (core: Silvermont; SoC: ValleyView; chipset: Bay Trail) to bear later this year in the tablet space, with 22 nm smartphone chips likely shipping earlier next year.  Intel's 32 nm smartphone chips are decent peformers, but the shift to 22 nm is expected to give a big boost in battery life, a critical metric in the mobile space.

Source: CNN Money



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Yes but...
By retrospooty on 2/27/2013 3:16:38 PM , Rating: -1
We only need a propeller. TYVM




RE: Yes but...
By johnnycanadian on 2/27/2013 3:22:30 PM , Rating: 4
And 640KB of RAM is more than anyone will ever need?


RE: Yes but...
By nikon133 on 2/27/2013 9:57:44 PM , Rating: 2
Darn you beat me to it... I should have refreshed page before posting... :)


RE: Yes but...
By nikon133 on 2/27/2013 3:28:38 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. And we used to need only 640KB of RAM.

If x86 can give me same or better mileage per charge, with better performance and full compatibility with my desktops and laptops, I'm sold.

At this stage, I don't care if my phone is compatible with my computers or not (this might change in the future), but for tablets, I definitely prefer new Atoms to ARM.


RE: Yes but...
By retrospooty on 2/27/2013 3:31:27 PM , Rating: 1
"If x86 can give me same or better mileage per charge, with better performance and full compatibility with my desktops and laptops, I'm sold."

Me too... Assuming its priced competitively. When and if that happens, we wont need ARM. As it is now, ARM processors on phone and tablets are cheaper, and consume less power, and are plenty fast enough to handle the task.


RE: Yes but...
By RufusM on 2/27/2013 4:12:59 PM , Rating: 2
Intel has not had a good game in the low power market. They've been promising performance and low power for years and have yet to deliver. I'm not so sure Intel can outpace ARM for performance and low power together.

Yes, Intel, I'd like a jet engine but not if I burn an entire gas tank going to the store.


RE: Yes but...
By anactoraaron on 2/27/2013 4:46:10 PM , Rating: 3
WOW what uneducated nonsense. This applies to your entire post. How about you educate yourself before speaking out of your ass??

Read here: http://www.anandtech.com/show/5770/lava-xolo-x900-...

quote:
Again we see reasonable numbers for the X900 but nothing stellar. The good news is that the whole x86 can't be power efficient argument appears to be completely debunked with the release of a single device.


Intel has the ability to outperform ARM while keeping in the same power envelope as any current ARM offering.


RE: Yes but...
By WilcoD on 2/27/2013 5:04:47 PM , Rating: 1
Well let's see first whether Intel can produce an Atom which can actually outperform current ARMs...


RE: Yes but...
By spread on 2/27/2013 11:53:10 PM , Rating: 2
Intel has no chance until they stop making awful sucky GPUs. Computers use more GPU power now. Intel needs to get with the times.


RE: Yes but...
By RufusM on 2/28/2013 11:04:56 AM , Rating: 2
I'll speak out of my ass any day I want to, thank you. :)

How about Intel releasing something to the market that proves they are competing for performance and value? This means nothing if they can't sell chips.

The ARM market is already too entrenched to be squashed and Intel can make inroads, but they won't dominate unless they buy out the competition. ARM and their partners will give Intel a run for their money, which is good because Intel has a history of running over the competition then slowly innovating after, releasing minor improvements using a planned obsolescence model.


RE: Yes but...
By Reclaimer77 on 2/27/2013 3:51:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If x86 can give me same or better mileage per charge, with better performance and full compatibility with my desktops and laptops, I'm sold.


They will. Intel has ARM in it's sights, it's all over for ARM at this point. The salad days are gone.

It might take years, but Intel has the time and the money and the R&D. They'll keep tick-tocking their way into the mobile space.

One day we'll all say "ARM who?"

Because let's be honest, whether or not you're an iOS fan or Android fan, what we all really want is the ability to run our PC software and games on our mobile devices.


RE: Yes but...
By 91TTZ on 2/27/2013 5:05:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
They will. Intel has ARM in it's sights, it's all over for ARM at this point. The salad days are gone. It might take years, but Intel has the time and the money and the R&D. They'll keep tick-tocking their way into the mobile space.


Exactly.


RE: Yes but...
By RufusM on 2/28/2013 11:09:11 AM , Rating: 2
Except companies like Apple and Samsung are producing vast quantities of ARM-based chips. They have a huge vested interest in making sure ARM succeeds for their own purposes and have more capital to throw at ARM than Intel has to try and tame x86.


RE: Yes but...
By 91TTZ on 2/28/2013 3:25:21 PM , Rating: 2
They're producing them under license. As far as I know, they're not designing the actual cores, they're only integrating them onto their chips.


RE: Yes but...
By WilcoD on 2/28/2013 6:38:09 PM , Rating: 2
Apple, Qualcomm, Marvell, APM, and Intel(!) design their own ARM cores (there are several more which design ARM server CPUs). However all of them also license various cores from ARM, so it can be confusing. Samsung is the only large ARM vendor which currently doesn't design their own ARM cores, however they do tend to do a lot of transistor-level optimization for performance and power consumption.


RE: Yes but...
By A11 on 2/27/2013 6:00:28 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe that's how it will play out, and maybe not.

There are some ARM license holders with as many or even more ressources than Intel and I can't imagine they are thrilled by the thought of having nowhere to go but Intel for mobile CPU's.


RE: Yes but...
By Mint on 2/27/2013 8:32:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Because let's be honest, whether or not you're an iOS fan or Android fan, what we all really want is the ability to run our PC software and games on our mobile devices.
Yup, and I think it'll go even further, like having a wireless connection to your keyboard/mouse/monitor and the phone in your pocket will be your primary computing device.

It'll take a few years, but Intel and MS know where they're going.


RE: Yes but...
By nikon133 on 2/27/2013 10:10:29 PM , Rating: 2
Even with current Clover Trail Atoms, Intel is already there, much as I personally am concerned. If I'd be buying tablet today, it would be ThinkPad Tablet 2 or something else in that class.

Here in NZ, ThinkPad Tablet 2 64GB is about NZ$200 more expensive than iPad 4 64GB (NZ$1200 vs. NZ$1000 app). Battery life is comparable, as is weight. iPad comes with that sweet display, but TPT2 comes with useful digitiser, USB port, SD port, and full x86 Windows compatibility.

Since I am already using - and liking - Win 8 on my desktop and laptop, it's really no brainer in my case...


RE: Yes but...
By WilcoD on 2/28/2013 7:46:52 AM , Rating: 2
The Thinkpad uses a Z2760 which is very slow compared to modern ARM SoCs. For example on Geekbench it scores just 1343 compared to 2577 for Nexus 10:

http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench2/compare/...

So Intel is not already there...


"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan














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