Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) is seeking a reboot in the tablet market with its upcoming Atom Z2760 chips code-named Clover Trail, and 20 tablets are in the works with the new chips, the company said on Tuesday.
“Our customers have 20 designs in their labs based on Clover Trail,” said Hermann Eul, president of Intel Mobile Communications Group, during an interview at the Computex trade show in Taipei.
Many of the tablets currently in the labs are planned for release in conjunction with Microsoft’s Windows 8, a touch-optimized OS due for release later this year. Asus at Computex announced the Asus Tablet 810 with an 11.6-inch screen, Intel’s Clover Trail processor and the Windows 8 OS. Lenovo has already said it will release a ThinkPad tablet with Windows 8 running on Intel chips, and Dell has said it would release a Windows 8 tablet later this year.
Intel currently offers the Atom chip code-named Oak Trail for tablets, which is used by companies like Hewlett-Packard and Dell in Windows 7 tablets. But the new Clover Trail chip signals a new start for Intel in the tablet space.
“The real tablet market starts with Windows 8,” Eul said. The Clover Trail tablets will be targeted at consumers and businesses, and offer long battery life.
Tablets with Clover Trail chips will be less than 9 millimeters thick, weigh less than 680 grams and provide more than nine hours of battery life, Intel has said. The features will also include 3G/4G LTE capabilities and advanced security and manageability features.
Intel’s main competitor for Clover Trail will be ARM, whose processors go into most tablets and smartphones today. Clover Trail tablets will likely go head-to-head with tablets running Windows RT OS, which is an upcoming version of the OS for ARM processors. Asus has already announced the Tablet 600, which has quad-core ARM processor and Windows RT.
But Eul said that the x86 architecture has advantages over ARM. Microsoft has said that existing Windows applications will not work on Windows RT, and backward compatibility of x86 applications gives Clover Trail an edge over competing architectures. CIOs, for example, will be able to easily plug existing Clover Trail tablets with Windows 8 into existing IT infrastructures.
“That is incredible value. That should not be underestimated,” Eul said.
Windows has virtually grown up on x86, and there is a long history of software and driver development behind the OS and the architecture, Eul said.
“Needless to say, our expectation is Windows will be running best on [x86] architecture,” he added.
The consistency of architectures may also find value among consumers, Eul said. Consumers will be able to create and consume content, while running their existing Windows applications.