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9/18/2012
08:45 AM
George Ou
George Ou
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Intel Win8 Tablet Competitive Price vs. ARM Confirmed

Widespread reports still claim that Intel Windows 8 tablets based on the Clover Trail Atom SOC (system-on-chip) will be priced very high. I have been maintaining the opposite for months. But we don't need to guess anymore because I've confirmed with a real source. Looks like ARM-based Windows RT is a loser.

Yesterday's media reports that Asus Intel SoC based Windows 8 tablets are priced ridiculously high ($799 base) are almost certainly wrong. The story was based on a single anonymous source with purportedly leaked slides but it was widely reported as news and they even confused Windows RT pricing with Windows 8 pricing. The thought that Asus would attempt to sell a Windows RT tablet with hardware equivalent to their $399 Android based Transformer tablet at $599 should be a clue that these reports are dubious. $799 for a Windows 8 tablet running an Intel Atom SoC is simply unbelievable.

Any sane business person by now should know Apple dictates the price ceiling on tablets and notebooks. Apple can even charge a premium against Android and Windows RT because of their massive app store ecosystem. Windows 8 tablets have the benefits of a vast hardware peripheral and application ecosystem so they can be priced at or near iPad pricing if the hardware specs are similar. But we don't need to guess anymore because I've confirmed with a real source.

A spokesperson for Intel has confirmed with me that "Intel expects Clover Trail tablets to be competitively priced when compared to comparable tablets on the market". When I specifically asked Intel about the pricing of the Intel Atom Z2760 System-on-Chip (SoC) product being used in Windows 8 tablets compared to competing ARM architecture chips used in competing Windows RT tablets, Intel responded that "Intel Atom SoC will be competitively priced". The SoC contains the CPU, GPU, memory controller, and other I/O functionality but it's a relatively small part of the total system price of a tablet. To get a better idea of SoC pricing, I asked industry analyst David Kanter of Real World Tech. Kanter explained that ARM SoC chips are priced in range of $20 to $30. Intel didn't get specific on SoC pricing but depending on chip performance, the Intel SoC will not be radically different from ARM SoC chips.

Some people might point out that Lenovo stated that Lenovo Intel based Windows 8 tablets were going to be $200 to $300 more expensive than Lenovo's ARM based Windows RT tablets. But Lenovo was actually referring to Windows 8 tablets with higher performance and more expensive Ivy Bridge processors and larger displays. Lenovo did not say that its Intel Atom SoC based tablets being priced $200 to $300 more than its Windows RT ARM based tablets.

So Intel confirmed not only that Intel Atom SoC chips will be competitively priced with ARM, they're going a step further to say that tablets using Intel Atom SoC will be price competitive. Last month I debunked the myth that Intel couldn't compete with ARM on battery life and Intel gave additional details at last week's Intel Developer Forum (IDF) that Atom is competitive with ARM on battery life. Now I've debunked the widespread notion that Intel cannot field competitively priced tablets.

Superior price and battery life were the primary reason buyers would even consider ARM based tablets. Now we know that ARM will have neither advantage. That means Windows RT tablets will have all the limitations of Windows on ARM -- i.e. missing hardware and application compatibility -- but none of the purported advantages. It looks like my prediction that Windows RT tablets will flop is probably accurate.

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