When it comes to mobile processors, there are but a few names currently on everyone’s lips when asking if a device is good or not. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon and to a lesser extent Samsung’s Exynos and Nvidia’s Tegra chips are the names to look for when looking for performance and quality. Recently though, both Samsung and Nvidia have struggled to get anyone to use their chips and pretty much every high-end device is found to be running some sort of Snapdragon. Intel, the chip giant that’s probably powering your laptop or gaming PC, has tried to get into the mobile market for years now and well, it’s not going well. It first took them a good few years before they could even produce a smartphone-capable chip and ever since then their mobile chips haven’t been selling any better.
Intel’s processors use the same x86 instruction set that laptops and PCs use, which differs greatly from ARM and while this was said to be much better for performance, we’ve yet to see. Fact is, x86 just wasn’t built with mobile in mind, while ARM processors are designed for such applications. It’s not all doom and gloom however, as an RBC analyst by the name of Doug Freeman feels that Intel should just buy their way into the market with an acquisition of MediaTek saying that “Instead of Intel continuing to spend $4 billion-$6 billion a year to enter the market (higher end of spending range as it achieves success), hypothetically, an acquisition of MediaTek may reallocate Intel’s best-in-class under-utilized fabs and financial resources to a rising star in the SoC world, solidifying MediaTek’s market position.”
It doesn’t sound like a completely crazy idea, but MediaTek hardly has much of a reputation for producing high-quality chips, with the majority of them destined for low-end budget devices. Still, MediaTek have become a big name in the Far East and devices running said chips could be much worse. Of course, such a purchase would be subject to regulatory scrutiny and I’m not entirely sure the Chinese government would even allow such a thing.
Never mind the business side of things though, such a deal could be great for Android on low-end hardware. MediaTek is horrible at releasing their source code and if you want to do anything with a device running a MediaTek CPU well, good luck. However, in contrast Intel is a little better at supporting open source initiatives and – as of writing – you can even download Intel’s source code for Android 4.4.2. Google’s Android One project grew out of a need to get more recent versions of Android onto budget hardware – thanks to MediaTek’s reluctance to update past Android 4.2.2 on a vast range of SoCs for a long time – but if Intel were to run the show at MediaTek, we can imagine more prompt source code releases and more. Of course, all of this is just conjecture right now, but it sure would be interesting to see happen.