Snapdragons snap at Intel’s heels

Analysis – Intel may not be too happy about this, but if reports are true, a large number of Taiwanese manufacturers are set to introduce smartbooks based on ARM Snapdragon and ARM Tegra technology.

Taiwanese wire Digitimes claims that Acer, Foxconn (Honn Hai), Pegatron, Compal, and Inventec will introduce machines in the fourth quarter of this year.

The report says that Mobinnova, a Taiwanese OEM, has struck a number of deals with US and European carriers and will introduce its 8.9-inch ARM Tegra smartbooks before the year’s end.

Inventec also has a Tegra 10-inch “Rainbow” smartbook en route and is seeking to jump on the ARM bandwagon.

Of course, this is not at all what Intel wants – it wants to dominate this sector of the market too. But there is a number of factors conspiring against the chip giant.

Firstly, carriers do not want to be in hock to Intel and would prefer some measure of independence. Secondly, while notebook and netbook manufacturers have to take account of Intel’s wishes because of its size, they also like the idea of second sourcing and believe that there’s pent up demand for these kind of devices at the right price.

Intel seems to have let something of a dark genii out of the bottle by introducing the Atom and pushing netbooks for all that it’s worth. It always was something of a gamble for the chip giant. Surely after seeing a number of netbooks costing only a couple of hundred of dollars, very few punters are ever going to pay $1,500 for a high end machine again?

The netbook and notebook categories have become all mixed up and unsophisticated buyers are just going to plump for dinky little machines which appear to be vastly better value than their overpriced brethren.  They’re not better value and netbooks underperform compared to fully fledged notebooks. But try explaining that to someone who just doesn’t want to know what components are inside a machine and who only buy on price.

Intel’s decision to fight ARM head on in the MID market is a risky gamble, and it’s by no means certain that it will win this particular fight. The irony here, of course, is that Intel had ARM technology in the shape of Xscale several years ago, but was too cautious to take the plunge by pushing a reference design based on that microprocessor.