Intels mega mobility push

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Jun 23 2014, 08:10am hrs
Mobile computing is a hot topic these days and Intel is going full throttle to make sure its not caught off-guard by this latest technology trend. The Santa Clara, California chipmaker, which has been slow to adapt its processors for smartphones and tablets, has announced a mega-push into the connected devices arena. A whopping 130 new Intel-based Android and Windows tablets are set to debut in the market from global original equipment manufacturers (OEM), such as Acer, Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo in the next couple of months. About 10 million Intel-based tablets were sold last year, and the company expects that number to jump to 40 million this year.

Intel has also established a new Internet of Things Solutions Group, aimed at making money out of a new technology wave that can link up a host of electronic devicesfrom refrigerators to microwave, automobiles, mobile phones, laptops and so on and so on. Intel is working on a new line of ultra-small and ultra-low-power microchips for wearable devices like smartwatches and bracelets, along with an ingestible version for biomedical uses. The new solutions group combines an existing Intel business focused on chips for commercial and industrial devices with Intels Wind River subsidiary, which sells software for commercial and industrial devices.

Back to the mega mobile push. Intels growing capabilities in the crucial mobile device market come in the backdrop of the earlier scenario in which the chip maker for several years has been trying to gain traction. Currently, the bulk of smartphones and tablets are powered by low-power systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) designed by ARM and manufactured by the likes of Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia.

Earlier this month, at Computex Taipei, Intel announced that 130 new Intel based Android and Windows tablets are debuting in the market from global OEMs and original design manufacturers (ODM) this year. Intel also unveiled the 14nm Intel Core M Processor for Fanless two-in-one designs which will be the first 14nm product in the market in the second half of this year. It is claimed to be the most energy-efficient Intel Core processor in the companys history.

In order for computing to become more personal, Intel president Renee James said it needs to meet people on their own terms, making interaction more natural and intuitive. She highlighted new advances to bring Intel RealSense technology and 3-D cameras and supporting applications to a growing number of two-in-ones, all-in-ones, tablets and other personal computing devices.

India being a critically important market for the companys growth, Intel has outlined an ambitious strategy to accelerate its growth in the country, driven by an increased focus on new mobile form factors like two-in-ones and tablets. Sandeep Aurora, director, marketing and market development, Intel South Asia, told FE: What we are seeing is there is an explosion of devices that are computing and connecting to the internet. There are over 200 million middle-class potential customers in India alone for different screen sizes across different price points. We are seeing a lot of traction in the 7 to 9 inch space here. We are working with our OEM partners to bring Intel-based tablets starting at R10,000. We are also being aggressive in customising our solutions for enterprises as well as manifesto-driven state governments.

With sales of high-end mobile devices losing steam in the developed markets, manufacturers have been turning their attention to lower-end tablets and smartphones designed for consumers in the high growth markets of Asia Pacific region. At the high end of tablets, Aurora said that some consumers are choosing two-in-one devices to get the best of both worlds. Two-in-one devices represent a new category of computing. OEMs are developing a range of devices that provide consumers with a choice, combining the creation of capability of a notebook or laptop and the consumption capability of a table into one device.

At a briefing in New Delhi recently, Intel displayed a range of tablets and two-in-ones from Acer, Asus, Dell, ECS, HP and Lenovo. Intel estimates the overall tablet demand in Asia Pacific and Japan will go up 32% year-on-year in 2014. In particular, India, Indonesia, Japan and Australia will equate to 59% of tablet demand. Tablet demand in India is forecast at 18% of the Asia Pacific and Japan (excluding China) demand for 2014.

According to Aurora, Intels new marketing direction will see Intel-powered products at price ranges never before associated with the brand. Some of these tablets will come out as low as R10,000. But they will be every bit as powerful and reliable because its powered by Intel, he added. He talked about Intels commitment to deliver a broad choice of SoC and communications options for tablets and smartphones across a range of form factors, price points, and operating systems.

In a recent release, IDC said that the Indian tablet market continued with the struggle to attract new buyers. According to the IT research firm, the India tablet market shipments for Q1 2014 stood at 0.78 million units, representing a year-on-year drop of -32.8% over Q1 2013. The drop was primarily due to lack of new buyers in the market. A major inhibitor to the growth: the emerge of phablets (screen size 5.5 to 6.99 inch), continues to haunt the consumer decision making process. Global tablet shipments from all manufacturers in 2014 will grow 12% to 245 million, less than a previous forecast of 261 million devices, because people are keeping their devices longer, IDC said.

With his ear to the ground, the Intel marketing head is quick to give a realistic picture. The Indian consumers are demanding more productivity and multimedia from their tablets. The use of a keyboard with the portability of a tablet is highly sought after for productivity and entertainment.

Aurora also talked about the

upcoming 2.13 GHz Intel Atom processor Z3480 (Merrifield), Intels newest low-power chip for smartphones and tablets. This offers the ideal combination of fast, smart performance and long battery life for Android smartphones and tablets.

Also coming soon is the next-generation 64-bit Intel Atom processor, code-named Moorefield in devices

expected to be available second half of this year. Building on the Merrifield feature set, Moorefield adds two additional Intel architecture cores for upto 2.3 GHz compute performance, an enhanced GPU and support for faster memory.

In a nutshell, brace yourself for a flood of Intel-based tablets to hit Indian shores soon.