Anyone paying a recent visit to Intel’s homepage will note the promotional emphasis on tablet computers built on Intel’s processors. Despite holding the position of an “also ran” in the processor market for tablets, Intel still stands to benefit should it successfully capture share ion this market from its competitors (Qualcomm, NVIDIA, ARM licensees, etc). On July 24, 2014 IDC reported an 11% year-over-year growth, for merely the second quarter of 2014, in the global market for tablet computers to 49.3 million units. So there is clearly an opportunity here for Intel.
Intel’s path forward in the tablet processor market is more a two lane highway than a country walkway. One lane remains consumers after Windows 8.1 tablets, while the other lane is occupied with Android tablet OEMs dissatisfied with ARM architecture and/or how this processor platform has been implemented by Qualcomm, NVIDIA, etc. Earlier this year Microsoft was reported to be working with Qualcomm on a “Surface Mini”, but on May 20, 2014 Bloomberg published an article by Dina Bass and Ian King, titled Microsoft Said to Back Off Plans to Debut Smaller Surface, which reported this project had been put on the shelf. Intel processors power the new Surface Pro product line. Each of Microsoft’s OEMs have come to market with Windows Tablets. In each case Intel chips power these devices.
But the Android lane is presently wide open. The success of Intel’s strategy for the global market for Android tablets is, to some extent, dependent on its ability to convince Android firmware developers to switch over to Intel chip architecture.
Intel’s tactics align nicely with Microsoft’s efforts in this market. We wrote earlier in this blog about a partnership between Microsoft’s MSDN business and Xamarin. Xamarin’s counterpart in the Intel version of this tactic is Unity Technologies. Tellingly, readers visiting Unity’s website will note the same benefit statement promoted by Xamarin, essentially “write code once for any platform you’re after”. But unlike Xamarin, this benefit statement is not broadly applied across the whole range of software running on iOS, Android, or Windows, but specifically at game developers (who happen to be, one can argue, a big driver of consumer appetite for tablets).
It will certainly be interesting to measure Intel’s success, over time, in this effort.
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