Trouble May be Ahead for Intel Medfield's Fight Against ARM

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.

  • de5_Roy
    new tegra and cortex soc will own intel's medfield.
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    I have faith in you, Intel - haven't failed me so far with your CPUs; I know you can do this. You HAVE to do this - because most of the people are stupid enough to believe that ARM is "enough" for them. And you don't want to lose profit, do you? ;) So better come up with something that can kick ARM's a$$ in terms of performance while still maintaining a decent battery life... people WILL love having a proper x86-based OS on their tablets.

    As a side note: anyone has links to benchmarks of Atom vs. ARM? I know that Atom is useless, but I want to see how it compares to ARM... not that you can directly compare the two since these are two different platforms, but still - something?
  • de5_Roy
    intel's medfield and haswell soc are gonna own arm.
  • CyberAngel
    Well, the Win8 for Tabs is wrapped up and "just" needs bugs out!
    Windows 9 comes out with an Intel double die shrink between 18nm - down to 14nm
    No ARM manufacture joint effort can help here: Intel wins in five years, in ALL fronts!
    But you of course buy what is good now, right?'s not Intel right now, is it?
  • are you joking me?? Intel's CPU is by far the most advanced processor on the face of the Earth. The rate of the processors have exceeded Moore's law. They are constantly shrinking the size of the CPU and making it more power efficient every year. Nvidia on the otherhand has come up with some new products that have yet to prove themselves. The internet is going crazy over Tegra3 but as far as benchmark shows, the score are really unimpressive. As for atom vs arm, I am not too completely sure on this but atom is much more superior to ARM. Atom is able to run a full windows OS. Mobile OSs like Android, Windows 7 mobile, iphone OS can be ran easily by most mobile processors. But being able to run a full OS at a descent speed is a whole another ball park. I hope intel can up the competition to mobile industry. I for one do not want to be stuck with these feeble mobile OSs.
  • mayankleoboy1
    ^ STFU, fanboi.
  • TheKurrgan
    As I see it, Intel has one advantage going for them. The x86 architecture is superior to the ARM in terms of raw performance. The other half of this advantage is Intel's recent ability to make it very efficient. That said, we'll see how it stacks up to ARM when they strip it down enough to sip power at the same rate as ARM. ARM was designed with the idea of low power consumption in mind, so one may consider that its home field. However, a home field advantage only goes so far, and we'll see if Intel can muster enough R&D to tweak its architecture to play on it realistically. If they do pull it off, 2 things could happen.
    1, they can't deliver at a price point to displace ARM in the smartphone / tablet market.
    This is some what likely in my opinion, given that Intel is one company VS several, as ARM licenses its technology out to others while Intel is the sole developer and manufacturer of said technology.
    2. They deliver at a competitive price point, and deliver matched or improved performance. This could be potentially disruptive to the current "ecosystem" of mobile devices, since joining mobile devices with current desktop PC architectures simplifies development to some degree, and would potentially change the battle as far as desktop / mobile unification. Especially seeing as how Windows 8 is being designed as a universal OS, but basically being an entirely separate fork from its x86 twin. That starts the similar issue apple faced when transitioning from the powerpc arch to x86. For years they had to build 2 versions of everything, as did developers. Not an elegant solution.
    However it remains to be seen, since things do tend to gain a momentum of their own at some point, and we either very VERY close to being beyond the point of any return for an architecture switch in the mobile market, or already past it
    My .02
  • dealcorn
    Just for clarification, was any authority cited for the position that 2012 is a "do-or-die year" for Intel (v ARM)? Both ARM and Intel would like to put the other down (in the veterinary sense), preferably in 2007 or earlier, but it did not happen because neither had the technology to make it happen. I suspect that in 2012 ARM will start to demonstrate what happens when they scale their technology which has been a topic of some concern. On the other hand, during 2012 Intel is working with a 5 year old design on an obsolete process technology (by Intel standards). I suspect that if there is any way to look funny at what Intel offers in 2012 and say with a straight face that it is competitive, Intel will savage ARM's market share using tick tock starting in 2013.

    I am curious to see how ARM's power requirements and cost scale as it approaches competitiveness with Atom class workloads. That may be the best indicator or whether this will be a prolonged conflict and will will prevail.
  • saturnus
    The problem for Intel is that nobody in the industry really cares about a, for that market, tiny upstart company that has yet to show they can deliver on any of the important benchmarks for that market. And Medfield isn't looking promising either. Most are instead interested in taking over Intel's market share in the mobile computing area, more specifically labtops, as the desktop market continues to dwindle away to nothing over the coming years. Let's face it, only us nerds with our 1-2% of the market are really interested in the hyper-end gaming market. The rest of the consumer and business market is really only interested in getting "adequate" performance, whatever that may be, on a mobile platform.. cheap. And if that can be realized by much cheaper ARM SoCs then those markets wont care about a once giant company called, what was it? Intel?
  • NightLight
    I'm sure they've got a trick up their sleeves. With the amount of capital they can throw against it, it will not be long untill they enter that market. I doubt anyone at intel is losing sleep about it! And my final point: more competition, better consumer prices!