Intel still has a lot of work to do to cut in to ARM's hold on the tablet and smartphone market share, but as we head into 2014, the company is pulling out all the stops. Today a new Atom system on a chip (SoC) roadmap detailed Intel's plans for 2014 and 2015, with the goal of increasing CPU performance by five times and GPU performance by 15 times by 2016.
The performance Atom SoC line, currently 'Bay Trail', will be succeeded in late 2014 by 14nm 'Cherry Trail' silicon packing 'Airmont' CPU cores and next-generation Intel-developed graphics. The new, smartphone-specific dual-core 'Merrifield' Atom chips will begin appearing in devices at the start of 2014, with a quad-core variant expected in the second half of the year.
In 2015, tablet and smartphones chips will converge into the one line, codenamed 'Broxton'. Still using a 14nm manufacturing process, Broxton SoCs will feature next-generation 'Goldmont' CPU cores and Skylake-generation graphics units.
Meanwhile, in late 2014, Intel will launch a new Atom SoC codenamed 'Sofia', which is designed specifically for entry-level devices. The 2014 variant will feature an integrated HSPA+ communications chip, while the 2015 model (available alongside the high-performance Broxton chips) will upgrade that to LTE. Initially these communications units will be ARM-based, although in the future they will be converted to x86.
Intel is also hard at work making modifications to Android in preparation for 64-bit Bay Trail-powered tablets. The Atom SoC itself already supports 64-bit instructions on operating systems like Windows 8.1, however Intel wants Android 64-bit ready to compete with devices like the iPad, whose A7 SoCs are already 64-bit capable. The company claims Bay Trail Android tablets could be available for as cheap as $150.
While still a leader in desktop and laptop processors, and featured inside many Windows tablets, Intel has struggled to break into the Android tablet market with their x86-based SoCs. The accelerated plans for 2014 and 2015 look promising, but it remains to be seen if they can capture any significant share of the market.