A little while back, I did some digging into the fate of Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) Broxton. This is a system-on-chip platform from Intel that will, according to the company's statements last year, provide "leadership performance for hero devices."
The company had explicitly signaled that this would be "ready by mid-2015," which suggests that products based on this platform would start showing up at some point in the second half of 2015.
However, at the Intel Developer Forum this year, Intel was mum on Broxton, and the tablet chip roadmap that it showed made absolutely no mention of Broxton. While I'm confident that the project is still alive, Intel's statements on its most recent earnings call seem to all but confirm that Broxton is delayed into 2016.
SoFIA and Cherry Trail mentioned; no Broxton
Intel's CFO Stacy Smith made the following statement on the company's Oct. 14 earnings conference call:
And so when you go through the next year, again, it will be somewhat mixed dependent as our product shift the mix and seasonal Stacy will talk to you a little bit about that, that's why it's a bit hard to predict exactly when. But you will see us mix Bay Trail cost reduced, Cherry Trail, and then a lot of SoFIA coming in, in both the tablet and phone space, and that really is what drives the contra kind of out of this system.
Remember that at the company's investor meeting back in 2013, and on a number of conference calls since then, Intel's management had referred to Broxton and SoFIA as the parts that were designed to eliminate the need for the contra-revenue offsets.
However, on the most recent call, Smith mentioned that SoFIA, the cost-reduced variant of its Bay Trail platform, and Cherry Trail would be the platforms that lead to the reduction/elimination of these contra-revenue subsidies during 2015.
Now, one could conceivably argue that Smith did not intend to give an exhaustive list of Intel's 2015 mobile products in this particular statement. That said, the lack of mention here, coupled with the roadmap given at the Intel Developer Forum, lead me to believe that Smith chose his words carefully.
Does it matter?
The million-dollar question, then, is whether this actually matters. Broxton was intended to go into "hero devices," meaning that it would be suitable for the highest-end flagship tablets and smartphones.
On one hand, I'm sure that some will argue that Intel is much better off devoting its resources to the low-end and mainstream portions of the market with SoFIA and Cherry Trail. This is where the device volume is generally considered to be, particularly among the non-Apple and non-Samsung devices that Intel will be selling into, so Intel might be making the right call focusing on these products.
At the same time, Intel's CEO signaled at a recent investor conference that the company wants to bring "innovation" and "really unique features" to the tablet market. This, at least to me, implies that Intel intends to offer leadership chip performance and will work with its hardware partners to find ways of utilizing and marketing said performance.
So, in light of Intel's apparent desire to offer differentiated solutions, I would argue that having a high-end, leadership-performance mobile platform should be very important to Intel.
Foolish bottom line
Intel will likely reveal more complete details about its mobile product pipeline and strategy at its investor meeting scheduled for Nov. 20. At this point, I'm expecting Intel to announce a delay of Broxton into 2016, but I would also be very happy to be wrong about that.