Computex 2011 Stories May 31, 2011

So Intel has showcased six Honeycomb tablets at the Computex show, all of them engineered around the company’s latest 32-nanometer silicon code-named Medfield, the chip maker’s first system-on-a-chip engineered specifically for tablets and smartphones. Unsurprisingly, the demos fell on deaf ears with the veteran journalists who have seen it all.

Sean Moloney, Intel’s new president for China, flashed six Honeycomb 3.0 tablets and a smartphone during his opening keynote. He said reference designs for Medfield tablets and smartphones include both Android and ill-fated Meego software that Intel and Nokia co-developed for high-end mobile gear.

Intel has been trying for years to penetrate the potent mobile market where ARM-based processors designed by Nvidia, Texas Instruments, Apple and others woe device makers. Be that as it may, we don’t see Intel’s latest technology competing effectively with market incumbents – neither this nor next year. Why?

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Huang Jen-Hsun, Nvidia’s co-founder and CEO, predicts tablets will outperform mobile PCs five years from today, echoing a similar sentiment from UK fabless chip maker ARM Holdings. The Tegra revenue could even surpass Nvidia’s GPU business, he tells chatting with reporters at a Computex press conference in Taipei, Taiwan. The CEO dismissed¬†Intel’s latest mobile strides by expressing pessimism about their re-newed focus on tablet and smartphone silicon. Taiwanese trade publication DigiTimes quoted¬†Jen-Hsun as saying that “consumers do not care whether their products use x86- or ARM-based processor”, adding:

As for the impact bring by the tablet PC, Huang pointed out that PC and tablet PC each has its own unique functionality; therefore, the traditional notebook should not see any danger of being replaced. However, netbook, which does not have a full functionality as a traditional PC, is being impacted deeply by tablet PC.

Nvidia, of course, is betting big on ARM-branded processor designs (versus Intel’s desktop x86 and mobile Atom architectures) that dominate the smartphone industry and are slowly but surely becoming a norm in the tablet space. Tegra chips typically combine ARM processing cores and Nvidia’s custom graphics cores. Even the iPad’s A5 chip is custom-designed around ARM’s CPU blueprints and the graphics unit licensed from Imagination Technologies. Nvidia’s technology roadmap is pretty convincing and they’ve been working their way up the mobile chain. The company is set to become the leading silicon provider for mobile gadgets…

Asus yesterday unveiled the Eee Pad Slider, a gadget designed around Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chip.

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