You may have seen some Medfield related news today - I thought I'd chime in with some of my thoughts on the topic. As a recap, in 2008 Intel introduced its Atom microprocessor - originally designed for MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices) and repurposed for use in netbooks. In 2010 we got a more integrated version of Atom called Moorestown designed for smartphones and tablets. Intel had basically no success with Moorestown, although Pineview (its netbook counterpart) was still used in netbooks. In our original architecture piece I called Moorestown the "two-chip solution that uses five chips". Despite physical real estate requirements, Moorestown could fit into something that was a bit larger than an iPhone at the time. At the time everyone assumed Moorestown didn't make it into a phone because of unreasonably high power draw, but no one was able to back up those claims with actual test data. Intel will tell you that Moorestown never made it anywhere because it lacked platform focus. Intel was off chasing Moblin/MeeGo and Android wasn't a priority. Things have obviously changed since then.

Medfield is the 32nm successor to Moorestown. Intel hasn't disclosed many details about Medfield's architecture, but we do know that it is a more integrated single chip design (compared to Moorestown's "two-chip" solution). We also saw Intel's Medfield reference smartphone and tablet, both running Android, at IDF. While this is still far away from announcing an actual design win, it's clear that Intel is finally making progress in the right direction. Couple these recent milestones with more recent restructuring inside Intel and it looks like the company is finally preparing to really enter the mobile market.

This brings us back to today's news. The information disclosed today came from an investor conference earlier this month. Above is a slide from the aforementioned meeting.

Intel has carefully removed the names of the devices in this chart. Barring any outright deception however, there seems to be potential in Medfield. One would assume that device manufacturers are given access to this (and more) performance data. One might also be able to infer that if Intel does indeed have a Medfield design win (hopefully more than one), then these numbers might be fairly convincing. The war begins in 2012...

Source: Intel [pdf]

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  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    An Intel-powered Android phone is quickly becoming the next Duke Nukem Forever.
  • retrospooty - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Except that Atom has room for growth. This is just now on 32nm, but 22nm is online and shipping in a month or 2 with Ivy bridge... They can stay one process ahead of the rest and compete.

    Dont forget, the last time Intel had any real pressure they answered with the Core2 Duo/Quad. If Intel puts their focus behind this, they will get it.
  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Except Intel isn't one process ahead. TSMC is already producing 28nm chips for Q1 2012, where as Intel is talking about 32nm chips. And last I checked, I don't ever remember the Atom line ever getting first dibs on Intel's latest fab process. That always goes to their desktop and laptop designs.

    Besides, Intel still needs to deal with the biggest problem for switching: in order to beat the competition, you can't just be a little bit better, you have to be an order of magnitude better to get people to switch.
  • retrospooty - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    "Except Intel isn't one process ahead. TSMC is already producing 28nm chips for Q1"

    Intel is just starting 22nm while TSMC and others are starting 28nm.

    " I don't ever remember the Atom line ever getting first dibs on Intel's latest fab process"

    They have already announced that that will change in 2012. Atom will be right in front.

    "in order to beat the competition, you can't just be a little bit better, you have to be an order of magnitude better to get people to switch"

    And that is exactly what I am saying not to count Intel out of. If they put their efforts into a platform, they will get it. They have some of the best chip engineers on earth, and plenty of them. They have unlimited cash reserves, talent, manufacturing experience and industry clout.

    As far as switching, they also have the ability to Run Win8 and x86 apps, so that gives more flexibility and opens up the enterprise market to tablets in a way that ARM never will. I am not saying everything will work out perfect for them and go 100% as planned, but If I were to bet on it, my $ is behind Intel getting it done.
  • web2dot0 - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Not so fast Sherlock.

    Intel is WAAAY behind in the mobile space. It's not that easy to compete with the x86 baggage. There is a limit to what you can do. Throwing more people to a problem doesn't solve the problem faster. Some things just takes time.

    Besides, with Apple having their own chip, it's only a matter of time before they create a fully integrated Siri / Gaming solution with their A6-7 chips. With their S/W and H/W all lined up, no amount of Intel intervention can save them.

    The problem is not as simple as you make it out to be.
  • SlyNine - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Forget the X86 baggage, If you think thats a problem then you don't understand how X86 is done today and how little it effects anything.

    Intel will compete in the mobile market. Like it or not.
  • retrospooty - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    That and x86 isnt "baggage" in the enterprise sector. With Win8 and using x86 apps, companies can actually do real business on tablets instead of these "silly" little apps that are written for ARM tablets. X86 will make tablets a useable work computer.
  • JoeTF - Friday, December 23, 2011 - link

    No, it won't.

    You're conveniently forgetting that all those 'awesome' legacy x86 are written for mouse and keyboard interaction and are all but useless in touchscreen based tablet.
    At best, trying to use them will be horrible, at worst, it'll be outright impossible.

    x86 alone will NOT make smartphones and tablets into useable work computer. Writing new applications that fully utilize touchscreen useage model will.
  • web2dot0 - Saturday, December 24, 2011 - link

    x86 is overkill is obsolete in the mobile sector. There is no dependancies of x86 in mobile. You're no going to run a desktop app on a mobile phone.

    You'll need to rewrite a mobile app which exploits the mobile phone's capabilities. That is why ARM is such a beast.

    Do you really think Intel can compete with RIM in the enterprise sector or Apple in the consumer sector that easily?

    Intel's got a LOOONG way to go before I declare them a legitimate challenge. It'll make multiple execution mistakes from either of the companies before Intel has a shot. This is not out of the realm of possibilities, but Intel by itself cannot determine its own destiny in this sector.
  • fteoath64 - Sunday, January 1, 2012 - link

    "Intel will compete in the mobile market. Like it or not. "

    But with WHAT ?. This junk?!. It loses out in the power consumption department like 2W vs 500mw. Its performance is not outstanding. Have you seen the ARM A15 dual core performance ?. Intel will say WTF!.

    So this chip is almost the same as the netbook chip and hardly usable in tablet form. In phone formfactor, its battery life is going to be short. Who wants it when you have great choices way better elsewhere.

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