This is a guest blog from Martin Reynolds, a vice president and Fellow in Gartner Research.
Intel continues to invest in Atom, aiming to grow outside of its traditional netbook and desktop market. There are three prongs to Intel’s attack.
First, continued investment in software components that attach to the processor and provide value to OEMs that use it. The AppUp store provides a way for developers to get applications into the Atom environment. Intel offers full support for Meego, Android, Windows and other operating systems. And Intel will accelerate delivery of software components as part of the Atom support structure.
Second, continued enhancement of the Atom product line, integrating silicon to address markets from cellphones to tablets to TVs to cars.
And finally, Intel is encouraging other silicon vendors to provide support chips for Atom that allow the technology to migrate into specialized markets. A particularly interesting example is a SIP (system in package) device integrating an Atom processor with an Altera FPGA, which will allow for smaller, more sophisticated products in narrow markets that cannot afford custom silicon. Examples would be medical, test and measurement, industrial control – and startup companies in garages.
However, the challenge that Intel faces is that the products built from these fine components somehow come out to be less than the sum of the parts. There were plenty of Atom tablet prototypes on show, but our observation is that these devices must offer compelling capabilities to stack up against iPad and forthcoming Android devices. This challenge springs from the inabilities of Intel’s manufacturing partners to deliver the polished and near-flawless experience needed to compete against an Apple device. All too often, the devices offer a few standout innovations, but fail to meet baseline requirements in important areas such as, for example, battery life, portability, usability, reliability, price, connectivity .
One area bearing close observation is Google TV, where streamed entertainment will drive change across content and carrers. This segment could be a boon to Atom, opening up opportunities in the connected TV market. However, Atom-based products have to deliver meaningful advantages against ARM-based solutions such as AppleTV to succeed in this space.