Idea of Intel-Powered Samsung Tablet Gains Steam

 
 
By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2013-05-31
 
 
 

The notion of a Samsung tablet being powered by an Intel chip is getting more credence.

There has been speculation that Samsung, which has relied on ARM-based systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) to power its popular Galaxy Tab tablets, will use a low-power Atom chip from Intel in its upcoming Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 device, which runs the Google Android mobile operating system.

If true, it would be a huge win for Intel, which is looking to gain traction in a booming mobile device space where the bulk of smartphones and tablets are powered by ARM-designed SoCs, including Samsung's own Exynos mobile chips.

Citing unnamed sources, Reuters is reporting that Samsung is opting to use Intel's "Clover Trail+" Atom chip for at least one version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Samsung already uses Intel chips for its less-popular line of ATIV tablets, which run Microsoft's Windows OS. According to two sources, Samsung will unveil new ATIV tablets at a June 20 event in London, though it was unclear whether an Intel-powered Galaxy Tab will debut at the same time, according to Reuters.

Intel chips dominate the traditional PC market, but global sales of PCs have been falling over the past couple of years as business users and consumers turn their attention and technology dollars to tablets and smartphones. Intel executives have been criticized in the past for being slow to respond to the rise of mobile devices, the bulk of which run on SoCs designed by ARM and made by Samsung, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and others.

New CEO Brian Krzanich has made expanding Intel's reach into the mobile device space a priority, and getting into a Samsung Galaxy tablet would go a long way in helping him do that. Intel over the past couple of years has been aggressive in driving down the power consumption of its Core and Atom chips in hopes of enticing device makers to adopt its products. There already are about a dozen smartphones and 15 tablets that run on Intel chips, but the bulk of those devices are sold outside of the United States.

Intel at the Computex 2013 show in June is expected to launch its Core "Haswell" chips for notebooks and tablets. The chips are expected to offer significant improvements in graphics capabilities, as well as enhanced energy efficiency and performance.

In addition, Intel later this year and early next year will roll out Atom chips—including "Bay Trail" for tablets and "Merrifield" for smartphones—that will feature the company's new "Silvermont" microarchitecture, which officials have said will rival or exceed ARM designs in performance and power consumption.

"We're breaking the myth that ARM can do things that Intel cannot," Intel Executive Vice President Dadi Perlmutter said earlier this month during a conference call about Silvermont.

Intel's desire to gain inroads into the mobile device space makes sense. According to analysts at IDC, worldwide PC sales this year will fall another 7.8 percent as buyers turn instead to tablets, including devices that run Microsoft's new Windows 8 OS. At the same time, IDC analysts say more tablets will be shipped in 2013 than portable PCs, and that by 2015, tablet shipments will exceed the entire PC market—notebooks and desktops combined.

"What started as a sign of tough economic times has quickly shifted to a change in the global computing paradigm, with mobile being the primary benefactor," Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC's Mobility Trackers, said in a statement. "Tablets surpassing portables in 2013, and total PCs in 2015, marks a significant change in consumer attitudes about compute devices and the applications and ecosystems that power them."

Still, Reith said, "PCs will have an important role in this new era of computing, especially among business users. But for many consumers, a tablet is a simple and elegant solution for core use cases that were previously addressed by the PC."

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