It could be more than a year before Intel makes headway in the tablet market, which is why its ultrabook push makes sense, says Endpoint Technologies analyst Roger Kay.
executives are putting a lot of time and money behind their effort to create a
new category of high-mobility computing devices called ultrabooks, and the
reason is clear, according to one analyst: They have no choice.
Right now, the
giant chip maker is essentially locked out of the booming markets for
smartphones and tablets, which for the most part are powered by non-x86 chips
designed by ARM Holdings and manufactured by vendors like Samsung, Nvidia,
Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. Intel officials say there are x86-based tablets
and smartphones on the way, but probably not until next year.
another way for Intel to establish a presence in the mobile-computing space,
according to Roger Kay, principal analyst with Endpoint Technologies
"There is an
enormous amount at stake in winning an important piece of mindshare for x86
architecture in the high-mobility space," Kay wrote in an Aug. 12 blog in Forbes
. "So far, smartphones and tablets
are virtually all based on ARM architecture. Intel has said it expects
design wins this year for Atom-based high-mobility devices that will come to
market in 2012, but for the moment, none are in market.
has already effectively colonized the very thin notebook space with the [MacBook]
Air, bases most of its high-mobility products on ARM, has an in-house processor
design team working on ARM development, and could easily cut more of its lineup
over to ARM at any moment."
Intel needs to
make its presence felt in the high-mobility market, and the ultrabook is its
answer, he said. The projected numbers for tablets and smartphones tell why.
Market research firm Gartner is predicting that tablet sales will grow from
almost 70 million this year to 294 million in 2015. In addition, In-Stat
expects 850 million smartphone sales in 2015.
Meanwhile, PC sales continue to be sluggish
executives introduced the ultrabook concept in May at the Computex 2011 show,
and have aggressively pushed its agenda since. Over the past two-plus months,
Intel has rolled out three new Core processors aimed specifically at the
ultrabook form factor.
At the same
time, the chip maker reportedly is offering financial incentives to entice OEMs
to build ultrabooks, and has created reference designs to help system makers
build ultrabooks that can be sold for less than $1,000. In addition, Intel Capital-the vendor's investment arm
Aug. 10 a $300 million fund to invest in companies making hardware and software
technologies for ultrabooks.
devices are poised to be an important area for innovation in the $261 billion
global computer industry," Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital and Intel
executive vice president, said in a statement announcing the fund.
executives are bullish on ultrabooks, which they say will combine the
performance of traditional laptops and features found in tablets, including
instant-on and, eventually, touch capabilities. They company is fairly specific
about what defines an ultrabook. According to a July 28 post by Becky Emmett
, media relations manager in
Intel's Global Communication Group, on the Technology@Intel blog, ultrabooks
are powered by low-power Intel Core processors, are less than 0.8 inches thick,
use Intel's Rapid Start Technology to quickly get the system running, and offer
battery life of five hours or more. They'll also offer Intel security features,
including Intel Anti-Theft Technology and Intel Identify Protection Technology.
"Sandy Bridge" Core processors, which were first released in January, were the
first step in the ultrabook roadmap. Next year, Intel will release the
22-nanometer "Ivy Bridge" chips, which will offer more performance and energy
efficiency. That will be followed in 2013 by "Haswell," which will extend the
high performance and low-power story even further, Intel officials have said.
A number of
OEMs already are committed to building ultrabooks, including Asus, Acer, LG
Electronics and Lenovo. In addition, Hewlett-Packard reportedly is working on
some ultrabook models.
In his blog
post, Endpoint's Kay said that while Intel is on the right track with
ultrabooks, in many ways, the ideas behind them aren't new. In the past, there
has been ultraportables, ultrathins and smartbooks, each of which had varying
levels of success.
said, the ultrabook concept sounds attractive.
"To date, my
taxonomy of high mobility has included only smartphones and tablets, but I
would open up the class to add Ultrabooks" Kay wrote. "The definition of high
mobility is deliberately fuzzy. Obviously, it's something that can be
carried around easily, but beyond that, it could be anything."