Not even a year after Intel landed its biggest mobile win – the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 – the company appears to be back on the outside looking in.
Thanks to a leak via a benchmark site, Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 looks like it will have a Qualcomm processor inside, just like many other Samsung products. The only question is whether it will be a Snapdragon or Exynos processor.
The folks at VR-Zone were the first to notice this tablet pop up in the AnTuTu benchmark database. Exynos and Snapdragon are both ARM processors, but Snapdragon is used in cellular devices while Exynos is used in devices with no cellular functionality.
It's not hard to see why this happened. Intel does not have a part ready. The Bay Trail processor family is out and winning some accolades in some quarter, but the only chip that could compete with Exynos or Snapdragon is the Atom Z3770, which is ok on CPU performance but lags the competitive GPU from Qualcomm and doesn't have the power performance that is so critical. Also notably absent is there is no Android for Bay Trail yet, which makes it a non-starter for Samsung.
It's probably still too soon to be critical of Intel's new management. Paul Otellini was sent into early retirement for not being able to execute fast enough on mobile but Brian Krzanich and Renee James have not even had a full year at the helm. So I'm not going to scold them. Yet.
Their last best chance will be Cherry Trail, due later this year. Cherry Trail is a whole new core built on a 14nm processor. That's important because most of the competition, Qualcomm included, are struggling to get below 28nm. The Exynos 5 processor purportedly in the new Galaxy Tab Pro is a 28nm part.
Intel has always had the advantage of manufacturing due to its billions invested in fabs, and here is where it can pay off. A 14nm processor will consume a lot less power than a 28nm or even a 20nm part, although that could be offset by the architectural differences of ARM and Atom. Also, as the process design shrinks, so does the heat, which means Cherry Trail will support more fanless designs.
The down side is that Intel has yet to integrate LTE in its mobile SoCs, something Qualcomm has done and one of the reasons it keeps getting so many design wins. Every high-end smartphone has a SoC with integrated LTE, combining two chips into one, and this is Intel's challenge. It has to get Cherry Trail to 14nm while integrating the LTE modem. And it has to get the Android port working.