Wait for it ... wait for it ...
The chip giant has been talking about its Medfield-based Atom processors for ages, with promises of Medfield smartphones by this year. With 2011 winding down and nothing to show for it, Intel now expects early 2012 as the time frame to mark on the calendar.
Similar to the Ultrabook reference designs it has been disseminating to chase the success of Apple's
The company is hoping to play catch-up and spur OEMs to start using Intel chips in a space that is dominated by ARM Holdings
"Hey, boss, what do you want us to do now?"
Ever since netbooks stepped out of the public eye, replaced by tablets, Intel's Atom processors have been twiddling their thumbs as an answer to a question that people are asking less and less. The company has also all but ceded the smart TV CPU space to ARM.
Intel's VP of architecture Stephen Smith even hinted we might see some mobile devices sporting Intel Atom chips at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas next month.
To SoC and beyond
Intel has finally gotten its Atom designs down to one chip, known as system on a chip, (SoC). That feature is what has always allowed ARM chips to boast power consumption advantages, and it's standard on ARM chips from companies such as NVIDIA
Smith said, "This is our first offering that's truly a single chip." While getting up to speed in that department is just catching up with the ARM competition, Intel hopes to pull forward in the arms race by moving to smaller sizes. Medfield chips currently use 32-nanometer technology, while most ARM-based chips are between 40 nanometers to 45 nanometers.
ARM will quickly catch up, but Intel is hoping to take it a step further with 22-nanometer technology in 2013, before ARM chipmakers make that same jump in 2014.
A two-way problem
The performance of the hardware prototypes that Intel has demonstrated are mostly on par with current devices today in standard tasks like video playback, streaming, and Web browsing. Rather, the main problem that I think Intel will run into while trying to infiltrate the mobile sector is the same problem that ARM faces in its attempted invasion of the traditional PC sector.
Between the Android Market and Apple App Store, there are almost 900,000 mobile apps between the two dominant mobile platforms. That's a lot of apps that would need to be rewritten to be compatible with Intel's architecture. The same can be said about x86 apps and ARM architecture on PCs.
Is it enough?
Chip powerhouse Qualcomm
I still think Intel is too late to the mobile party. The festivities are well under way and have gained too much momentum for Intel to simply arrive this late and still ask for a seat at the table. Even though it's making headway on the technical side, it won't be enough to turn the tide in its favor.
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Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, ARM Holdings, and NVIDIA, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel, Apple, Google, Qualcomm, and Microsoft and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Google, and Intel, writing puts in NVIDIA, and creating bull call spread positions in Intel, Apple, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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.