Intel showed off its reference designs for Android-based smartphone and tablet both running its Medfield processor, which it claims would provide better performance than the current crop of ARM-based processors. The claims go on to indicate better browsing performance, ability to click multiple shots in 8.0 MP resolution in a 15 second burst and even play Blu-Ray quality videos that can be viewed on a bigger HD display too, according to Technology Review, which got a preview of both the smartphone and tablet reference designs. However, one of the biggest problems Intel has faced when it comes to handheld devices like smartphones and tablets is the power efficiency of its processors. Unlike ARM-based processors that sip battery charge, Intel’s x86 platform suffers from the desktop legacy and hence, have never been good enough for handhelds. This will change with Medfield, the company says and expects vendors to make product announcements in the first half of 2012 that will run on this platform. An announcement or two are also expected at CES next month. But does it really matter? Read on. Also Read - Intel powered smartphones to come for Rs 7,000
For Intel to succeed in this space, it does not just have to get the processor right but offer a system on chip solution that includes the radio element just like Qualcomm and others are providing. This will happen over time but is not present currently. Secondly, it is still not unclear how existing apps, which are all made for ARM architecture, will work on x86 platform. Will Intel recompile those apps? Majority of app developers won’t be interested unless devices running Intel’s solution are widely available and reach a critical mass first. This would be a situation similar to what companies using ARM architecture will face when Windows 8 tablets running on it will be launched sometime later next year. Also Read - Motorola's Intel Medfield running Android ICS smartphone renders leaked
What Intel would be looking for at the moment would be one runaway hit that changes the paradigm just like how the first iPhone of 2007 did – it did not have the latest technology (heck, it didn’t even have 3G) but offered users something new and useful. Considering the phenomenal growth in smartphones and tablet market, and adding the fact that desktop/laptop sales are not able to keep up, this could be Intel’s last chance to re-enter this market. (Intel used to provide processors for the initial Windows Mobile smartphones.) It needs to make it count and it can do that by initially partnering with just one OEM, focusing on THAT one product, which will set the ball rolling. We will keep our eyes peeled for what Intel has to show at CES, it is just that we aren’t rooting for it, yet.