Home > Hardware > Components > Intel Set To Take On Apple In Tablet Market

Intel Set To Take On Apple In Tablet Market

Intel plans to unveil more than 10 tablet models powered by the latest “Oak Trail” version of its Atom processors at the coming Computex trade show in Taiwan, signalling its determination to expand beyond its PC stronghold into mobile devices – which are increasingly threatening to eat into PC sales (see following story).

Computex 2011 will run from May 31 to June 4 with about 1800 global IT players expected to participate.

The Oak Trail project – unlike previous Atom chips – aims to deliver processors specifically designed for touchscreen tablets: an area currently dominated by ARM designs such as Nvidia’s Tegra, TI’s Cortex  and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon – not to mention the biggest seller of all, Apple’s in-house A4/A5 processors used in iPads and iPhones and made to Apple’s order by Samsung.

Intel has not revealed the 10 tablet models it will unveil in Taipei, but they could include Fujitsu’s Stylistic Q550 Slate which the Japanese company has already said will be powered by an Atom Z670 Oak Trail processor.

Intel has previously said that coming Atom-powered tablets will include models from Toshiba, Lenovo, Dell, Fujitsu and Asus on Microsoft’s Windows platform; Cisco, Asus and Avaya on Android; and Acer on Meego.

While this should see Intel gain a toehold in the rapidly expanding tablet market, analysts say the company faces an uphill struggle, as it is coming late to the tablet game and is handicapped by its lack of strong partnerships and applications designed for Oak Trail, unlike its position in the PC world with Microsoft’s Windows.

Still, “the tablet race is nowhere near finished,” CEO Paul Otellini told an investor conference this week. “No one knows the size of this market. It’s not just about tablets but different variants of it … It will require a tremendous amount of experimentation here for several years.”

Tom Kilroy, a senior vice president at Intel, told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in New York this week that the runaway success of the iPad and other Apple products has been shaping how Intel thinks about future devices and the chips that will power them.

“We work very closely with [Apple] and we’re constantly looking down the road at what we can be doing relative to future products. I’d go as far as to say Apple helps shape our roadmap,” Kilroy said. Apple “push us hard,” he added.

Meanwhile, Intel’s core PC market faces another possible blow, with long-time bedfellow Microsoft said to be planning to make future versions of Windows compatible with ARM chips.