Intel have been working hard to capture a slice of the mobile System-on-Chip (SoC) market for a number of years now, but last year and after reporting more significant losses, announced that they were ending subsidies on tablet manufacturers using the Intel Atom processor in lieu of the ARM competitors. Their efforts have not been unrewarded – over forty million tablets were shipped in 2014 with Intel Atom processors onboard – but it has come at a financial cost to the business. And now Intel have announced new processors and a new naming scheme designed to make it much easier for customers to understand the level of processor that a given device has. Currently, Intel Atom processors have names such as the Z3735G. This happens to be a 64-bit, quad core, Bay Trail unit with a maximum clock speed of 1.83 GHz and built on a 22nm die size: but this does not (easily) explain the expected performance of the processor. The new Intel Atom processors will be named in the x3, x5 and x7 scheme with a single letter behind them, not too dissimilar from the desktop, notebook (and Chromebook) Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 range. The idea is that the Atom x3 will provide “basic but genuine Intel-level” performance for tablets, phablets and smartphones. The Atom x5 will offer more capabilities for a better experience and the flagship Atom x7 offers the highest performance and functionality.
However, my eye is drawn to the start of the infographic, in particular the words, “new processors.” Perhaps Intel are planning to badge-engineer the existing family of processors and in effect categorize existing SoCs under the new naming scheme, or are they are releasing new chipsets soon? Intel’s current Atom processors are a far cry from the earlier generation processors and are competitive when compared to ARM processors. We tend to find that Intel’s Atom processor has quicker processing functionality but many ARM competitors offer superior 3D graphics power. For the gamers out there, the current Intel Atom processors are unlikely to excite you but for the more typical user, the Atom range has a lot to offer. If Intel improve the Atom range, this can only be a good thing.
Perhaps the new naming changes and processor launches will be the start of a change in Intel’s Atom business: for years, Intel has been persuading manufacturers to use their processors because they were cheap. Perhaps in 2015, manufacturers will be wanting to use Intel Atom processors because they’re good and customers want them?