Intel CEO: 'We will win in the tablet market'
But the wait will be long, longer, or longerer
Intel president and chief executive Paul Otellini says that his company is going to "win" in the tablet marketplace.
"At Intel," he told reporters and analysts on a conference call announcing Chipzilla's third-quarter financial performance, "we're going to utilize all the assets at our disposal to win this segment: the world's best silicon process technology, the best compute architecture, and our global scale."
In his prepared remarks kicking off the call, Otellini wasted no time in stressing Intel's desire to be a player in the tablet market — nor in admitting that his company is not yet even at the pitch, let alone in the lineup. "I know that the big question on everyone's mind is how Intel will respond to new computing categories where Intel currently has little presence, specifically tablets," he said.
Before outlining his tale of the tablet, he gave props to Cupertino: "We think tablets are exciting, and we fully welcome their arrival. Apple has done a wonderful job reinventing the category."
Preempting questions about the oft-discussed cannibalization of the PC and netbook market by tablets, Otellini noted: "We believe that, like netbooks, tablets will expand the [total market] for computing overall."
He did, however, admit that tablets will munch existing markets — but only with nibbles, not chomps: "Will they impact PC sales? Sure. At the margin they probably will. Consumers will have a limited amount of discretionary income, and some will choose to purchase a tablet instead of upgrading an existing PC or purchasing a netbook."
From his point of view, tablet sales will mimic the netbook track: "We saw the same [impact] happen when netbooks were introduced. But three years later, both the PC and the netbook market segments have grown substantially, and we believe that will happen again with tablets."
Being the jockey of 800-ton Chipzilla, Otellini can afford to take the long view: "We take a longer-term view to the tablet opportunity," he said, "and the overarching benefit to Intel and the rest of the industry is to have a new, growing computing segment where we can participate alongside our growing PC business."
Long view or no, and "little presence" or little success as of yet, Otellini wanted his listeners to know that he and his troops were hard at work muscling into the market that Apple created: "We are deeply engaged with a number of partners to bring to market innovative tablet solutions," he said. "Our design-win momentum is very strong, and in the coming months and quarters you will see Intel solutions that run on Windows, Android, and MeeGo operating systems across a variety of form factors and price points."
Citing the promised performance and power-miserliness of Intel's upcoming tablet and netbook SoC, Otellini said: "We have very good silicon with Oak Trail."
Immediately after offering his opinion that Windows compatibility was "very important" for tablet acceptance in the enterprise market, however, Otellini's rosy picture of Intel's tablet future slipped a bit. "The fact that we are the only architecture that runs all the major... all but one of the major tablet operating systems — we don't yet run on Apple — says that I think we're in a pretty good space," he said.
Otellini's use of the qualifier "yet" seems either optimistic, or is an indication that his view of Intel's "win" in the tablet market is "longer-term," indeed. ®
During his conference call, Otellini waxed enthusiastically about Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, singling out its performance, compactness, and what he insisted will be greatly improved integrated graphics. "All that is wind in our sails going into ... next year," he said. Come to think of it, though, we heard his optimism in an audio-only call rather than read it in a printed release. Otellini might have meant "wind in our sales."
Unless the tablet is Windows who cares what chip is inside
It's fine for Intel to say "we will win", but if I'm using a tablet, smart phone or some other device which is not Windows based, I really do not care what chip is inside it.
There is no x86 / Windows compatibility to worry about, so it really boils down to how long the battery lasts, and can the thing play music, videos, games and the other casual tasks that a tablet will be used for.
Currently ARM derived chips (with hardware acceleration for video / audio / graphics) are the clear winner in this space because they consume a lot less power than anything Intel produce. That will have to change if Intel stand any chance of wrestling ARM dominance away.
Intel are in trouble
I think Intel is in trouble in the longer term. The X86 very bloated legacy design is way too power hungry, but just as badly it also uses up way too much chip area to create each core. That means they can only create a few cores per chip and even then they use a lot of power.
Meanwhile ARM processors are small and power efficient. That means ARM can put many more ARM cores on the same chip and still be more power efficient. The first sign they are thinking along these lines is the ARM A15 which is for now, up to 16 cores. (Previously they were all about low power markets but now its clear they are also moving into markets with many cores). Plus with the efficient ARM design, in the future that could easily be used to create even more cores per chip. That is a serious threat to Intel even in their server market, as they are tied to their bloated legacy X86 design.
I don't see any way to improve X86 chips that couldn't also be applied to ARM chips with ARM still coming out on top. That's because the x86 design is so incredibly bloated. It needs to be clean sourced into a new design but Intel don't want to do that as they have spent years marketing x86 compatibility as so important. So Intel can't suddenly stop without undermining their current income from x86 so they are trapped.
At this rate, ARM could be the new Intel. ARM is a growing company increasingly hitting Intel at its weakest point. Its about time some serious competitor came along to shake up Intel's design.
Let's not let them, hey?
At present, we're not seeing ARM netbooks because of the intel/windows dominance, which is sad.