Mobile Devices Atomizing?

Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha said his company has a multi-year, multi-device deal with Intel, which could mean Motorola is moving away from the Texas Instruments and Nvidia ARM-based chips. Jha said its first Intel-based Android phones will launch in the second half of 2012, but Motorola will have embedded Atom chips in tablets as well. Google Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer, are powered by dual-core Intel Atom processors.

The Lenovo IdeaTab K2110 tablet and the the Lenovo K800 smartphone, announced yesterday, are also based on Intel’s new Atom processor called Medfield.

Intel’s single-core, 32nm Medfield processor, now called the Atom Z2460, is clocked at 1.6GHz and supports hyper-threading. That processor is then bundled with the Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX540 graphics, and Intel’s 6540 HSPA+ modem inside the reference design.

Intel showcased a 10″ Lenovo Ideatab K2110 tablet running Android 4.0, although the reference design is running Android 2.3. Intel says it gets six hours of video playback, 45 hours of music and 14 days of standby time on a charge.

The biggest question about Intel’s Atom chips inside Android devices has been app support, says The Verge. In September, Intel and Google announced a partnership to allow developers to compile apps for both ARM and x86.

At CES this week, Intel’s Dave Whalen, said almost all apps in the Android Market will run on phones or tablets with Medfield. Even apps that haven’t been optimized for Intel will work.

But GigOm says Apple and Samsung have become the dominant players in smartphones. Their iPhone and Galaxy dominate. Both produce their own ARM silicon and would have little use for Intel.

Competitors Nokia, LG and HTC could become smaller bit players.

Om Malik predicts that if anyone is going to challenge Samsung and Apple’s dominance, it will be Lenovo’s fellow Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE, which could become giants in the low-end of the smartphone price spectrum.

It will be a challenge for Intel to get inside a large number of mobile devices. Even Windows 8 will support ARM chips.

The head of British chip designer Arm Holdings is not impressed by Intel’s Atom chips. “Are they ever going to be the leaders in power efficiency? No, of course not. But they have a lot more to offer,” said ARM CEO Warren East.

Clover Trail is the next Atom chip in the pipeline. It is slated for the second half of the year, about the same time frame that Windows 8 is due. Clover Trail will also be offered in dual-core versions, making it more attractive for tablet makers. Clover Trail processors are 32nm. We won’t see 22nm Atom processors until 2013.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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