The heightened competition in the mobile chip space quickly took center stage at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, with Intel and Advanced Micro Devices laying out plans to become more significant players in the market and Qualcomm and Nvidia introducing their latest processors for smartphones and tablets.
Intel and AMD, stalwarts in the PC and server chip spaces, are looking to make inroads into a mobile chip market that is dominated by designer ARM Holdings and its manufacturing partners, including Qualcomm, Nvidia and Samsung Electronics. Intel officials are looking to drive down the power consumption of its Core and low-power Atom platforms to make them more competitive in devices like smartphones, tablets and Ultrabooks—extremely thin and light notebooks that offer solid performance and long battery life.
Intel and AMD made strong plays with their x86-based processors, but Qualcomm and Nvidia also unveiled new offerings.
At a press conference at CES Jan. 7, Intel officials introduced new Atom and Core chips that are more energy-efficient than their predecessors, offered some road map details on future chips and talked about such initiatives as its Perceptual Computing efforts, which they said will bring systems the ability to more readily recognize faces and understand human gestures.
"The best of Intel is coming to a mobile device near you," Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel's PC Client Group, said in the announcement of the vendor's CES news. "We are set to deliver the biggest increase in battery efficiency in Intel's history with 4th generation Intel Core processors, while adding broad new human interfaces to computing devices through touch, voice, facial recognition and gesture-based interactions. We're also significantly extending the performance and power savings in Atom processors as we accelerate our mobile offerings in an unprecedented fashion in 2013."
Intel unveiled new Atom chips aimed at smartphones sold in emerging markets, a part of the market that could see 500 million units sold in 2015, according to Intel officials. The new Atom line, formerly code-named Lexington, includes the Atom Z2420 chip with features such as Hyper-Threading, and can hit speeds of 1.2GHz.
At the same time, Intel rolled out a smartphone reference design for the value smartphone market, and officials said such device makers as Acer, Lava International and Safaricom will put the chips into their own smartphones.
"The addition of the low-power Atom platform enables Intel to address new market segments and further rounds out our expanding portfolio of smartphone offerings," Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile and Communications Group, said in a statement.
Bell also unveiled the upcoming Atom Z2580, which he said will offer up to two times the performance of the current Z2460 chips.
The Intel officials were backed on stage by a host of devices, including tablets and Ultrabooks running Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, and Bell said the company already is booting the upcoming quad-core Atom "Bay Trail" system-on-a-chip (SoC), which will launch in time for the holiday season at the end of this year. It will offer twice the performance of Intel's current tablet chips and improved security features, and enable devices as thin as 8mm and offering all-day battery life, according to Intel officials. Intel at CES reportedly is demonstrating Bay Trail-based devices running both Windows 8 and Google's Android OS.