Processor giant Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) just released a new handful of mobile Atom chips. They're small and fast, and will make the most of your battery juice. They can stream online video without breaking a sweat and play Angry Birds at 60 frames per second. But don't expect to see these chips in your next tablet or smartphone.
No, Intel is aiming the third generation of Atom processors straight at the dying netbook market. Although these chips seem tailored for tablets, Intel's press materials highlight netbook launches from several top-tier system builders but never mention the words "smartphone" or "tablet."
Though Intel is a member of the Android consortium, that mobile computing platform isn't mentioned either. Instead, Intel professes support for many flavors of Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows as well as the Linux-based platforms MeeGo and Tizen. Mr. Softy is great at powering traditional computers with keyboards and mice, but hasn't made a dent in tablets so far. All Android roads, on the other hand, lead to Mobile City.
The tablet and smartphone spaces are absolutely dominated by ARM (Nasdaq: ARMH ) and its plethora of design partners. You'd be hard-pressed to find anything else on store shelves today, though MIPS Technologies is making inroads in Asia as we speak. Advanced Micro Devices recently fired an otherwise excellent CEO over a lack of mobile strategy, and yet here Intel goes, focusing on a netbook format whose halcyon days are already behind it.
For Intel's sake, I hope that this is the last Atom generation with a yen for netbooks. The company knows that demand is falling fast in North America, Europe, and the Far East -- key markets, all. Emerging markets are still picking up netbooks, and Intel expects "a long-term, sustainable netbook business driven by emerging countries." Well, fads grow stale even in Africa and Latin America. This too shall pass.
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