An upcoming Intel Atom chip may blunt the growth of tablets based on the widely used ARM processor--with the possible exception of Apple, according to an analyst at UBS Investment Research.
Uche Orji of UBS made the comments today in a research note upgrading Intel's stock to a "buy."
Windows tablets based on Intel's "Oak Trail" Atom chips could have a larger market impact than expected, Orji wrote. "While tablet forecasts for 2011 in excess of 50m (50 million) are not unreasonable (our Atmel touch controller forecasts infers a tablet market size of 56m), none of these forecasts are likely to fully incorporate the scenario of a significant counter-attack from a new generation of notebooks and x86-based tablets that could ultimately limit the growth of ARM-based tablets (at least those that are non-Apple)," Orji wrote.
Apple's A4 processor, used in the iPad, is based on an ARM design. Orji is referring to future ARM-based tablets that use, for example, Qualcomm's dual-core Snapdragon chip and Nvidia's dual-core Tegra processor.
Ashok Kumar, managing director and analyst at Rodman & Renshaw, took a different tack in a research note last week, saying that Qualcomm has "secured major tablet wins with its third generation dual-core Snapdragon, MSM 8660." (See video of Qualcomm executive talking about the 8660.)
Orji also had good things to say about Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge chip technology, due to appear in PCs by early next year. "As Intel drives ultra-low voltage versions of Sandy Bridge into ultrathin notebooks and its Oak Trail platform (we expect mainly) into Windows 7 and MeeGo tablets as well as ultrathin netbooks, we believe there could be enough excitement around x86 processors in new form factors that help to mitigate the tablet threat," he wrote.