It’s no secret that Intel has had trouble getting into the mobile market. But if there is any doubt as to whether or not the company is in it for the long run ads this week should put to rest. None of these were unexpected, but overall the announcements at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, seem designed to show Intel is still serious about getting their chips in everything from smartphones tablets inexpensive to high end.
The biggest announcement was the Clover Road + platform, which consists of three new 2.0GHz Atom processor, the Z2580, Z2560 and Z2520 1.6GHz 1.2GHz.
Intel currently has two mobile platforms:
Medfield Android smartphone includes the 1.6GHz Atom Z2460 single core at 400 MHz with PowerVR SGX 540 graphics. (Intel added below the low end Z2420 used by Acer, Lava and Safaricom for smartphones in developing markets and high end Z2480 used in the Motorola Razr i.)
And Clover Trail platform, which includes the 1.8GHz dual-core Atom Z2760 533MHz PowerVR SGX 545 graphics, is used in Windows 8 tablets from Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, LG and Samsung. All these processors are fabricated in one process 32 nm.
Clover Trail + takes the Medfield platform, adds a second core and improved memory controller Clover Trail, and topped off with more capable PowerVR SGX 544 dual-core graphics. Intel says it will offer twice the computing performance and three times the graphics performance of the Atom Z2640.
Despite the code name, + Clover Trail is primarily designed for Android smartphones. The first is the Lenovo K900 IdeaPhone, which has a screen of 5.5 inch 1080p (over 40 pixels per inch), the Atom Z2580, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a 13mp camera and Android 4.1.2 jelly.
It will be available in the second quarter in China, followed by Russia, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, but it lacks 4G LTE so it is unlikely to be sold in the U.S. Clover + Trail but is likely to be used in other devices such as Android tablets too. Asus and ZTE will launch devices based on it too.
+ Clover Trail is made on the same 32nm process as Medfield and Clover Trail. However, monitoring, Merrifield 22nm platform for smartphones, will be available later this year.
For tablets, Intel is planning to send its first quad-core platform, Bay Trail, in time for the holidays. At Mobile World Congress, Intel said it is working with several of the original device manufacturers (Compal, ECS, Pegatron, Wistron and Quanta) to make it easier for customers to obtain tablets with Android and Windows based market quickly.
Intel also is moving forward with cellular modems, which are essential to be competitive in smartphones. The Medfield platform uses the XMM 6260 HSPA + + band while Clover Trail uses the XMM 6360 with twice the theoretical yield (HSPA + 42Mbps). The XMM 7060, single-mode 4G LTE modem that Intel announced more than two years, will be replaced by the XMM 7160, the company’s first multi-mode LTE baseband. It will ship in the first half of this year, and is designed for smartphones, tablets and ultrabooks.
Intel has been working on putting these 3G and 4G basebands on the same chip with the processor, but has not said when it will happen. Almost everyone is trying to catch up with Qualcomm regarding this level of integration.
Finally, Intel has gotten a few more wins for its low-end Atom Z2420 platform, known by the codename of Lexington. At Mobile World Congress, Fonepad Asus announced a 7-inch tablet with 3G voice and data Z2420. A mobile operator in Egypt, Etisalat Misr, is also planning to launch a smartphone based on the chip.
None of these measures will significantly tilt the playing field. Intel dominates the market for PC processors and server, while the arm and the long list of chip designers that use its technology, has the mobile market. (To emphasize this, ARM announced at the show that now has seven licenses for its latest architecture big.LITTLE and 75 companies using their Mali graphics chips at 150 million last year.)
But it does show that Intel has some momentum and has no plans to give up the tablets and smartphones.
The steps for Intel will use its manufacturing advantage for the 22nm Atom chips in the door, while the rest of the industry is launching 32nm and 28nm processors, and use LTE technology to ensure some prominent designs here in U.S.