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Allwinner Shakes Up Mobile Chip Industry With $5 64-Bit Chip

Allwinner recently announced a new quad-core chip for tablets, called the Allwinner A64, that's not only based on the latest 64-bit ARMv8 architecture but also comes with a very low price point of only $5. The new chip is based on ARM's Cortex A53 CPU and has support for h.264 and h.265 codecs, 4k video streaming, and the latest Android 5.0 operating system.

If Allwinner can forge the right partnerships with OEMs, the chip could pose a threat not just to other ARM chip makers such as Qualcomm or Mediatek, but also to Intel, which is still struggling to turn a profit in mobile.

Intel hopes that if it can get Chinese chip makers such as Rockchip and Spreadtrum to build less expensive 28nm Atom-based chips, then it can increase Atom's market share and will later be able to increase its price, as well. However, with companies such as Allwinner that keep dragging the prices down for mobile chips while also raising performance, both parts of Intel's plan could face difficulties.

In the first case, if Rockchip and Spreadtrum can't match Allwinner or other chip makers willing to sell ARM chips for such a low price, then Atom won't be able to increase its popularity anyway.

Assuming the first part of Intel's plan does succeed, and Rockchip and Spreadtrum can make Atom chips that are competitive on price and performance, that still doesn't mean Intel itself will be able to start selling Atom chips at a premium. Companies such as Allwinner, and to a lesser degree Mediatek and Qualcomm, will continue to put pressure on mobile chip pricing. They could make it difficult for Intel to turn a significant profit for the next few years.

Allwinner's $5 ARMv8 chip doesn't just put pressure on Intel, though. Intel will just be the one hit the hardest by it, because the company is already in a position where it doesn't make a profit. Companies such as Mediatek and Qualcomm do make profits, even at the low-end of the market. However, all of them will use essentially the same ARM CPUs in their chips, and there could be OEM customers that will simply go with the lower-cost variant.

Allwinner's $5 quad-core 64-bit chip should make possible the creation of mobile devices that cost as low as $50, come with Lollipop out of the box, and deliver surprisingly good performance for the price -- all while encouraging competitors to lower their prices, as well.

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  • ern88
    Or Intel can just buy them out lol!!!
    Reply
  • morerice
    Can someone more familiar with the mobile chip architecture explain why Intel hasn't been able to manufacture a competitive alternative? Intel really hasn't been able to keep up with ARM architecture in all the specs that matter for mobile platforms.
    Reply
  • yhikum
    Can someone more familiar with the mobile chip architecture explain why Intel hasn't been able to manufacture a competitive alternative? Intel really hasn't been able to keep up with ARM architecture in all the specs that matter for mobile platforms.

    The explanation might be as simple as there is much less demand to run x86 based OS and their applications on small screen devices. Look at success of Microsoft Surface. Even it is popular, the concept will never be promoted down to smaller screen devices such as phones. And when you consider hardware requirements for phone you will see that SoC is just a part of whole solution, as you'll be needing battery, screen, cell connection module and make it into a case. Intel is trying to bring x86 legacy to mobile market, which already moved beyong windows. Running a form of Linux for x86 might be a case, but you can achieve much more with cheaper and less power hungry ARM implementations already.

    Hence, we see articles where Intel is somewhat an oddball when it comes to mobile devices.
    Reply
  • quilciri
    Can someone more familiar with the mobile chip architecture explain why Intel hasn't been able to manufacture a competitive alternative? Intel really hasn't been able to keep up with ARM architecture in all the specs that matter for mobile platforms.

    ARM has been designing their architecture for low power embedded use for over two decades now. Intel has only just recently begun trying to shoehorn X86 architecture into mobile devices.

    On top of that, ARM strictly develops the technology; they license it to companies to use. Intel not only is trying to design their mobile X86 technology, but also fabricate the actual chips themselves.
    Reply
  • kenjitamura
    I think Allwinner is like the only Chinese SoC that makes their source available to the open source community, right? If so awesome to hear they're putting this out on the market. We might get some decent non-chinese tablet manufacturers to put these chips into their products and then we'll have some very good and cheap devices that Cyanogenmod can be loaded on.

    I say non-chinese tablet manufacturers because even if the Allwinner SoC has source code floating around the tablet also has WLAN, touch screens, etc that need device drivers and we all know a Chinese tablet manufacturer will not release source code for those.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Can someone more familiar with the mobile chip architecture explain why Intel hasn't been able to manufacture a competitive alternative? Intel really hasn't been able to keep up with ARM architecture in all the specs that matter for mobile platforms.
    The simplicity of the ARM instruction set translates directly into a smaller, simpler chip, which burns less power. This also means layout is easier and cheaper. And manufacturing costs are lower, because more chips can fit on a wafer and yield is higher.

    ARM also has a fundamentally different business model. It licenses its designs to customers, some of whom do various levels of customization. This also benefits from ARM's relative simplicity.

    In the past, Intel has gotten burned every time they strayed from x86. I think they might have learned their lesson too well. When it comes to mobile, nobody cares about x86.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    I find it interesting that both MS and Intel are threatened by essentially the same problem. They built huge businesses based on complex, high-margin desktop and server products.

    These are difficult to scale down to mobile. And when they do, they find that actual competition and cheaper end products prevents them from achieving big enough margins to replace the cashflow they're losing from the shrinking PC market.
    Reply
  • Textfield
    Next Raspberry Pi?
    Reply
  • jasonelmore
    Reaching $5 price point:

    Yeah right, Easier said than done. these kind of promises always end up being broken by the time products hit OEM's. and i'm pretty sure the ARM licensing a lone is $1 per core
    Reply
  • MyDocuments
    This is good news on the competition front, poor Intel, they always wanted to make big margins, oh well, perhaps those days are over(?).
    However, aside from the larger tablet form-factors, I see nothing of modems (2G, 3G, 4G, etc) and connectivity being mentioned (BT, WiFi, NFC, etc.) and integration is the big prize in mobility and the race to the bottom; everything built in, and of course a good support network for helping customers get these devices into their products.

    Overall a nice effort on this product, let's see where the early adopters are, oh, and they've previously positioned their devices (A10, A20) in the Cubieboards and Banana-Pie so well done!
    Reply