Intel's Tablet Marketing Blunder

It is well known that Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) powered Samsung's (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF  ) Galaxy Tab 3 10.1-inch only to end up losing that socket to Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM  ) in the following generation. The Galaxy Tab 4 line used low-end Qualcomm chips across the board (forgoing Intel's attractive Bay Trail line of chips) and the Galaxy Tab Pro and recently released Galaxy Tab S used either top-end Qualcomm Snapdragon or Samsung Exynos processors.

With Samsung apparently set on using chips from either Qualcomm or internally (both of these have strategic merit), it seems odd that Intel would continue to promote the now-obsolete Galaxy Tab 3 as a shining example of what Intel-powered tablets bring to the table. 

Take a gander for yourselves
If you do a search for "Intel Tablet," one of the first links is to Intel's own tablet landing page. If you then click on the "Why Intel" tab, you'll see the following image:

Source: Intel.

The tablet in that image is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 powered by an Intel Atom Z2560. The irony of this marketing image is that the Galaxy Tab 3 ran counter to almost every Intel "advantage" listed here. The performance of this tablet was generally considered poor relative to its similarly priced contemporaries. Indeed, respected technology review site Engadget listed the following cons about the tablet:

  • Poor display for the price
  • Cheap construction, unappealing design
  • Uneven performance
  • Big drop in battery life from the previous-gen model

The conclusion from that review?

The refreshed Galaxy Tab 10.1 is stuck in the past. Its specs, mostly unchanged from last year's model, make this a forgettable product. At this price, you're better off looking elsewhere.

Is this really the tablet that Intel wants to be showcasing as a prime example of what Intel's chips can bring to the mobile table when there are indeed plenty of fast, powerful, and inexpensive designs out there on the market to showcase? 

Why Intel's doing it

The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 is an example of a good tablet with Intel Inside. Source: ASUS.

Instead of promoting one of the better-reviewed Intel-powered tablets from the likes of Dell or ASUS, Intel chose to promote the Samsung. Why? Well, it sort-of makes sense – Samsung is quickly on its way to becoming the world's leading tablet vendor and it is already the world's leading smartphone vendor by a rather large margin. The Galaxy Tab 3 design win did indeed provide a a window of opportunity for Intel to show the world that its chips were solid for this market.

In the short term – particularly when the Galaxy Tab 3 was still relevant – this was valid. But to continue to promote that design win today after Samsung has made it clear that it's not interested is perplexing. 

Forget Samsung – focus on more loyal partners
At this point, Samsung is still more or less a lost-cause for Intel from an applications processor perspective (Samsung has its own fabs to fill with either fabless players' designs or its own). Samsung is still trying to push its own Exynos processors (although those efforts have been lukewarm at best), but Qualcomm still supplies most of Samsung's apps processors.

Qualcomm, unlike Intel, is strategic as Samsung would surely love to be Qualcomm's main foundry partner. It also doesn't hurt that Qualcomm's chips are still more competitive than Intel's in most segments of the mobile market (though in tablets, Intel could have leadership as soon as the end of the year with Cherry Trail).

ASUS, Dell, Lenovo, and others are Intel's mobile future. Source: Intel.

Now, it may seem that this entire argument is nit-picky, but it's really not. Intel spends oodles on its marketing campaigns and a big part of any company's success is its ability to market products and – more importantly – a brand. By promoting Samsung, Intel is at best just wasting money and at worst driving customers to take a look at the latest non-Intel-powered tablets from Samsung. 

Foolish bottom line
This isn't meant to suggest that Intel's tablet chips aren't good or that the company isn't making solid progress in tablets. Intel really is making great progress and some of the designs showcased at Computex 2014 were quite compelling. However, when customers visit Intel's website and want to learn more about Intel powered tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is the last thing Intel should want to show anybody.

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  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 8:36 AM, will1946 wrote:

    Well, they have had a new marketing chief since the beginning of this month, so perhaps they will wake up and speak up for their products.

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