Apple‘s (NASDAQ: AAPL ) iPad Air is the gold standard in tablet computing today and has been positively flying off the shelves since its launch, reviving Apple’s iPad sales. The latest and greatest iPad Air, which sports an Apple A7 processor, 1 GB of LPDDR3, and a 2048×1536 Retina display starts at $499 for the 16 gigabyte version, going up $100 for each storage tier (32, 64, and 128 gigabytes) thereafter. Expensive, but Apple’s sales figures don’t lie — many believe they’re worth the cost.
How about this disruptive beauty?
Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) , the chipmaker well known for being late to phones and tablets, has been very aggressively trying to gain share in the tablet market. Thanks to full Windows 8.1 compatibility, Intel’s Bay Trail processors have done very well on Windows. Better late than never, Intel appears to be aggressively pushing on the Android side of things with Bay Trail-T and a cheaper version known as Bay Trail-Entry. This shows Intel is taking on Apple and is looking to win the tablet wars.
One of the first designs based on Bay Trail on Android is the Teclast X98. In the following table, specifications for the iPad Air and Teclast X98 are juxtaposed below:
Of course, astute readers will note that the iPad Air has a bigger battery, larger storage options, more power-efficient LPDDR memory, iOS, and likely better Wi-Fi. For buyers with deep pockets, the iPad Air is probably in many ways the “better” choice, especially from a brand cachet and ecosystem standpoint. However, mainstream buyers — the ones for whom value is probably the overarching concern – will likely find the Teclast tablet a very suitable iPad Air substitute. And from Intel’s perspective, the more chips it can move, the better.
This is just the first of many
The idea here isn’t about this particular Intel-powered tablet; it’s nice, and it’ll probably do well in China, but Intel is a component vendor that needs many designs to truly succeed. Intel has been very aggressive about engaging the China technology ecosystem (in addition to the Taiwan ODMs) and will likely continue to rack up partners to rally around its platforms as they continue to improve dramatically.
More interestingly, it is in Intel’s best interests to have multiple, limited-strength customers than it is to be dependent on a major brand vendor like Samsung or Apple. Would it be nice for Intel to land a Galaxy Tab/Note? Yes! In short, Intel wins the tablet wars by being in as many tablets as possible. However, it is in Intel’s best interests for a player like Samsung to not be as strong as it is now — just as it is in Samsung’s best interests for Intel to be weaker — so if Intel can achieve very high volumes with a horde of smaller players, this is preferable to concentration at a single powerful player.
Foolish bottom line
At the end of the day, it seems that Intel’s path to victory in tablets is to enable a broad ecosystem of tablet partners, all wanting any edge they can to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. The Intel brand, as you can see in the advertisement above, is powerful and can help sell through product. It’s up to Intel to enable these partners to successfully grab a piece of Samsung’s and Apple’s tablet profit pie with hardware and software leadership and a strong brand behind them.