[Updated] Intel: Atom Is Not Dead And We’re Not Leaving Mobile
Late last week we covered stories reporting the possible death of Intel’s Atom lineup and a presumed withdrawal from the mobile market. Since then we’ve had a chance to speak with Intel’s public relations team and they’ve helped clear a few things up. After getting this additional information it seems that Intel’s decisions are not only reasonable but possibly better in a longer-term picture.
The Future of Atom
Contrary to the worst assumptions, Intel reports that it is not dead. Previously named “Cherry Trail” Atom x5 and x7 SoCs will continue to ship and remain under the Atom branding. So devices powered by it, such as the Microsoft Surface 3, Microsoft HoloLens and even Intel’s own recent refresh of the Atom-based Compute Stick will continue. After Cherry Trail though it seems that things will change.
Intel originally stated that they “will continue to work with OEMs to develop new 2-in-1’s based on Apollo Lake and Core M for detachable 2-in-1’s.” When I followed up on Apollo Lake I was told that it “will support entry/value devices and will be branded Pentium and Celeron.” Atom launched at a time when the Core M branding didn’t exist; now there is significant overlap between the two in terms of functionality, power efficiency and cost. And while Broxton was cancelled, I don’t see anything indicating Willow Trail is also cancelled, leaving open the possibility for Atom to continue even beyond Cherry Trail.
Update: Intel has responded and stated that “…the only product discontinued were Broxton for phones and tablets, SoFIA 3GX, SoFIA LTE, and SoFIA LTE2″ They also clarified that Atom branding has not had any decisions made on it, as well as noting that many Pentium and Celeron products are based on Atom design (such as Bay Trail).
Intel and Mobile Data
One of the other prevalent myths was that Intel might be folding up its tent and ceding the mobile market to the likes of Qualcomm, Samsung and Mediatek. To address this Intel pointed to the blog post from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich on April 26th. In there he notes:
“As the world moves to 5G, Intel will lead because of our technological strength to deliver end-to-end 5G systems, from modems to base stations to all the various forms of connectivity that exist today and will exist tomorrow.”
I was confused when I read this because there is no 5G specification — 3GPP is taking steps to have one in place by 2018; some of the active players are already labeling candidate technologies as 5G, such as Samsung. Intel is pushing hard for all things related to the Internet of Things, a concept that suggests almost everything can and eventually will be “wired” in some aspect.
To get the data is one thing, but the data has to be sent back somewhere for analysis and use — and in many cases of growth, that still requires a mobile signal. One only has to look at their own graphic to see how important they place this.
The missing piece to this puzzle is this: SoFIA wasn’t the only modem Intel had. Yes, it was the one integrated with Atom; but beyond that integration Intel has several other models, all which still seem to be alive and well. Any of these could easily still be paired with a processor, now likely with Pentium or Core M on Intel. It could even pair with SoCs from another manufacturer, such as the rumored deal with Apple. And since they’ll want to grow that business they’ll need to support it on the platforms which it could be used on, including Android.
The moves announced by Intel seem like a company looking forward and dropping what isn’t working. Atom marches on with a focus away from the very low end and full integration. Keeping the Atom x5 and x7 allows them to work on products that offer support, like 4K displays, that Intel can best market to. The theory of Intel’s demise in the mobile scene seem to be greatly exaggerated as well. Whether those For those who believe we need more players in the mobile scene, it has to be welcomed news in contrast to the articles originally written last week on the topic.
Intel & Android (Updated)
For those wondering what Intel’s stance is on Android given recent developments, this statement should put you at ease.
“We absolutely remain committed to Android and that ecosystem, and we will be at Google I/O in a few weeks.”
Do you believe Intel will continue to grow in the mobile scene? Or perhaps it will grow in other ways, focusing on selling its components as parts of a larger system instead of full solution? Let us know – sound off in the comments below!