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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.

"My assumption is that this might be the most marquee [customer] that we have," said Hermann Eul, the Intel vice-president in charge of its mobile and communications group.

Asked whether the Note 3 was the first of a number of Samsung devices that would run on Intel chips, Mr Eul said "I cannot speak for Samsung, but I've rarely seen Samsung doing one-offs, and these types of engagements usually are done at customers with a certain opinion, and I believe firmly that Samsung has discovered . . . our platforms."

Replacing an ARM processor with an Intel processor isn't simply a matter of swapping out the hardware. Certain apps that run on ARM-based devices - apps that use what's known as "native" ARM code - may not run on Intel devices, presenting a problem for manufacturers such as Samsung that want to give their customers the complete Android experience.

But Intel had more or less licked that problem, Mr Eul said. It's got a team of programmers dedicated to tweaking apps so they will run on Intel-based Android devices, and that team was yet to encounter an app it couldn't make work on Intel chips. (That claim appears to be true, at least when it comes to popular apps. When we checked a couple of weeks ago, all 50 of the top 50 Android apps were available on that Asus phone.

The most hopeful thing coming out of the Samsung announcement, as far as Intel is concerned, is that Samsung didn't even use Intel's best chip. Intel has already announced a chip architecture, known as Silvermont, that it says is three times faster than Saltwell, and uses a fifth of the power.

But Silvermont Atom chips for tablets aren't expected until the fourth quarter, and for mobile phones not until early next year. So it could be a while yet before Intel executives don't have to stand in front of near-empty trophy cabinets.


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