Intel Pushing US$99 Tablets Again

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Windows Tablets at $99, Realsense for high-end later this year

As we followed IDF yesterday we heard about a $99 tablet price target. We assumed it was for Android tablets but no, Intel are targeting their low-end Baytrail solution for Windows tablets at that price point. Intel are also increasing marketing and promising some new and improved features that could include Realsense 3D sensors for high-end Windows tablets.

Hermann Eul, corporate VP and GM of the Mobile and Communications Group at Intel explained in his keynote yesterday that by lining up low-cost SKUs (processor models) up with the removal of Windows licensing costs (announced at BUILD yesterday) they could enable Windows tablets “even down to $99 or $129. “As we speak we have more than 90 tablet designs coming to the market” spanning from below $100 to $500.

Well, we’re in for a whole new round of cheap and possibly nasty tablets by year’s end.

And if Windows tablets are going to be US$99.00, so will Android tablets.

Why?

Intel is selling the same ready-made stuff for all tablets. It’s basically dual-use now. The main difference is the OS that’s in ROM and whatever screen resolution, RAM, and internal storage the individual tablet maker can add to it.

What’s in ROM can be Windows 8.x or what I’ll now have to call “Intel Android.”

Intel has taken AOSP — Android Open Source Project — and ported it to their CPUs.

And that’s why we’re seeing a bunch of Intel-based tablets coming out of China missing the Google bits. They’re not in there to begin with.

At some point, Google and Intel will have to come to terms because non-Google “Intel Android” really isn’t something that will sell in the larger global market. It’s usually fine for China because price is the leading issue for the mass market. But outside of China, in nations with more income, people want Google Services — because those customers are already using Google Services on the desktop (Mail, Docs, Drive, et al).

I don’t know the amount of money Intel is spending over in China to “win friends,” but all of this is their last-chance gambit to stay in business against the flood of ARM CPUs — which aren’t just from American companies now, but many from China too: Rockchip, Allwinner, Actions, MediaTek, and others.

If this doesn’t work out the way Intel hopes, it’ll be a disaster for them and could significantly shrink the company.

As for Windows tablets, even at US$99 I don’t see the hope. Microsoft is really going to have to pull a Magic Rabbit out of their hat.

The broader danger regarding US$99 tablets is that the market could expect that as the new way to measure tablets, just as lower-priced self-published eBooks have changed the way people think about book pricing. Some of this is already coming into effect, with reviewers measuring tablets against the lower-priced Nexus 7 2013. This could be the start of a race to the bottom in pricing. And that’s a double-edged sword. It gives buyers the illusion of a bargain while actually undercutting manufacturers and fostering concentration in an industry — something we’ve already seen with music and iTunes and with eBooks and Amazon.

One other point to consider is “Intel Android” versus Android versus Windows. How will the market regard “complete Windows” in a tablet versus a tablet with an incomplete (no Google bits) “Intel Android”? If it turns out, for instance, that certain apps won’t run on “Intel Android” — popular ones such as Netflix — would that make people turn to “complete Windows” which could run Netflix and other popular apps? Or would they still just buy “real” Android tablets, even if slighly higher-priced?

Previously here:

Intel-Inside Tablets For US$100 This Year

2 Comments

Filed under Android, Windows Tablets

2 responses to “Intel Pushing US$99 Tablets Again

  1. Ravi

    Google and Intel have already come to terms. The big announcement on that front was in 2011. Android (including Google apps) has worked fine on x86 for a while (e.g. Motorola RAZR i (2012), Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 (2013), etc.). These devices haven’t been popular for a variety of reasons (the weakness of Atom pre-Bay Trail, the Intel’s immature LTE solutions, etc.), but they’ve been there. This sort of thing is why Android was designed around a VM in the first place and Intel has reasonably good ARM binary emulation (“Houdini”) for most of the rest.

    There are some additional adjustments for x86-64 (which is what Intel has been working on recently), but there’s absolutely zero evidence Intel will have any trouble getting Google services on upcoming ex-China Android devices. In fact, for months there have been rumors that the next Nexus tablet (usually assumed to be a Nexus 8) will feature an Intel chip. And should Google want to announce a 64-bit Nexus tablet… Intel is the only game in town and probably will be for a while.

    • mikecane

      Then it must be the individual tablet brands that are not including the Google Services for the domestic market.

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