Intel’s Haswell shines, but Atom remains cloudy
9/10/2012 2:26 PM EDT
Obstacles to Atom's success
The first obstacle would be the shift in the market from high-end phones to more moderately prices mainstream and low-end smartphones. It is one thing to compete on the high-end of performance, but the growth segments of the market are focused more on power consumption and price.
The shift to lower-end smartphones is also leading to a shift in processor technology for smartphones, which may create another obstacle for Intel. The processors used in these devices are shifting to a combination of low- and high-performance cores, multiple low-end cores, and/or the use of special accelerators for specific hardware functions or software support.
The GPU is also becoming a critical feature as OEMs look toward a GPGPU compute model using OpenCL to offload digital image and video processing to enhance the user experience and reduce power consumption.
With the support of the PowerVR series of GPUs from Imagination Technologies, Intel can compete on graphics performance. However, Intel has resisted the GPGPU compute model in PCs in the past. Intel has also resisted the use of different cores in personal computing platforms even though the company has long supported the use of accelerators in server applications, including the introduction of the Xeon Phi earlier this year.
For smartphones, Intel has been focused on developing one core that can compete in the mainstream and high-end segments of the market. Although leaked Intel roadmaps indicate low-power products to support the low-end of the smartphone market, there is no indication that this will be accomplished using a different x86 core, as is done with the ARM technology. As a result, it is unclear if Intel could or would support a multicore strategy or if the company can compete with a single core in different segments of the smartphone market.
So, like most IDFs the key is to listen to not only what the company does say, but what it does not. In PCs and servers, Intel continues to push the limits of the x86 platforms in delivering higher-performance and power-efficient solutions. However, questions still remain around Atom and the company’s smartphone strategy.