A Great Design Win for Intel Appears

At the Mobile World Congress, Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) announced a pair of new mobile processors for phones and tablets: Merrifield and Moorefield.

The MeMo Pad 8 with Moorefield. Source: KDDI.

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.

Intel's much-improved modem story allows it to win cellular-enabled tablets. Source: Intel. 

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. 

Samsung makes a ton of money on Android devices. Source: Samsung. 

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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  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2014, at 2:14 PM, raghu78 wrote:

    Ashraf

    You want to see mobile profitability spread to multiple vendors most of which are PC OEMs. The irony is the PC industry has been and continues to be a unhealthy one where there is very less product differentiation among PC OEMs as Intel and Microsoft corner all the profits leaving the PC vendors with a gut wrenching price war. The hypocrisy is you don't want or expect to see the same kind of shift of computing power and profitability on PC desktop, notebook and servers to non-Intel vendors as you want/expect in mobile.

    You are jealous and complain that Samsung is making obscene profits selling commodity smartphones and tablets. What about Intel which makes huge profits selling commodity x86 processors.

    Ashraf no matter what you want or say the future is headed towards further commoditization of computing power. AMD on x86 and ARM licensees like Apple, Qualcomm and AMD will make life difficult for Intel. Those 60+ % gross margins are history. Over the next 3 - 5 years watch that number drop to below 50%.

    Apple's Cyclone is very much in the class of Intel's big cores. Apple will eventually use Ax across their product stack.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7910/apples-cyclone-microarchi...

    "As I mentioned in the iPad Air review, Cyclone is a wide machine. It can decode, issue, execute and retire up to 6 instructions/micro-ops per clock. I verified this during my iPad Air review by executing four integer adds and two FP adds in parallel."

    The size of Cyclone's core and various execution resources/structures is comparable to Intel's ivy/haswell

    http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/fullimage.php?image=55132

    Jim Keller actually said AMD K12 has a bigger engine than the new x86 sister core. He also said ARMv8 has inherent architectural efficiency advantage over x86 which requires more transistors to be spent on decoding. you can spend more transistors on driving performance on ARMv8. Keller also said K12 will extend the performance range of ARM. Think > 3 Ghz clocks and Apple Cyclone like wide machine or even wider. Keller led Cyclone development so his expertise and leadership in designing K12 is invaluable.

    http://techreport.com/review/26418/amd-reveals-k12-new-arm-a...

    "Keller was very complimentary about the ARMv8 ISA in his talk, saying it has more registers and "a proper three-operand instruction set." He noted that ARMv8 doesn't require the same instruction decoding hardware as an x86 processor, leaving more room to concentrate on performance. Keller even outright said that "the way we built ARM is a little different from x86" because it "has a bigger engine." I take that to mean AMD's ARM compatible microarchitecture is somewhat wider than its sister, x86-compatible core. We'll have to see how that difference translates into performance in the long run."

    Qualcomm's custom ARMv8 will be designed keeping Cyclone as the primary reference competitor.

    What this does is force Intel's Atom to scale up and this means marginalization of Intel's big cores over time. Intel's CPU ASP is going down over time in desktop, notebook and server.

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2014, at 3:42 PM, TMFAeassa wrote:

    raghu78

    Then I encourage you to short Intel :-)

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2014, at 4:50 PM, stretcho44 wrote:

    Zauba shows Merrifield import/export activity for phones with encryption on similar recent days as Moorefield.... May 6th. There will probably be several announcements in August.

    There will be more announcements than the ASUS memo.

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2014, at 9:03 PM, jimbeama wrote:

    The much over-hyped disadvantage of x86 due to the more complex instruction decode is a red herring. It does not give the ARM design significant transistors to "focus on performance". Consider the 80486, a 1M transistor chip, had the same decoder design as essentially the latest Atom or Core CPU which have billions of transistors. This is a dead horse that has been flogged to death multiple times. The same argument was used as proof that SPARC, MIPS, or Power could never be matched by an X86 server processor.

    Of course the guy responsible for the AMD design is going to tell you the AMD design will be head and shoulders better than the competition, just as Intel claims about their designs.

  • Report this Comment On May 09, 2014, at 1:50 AM, raghu78 wrote:

    ashraf

    I don't own shares of any company. I am an ardent follower of the technology industry. the pumping up of a company is your work. I have a much stronger sense of where the tech industry is headed than you do. Intel will face the same fate as it handed out to expensive RISC UNIX servers. the ARM ecosystem will commoditize computing to a level where the main casualty is Intel's gross margins and profits. ARMv7 dominated mobile but with ARMv8 the target is notebooks, desktops and servers.

    The funny part is it will be enabled by Google with whom Intel is getting close. Google Chrome for notebooks / desktops, Google Android for tablets/phones, Redhat Linux or other versions for servers. Eventually in 5 - 7 years I expect to see a smaller and less profitable Intel.

  • Report this Comment On May 09, 2014, at 2:18 PM, TMFAeassa wrote:

    raghu78

    " Intel will face the same fate as it handed out to expensive RISC UNIX servers. "

    If you truly believe this, then there is no better time to size the opportunity to short Intel .

    This is an investment-oriented website, so the only thing I can say to you is that if you really believe in the outcome that you are posting on just about every one of my articles, then you should seize the opportunity to make a small fortune shorting Intel.

    At any rate, best of luck to you!

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