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Though far from abandoning hope in the traditional PC market, Intel is fighting for a share of the lucrative tablet space, as well. With the launch of its new Clover Trail Atom processors, the chip maker is marching steadily into the mobile market, with new tablet designs already in the works for the fourth quarter and into 2013.
Intel's Alt said that, like Ultrabooks, partners will face an opportunity to custom configure and brand their own Clover Trail-based tablets to better target niche markets like healthcare, education and retail.
"There is a lot of hype in the consumer space relative to your traditional tablet-type usage model, but what we are seeing with Clover Trail [is that] it gives us the opportunity to take a more standardized tablet design and apply it to new channel applications, whether its healthcare, whether it is retail, whether it's an energy device," Alt said. "[Partners can] provide a standard configuration to their customer base, and we are really excited about that."
Intel's foray into the tablet space pits it directly against market-leader ARM, the U.K.-based chip licensor whose ultra-low power processors fuel more than 90 percent of today's tablets. According to Alt, Intel will be able to fight back against ARM using its x86-based architecture, which makes its technology compatible with legacy Windows applications and, as a result, a more natural fit for enterprise users. Alt said this will also be a win for channel partners in the tablet space, as most of their own custom apps are likely x86-compatible.
"With x86 architecture, we have the ability to have legacy software compatibility," Alt told CRN. "So what I think one of the advantages we'll have in terms of moving into lower-wattage, lower-voltage type devices it that now, a customer or a channel partner can field their application software across multiple devices with an OS that is compatible."
But according to some channel partners, Intel might be underestimating just how difficult it is to be a late-comer to the tablet market, where other major players, such as HP, have tried and failed before.
"There is not much room in a very crowded market for [Intel tablets], and I have never had a lot of faith in a company’s ability to diverge from its core competencies and see success in that divergence," said Douglas Grosfield, president and CEO of Xylotek Solutions, a solution provider and Intel partner based in Ontario. "It happens, as we can see with Microsoft’s traction in the tablet space, but it often fails to make a lasting impression, [such as] HP’s rather short-lived tablet exercise last year."
That said, Intel's Alt said the chip maker is well aware that the dominance it has long enjoyed in the notebook and desktop market is definitely something it will have to fight for when it comes to tablets -- but it's willing to try.
"We know that we have been wildly successful relative to desktops, and what we've had to do is bring our technology into the performance plane that you see in these mobile devices," Alt said. "And though we have not been there in the past, we are moving aggressively to get there."