Intel: ARM Chips Are Propellers, We Build Jet Engines
February 27, 2013 2:30 PM
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. (
) mobile chief Mike Bell tells
in a new interview
I. Intel: We Have the Better Chips
Intel currently trails ARM Holdings Plc's (
) 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
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 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 (
or NVIDIA Corp.'s (
typically have a quad-core layout, Intel's current smartphone chips
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 (
) Android is, of course, the biggest target.
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. (
). The Version 2.0 test build of Tizen
at MWC 2013 running on demo hardware. Early builds appear unimpressive -- comments
'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:
) 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.
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