Intel Corporation's Core M Processor Is a Game Changer

Intel announced its Core M processor, a low-power version of its Core processor built on the new 14nm Broadwell platform. Enabling fanless, ultra-thin tablets and 2-in-1s at mainstream prices, both Intel and Microsoft have a lot to look forward to.

Jun 9, 2014 at 12:30PM

While Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) Atom line of low-power processors have found their way into various tablets and hybrid devices, performance-wise the processors are very similar to ARM Holdings-based alternatives. Intel's Core line of processors are vastly more powerful and power-hungry, mostly reserved for ultrabooks and high-end tablets like Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Surface Pro 3. But until now, Intel didn't offer a middle of the road option. 

Intel's Core M, a new low-power line of Core processors built on the company's 14nm Broadwell platform, aims to fill the gap between the power-sipping Atom and the beastly Core. Available by this holiday season, I think the Core M is a game changer.

Filling a gap
Intel's Atom processors have improved dramatically since the days of the netbook, but in terms of performance, they're right in line with what ARM-based chip companies offer. For example, Intel's newest Atom chip, the Z3580, is close in terms performance to Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 805. While Intel's Atom will continue to improve, it has yet to give the company a real edge over the ARM-based competition, except that it can run Microsoft Windows 8.

Intel's Core processors are far more powerful than Atom, making them both more expensive and more power-hungry. Tablets that are powered by a Core processor require a fan for active cooling, limiting how thin the devices can be, and prices are quite high. The least expensive version of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3, for example, is $799, and that doesn't include the detachable keyboard that the Surface is known for. Ultrabooks, typically powered by Core processors, are also quite expensive, often priced at $1,000 or more.

Core M

Intel Core M reference tablet. Source: Intel.

This gap between; Atom-based tablets, 2-in-1s priced at a few hundred dollars, and Core-based devices near $1,000, is finally being filled by Intel's Core M. Core M moves to 14nm, from the 22nm process used by both recent Core and Atom processors, and that enables the Core M processors to provide greater performance-per-watt, while not requiring a fan for cooling. This will allow devices using the Core M to be extremely thin. Intel's 12.5" reference tablet was just 7.2mm thick, slightly thinner than the iPad Air.

Intel has confirmed to Engadget that prices of Core M devices will be far lower than typical Ultrabook prices. While a device similar to Intel's reference tablet would be around $799, slightly thicker devices will sell for as low as $599. This makes them competitive on price to high-end tablets, like the iPad Air, while providing performance more in line with a traditional PC.

Intel and Microsoft should benefit
Microsoft's Windows 8 has struggled to gain a foothold in the tablet market, with just 4 million Windows tablets sold in 2013 compared to a total market size of nearly 200 million units. The key for Microsoft is to offer the kinds of devices that the competition can't match, and 2-in-1s look like the answer. There are already some successful Windows 8 2-in-1s, such as the Transformer Book T100 from Asus, but these are powered by Atom chips and don't offer greater performance than the typical high-end tablet.

The Core M from Intel will allow Windows 8 2-in-1s to not only be thin and light, but also pack the kind of power that no ARM-based tablet can currently match. Intel's move to 14nm should put it about a year ahead of competing foundries like TSMC, which is moving to a 16nm process sometime next year. This gives Intel a significant advantage, especially since power efficiency is so important for mobile devices.

A wide variety of form factors and prices is what will win Windows 8 market share, and Intel's Core M provides the power to further differentiate Windows 8 devices from the competition. We'll have to wait for benchmarks and pricing to see if Intel's new processors live up to the hype, but the Core M has the potential to make a big impact on the tablet and 2-in-1 markets.

Leaked: Apple's next smart device (warning, it may shock you)
Apple recently recruited a secret-development "dream team" to guarantee its newest smart device was kept hidden from the public for as long as possible. But the secret is out, and some early viewers are claiming its everyday impact could trump the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts 485 million of this type of device will be sold per year. But one small company makes Apple's gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and see Apple's newest smart gizmo, just click here!

Timothy Green owns shares of Microsoft. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information