updated 01:35 pm EDT, Thu October 14, 2010
Intel prepared for "marathon" to win in mobile
Intel chief Paul Otellini in a memo that surfaced today tried to downplay the early leads that ARM-based devices like the iPad and Android phones had over Intel in the mobile space. He characterized bringing Atom up to par as a "marathon, not a sprint" and that it was only a matter of time before Intel won the category. The CEO used server chips as an example in the Bloomberg copy of the e-mail and noted that it went from a bit player to making 90 percent of the processors for the field.
"I am also very optimistic about our opportunity in tablets and smartphones, even though we are not first to market with a solution," Otellini said. "Ultimately, we can and will lead."
Intel launched the Atom chip in April 2008 as an attempt to get into smaller devices than full-size notebooks and desktops, but it so far hasn't had success in sales for any devices smaller than netbooks or set-top boxes. Atom usually consumes multiple times more power than an ARM chip and is usually too large or hot-running to work. The company's failed Mobile Internet Device (MID) category has often been seen as an attempt to forcefully enter mobile devices by making them large enough to handle its chips. LG was to have had a phone this year in the GW990 but later contradicted itself and claimed it was just a concept.
In tablets, Intel has also faced problems as many Atom-based tablets have just five hours of battery in ideal conditions while also leading to very heavy, thick models. An iPad or Galaxy Tab often weighs half as much or less while also running for twice as long on battery. A more competitive option won't come until Atom Z600 chips arrive in 2011.
Despite minimizing the risks, Intel may have little time to respond. Both Gartner and IDC analysts estimated that Intel-based computer builders except for Apple were facing an iPad effect as customers were avoiding netbooks and entry notebooks in favor of the tablet.