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PC builders not keen on making Atom-based tablets

updated 12:00 pm EDT, Mon August 2, 2010

PC firms make Atom tablets to avoid Intel wrath

An apparent scoop from the PC industry hints that most computer builders are actively avoiding pushes by Intel to develop tablets based on Atom chips. Intel's Oak Trail should improve performance and battery life, but most are focusing on the better battery life and touchscreen UI of ARM processors and the Android OS. Those who do make Atom tablets only plan to ship small amounts to placate Intel and Microsoft and prevent either from retaliating by cutting off supply.

Intel is asking companies to show Atom-based tablets at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco this September, according to DigiTimes. However, those pledging themselves are showing "engineering samples" that won't necessarily lead to production. Many are waiting to see if there will be demand.

Such behavior wouldn't be uncommon based on prior leaks. Intel and Microsoft are believed to have pushed ASUS and MSI into showing Intel- and Windows-based tablets while either marginalizing or hiding their real ARM-plus-Android plans. ASUS may already be dropping Windows Embedded and would have just one Eee Pad using both Intel and Windows.

Although Oak Trail is expected to be much more viable, Intel's traditional role in making notebook and desktop chips has been considered a liability in the tablet category. Atom still uses significantly more power, generates more heat and often costs more per chip -- often $25 or more -- but isn't necessarily faster for most purposes. Intel's integrated graphics are also often considered slower than the hardware attached to ARM, such as the PowerVR SGX 535 in the Apple iPad or NVIDIA's Tegra 250, and needs assists like Broadcom's Crystal HD accelerator just to smoothly decode some HD video. What few Windows tablets exist have fared poorly, as Apple's 3.27 million tablets in its latest quarter more than doubled the entire estimated 1.25 million Windows tablets for all of 2010.

Intel wouldn't confirm or deny any rumors, but when asked it insisted it saw "positive momentum" in the adoption of Atom for tablets.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Foe Hammer

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Is that an iPad in your hand ...

    ... or are you just happy to rip it off?

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Uh oh.

    "Those who do make Atom tablets only plan to ship small amounts to placate Intel and Microsoft and prevent either from retaliating by cutting off supply."

    Sounds like extortion to me.

  1. nat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    cut off supply?

    well... let them! if there's not product with intel and ms on it then people won't be looking to buy one and will buy what's available.

    i'd double dare them.

  1. vasic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not so easy

    All these tablet makers aren't new to the hardware market. They all have huge contracts with both Intel and MS, for their PC and Notebook business. If they offend either (never mind both) by selling ARM/Android tablets, the retaliation will be swift and very painful, and their mainstream bread-and-butter business (PC box assembling) will take a massive hit. They have no choice but to build (and "try" to sell) at least SOME Atom/WIndows 7 tablets to keep MS/Intel happy.

    This can only be good for Apple/iPad.

  1. Mr. Strat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    And the reason is...

    the Atom processor sucks a**...

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Anti-competitive behavior?

    Hmmmm. Wintel is a near-monopoly in corporate IT groups. And now Intel is strong arming (pun intended) their pee cee box-assemblers into favoring Atom over ARM.

    Isn't that the very definition of anti-competitive behavior? Google "Sherman Antitrust Act" and see for yourselves...

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Actually 10 years behind Apple

    Let's say Intel gets lucky and Oak Trail ends up being as good as ARM. And let's say that Oak Trail tablets run Windows 7 with speed and efficiency next year. LOL.

    That would put Wintel exactly 10 years behind iPhone / iPad / iPod touch. Why? Because iTunes was released in 2001, before the first iPod, and it is a major reason for Apple's iOS devices' success. Without rip/mix/burn, iTunes Store, App Store, and now iBooks, Apple's iDevices wouldn't be nearly as successful as they are now.

    Oh, and one more thing. Apple has dominant mind share in the mobile space. The entire mobile device market frantically follows Apple's lead. Consumers see Apple as the coolest of the cool. Microsoft will be, at best, yet another wannabe. Six months from now, electronista will post a story titled "Consumers not keen on buying Atom-based tablets."

  1. Hamranhansenhansen

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Just PC's without keyboards

    The main problem with Atom tablets is they are just PC's without keyboards. They look like iPad on the surface, but you still run the same Windows OS that expects you to have a keyboard all the time, and expects you to have a mouse pointer to push the tiny buttons on screen. And all the apps expect that also. And many apps require you to install them from optical disc. Plus you have viruses and malware and the whole administrative overhead of a full Windows PC. And Atom tablets are double the weight, double the size, and half the battery life of iPad. And Atom gets hot, while iPad runs cool.

    All you have to do is imagine if an Atom device could compete with an iPod as a music player. The answer is no. Same goes for iPad, which is essentially a "true" video iPod, with the screen expanded to be as suitable for video as iPod is for music. iPad brings the iPod level of cool to low-end mobile computing. There's no way these PC makers can compete.

    What is hard for a lot of I-T focused computer makers to understand is that consumer electronics is much bigger than the PC market, and has much higher standards of usability and reliability and battery life and size and weight and coolness. Something they throw together around whatever Intel poops out is not going to cut it.

  1. smashedbanana

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I like what this article is saying but I find it hard to believe. Intel Atom and/or Oak Trail iteration thereof are the least expensive products Intel makes. And same goes for the Windows 7 Starter Edition for Microsoft.

    There needs to be a major cellphone deal to link those volumes. It doesn't make sense that they are forcing such a lowend product unless huge volumes will ensue.

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