Is Intel too late for tablets?

Intel currently dominates the PC market and is hoping to replicate its success in the tablet space.

However, it remains unclear if Intel’s x86 processors can mount an effective offense against rival ARM, whose RISC-based chips power a wide range of popular mobile devices, including Android smartphones and Apple’s iPad (A4).

Nevertheless, Matt Wilkins, principal analyst for compute platforms at iSuppli, believes Oak Trail may stand a viable chance of helping Intel break into the coveted tablet sector.

“First announced in June this year, Oak Trail is a System On a Chip (SoC) designed exclusively for tablets. It will consume as much as 50% less power than previous Intel processors and will also offer full high-definition video,” Wilkins told TG Daily in an e-mailed statement.

“[But] more importantly, Oak Trail will work on three operating system platforms – Android from Google, Windows 7 from Microsoft and MeeGo from Nokia. This potentially expands the universe of tablet devices in which the Intel processor might be [deployed].”

According to Wilkins, Oak Trail’s versatile compatibility with a trio of operating systems stems from Intel’s obvious “frustration” at watching Apple sell millions of units – figures that any company would have welcomed gladly.

“[Yes], Intel is [quite] smart [and] it knows perfectly well that the media tablet market is being defined right now. And if the company doesn’t become a player immediately, its prospects of getting into the market in the future will only grow dimmer,” he opined.

“Because for now, without Intel’s presence in the sector, each sale of a tablet device means a blow to the Intel processor in terms of evaporated revenue. It also could represent a missed sale in a PC that likely included an Intel-based processor.”

Wilkins also noted that Intel’s Atom revenues were down 4 percent sequentially in the third-quarter, which many construe as a sign of cannibalization by tablets.

“[Clearly], while growth will be modest during the years to come for PCs -Intel’s traditional bedrock for revenue – expansion is unstoppable in the sizzling tablet market, led by Apple’s bestselling iPad.

“[For example], global PC shipments in 2011 are forecasted to rise by 12.5 percent from 2010 and by 11.3 percent in 2012 compared to 2011. Tablets, in comparison, will surge by a mighty 197.7 percent in 2011 and by 57.4 percent in 2012,” he added.