Intel is the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip maker with 3 out of 4 desktop computers being powered by an Intel CPU. While there will always be a place for desktop, tablet sales are now outgrowing PC sales by an alarming rate; Intel until recently has failed to react to this. Despite their dominance in the PC market they were caught flat-footed regarding the ever-growing mobile computing market and even with their advanced facilities at their disposal, we are only just begun to see their chipsets make their way into smartphones and tablets; an area where ARM-based chips are dominant due to their greater energy efficiency.
Intel’s new CEO Brian Krzanich who took over the reins on the 16th of May this year has acknowledged Intel’s failure to react to the popularity of mobile computing during their quarterly earnings call and has vowed not be caught off-guard again. Krzanich promises to be constantly scanning the horizon for the next ‘big thing’ while hedging their bets on their new Bay Trail chips to reinvigorate themselves. The key to this strategy appears to be the budget tablet market, an area pioneered by products such as the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 and shown to be so popular that Apple was forced to react with their iPad Mini. Traditionally the budget-friendly tablet market has been an area dominated by low-cost ARM processors, but Krzanich hopes that the new Bay Trail chips will not only offer competitive performance, but also at a lower price-point than previous Intel chipsets. Krzanich has said that “Bay Trail will be offered in tablets priced at $199 and below” with a prediction that we’ll be seeing tablets priced below $150 by the holiday season. Given the history for companies such as Archos and their ability to produce tablets at prices that others wouldn’t even dream of this prediction isn’t too far-fetched.
Looking at the future Intel will also be changing their priorities regarding research and development for new products. Traditionally mobile processors have been a few generations behind their desktop counterparts where Intel develops and utilities their latest developments such as their new 14 nanometer process, but now they will be a lot closer with Atom processors moving onto the their latest manufacturing processors as soon as possible. Intel will also be developing a new line of Atom processors based on their new Silvermont cores, these processors will be Android and Windows compatible and aim to disrupt ARM’s hold over smartphones. Given current forecasts prediction PC sales to be weaker than expected compared to the beginning of the year Intel’s decision to push themselves into mobile computing is a smart one, but is it too little too late?