Intel’s Oak Trail challenges ARM to a mobile duel

Intel has debuted its next-gen mobile Atom chip at the Developer Forum in Beijing.

A number of prominent vendors – including Lenovo, Fujitsu and Razer – have already tapped the Z670 processor (formerly codenamed “Oak Trail”) to power a variety of tablet and hybrid devices.

According to Intel exec Doug Davis, Oak Trail boasts improved video playback (1080p/HDMI), faster Internet browsing and longer battery life – all without sacrificing performance.

Oak Trail also offers support for multiple operating systems, including Android, MeeGo and Windows.

“Z670 helps deliver smaller, thinner and more efficient devices by packing integrated graphics and the memory controller directly onto the processor die,” Davis explained.

“[It] is 60% smaller than previous generations with a lower-power design for fanless devices [and is capable of] saving power during periods of inactivity.”

Yes, the Z670 is certainly light-years ahead of previous Atom processors, but can it successfully challenge ARM’s dominance in the mobile arena?

Well, industry analyst Rob Enderle believes Oak Trail currently represents Intel’s “best chance” of taking on the competing chip company.

“ARM owns both the smartphone and new tablet market, with Intel displaying little success in those areas. In addition, with Microsoft’s announcement about moving to ARM for Windows and increasing ARM trials for servers, Intel’s own market is increasingly at risk,” Enderle told TG Daily

“Clearly, Oak Trail is Intel’s best chance of shoring up the exposure ARM represents to Intel. However, given how entrenched ARM is in smartphone and tablets, it may not be enough alone to take back any gains ARM has made.”

Enderle also emphasized that to “fight back” effectively against ARM would likely require the combined resources of all of X86 vendors – and Intel doesn’t yet perceive RISC-based chipset as enough of a threat to bury the hatchet with AMD.  

“Still, ARM isn’t invulnerable, because it is somewhat fragmented  across a number of technology suppliers. Then again, Apple is showcasing a path where they use their own ARM designs which could represent a bigger threat to the current ARM base near term than Intel does. 

“Such fragmentation and infighting could provide the opening Intel needs – if it can bring a competitive product to market and convince a primary software supplier to adopt it. Yet, momentum is working against Intel and I don’t think they are resourcing this effort to a level that will assure Atom’s success. At the moment, it seems to be ARM’s game. As such, if Intel doesn’t substantially increase their efforts, it probably won’t like the outcome,” he added.