Intel’s Reference Design for 64-Bit Smart Phone and Tablet Computers Attracts Positive Reviews from Mobile World Congress, 2014

Intel hasn’t enjoyed much success in the mobile market for smart phones and tablets. But on February 24, 2014, in a press release titled “Intel Gaining in Mobile and Accelerating Internet of Things”, Intel announced the launch of its ” . . . 64-bit Intel(R) Atom(tm) processor for smart phones and tablets . . . ” (quote is an excerpt from the press release). A reference design of a smart phone built on this processor and board showed up at Mobile World Congress. This prototype, running the Android KitKat OS, was well received by reviewers at the conference.

One of the reviews, Intel Merrifield Smartphone Reference Design, was published by Mobilegeeks.de. on the same day the Intel® published the press release for the 64-bit Atom solution. On several occasions the Mobilegeeks reviewer notes what she takes to be a major improvement in the product (as compared with Motorola’s Razr i, I would suspect), specifically the shorter length of the phone, which permits one hand gaming. There are quite a number of these reviews online. I did not find any strongly negative comments on the reference design.

So, if the mobile community actually warms up to this platform, what’s the impact for Intel? In my opinion, a right answer will be, necessarily complex. It’s certainly a positive to have a well received reference design, but the announced list of OEMs (ASUS, Lenovo, Dell and Foxconn) for this chip solution, with the exception of Leonovo (and only as the result of its plan to acquire Motorola Mobilty from Google), have zero footprint in the consumer smart phone manufacturing market. In my opinion the absence of a leading smart phone manufacturer will be a very hard obstacle for Intel to overcome. The choice to build the reference design with an Android KitKat OS will likely exclude Nokia from the list of likely targets for the platform.

Therefore it makes sense to assume, perhaps, three quarters of minimal sales for this product line as a significant smart phone manufacturer comes to the surface. At the same time each of the announced OEMs offers several table computing products. Expect to see the 64-bit Atom chip solution, with the Android OS, popping up in some tablet designs.

But HP (conspicuously absent from the above list of OEMs) just released two tablets with the 64-bit Atom processor, BayTrail, running Microsoft® Windows 8.1. You can read a review of the tablet in an article published on the PC World web site, titled HP ships first 64-bit Windows 8.1 tablets with Intel Atom. So it’s clear tablet OEMs on the Windows OS side of the market are keen on the 64-bit Atom BayTrail cousin to this solution. These sales will likely ramp up faster, but for a smaller overall market (focused on business end users).

Disclaimer: I’m long Intel.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

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