Amazon.com (AMZN 5.82%) recently announced a new member of its Echo product line, known as the Echo Show. The device, unlike previous members of the Amazon Echo family, includes a touch screen and a built-in camera, dramatically boosting the device's capabilities.
To support this increased functionality, the Echo Show includes an applications processor, like the ones typically found in smartphones and tablets.
As it turns out, the supplier of the applications processor of the Amazon Echo Show is a company that, ironically, couldn't succeed in becoming a major smartphone/tablet applications processor supplier: Intel (INTC 2.49%).
Intel Inside the Echo Show
The Echo Show includes an Atom x5-Z8350, a chip that's part of Intel's Cherry Trail line of Atom processors originally intended for tablets.
According to Intel's product specification page, the x5-Z8350 includes four processor cores, running at a base frequency of 1.44GHz with burst frequency capability of 1.92GHz (likely on a single processor core). It also includes Intel's HD Graphics 400, which means that 12 of the 16 graphics cores built into the chip are enabled.
In terms of performance, the Atom x5-Z8350 isn't anything to write home about; a typical mid-range smartphone almost certainly packs more computing and graphics power than this Atom processor.
However, given the relatively modest computing demands of the current generation Echo Show, this Atom processor should enable an adequate user experience.
Additionally, while the details of the supply agreement between Amazon and Intel are clearly not public, I would imagine that Intel is selling these chips to Amazon quite cheaply given how dated they are.
Will Intel power the next Echo Show?
If the Echo Show isn't a complete commercial flop, it's reasonable to expect that there will be a next-generation Echo Show. And, of course, that device is going to need an applications processor that's an upgrade from the one inside the current model.
What's interesting is that the Atom x5-Z8350 that's inside the current Echo Show is a processor that the company designed specifically for the tablet market. Now, as you might be aware, Intel has substantially cut its investments in smartphone/tablet products and the company hasn't publicly communicated any specific smartphone/tablet chip plans.
A device like the Echo Show is probably a good example of an Internet of Things device and Intel has made it quite plain that it intends to continue to invest heavily in its Internet of Things Group (IoTG).
With that in mind, I think it's quite possible (even, I daresay, probable) that Intel's IoTG is cooking up chips designed specifically to meet the requirements of future Echo Show devices (as well as requirements for Echo Show-like devices that other companies might want to build).
Indeed, if this product category proves successful and annual industrywide unit shipments of such products become substantial, then it could prove to be an interesting business opportunity for Intel (and other chipmakers) over the long term.
For now, though, don't get too excited about the potential financial impact that this design win could mean for Intel -- it's not likely to move the needle for Intel.