Reports of Intel's death are wildly exaggerated

The ARM/Apple tsunami is gaining strength, but anyone who thinks it will swamp Wintel anytime soon is badly mistaken

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Moreover, Intel is one of the largest suppliers of code to the Android code base, says Dean McCarron, principal analyst of Mercury Research. If Intel didn't believe it was going to get something significant out of Android, would it make those contributions just to be a good citizen? Of course not.

So why does Gruman believe that "Intel is kept at the back of the line in terms of support and access to the pseudo-open source Android code"? I don't see any evidence of that, but maybe I'm missing something. Gruman tells me it's the utter lack of Android 4 "Ice Cream Sandwich" devices using Intel chips, though Android 4 first shipped for ARM devices six months ago. Intel says to expect Intel-based Android 4 devices soon and notes the first Android 3.3 "Gingerbread" Intel-based devices shipped last month.

The other key announcement at the Intel Developer Forum came from Motorola Mobility, which signed an extensive "multiyear, multidevice strategic partnership" with Intel to produce Android-powered smartphones and tablets. Motorola wouldn't have done that without looking very closely at Medfield, and it must have concluded that the Intel platform is indeed competitive with ARM in power consumption and raw performance.

Once these devices are in the market, we'll see something new: serious competition for the Qualcomm and Nvidia ARM chips used in most Android devices.

Will you get work done on ARM?
Another exaggerated story line is the threat ARM chips pose to Intel in the productivity market. Sure, Qualcomm showed off a PC-like device earlier this year, but what anyone will be able to use it for is hardly clear.

"I'm quite skeptical," says Mercury Research's McCarron. The software infrastructure is dominated by the classic x86 architecture of Intel and AMD. In particular, Windows 8 on ARM will not support binary translation, so any apps written to run on it will have to be rewritten from the ground up, he says.

Here, too, there is some nuance. McCarron notes that the rise of the app stores will make it easier for independent developers to write and sell ARM-specific apps that could get some traction with the public. Plans on the drawing board for new chips by Qualcomm and Nvidia, expected to debut around 2015, could change the game, he says.

A report by Flurry, a mobile analytics company, found that an astonishing 1.2 billion apps were downloaded between December 25 and December 31, 2011. About 20 percent of those were tablet-specific, estimates Flurry's Peter Farago. However, only 1.4 percent of those downloads were productivity-related, meaning that most people are not relying on their mobile devices as the primary means of getting their work done.

So with all due respect, Galen: Your pronouncement of Intel's death is greatly exaggerated. I hope you're wearing a crash helmet.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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