Intel's Medfield chip consumes more power than ARM processors, but the draw is still low enough to bring the chip maker to the smartphone bracket. In the long run, Intel could catch up with ARM on power consumption because of advanced manufacturing technology, leaving software as the key issue, and Intel has to enable a mobile OS like Android to work better on its chips.
"It's that kind of usability issue -- Web experience, graphics experience -- that's going to be the key differentiator," Gold said. "Intel Inside in a phone, people don't care."
The Medfield chip is made using the 32-nanometer process, but Intel could bring big power savings to smartphone chips with the 22-nm process, when 3D transistors could reach smartphones. Intel's initial chips made using the 22-nm process will reach laptops and desktops in the first half this year.
Intel will keep pouring money into chasing the smartphone market as it is more meaningful in terms of volume and revenue, McCarron said. It's a lot easier to patch together a tablet, but takes longer for smartphones to ship with the months of validation and testing involved.
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