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Years ago AMD was putting pressure on Intel to continue innovating on the high end, but fast forwarded to 2013 and Intel is the last man standing. The new war is in ultra-low powered chips, and the company is years behind. Intel’s response to ARM was the ATOM series of processors, but they were stuck trying to power a heavy and bloated Microsoft OS, while ARM had custom designed operating systems that extended battery life, and created an entirely new market. This year the two companies are destined to meet in the middle, and it will be a pivotal moment in the history of computing. Intel has announced its plans to compete with the current crop of dirt cheap ARM based devices, and to the winner goes the spoils.
Intel’s decision to take on the low end market isn’t without precedent, but it’s also a moving target. The price point for computing has been falling faster than industry costs, and now the company finds itself scrapping with the competition for a low margin market they aren’t even sure they want. Outgoing CEO Paul Otellini understands the value of winning against ARM, but it remains to be seen if his successor shares his passion.
Microsoft announced last Thursday that small inexpensive form factor PC’s are part of its strategy, so it's likely Intel is just embracing the ever shifting winds of technological change. "We are...working closely with [PC makers] on a new suite of small touch devices powered by Windows. These devices will have competitive price points, partly enabled by our latest OEM offerings designed specifically for these smaller devices, and will be available in the coming months," Microsoft's chief financial officer, Peter Klein, said during the company's earnings call.
Either way it sounds like $200 Android powered Intel tablets are a strong possibility this year, with $250/$300 Windows 8 based versions not far behind. Will they be a fad like Netbooks? Or are these the devices everyone has been waiting for?