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Did Intel Just Score a Big Mobile Win?

By Evan Niu, CFA – May 22, 2013 at 6:30PM

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There's now evidence to suggest that an upcoming Samsung tablet may be carrying an Intel processor, which could be an important win for the chip giant. How big of a score could investors be looking at?

Thus far in the mobile revolution, Intel (INTC -2.31%) has been a non-player. The chip giant has made big pushes in recent years, including its Medfield Atom that debuted last year, but has little to show for it in the way of design wins or consumer mindshare. The handful of Google (GOOGL -1.82%) Android devices that it's powered haven't been blockbusters by any measure, such as the Motorola RAZR i.

Well, Intel may have just scored a big mobile win. Online benchmark results from GFXBench have been spotted that suggest that Intel may have won a spot in an upcoming Samsung tablet, likely the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. For those unfamiliar with Samsung's bizarre naming methodology, that's the unreleased 10.1-inch version of the South Korean company's third-generation tablet that could be sporting Intel silicon inside.

Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. Source: Samsung.

Specifically, investors could be looking at a dual-core Clover Trail Atom under the hood, a notable departure from the Samsung Exynos or Qualcomm (QCOM -1.62%) Snapdragons typically utilized in similar devices. Previous benchmarks that have popped up put the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 on performance par with the Snapdragon 600 and Exynos 5 Octa. The predecessor Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 featured an OMAP processor from Texas Instruments, who has since ditched the sector.

Much like in smartphones, Samsung is rising as Apple's biggest threat in tablets, currently occupying the No. 2 spot in the market behind the Mac maker. Samsung has a wide range of devices, so Intel scoring one a spot in one of these wouldn't be a game changer by any stretch of the imagination. It could, however, be the start at chipping away at both Qualcomm and Apple as two of the dominant forces in mobile chips today.

Intel's current mobile success hinges upon Microsoft (MSFT -1.94%) Windows 8, as its current tablet spots are predominantly Windows tablets. Windows 8 continues to see tepid adoption at best, and even longtime Windows OEMs are hedging their bets on the platform by exploring alternatives. For instance, Hewlett-Packard just launched its SlateBook x2, an Android convertible running on an NVIDIA Tegra processor -- decidedly as un-WinTel as it gets.

Perhaps the biggest challenge will be app performance on Intel's x86 architecture. Android is built in a way that is relatively architecture agnostic for most apps, but apps that are ARM-native (such as many 3-D games) may see some performance issues. Even if Intel scores a spot, the real test will be if the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 sells.

Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple and Qualcomm. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google, Intel, and NVIDIA. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Qualcomm. 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.

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Stocks Mentioned

Intel Corporation Stock Quote
Intel Corporation
$25.77 (-2.31%) $0.61
QUALCOMM Incorporated Stock Quote
QUALCOMM Incorporated
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Microsoft Corporation Stock Quote
Microsoft Corporation
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Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
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HP Inc. Stock Quote
HP Inc.
$24.92 (-0.48%) $0.12
Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
$138.20 (-3.00%) $-4.28
Texas Instruments Incorporated Stock Quote
Texas Instruments Incorporated
$154.78 (-2.32%) $-3.67
ARM Holdings plc Stock Quote
ARM Holdings plc
NVIDIA Corporation Stock Quote
NVIDIA Corporation
$121.39 (-0.66%) $0.81

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