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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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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.


"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson














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