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Sunday, January 16, 2011
Intel Confident That It's Chips Will Fully Compete With ARM's SoCs

Intel CEO Paul Otellini last week comented on ARM's popularity among mobile and tablet chip makers and also expressed its confidence that Intel's chips will be highly competitive.

Intel's strategy in the mobile market has been to adapt chips originally designed for personal computers but versions released so far consume more energy than ARM-based chips, making them less suitable for mobile gadgets that are left on for hours at a time. Intel's absence in tablets and smartphones are overshadowing the chipmaker's strong earnings and reinforcing the impression that the company no longer sets the direction of the tech industry.

Tablets is a market currently centered on Apple's iPad, which runs on Apple's flavor of the ARM processor design. Motorola, RIM, and Samsung have also based their tablet products on power-efficient ARM processors.

During Intel's Q4 conference call, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said that He discussed a few ways Intel could ultimately prevail in the tablet and smartphone markets.

"In 2011, you will also see Atom in a wide array of tablets running three different operating systems: Windows, Android, and MeeGo," he said. When asked by an analyst how the Android development partners can differentiate between Atom and the ARM-based tablets, Otellini said, "By designing an Atom-based tablet, they have the opportunity to run multiple OSes on it, which I think is a unique value proposition with Intel."

Intel claims that its upcoming 32nm 'Medfield' system-on-chip will be able to compete with ARM's chips.

Ortellini also believes that Intel's biggest advantage over ARM is its manufacturing prowess. "As we have done for decades in the traditional computing markets, we will apply the world's most advanced silicon transistor technology to these new segments to deliver the lowest power, highest performance, lowest-cost products on the planet," he said.

"As we have done for decades in the traditional computing markets, we will apply the world's most advanced silicon transistor technology to these new segments (mobile) to deliver the lowest power, highest performance, lowest cost products on the planet. When these chips are combined with our support for the world's leading mobile operating systems, our proven ability to create broad ecosystem support and our growing software capabilities, I am confident we will be very successful in these segments," said Otellini.

Commenting on Microsoft's recent (CES 2011) annoucement to optimize its upcoming OS (Windows 8) for SoC chips such as ARM's, Otellini sees both advantages and disantvantages:

"The plus for Intel is that, as they unify their operating systems, we now have the ability for the first time, one to have design from scratch, touch enabled operating system for tablets that runs on Intel that we don?t have today. Secondly, we have the ability to put our lowest power Intel processors running Windows 8 or next generation Windows into phones, because of the same OS stack and I look at that as an upside opportunity for us."

"On the downside, there is a potential given that Office runs on this products for ? there is some creep up coming into, let?s say, PC space. I am skeptical of that for two reasons: one, that space has a different set of power performance requirements where Intel is exceptionally good; secondly, users of those machines expect legacy support in terms of software and peripherals that has to all be enabled from scratch for those devices," he added.

Intel is also expected to benefit from the surge in device like tablets and smartphones because its processors power most of the world's servers.

During the conference call, Otellini also talked about Intel's strengths in high-performing servers and data centers. With plans to refresh the entire Xeon server product line in the first half of 2011, Intel is very will positioned to benefit from the growth of the data center and the build out of cloud computing.

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