Intel panics as tablet squeeze begins

Chip giant Intel is so desperate to be a major player in the tablet market that it’s pulling out all the stops to deliver a chip aimed at the lucrative sector.

Squeezed beween the two As – Apple and ARM – the company is rushing out its Oak Trail microprocessor in early 2011 because it’s determined to be a player.

That’s the implication behind a report from analyst company iSuppli. Oak Trail, said principal analyst Matt Wilkins, will work on three platforms – the Android, the Meego and Windows 7. Oak Trail is a system on chip (SoC) device, with low power consumption and high definition video.

He said: “Intel is smart. The company knows perfectly well that the media tablet market is being defined right now. And if the company doesn’t become a player immediately, its prospects of getting into the market in the future will only grow dimmer.” He said that each sale of a tablet means Intel loses revenue. Atoms are being cannibalised by tablets, he suggests.

Wilkins describes the outlook for tablets as presenting a “panoramic landscape” while the vista for PCs is relatively limited.

If iSuppli is right, the future also looks relatively dim for netbooks too, and it’s increasingly likely that ARM is eating Intel’s lunch on the mobile and smartphone front. The real question remains – even if Oak Trail manages to get out of the door early next year, will it make design wins when there are other options available for tablet vendors?

Perhaps Intel is regretting the days when it had ARM licences and a perfectly respectable ARM based chip and decided that introducing reference designs based on that combination could cannibalise its lucrative notebook chip market.