Intel's big mobility push going into the holidays will be a double-barrelled marketing blitz touting the company's new, 22-nanometer Bay Trail chips, now formally named the Atom Z3000 series, and "2-in-1s," the hybrid laptop-tablet products built on Bay Trail and running Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system.
"Our customers aren't looking for the cheapest product they can find. They're looking for the best product they can afford," said Hermann Eul, vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile and Communications Group. Intel's value proposition, he said, is that the combination of x86 and Windows can provide mobile device users with more than just a consumption platform.
That's where 2-in-1s come in. The term is only the latest label Intel has tried to affix to a class of devices like Microsoft's Surface that can function as a tablet and a laptop, and which promise consumption and creation capabilities. We've heard such products called "hybrids" and "convertibles" in the past — the 2-in-1 designation doesn't seem to have any more of a ring to it, but there's a point to all of this.
It turns out that 2-in-1s aren't just any old tablets that can also be laptops. As with ultrabooks, a 2-in-1 will have to meet certain specifications set out by Intel in order to get its stamp of approval.
Now it's important to point out that the new Bay Trail product line and the new 2-in-1 product category aren't precisely the same thing — all 2-in-1s will have Bay Trail but not all Bay Trail-based products will be 2-in-1s.
There will be Bay Trail-based products that are pure tablets without laptop functionality, there will be hybrid tablet-laptops that run Android and not Windows, and there will be Bay Trail-based laptops running OSes like Google's Chrome. There are also some Bay Trail-based tablets with screens smaller than 10in coming down the pike, like an 8in Windows 8 tablet that Dell said it will release in time for the holidays.
So what are the specifications for an Intel-approved 2-in-1?
Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's PC Client Group, laid those out. An Intel-approved 2-in-1 will need a 10in screen or larger, a full PC operating systems (read: Windows 8), an integrated keyboard design, touch capabilities, and "amazing battery life."
That's not terribly specific, but Intel's unveiling of its first Bay Trail-based System-on-a-Chip (SoC) products for tablets, laptops, and 2-in-1s gives us a better idea of what the company is guaranteeing with these Windows-based hybrid devices.
"This is the world's first 22-nanomter SoC for clients," said Stephen Smith, vice president and director of tablet development in Intel's Mobile and Communications Group, introducing the Atom Z3000 series of products.
The Bay Trail platform for thin and light tablets and hybrids can deliver 10+ hours battery life and three weeks standby, delivers two times the compute performance of the preceding generation of Atom SoCs and three times the graphics performance courtesy of the latest integrated Intel HD Graphics, Smith said.
Bay Trail also incorporates Intel Burst Technology 2.0 and its latest WiDi display tech, as well as a baked-in security package which includes Intel Identity Protection Technology, AESNI, McAfee DeepSafe Ready, NFC eCommerce capabilities, and Intel Platform Trust Technology.
Perhaps most importantly, Intel is pushing its own connectivity tech with Bay Trail. Some Atom Z3000 series products will include the company's newly shipping low-power, multimode, multiband 4G LTE XMM 7160 modem, Smith said. As Intel squares off against market leader Qualcomm, the only chip maker currently shipping 4G products in any volume, the CPU giant is making a big bet on its ability to catch up on RF technology and fast.
The 2-in-1 category will include products aimed at consumers and other systems built for the enterprise with Intel's vPro designation. On the consumer side of things, Eul said 2-in-1 products coming out in time for the holidays will range in price from $365 to $999 (£230 to £630).