Intel Aims Windows-Free Mutant Tablets at Datacenters

Intel’s product specifications for two models of Smart Display 2014+ tablet/all-in-one Android devices

Intel is aiming a new class of non-PC devices at enterprises already struggling to support datacenters, desktops, laptops, ultrabooks, smartphones and the smart-sensored “Internet of Things.”

In a new attempt to convince tablet-makers to abandon ARM chips, Intel is pitching a set of specifications for giant, touch-enabled tablets running Android and Intel Bay Trail chipsets in a frame that could also function as a monitor for desktop PCs or luggable all-in-one computers.

Rather than trying to compete on size or battery life, Intel has focused on power and flexibility for its new set of configurations, dubbed Smart Display. The systems it proposes, some of which are a combination of all-in-one PC and gargantuan touchscreen tablet, are designed to run Intel Bay Trail processors in tablets twice as powerful as ARM tablets, support touchscreens as large as 21 inches, and cost as little as $200 for the smaller versions.

The systems wouldn’t be as powerful as desktop machines, but would be a step up from current tablets for users wanting a device that could synchronize data from all their Android devices into one machine with a screen as large as 21 inches that is suitable for Web browsing, email or watching video.

Intel’s specification recommends its Bay Trail System-on-a-Chip (SoC) and chipset running 22nm Silvermont Atom cores, which it said would deliver performance similar to a Windows laptop, with the comparatively low price and long battery life of a tablet.

The result should be a gargantuan tablet that uses wireless connections or a single wire to link it to keyboards, power and peripherals; runs twice as fast as current Pentium and Celeron processors; requires no power-sucking fan to keep it from overheating; and keeps going for as long as 10 hours on one battery charge, with display resolutions as high as 2,560 x 1,600 and prices ranging between $349 and $399 for basic models.

The more basic model would run a Celeron J1000 processor, 2GB of DDR3 memory, 8GB of flash storage and a touch screen, but no HDMI. The more powerful version would run Pentium J2000 processors, 2GB of memory, 500GB SATA hard-disk drives, PCI-E support and a single HDMI port.

Bay Trail chipsets could be used to build other sizes and configurations of tablet, as well. Intel has pitched systems-makers on the idea of using its mobile-adapted Bay Trail-M chipset for systems such as a non-touch-enabled clamshell notebook that could sell for less than $200.

“We expect 8-inch tablets to be as thin as 8 millimeters with this [Bay Trail] chip,” according to Stephen Smith, the general manager of tablet development at Intel who spoke at yesterday’s announcement, as quoted in The Register. “You can get a 10-hour active battery life and three weeks of standby time. You get instant responsiveness that we all want.”

Bay Trail can run either Android or Windows 8.1, though a 64-bit version won’t be available until 2014.

There are six different versions of Bay Trail on the way, which already has commitments from systems-makers for 141 devices.

The new device specifications are (essentially) use cases that Intel offers as suggestions to OEMs considering whether to buy Bay Trail chips. Expanding the range of use cases to include non-Windows-supporting Android devices and oversized tablets is, from a product-marketing perspective, simply a way to expand the potential market for Intel processors in the mobile market dominated by other players.

From a consumer- or business-user perspective, however, the new designs are all about keeping up with demands of users who want mobility, convenience and power all at the same time, according to Herman Eul, vice president and general manager for Intel’s mobile and communications group.

Since it’s not possible to make a single device that does all three brilliantly, or find a single form factor that fits the work-style of every end user, the mobile market is going to stay a lot more fragmented than the market for PCs. “The market for tablets is changing form one type to multiple,” VentureBeat quoted Eul as saying at the event. “We are here to enable choice. So far there wasn’t so much choice.”


Image: Intel Corp.