It is public knowledge that Intel is extremely keen on establishing a presence in the rapidly-growing slate and smartphone markets, in spite of ARM holding on to its dominance in that area by a large margin. However, the latest slides from Intel reveal that the chip giant is not ready to take on ARM head-on yet: an Intel-Inside smartphone will have to wait until H2 2011.

The Intel-Inside logo may be one of the most often-seen labels on desktop and notebook PCs today, but any user with a sharp eye would have realized that there is a rapidly-growing class of computing devices where that particular branding ceases to exist completely. And that class of devices is made up of none other than smartphones and slate-like devices, which are currently set to squeeze out market share from the traditional computing devices of today.

And because such devices usually prize battery life over performance, chips with the ARM architecture instantly find a new home to reside in, which is something that cannot be said of Intel’s x86 processors. Needless to say, Intel is not very pleased with the current state of affairs, and has been actively trying to get its own x86 processors into that rapidly-growing segment.

However, the latest presentation slides fron Intel reveal that the chip giant still has a long way to go before it can serve as a suitable competitor to ARM. According to Intel CEO Paul Otellini, the company has made significant gains in the tablet space, where at least 35 tablets will start to make use of its Atom processors and accompanying chipsets. But this achievement was greatly diminished by the bombshell Otellini dropped: that there will be no x86-powered smartphones for at least another six more months, or until the second half next year.

Apparently, Intel faces two major problems in attempting to push its processors for use in the smartphone space. For one, the chip giant has to battle with issues related to “certification, modem integration and the telecoms software stack”. This is likely to be the key area which Intel has to deal with before even attempting to break into the mobile phone market, as it is extremely important that any smartphone powered with Intel’s hardware has to play nice with existing telecommunication standards implemented in countries from all over the world. This will not help Intel one bit, whose late entry into the market is compounded by the fact that its upcoming smartphone processor Meldfield will is currently slated to ship only in 2011 or 2012.

The second major issue which Intel has to grapple with is that of battery life. Even though the company’s Atom processors are by far the most low-power, energy efficient x86 chips to exist, they still pale in comparison to ARM’s offerings, which are unmatched as far as low-power performance is concerned. And Intel needs to greatly reduce the power consumption-performance ratio of its Atom processors to ARM’s levels, for battery life is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to always-on devices such as smartphones.

Fortunately, it seems that Intel still has something good to look forward to this Christmas, as things are definitely looking better for the company in the tablet space. According to the slides we’ve found, it seems that Intel has managed to persuade quite a few well-known OEMs to build tablets with x86 processors in them instead of ARM, and at least one popular OEM is backing Intel’s MeeGo as its tablet OS.

 
And of course, it should come as no real surprise that Intel’s desktop and notebook processors still rules the roost in their respective segments. All in all, a fairly good showing from Intel this year, at least until the true battle for the embedded space starts.

Source: Financial Times