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The future is 'ultramobile:' Intel makes the PC persona non grata

Mark Hachman | July 19, 2013
While the PC isn't disappearing anytime soon, it may as well be the deranged grandmother locked away within Intel's attic, whose faint screams are ignored in the rooms below.

Intel executives reiterated two key points, over and over: cost, and power. Krzanich didn't paint Intel's next-generation Core chip, Haswell, as a tool for healthcare or engineering. Instead, it will help power what Krzanich said were 50 next-generation "two-in-one" convertible tablet designs. And Samsung will include Intel's next-generation "Bay Trail" chip and LTE baseband solution inside Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Tab 3 tablet.

Intel chief financial officer Stacy Smith staked out some pretty aggressive price points during Intel's first-quarter call in April: touch-enabled ultrabooks will sell for $499 and $599 during the holidays, he said, with $300 "Bay Trail" Windows and ARM tablets making up the low end. On Wednesday, Krzanich went even further, stating that clamshells and touch-enabled convertibles could be priced under $400, and even under $300 in some cases. Intel-based tablets should cost about $199, and as low as $150. (Whether those ultra-cheap tablets will be powered by the older Clover Trail tablets or the newer Bay Trail tablets wasn't clear.) The fact that Intel's Atom processors can be used both with Windows and Android makes them even more attractive to customers, Krzanich claimed.

I've wondered before whether Intel's Atom and Core processors would collide at the low end, and whether or not the company would be able to set up a clear delineation between the two. If Intel can really hit both price points with its two chip families, it appears that won't be a problem.

And Krzanich said as much during Thursday's call. "Let me say our view right now on Bay Trail is that we don't believe it will be cannibalistic in nature," Krzanich said. "We believe what it really does it allows us to get into these markets that we're not in, in a big way today."

The underlying message is that Intel believes that is has essentially won the PC market, relegating rival AMD to the values segment within desktops and notebooks. To its credit, however, AMD has captured all of the major consoles, and has shown a willingness to design semicustom chips for key partners. Nevertheless, Intel is far more worried about the threat ARM poses in the tablet and ultraportable market, where cost and power are the key metrics.

To date, buyers have been suspicious of heavily discounted tablets and notebooks, precisely because the performance has ranged from disappointing to awful. Intel clearly believes the Atom can change that perception; it it can, Intel will also change the game


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