by Anton Shilov
10/20/2011 | 04:30 AM
Although Intel Corp. has been attempting to enter the market of ultra-portable electronics with x86 microprocessor technology for some time now, it has not managed to gain any traction and today there are no smartphones or popular media tablets based on x86. But the world's largest maker of chips hopes that Windows 8 and its Medfield system-on-chip will help next year.
"To date, our presence in tablets has not been large. With Windows 8, you have monolithic operating system across PCs and tables that Intel can participate in and bring in the advantage of legacy support for applications and device drivers. In that dynamic, I think we have more upside than downside," said Paul Otellini, chief executive officer of Intel, during the company's quarterly conference call with financial analysts.
At present the market of media tablets is dominated by Apple's iPad-series and is trailed by Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Tab family along with a number of other products from companies like Asustek Computer, HTC and others. All of those tablets - whether they utilize Apple iOS or Google Android operating systems - are based on system-on-chips with ARM processor technology.
At the Computex Taipei 2011 trade-show, Intel demonstrated more than ten tablets from both own-brand manufacturers (Fujitsu, Lenovo, MSI, Toshiba, etc.) as well as contract makers of electronics (Clevo, Compal, ECS, Foxconn, Pegatron, Quanta, Wistron, etc.). All of the tablets are based on the company's Oak Trail platform (Lincroft SoC [which resembles Moorestown SoC, but supports Windows] and Whitney point I/O controller) featuring the Atom Z670-series microprocessors and utilize either Google Android 3.0 "Honeycomb", various MeeGo flavours as well as Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 7 operating system. Intel showcased a Medfield design running Google Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) for the first time at the show.
For a number of years Intel introduced various Atom-based system-on-chip devices that could be to used to power smartphones or media tablets. Unfortunately for Intel, the chips appeared to be too power-hungry for smartphones, tablets based on Windows 7 did not become popular, MeeGo operating system failed and support for Android was not properly implemented. As a result, there are no popular media tablets based on Atom SoCs at the moment and Intel has to wait for Windows 8 operating system and code-named Medfield SoC to arrive next year.
According to the chipmaker, Medfield has been optimized for both low power and high performance and is projected to deliver long use-time, rich media and gaming, and advanced imaging capabilities. The new Medfield/Cloverview SoCs, which will hit production later this year, will enable sub-9mm designs that weigh less than 1.5 pounds for tablet design. Intel expects actual devices running the new chip to emerge in the first half of 2012. It is unknown when exactly Microsoft launches Windows 8, which will support both desktops/notebooks and tablets.