Mobile

ARM CEO: Intel’s Medfield mobile chips are “good enough”

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The head of ARM Holdings isn’t sweating Intel’s foray into the mobile chip market, where ARM’s chip designs have dominated over the past few years.

“It’s inevitable Intel will get a few smartphone design wins — we regard Intel as a serious competitor,” ARM CEO Warren East told Reuters at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. “Are they ever going to be the leaders in power efficiency? No, of course not. But they have a lot more to offer.”

At CES, Intel unveiled its long-awaited Medfield mobile processor, now called the Atom Z2460, which is low power and meant for use in smartphones and tablets. The company also announced that Motorola and Lenovo will be the first to make Android devices using the Medfield chip.

But Intel faces an uphill battle with the Atom Z2460 since it’s coming to the market so late, and it’s also fundamentally incompatible with ARM’s designs since it’s x86-based. That means a vast majority of the more than 400,000 Android apps on the market won’t run on Intel’s processor without being recompiled. The company has hinted it has some solution in the works to run ARM-based apps, but that will likely come at some sort of performance cost.

East said Intel’s chip was “good enough,” but ultimately not competitive with ARM’s chip designs.

“They (Intel) have taken some designs that were never meant for mobile phones and they’ve literally wrenched those designs and put them into a power-performance space which is roughly good enough for mobile phones,” he said.

After playing around with Intel’s reference Android phone, which was running a surprisingly ugly version of Android, I’d have to side with East for now. The phone performed decently, but it was a bit thicker than most high-end Android phones now, and there didn’t seem to be anything very compelling about it.

Perhaps the final models will show the real value in Intel’s new mobile platform, but for now it seems like the Atom Z2460 is too little, too late.

For more news out of this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, be sure to check out VentureBeat’s live coverage from CES 2012.