SAN FRANCISCO – “This was arguably our biggest effort at concurrent engineering to date,” crowed Stephen L. Smith, Intel’s director of tablet development at the launch of Clover Trail, its latest Atom-based SoC.
The PC giant designed the dual-core, dual threaded 1.8-GHz chip in tandem with a handful of partners who worked on a full tablet reference design for the chip. The 10.1-inch tablet design came with a full Intel software stack of BIOS, drivers and firmware for Microsoft’s Windows 8.
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Intel, Microsoft, Lenovo and one unnamed customer created the reference system and shared the bill of materials with six other OEMs.. Acer, Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Samsung and ZTE showed systems, each with minor variations, most ready to roll for the formal launch of Win 8 at the end of October.
Tom Butler, Lenovo product marketing manager, which helped define the reference design, shows its ThinkPad Tablet II.
Asus, Lenovo and Samsung also showed tablets with Wacom digitizers for pen input with a stylus. Acer and HP tablets docked into keyboards that housed a secondary battery.
Asus showed a model with an 11.6-inch LG display delivering 600-nits brightness. The Acer tablet supports 3G and near-field communications. All the systems include keyboard docks that essentially turn them into small notebooks.
The big question is whether the race to Clover Trail leads to a significantly bigger share for x86 tablets in a market dominated by the Apple iPad. It’s a complex issue given Microsoft is also enabling the first generation of ARM-based Windows tablets—and competing with its own Surface tablet.
“I think [the Win 8 Atom tablets] have a very different proposition from the Android and Apple folks in providing a single device that does the content consumption tablets are good at and creation that PCs are good at,” said Nathan Brookwood, principal of Inside64 (Saratoga, Calif.). “The open question is if that resonates with buyers."
“This is a really good start for Intel in tablets,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal of Moor Insights & Strategy (Austin, Texas). “Enterprise IT will be taking a very serious look at these tablets and potentially pause their iPad rollouts if they aren’t too far down that road."
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