Medfield article online

Article: Medfield, Intel's x86 Phone Chip
By: Doug Siebert (, January 26, 2012 1:20 pm
Room: Moderated Discussions
David Kanter ( on 1/25/12 wrote:
>Andreas ( on 1/25/12 wrote:
>>I'm afraid that the success of Medfield and its follow-ons could be something that
>>simply is not related to performance or performance per watt or whatever. From the
>>point that Medfield is simply usable or at least in the same ballpark with ARM offerings
>>then it is marketing, carriers and design tricks that will do the job (or not) for Intel.
>>We are talking here in a tech savvy forum. But people who actually buy phones,
>>know nothing about ARM, TI, Tegra whatever. They know Apple, Android (probably),
>>Verizon, things like that. Most probably they have heard Intel, so a program like
>>"Intel Inside" could work for them (what would the average user make of a "nVidia
>>Inside" or even worse "TI inside"? ). People will probably buy the slick design
>>phone (e.g. iPhone), or the one that is on offer by their carrier.
>>Intel just needs to be in the same ballpark with ARM. It doesn't need to have the
>>highest performing device nor the lowest power consuming. After that it all comes
>>to the marketing money it is willing to spend. And it has a lot more money than any of the other players.
>Actually it's a lot more complicated than that. Motorola, HTC, etc. are all quite
>savvy buyers and can spend significant resources to investigate the power efficiency and performance.

True, but if Intel is willing to spend hundreds of millions to support an inferior technology via marketing money, as they did back in the Prescott days, that could swing some things their way. But it wouldn't be sticky, once the marketing money stops there'd be no reason to stay with Intel. If so, why do it? Because having higher prices and offering marketing dollars as a way to lower your customer's actual per unit prices allows you to claim a higher ASP to your shareholders. Being able to show gross margins comparable to that they maintain for PC CPUs would keep Intel shareholders happy and their stock price from dropping. Which it would if shareholders believed Intel was generating a lot of new revenue from entering a lower margin line of business. Because the kickbacks are counted as a marketing cost rather than a reduction in sales revenue, they count against net profit but not gross margin!

I am however skeptical of Andreas' idea about "Intel Inside" carrying any market weight. That worked for PCs because back when they started that DRAM was very expensive. So the lower end PCs that used the non-Intel CPUs to save money also shortchanged the user on RAM, so a CPU that was at worst 50% slower than a Pentium resulted in a PC that several times slower. People didn't realize how much an extra few megabytes of RAM helped back then, and incorrectly believed the CPU was to blame. Intel was able to capitalize on the bad rep those non-Intel alternatives had. I don't believe a similar situation exists in the current smartphone market, and if anything Intel having to translate ARM code risks making them look like the crap alternative where phones are concerned.

Honestly I think Intel's biggest problem is going to be their decision to support translating ARM code. If it performs poorly, it makes Intel phones look crappy and they become what Cyrix was in the early 90s. If performs good enough, then there's no incentive for anyone to ever write x86 versions of their apps. Intel's process advantage would always be totally negated by the translation overhead. Intel is about two years too late, and IMHO the best they can possibly hope for is to be the AMD of the smartphone market. Even that is only possible if Windows Phone becomes a strong third player in the smartphone market - I think they'll be third but probably not a strong third. Basically, third only because RIM will probably be bought out (possibly by Microsoft) within 18 months for their patents and Exchange integration technology.

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Medfield article onlineDavid Kanter2012/01/23 01:51 PM
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