CHIPMAKER Intel said that thanks to ARM it has more competitors than before as it tries to move into the smartphone and tablet market.
Intel, trying hard to push its Atom processor into smartphones and tablets, told The INQUIRER that the firm's presence "in the smartphone space is very small". However, Bill Leszinske, general manager for Intel Atom said that Intel doesn't really compete with ARM, saying, "There is no 'ARM', Intel is competing with Qualcomm, Broadcom - just pick your favourite SoC [system-on-chip] vendor."
Leszinske said Intel faces "more competitors than we have had in recent memory", adding that "there is a huge risk with a lot more competitors but we think we have a lot of capabilities that will allow us to be successful".
Intel is promoting not only its process node technology, which Leszinske said will be producing SoCs within a year of 22nm tri-gate desktop Core chips coming out, but the work it does with the software community to ensure interoperability among its chip lines. Apparently there will be "tens of millions" of desktop and laptop 22nm chips before Intel will unleash its tri-gate process onto SoCs, with Leszinske claiming it will be mature enough at that stage. He also claimed that Intel will have chips based on a yet-to-be-announced 14nm processor within three years, resulting in "ongoing performance improvements".
There's no doubt that Intel is moving Atom beyond its well known tick-tock model in order to get power draw down to a point where it is better than ARM based chips. The key point is that Intel can't be just as good as ARM, it has to be better in order to persuade hardware manufacturers not to go with the tried and tested ARM architecture.
And it's important not to understate the level of competition that Intel now faces. Broadcom, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments rake in close to $31bn a year combined, and have patent portfolios that stand up well to Intel's own considerable bank of knowledge. AMD on the other hand looks small compared to these giants of the embedded world and the ARM-based vendors might put up the toughest fight Intel has ever had.
As Leszinske admitted, Intel makes a relatively small percentage of the total number of chips sold in devices around the world. Its fight to increase its global market share will be anything but simple, and Intel knows it. µ