Intel Hates on Tablets -- for Now

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) really hates tablets -- at least all the ones currently out there, especially frenemy Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPad.

All of the current tablets on the market, including the iPad, use processors designed by ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH  ) and its slew of partners, which is why the chip giant is pushing its Ultrabook designs so aggressively. At the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, Intel signaled that it would be making a big marketing push come April.

Source: Intel.

Source: Intel.

In case you missed it, we Fools always usher in the month with our customary April Fool's Joke, which means it's about time for Intel to rev up its marketing engines. Intel product manager Anand Kajshmanan and media-relations rep Alison Wesley recently sat down for an interview with PCWorld to discuss the devices and make the case for why Ultrabooks are better than anything Apple offers -- interestingly including Cupertino's Intel-powered MacBook Airs.

All of the above
Intel said it has done "extensive research" on what users want and outlined four major categories that it focused on with Ultrabook designs: responsiveness, mobility with battery life and connectivity, aesthetics and solid design, and security.

The company wants to offer all of these things among a wide variety of choices from different hardware makers, so as to emphasize choice.

Ultrabooks are in the air
When asked about the competing MacBook Air (and how Ultrabooks look exactly like them), the company tiptoed with its words by calling it a great product with an Intel Core processor for those interested in the Mac ecosystem, but that Ultrabooks will ultimately offer more choice at "mainstream price points" and deliver better value.

Ultrabooks have been coming down in price, but last year they were having trouble competing on price, which was an interesting dynamic as Macs have historically carried a premium over Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows PCs. Intel also mentions that Ultrabooks carry an operating system that users "have come to love over the years," referring to Windows.

Think different
Intel is taking a different approach to touch input on laptops than Apple is -- namely, it's pushing it at all while Apple isn't. Chip King Kong said that it "fundamentally [believes] in the concept of touch, and touch on a clamshell [form factor]." Meanwhile, Apple has previously said that touch input on a PC is best delivered through a horizontal trackpad, since its research suggests that vertical orientations cause fatigue over time.

Windows 8 should play a big role in helping touch input take off over the next few years, Intel believes. In this case, Intel is taking a stance on touch that's very different from Apple, one of the biggest champions of touch input in recent years.

No Intel inside the iPad
When it comes to the iPad threat, Intel mentions hardware keyboards as an advantage over touchscreen keyboards. The company also cited a longtime gripe about the iPad, saying it's not good at content creation but rather geared toward content consumption and casual gaming: "When there's real work to be done, [users] really like to do it on a laptop."

The chipmaker also mentions that there are some unique form factors that offer the best of both worlds and can offer tablet functionality but convert to a laptop. The Asus Transformer Prime comes to mind here, for example.

Fashionably late
Intel's primary tablet opening will be with Windows 8 later this year, and its resentment of the iPad has obvious reasons. Considering its seat in the MacBook Air, it's a little unclear why Intel seems to want to undermine one of its cushiest spots, since Macs have outpaced the broader PC market for 23 consecutive quarters.

There's always been speculation of an ARM-powered MacBook Air, and while this doesn't seem likely to happen anytime soon, maybe Intel is just preparing for the worst as a contingency plan. After all, being an Apple supplier is a double-edged sword in itself.

Until we see some Intel-powered tablets, don't expect Chipzilla to change its tune.

Tablets will play a major part in the mobile revolution, and you're going to want a way to profit. This report names a company that's already supplying chips to today's tablets and is also lined up to power the next generation of Windows 8 tablets just like Intel. Get the free report now.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Intel, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Intel, and Apple and creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2012, at 9:42 PM, H3D wrote:

    "When there's real work to be done, [users] really like to do it on a laptop."

    Good mantra, so long as they don't start to believe it themselves.

    Apps like iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand offer ergonomIcs that just don't exist on the notebook (laptop? How 1990)

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2012, at 1:23 AM, winklerf wrote:

    Touch is for the swivel mount screen notebooks. From that configuration, the screen can sit flat on lap or table, or at an angle tilted away from the user with the main body/keyboard as a base underneath it. I seriously doubt that the tablet as a device will exist in significant quantity within a few years as the OSes and processors that run them get more capability. Instead, there will only be the thin notebook that can function as a tablet or use other gesture input. Why have a tablet when your thin notebook has every feature of a tablet and many more? The real question is who is in position to produce the killer device of tomorrow, not the passing fad of today.

    As for attacking the MacBook Air, I think Intel is just more frustrated that the PC manufacturers have been so sluggish about designing thin notebooks and Microsoft has insisted on producing a bloated pig of an OS. They are losing high margin business in the here and now by not selling as many high priced ULV processors by there not being a compelling Windows platform that shows them off. As well as the MacBook Air sells in the small Apple ecosystem, there is at least as much opportunity to get people to bump up how much they spend in the much larger Windows ecosystem on a compelling ultra-portable notebook. They don't need or even want to play nice with Apple because Apple will always do what is best for Apple regardless. Apple will use Intel chips if they are better and not one second longer no matter what.

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