Trouble May be Ahead for Intel Medfield's Fight Against ARM
2012 is generally seen as a do-or-die year for Intel as far as its smartphone and tablet play is concerned.
Next year, Intel will have to show that it can deliver on promises of a competitive tablet and smartphone chip platform to be able to compete with ARM vendors - especially since ARM vendors will be encroaching on Intel territory with the release of Windows 8 for ARM.
A Digitimes article suggests that Intel's 32nm Medfield platform will have a tough time to gain traction as Intel missed the chance to establish close relations with first-tier smartphone makers. Its existing ties with notebook makers may not be enough as most of them are just recovering from failed smartphone and tablet products and may be reluctant to risk more of their money in a market that is dominated by Apple and a few Android handset makers. The fact that Intel said that it has Android 4.0 ICS running on Medfield may not help much and the article suggests that Samsung's commitment to Medfield may simply be a strategy of covering its bases - just in case Intel succeeds.
Intel's market entry is largely speculation at this point and will strongly depend on the capability of Medfield in performance and especially power-saving disciplines. Even more important will be Intel's ability to establish credibility in a market it has not much to show for. Its pitch of manufacturing power may not work so well as ARM vendors have not had troubles supplying cutting edge processors so far and Medfield is actually a process generation behind its desktop/mobile chips, which will be shipping in 22 nm when Medfield becomes available as a 32 nm platform - a circumstance that will cost the smartphone/tablet chip some pizazz.
We have not seen Intel, when it played the role of an underdog, failing more frequently than succeeding and there is clearly doubt that it can compete with all ARM vendors at the same time. However, we also know that Intel has substantial design and manufacturing talent at its core and that it is at its best when it is under tremendous pressure. It may be too early to discount Intel's opportunity in the smartphone and tablet market.