At the Mobile World Congress, Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) announced a pair of new mobile processors for phones and tablets: Merrifield and Moorefield.
The former was a dual core Silvermont with a PowerVR G6400 GPU, and the latter was a quad core chip with a PowerVR G6430. While we have yet to see a Merrifield design hit the market, the very first Moorefield design win has appeared in the form of a premium ASUS tablet.
The new tablet is known as the ASUS MeMO Pad 8. It features the Intel Z3580 platform (Moorefield), a 1920x1200 display (so this is full HD), fast Wi-Fi (it appears to be 802.11ac), and even LTE capability (this was mentioned to be 150 Mbps LTE, implying that this is the XMM 7160 modem, not the latest XMM 7260).
It also runs the very latest Android 4.4.2 "KitKat" operating system. This is a premium quality device through and through and should serve as good competition against Samsung's (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF ) Galaxy Tab and Note line of tablets.
Intel's time to market on new products is much improved
At the Intel Investor Meeting, Intel talked about Moorefield being a second-half of 2014 part. At the Mobile World Congress, Intel reiterated that point.
What's interesting, though, is that while Intel parts have traditionally taken a while to go from launching to actually appearing in a device, Intel has apparently significantly improved its execution.
This tablet is slated to hit the market, likely in meaningful volumes, by August 2014. While this does fall into the second half of 2014, this isn't just chip availability in the middle of Q3, but this is device availability.
This would imply that Intel executed ahead of schedule (both on hardware and software) on Moorefield and is very likely shipping production silicon to its partners now for a build of devices aimed at the back-to-school season.
Let's see Intel keep up the pace
One of the biggest criticisms of Intel's mobile strategy is that it is simply too slow. However, it seems that under CEO Brian Krzanich, the company has picked up the pace. If it can continue this kind of momentum with the 2015 product lineup (SoFIA with integrated modem for the low end and Cherry Trail/Broxton for the mid-to-high end) and get these chips into strong designs in a timely fashion, then Intel is well on its way to a profitable, fab-filling mobile business.
There are two major implications for a strong Intel in mobile on both the semiconductor industry and the mobile devices industry in general. On the semiconductor industry, every chip that Intel sells into a mobile device is a royalty payment that ARM (NASDAQ: ARMH ) doesn't get on an apps processor and wafer volume that TSMC (NYSE: TSM ) , Samsung, or Global Foundries doesn't get for the run of that particular design.
More importantly, however, is the implication for the likes of Samsung, which have generated obscene profits selling what are essentially commodity Android smartphones and tablets. In the most recent quarter alone, Samsung's mobile group generated approximately $6.2 billion in operating income. While the majority of this is probably smartphones rather than tablets, Intel enabling these traditionally PC-centric OEMs (ASUS, Acer, Lenovo, etc.) with world-class silicon and a strong brand to help differentiate them against non-Intel powered products should go a long way toward helping to spread that mobile profitability around to multiple smaller vendors. This, of course, helps Intel as these OEMs looking to compete with Samsung want that brand power behind them in a crowded market.
Intel has the right stuff to win in mobile and to enable its traditional PC partners to win, but it really will come down to consistent execution product after product, generation after generation. It's clear that the battle is far from over, but it's nice to see Intel begin to show what many of us ultimately believe that it is capable of.
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