Intel reportedly is running behind on delivering power-management software for its upcoming Atom “Clover Trail” platform, possibly delaying the release of numerous tablets that were set to launch soon after Microsoft rolls out its Windows 8 operating system Oct. 26.
The issue has led Microsoft officials to hold back from approving any tablets that will be powered by the low-power Clover Trail system-on-a-chip (SoC), formally known as Atom Z2760, according to a report by BloombergBusinessweek. A delay in the launch of tablets from the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and Lenovo would be a blow to both Intel and Microsoft—which are hoping the combination of Atom chips and Windows 8 will give them leverage in the tablet market—and provide more of a boost to Apple’s dominant iPad just as the holiday buying season gets under way.
Quoting an unnamed person “with knowledge of the matter,” BloombergBusinessweek reported that Intel had yet to deliver the software that will give the tablets long battery life, holding up the development of some tablets.
In statements, spokesmen for both Microsoft and Intel indicated that they expect tablets powered by Clover Trail chips to come to market.
“Microsoft has worked closely with Intel and our hardware partners,” Microsoft spokesman Mark Martin told BloombergBusinessweek. “We look forward to the new Atom-based offerings from Intel to complement the already-strong Windows 8 and Windows RT ecosystem.”
Jon Carvill, an Intel spokesman, said Atom Z2760-based tablets and convertible devices—which can used as tablets or traditional notebooks—will be available when Windows 8 is released. “We’re excited about the opportunity for Windows 8 tablets with a broad range of [Intel chips],” Carvill said, adding that the two companies have collaborated closely “in extensive testing and validation” for chips.
eWEEK also sent a message to Intel asking for a reaction to the BloombergBusinessweek news.
The rise of mobile devices in recent years has shaken up the PC market, and with it Intel and Microsoft. The two companies dominated the desktop and notebook PC space, but most smartphones and tablets are powered by chips designed by ARM Holdings and sold by vendors like Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics and Texas Instruments. They also run operating systems like Apple iOS and Google Android.
Both Intel and Microsoft are looking to gain a foothold in the booming mobile device space—the tablet market itself is almost $64 billion. Windows 8, with such features as touch capabilities, is optimized to run on tablets, and Intel as aimed the Atom Z2760 SoC at the tablet space in general, and Windows 8 devices in particular.
Intel executives at an event Sept. 27 talked about the Clover Trail chip and showed off a host of tablets from a variety of OEMs—including HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Asus and Samsung—that will run Windows 8 and be powered by Clover Trail. The new Atom chips are designed to enable systems makers to build very thin and light devices that offer long battery life.
The rise of smartphones and tablets also has led to changes in the longtime Microsoft-Intel alliance. As both companies have made moves toward the mobile device space, they have embraced other platforms and OSes. For example, Microsoft will release a version of Windows 8—dubbed Windows RT—that will run on the ARM platform. Intel also is designing chips to power Android-based devices.
Analysts from IHS iSuppli earlier this month issued a report on what they said is the waning influence of the Microsoft-Intel—or Wintel—alliance, and the cracks in the partnership caused by the desire to gain ground in the mobile device market.
“Microsoft and Intel once marched shoulder-to-shoulder, dominating the PC market with their closely tied operating system and microprocessor technologies,” Craig Stice, senior principal analyst compute platforms at IHS, said in a Sept. 4 statement. “While still an overwhelming influence in their respective markets, the tables have turned for Microsoft and Intel. With smartphones and tablets performing tasks previously exclusive to PCs, the computer market has expanded to include other platforms. As a result, Wintel finds itself in the unfamiliar position of dancing to someone else’s tune, following standards that were set by other companies for form factors, user interfaces and even pricing. This means Microsoft and Intel must think outside the box—even if it means adopting strategies that work against each other’s interests.”