Intel gets into ARM wrestle over tablets

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15 April 2011 | 0

Intel is speeding up the release of tablet chips in an attempt to close the power and performance gap with ARM, which dominates the tablet market, analysts said this week.

In 2013, the company will release an Atom chip for tablets that an Intel executive said will put the company’s offering on par with ARM processors in performance and power consumption.

ARM Holdings, which licenses processor designs and architectures, virtually dominates the tablet market as well as the smartphone business. Apple’s latest A5 tablet chip used in the iPad 2 includes an ARM processor, while Hewlett Packard’s upcoming TouchPad tablet runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor, which also is based on the ARM architecture. Research In Motion and Motorola also are using ARM processors in tablets.

The tablet market is new for Intel, and the company released its first true Atom tablet chip, code-named Oak Trail, at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing this week. The company also laid out the road map for future Atom chips, which includes an Oak Trail successor called Cloverview. Cloverview will be made using a 32-nanometer manufacturing process. Further information about the chip will be discussed later this year.

 

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Intel will also reveal new tablet and netbook chips in 2013 that will be made with its advanced 22nm process, at which time it will allegedly be on par with ARM for power and performance.

Intel’s chips are more power-hungry than ARM processors, which are used in tablets such as Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. Kircos said Intel will close the power and performance gap through smarter chip design and rapid advances in manufacturing. Intel advances its chip manufacturing process every two years and invests billions to improve chip performance and reduce leakage.

Intel’s upcoming low-end smartphone chip, Medfield, is also being extended to tablets, said Claudine Mangano, an Intel spokeswoman. Intel wants to offer a range of chips so it can provide tablet makers with more choice when building devices. Smartphones with the Medfield chip will be released later this year.

ARM has already announced the Cortex-A15 chip design, which is faster and more power-efficient than its predecessor, the Cortex-A9. Qualcomm, which makes the Snapdragon processor, and Nvidia, which offers the Tegra processor, will also offer chips made with 28nm processes by early next year.

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