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Intel takes on ARM in low-cost Android tablet market

Asus' Fonepad tablet priced at $249 is first low-cost Android tablet with x86 chip, and Intel says there are more tablets coming

By Agam Shah
February 27, 2013 10:46 AM ET

IDG News Service - One of the first low-cost Android tablets with an Intel x86 processor was announced at Mobile World Congress, setting the stage for a long battle between the world's largest chip maker and ARM, whose processors go into most tablets today.

Asustek released a 7-inch tablet running a single-core Intel Atom Z2420 processor code-named Lexington, which is targeted at low-cost smartphones and tablets. Priced at $249, the tablet has 3G voice and data capabilities, and Asus claims it offers nine hours of battery life. The tablet includes multiple cameras and a 1280 x 800 pixel screen.

That tablet is comparable on price and features to low-cost 7-inch Android tablets with ARM processors. Hewlett-Packard recently introduced the Slate 7 with a dual-core ARM processor, which starts at $169 and offers 6 hours of battery life but does not have 3G capabilities. Google's Nexus 7 tablet starts at $199 with a quad-core ARM processor, but the price goes up with the addition of mobile broadband features.

Intel is just getting started in the low-cost Android tablet market. The company has so far offered the Atom Z2760 processor, code-named Clover Trail, only for Windows 8 tablets. Wanting to leave Clover Trail largely to Windows, Intel last year decided to develop Lexington, which is a variant of Intel's Atom chip code-named Medfield.

Lexington chips are already found in low-cost smartphones like Kenya phone maker Safaricom's Yolo, which is priced at about $125. More Lexington-based smartphones are expected from companies like Lava International and Acer in developing countries.

The low-cost Android device market is important for Intel, and more low-cost Lexington tablets and smartphones will be released going forward, said Hermann Eul, vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile Communications Group during an interview at MWC, being held in Barcelona.

"The tablet market is important for us," Eul said. "We will see all kinds of sizes."

To gain an edge, Intel is also taking advantage of communications technology it acquired from Infineon, as exemplified by the Fonepad. There's a big need for such devices, and Eul said that the company will focus on increasing its presence in the market by providing the chips required by device makers.

While Lexington for smartphones and tablets are viewed as for Android only, things will change toward the end of the year when Intel releases its latest tablet Atom chips, code-named Bay Trail, which are the successor to the Windows-only Clover Trail. Eul said tablets with Bay Trail will be released simultaneously with Android and Windows.

That will effectively break up segmentations of Intel's tablet chips based on OSes.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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