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At last, Intel chips its way into a Samsung device

John Davidson (via AFR) | June 12, 2013
Intel has secured a major breakthrough with Samsung signing up its chips for one of its smartphones.

At last, Intel chips its way into a Samsung device
Intel VP Tom Kilroyo had 15 phones to show at the Computex exhibition in Taipei. One was a Samsung. Photo: AP

When Tom Kilroy, the executive vice-president in charge of sales and marketing at Intel, took to the stage to speak at the Computex technology show in Taipei last week, he stood in front of a display showing off Intel's "wins" in the mobile phone business.

The display, showing all the current smartphones from all over the world that use Intel processors rather than processors from Intel's competitor, ARM, contained a grand total of 15 phones. That's fewer than half the number of smartphones that just a single ARM manufacturer, Samsung, lists for sale, on its Australian website.

Obviously, Intel has a long way to go before it comes out of the cold in the mobile phone and tablet business. While the world's largest micro-processor maker has ruled the PC market for decades, with only occasional incursions into its market dominance from the likes of AMD, when it comes to mobile devices, Intel has itself been totally dominated by its much-smaller, Britain-based rival, ARM. Intel's processors have simply used too much power to make it into mobile phones and tablets.

But there are signs that Intel is beginning to turn that dismal track record around. Last week, the same Samsung that sells 34 different ARM smartphones in Australia, that in fact makes its own ARM chips under licence, said it was using an Intel chip for the first time in one of its tablets.

The Galaxy Tab 3 10.1-inch tablet, due to be launched this month, will run on an Intel Atom chip known as the CloverTrail+, a version of the CloverTrail chip that Intel optimised to run Android devices. Intel claims that CloverTrail has twice the processing power and three times the graphics performance of previous versions of Atom chips, putting the Atom in the same ballpark as ARM chips for the first time.

(The new chip would want to have improved performance. We recently reviewed an Asus phone based around a slightly older version of the Atom, which still used the same underlying "Saltwell" microprocessing architecture. The phone languished towards the bottom of our performance charts.)

Intel executives are reluctant to make too much of winning Samsung, saying they don't want to "play off one customer against another". But clearly, getting the world's largest consumer electronics manufacturer on board, even if it's only for one mobile device out of dozens it makes, is a major breakthrough for Intel.


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