Wonder why you can get a Windows 8 tablet with an Intel Atom processor for less than the price of a Windows RT model with an ARM chip? At least part of the reason is that Intel is subsidizing the cost of building Bay Trail tablets until the economies of scale bring the actual price of components down.

That means device makers that want to build a tablet, notebook, or other device can get a bargain on the cost of Intel’s low power chips, as well as help paying for other components that work with those chips.

Intel’s hoping the move will increase its market share and help fend off the growing competition from Qualcomm, Samsung, NVIDIA, and other ARM-based chip makers.

bay trail logo

The move means that Intel isn’t actually making much money from the sale of low-cost tablets like the Dell Venue 8 Pro or Acer Iconia W4. In fact, the chip maker is probably losing money. But Intel is hoping that paying now to help bring the costs down will be an investment that pays off in the long run.

By the end of 2014, Intel hopes that about 40 million Windows and Android tablets will be powered by Intel Atom processors.

Hopefully by the time Intel stops subsidizing Bay Trail tablets, the costs of producing them will be lower and retail prices won’t rise. On the other hand, there’s always a chance that once consumers expect devices to offer Bay Trail or better performance, they’ll be willing to pay a premium for devices that offer long battery life, decent performance, and the ability to run full desktop-style Windows apps (something you can’t do at this point on a device with an ARM-based processor… unless Microsoft makes some serious changes to the way Windows RT works).

via PC World and CNET

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46 replies on “Bay Trail tablets are cheap because Intel’s footing the bill”

  1. Hmm Intel is VERY VERY far behind in this market.
    NVidia’s 192 core system is running full blown 3D engines which means it can really crunch numbers and cost for a total system is ~200.
    It will be very interesting to see what happens this year.
    Will full blown Windows 8 come on an Intel chip and run FAST or be bloated and slow?
    Will Android OS work so well the consumer user base will drop Windows?
    Will Qualcomm looking at NVidia really push up their clock speed and come out with an even better chips for less.
    Lots of interesting times ahead and great time to be a consumer.

  2. ARM is the future.

    In a near future, we will have an Octa-core 3GHz 64 bit ARM processor, and this is it.

    GG

    1. You’re talking about Server parts, not consumer electronic SoCs!

      Mobile devices have to operate with fairly strict power consumption and thermal limits with only passive cooling… Providing high performance goes against those limitations, so don’t expect it to trickle down to consumer range devices too quickly!

      Really, ARM mobile devices are already pushing the limits… which is why many are suffering from needing to lower clock speeds or CPU core count, and some still suffer from thermal limits to the point that they often throttle performance significantly below their max… Just look at devices like the Nexus 5 for good examples of these issues…

      Besides, the Intel Silvermont architecture is already 64bit and they’re going to release the next update before the end of this year and the next update after that before the end of next year…

      While the only thing they really have to catch up on is graphical performance, which appears to be what they’re focusing on with the next update with a major update to the GMA from the present 4 execution units to 16 for a big boost in graphical performance…

      1. ***FUTURE***… in the future we will have better batterys and more advanced litography who will result in more efficient energy, 64 Bits is already an reality, look to Apple A7.

        1. Apple’s A7 is a custom SoC that will only ever run iOS! The rest of the market still has months to go before they’ll get 64bit SoCs… Besides, it’s only a dual core and won’t be scaled up any higher!

          While it’ll take a lot more than the next two FAB advances to improve the energy efficiency enough to make up for the fairly strict limitations mobile devices have to operate under!

          So again, don’t confuse what the Server market will be getting with what the consumer market will be getting!

          1. Man, MAN, M A N, i dont say next year, but imagine in 4 years, we will have octa or 16 cores running at 3GHz, who play games in 4K or 8K resolutions with great quality at 60fps.

            Search for that :

            “‘Senior ARM Official’ Confirms Samsung’s 64-Bit Exynos Processor Debuts In 2014” ***64 Bit***

            “TEGRA K1—THE WORLD’S MOST ADVANCED MOBILE PROCESSOR” ***2.3GHz***

            A revolution is coming.

          2. There is such a thing as being overly optimistic, things like battery technology hasn’t significantly improved in over a decade and isn’t likely to significantly improve over the next either!

            While each FAB advance provides just a little over 10% improvement on average and it can take two or more years between each advance, provided they started a few years ahead as new technology can take a decade before they go into final products… Much of what we’re seeing now has been in the works for a couple of years already and only now are coming to market… So, even after 4 years we are likely to see a fair bit of performance being limited by power budgets and thermal limits of mobile devices.

            Even assuming nothing goes wrong during that time as ARM has already had to deal with delays, Cortex A15 took nearly a year longer to role out than originally planned!… and at least two ARM manufacturers are going to try to skip a gen to try to catch up with Intel going to 14nm… but this doesn’t help catch up with some of the technology developed for the FABs, which Intel also has a big lead over…

            Examples include HKMG, which Intel introduced with 45nm FAB but ARM didn’t start using until they hit 32nm… The same thing happened with Finfets… Intel Introduced Tri-Gate Transistors at 22nm, but ARM won’t start using Finfets until they hit either 16nm half node or full 14nm… So it’s not just the FAB size but also the technology that goes into the FAB…

            Meanwhile, the push to higher performance and higher end PC type usages is starting to remove ARM’s normal advantage of being able to go with simpler designs, you can’t scale down when the system needs to provide performance and needs to be flexible, and that makes it harder for them to show a clear advantage over x86, especially now that Intel can provide competitive power efficiency…

            ARM mainly has it’s market dominance and the fact it will take Intel a fairly long while before they can be considered a serious threat to that market dominance…

            So, like it or not it’s a race and it’s not clear whether either will be the clear winner anytime soon!

            Besides, a revolution is always coming… just not when some would think and not as fast as some would want… Just be more patient and pace your expectations as these things take at least some time to work themselves out…

          3. Intel chips are just unusable in mobile device, but if you don’t want battery time for a day, and a heavy and noisy tablet/phone :). ARM is just far more energy efficient since several years, and it just continue to be more energy efficient.

          4. You’re thinking over two yeas ago… Intel already achieved ARM competitive power efficiency and there are already Intel based Android devices providing all day usage!

            So no, ARM doesn’t really have a power efficiency advantage anymore… what remains is graphical performance and lower costs… along with ARM market dominance that will be hard to change but Intel is improving rapidly and it remains in question whether ARM can hold onto its dominance in the long run, but it’s likely at the very least that Intel will provide a competitive alternative…

          5. I agree if its January and they have silicon at 2.3Ghz think what December will look like. If Nvidia could FAB at 14nm tech how fast and how many cores would this thing have? 64 bit will be hear in full force over 2Ghz this year.

          6. Seeing silicon doesn’t mean much because it doesn’t tell us when mass production will really start and when we will actually see any consumer products!

            Even Intel takes awhile, as they started showing silicon last year for the 14nm production but we won’t see real production until the later half of this year!

            Really, from the first tape out to final mass produced product can still take up to two years… Just the debugging period where they test for flaws and prepare to make any last minute fixes can take over six months minimum… never mind the additional time it takes for ARM because many choose to customize their SoCs and thus some need to take turns at the manufacturers…

            While the actual roll out plans aren’t as simple as you’re apparently thinking…

            The Tegra K1, for example, will be released in two versions, the first being a 32-bit chip that will be released with a quad-core Cortex-A15 CPU paired with fifth a low-power in Nvidia’s 4-plus-1 configuration… basically just a updated version of the Tegra 4… And thus it will be much later that the 64bit SoC version will be released and it’s only going to replace the quad core Cortex A15 cores with a dual Denver cores… So, much like Apple they’re not going to be pushing very high multi-cores anytime soon into the consumer market!

            Part of this is due to the fact they are focusing heavily on graphical performance improvement and thus most of the power budget and thermal limits will be geared to promoting that increase more than the CPU performance!

            Besides, there’s usually a limit of about a year between
            product releases and it hasn’t been that long since they released the
            Tegra 4…

            So, to summarize, don’t expect 64bit ARM for consumer range Android devices until at least the last half or quarter of the year and any serious roll out may not really kick in until the beginning of next year for a more realistic expectation…

            Also, don’t expect more than dual cores for most of the first 64bit SoCs for mobile devices… Unlike servers the mobile devices impose pretty strict thermal and power budget limitations that they have to work with…

            Qualcomm is already bringing into question the Tegra K1’s reported benchmarks because they know full well about those limitations… problems of forcing lower clocks and performance throttling plague all the high end ARM SoCs now and many of them can already go up to pretty high clock speeds but simply can’t maintain them very long in mobile devices!

            Problem is the main push is to higher performance and there’s only so much they can improve power efficiency to compensate… Better FABs only help so much and ARM manufacturers may run into issues before “Vostok123” 4 year prediction as not all of them are fully funded… More than a few are operating with their own subsidizing from local governments, etc but those are temporary funds and constantly advancing to the next FAB is a ever increasingly more expensive endeavor…

            Even Intel is being careful, with recent news they won’t be immediately opening up one factory because they need to be careful of not over reaching… Each factory is a major investment and maintaining multiple factories only works if you can ensure they’re all going to be used to at least 80% capacity but few companies can be sure of future demand yet!

            While companies like Samsung are cutting corners by skipping a FAB advance to try to catch up with Intel but are still behind on other aspects of the manufacturing technologies being developed, which makes continuing to the next FAB still hard for them to continue following Intel… And none of the others are expected to pull ahead anytime soon unless Intel suffers a major set back but that’s unlikely…

            So sure, on “Vostok123″‘s original contention of ARM pulling ahead, things are going to improve but in no way is there anything right now to suggest that it will be lopsided just to ARM… Intel will be making significant improvements over the next few years to their products too and they aren’t likely to lose the FAB advantage anytime soon…

            While ARM still has to deal with large hardware fragmentation, more limited software support that still impedes support for GNU/Linux, questionable long term funding for at least some of the manufacturers that aren’t as big as Samsung, and aside from graphical performance improvements there aren’t much in the way suggesting any major updates besides the move to 64bit for the next few years…

            So, I’m pretty doubtful about the 4 year prediction… Things could change but I think it’ll be more like maybe 8-10 years but this will definitely be a long drawn out fight and we’re a long way from seeing now where it will go other than to judge chances and neither side is going to be giving up anytime soon!

        2. Silicon shrinkage is basically over. We might get to 5nm but in most cases it will not be economical and bigger nodes (e.g. 14-28nm) will still be used. Radical new technologies will be needed to keep Moore’s Law going. Although I think even if the silicon tech stagnates there’s quite a bit of room for optimisation.

          Battery technology has barely improved over the last century. Fuel cells may have some potential.

          1. Battery technology is constantly improving, although, only at 4-6% a year.

            However, silicone anodes for LiBs are on the verge of commercialization and that will bring significant capacity improvements for consumer electronics (and EVs).

            Also, lithium-air and lithium-sulfur developments are still progressing well enough and we may see results fairly soon.

          2. Yes and no… Battery technology has improved but not faster than any improvements get glossed over by higher power demands of devices and year after year there has always been promises of some new technology providing a bigger improvement but these have never materialized…

            So, it may be overly pessimistic but given the track record to date it seems unlikely we’re going to be seeing big improvements any time soon…

            Bottom line is they won’t use it unless the technology is cheaper and that has been the fatal flaw in most of the promised improvements over the years…

            While, even if they do… the push to start to using mobile devices like full PCs could easily wipe out any perceived improvements with high power consumption averages…

            Hopefully, I’m wrong but I seriously doubt it…

          3. One could say that LiBs themselves were a big improvement over previously used chemistries (Ni-Mh and Ni-Cd). I remember the day when we had Ni-Mh in our phones and it was horrible compared to newer lithium-ion batteries.

            It is true that every improvement in battery technology is immediately countered by more power-hungry electronics but that is hardly the fault of battery developers.

            Silicone anodes will also be only temporary relief but LiS and Li-Air may bring some more permanent improvement. Fuel-cells may also bring about better runtimes, although I don’t see them entering the market in any significant manner.

  3. I hope Intel subsidizes small embedded SBCs too. I’m tired of using ARM SBCs. It’s difficult or impossible to update them to newer Linux kernels. It’d be nice to get some cheap Intel micro boards.

  4. Mostly I have a problem with the fact that this crop are all 8″ with pretty low res screens. The Dell 8 incher is tempting but just not quite there. If anything demands a bigger scree it’s full Win 8.1. I mean getting a Windows based device is a huge tradeoff in losing all the great Android or iOS touch apps, but gaining desktop Windows apps. But on a small screen . . . ? Don’t get it. If I were going to get a 7 or 8 inch device it would not be Windows. Plus you have a lot of tablet makers getting up into super hi res screens even at the 8″ point. 1280×800 just looks pretty old and tired at this point. Wintel needs to stop playing catchup and get out in front of this thing.

    A $350 9″ or 10″ hires Bay Trail with Windows 8.1 – seems like a short hop but to me would make it a much easier decision.

    Intel almost has it right but they sure need to branch out into Android devices at that size/price. And why can’t I buy an Ubuntu / Android tablet yet? Bay Trail would be awesome for that.

    1. Bay Trail Android tablets are coming out soon, there was just a delay because they had to optimize Android for the new hardware… Intel GMA, etc means they couldn’t use what they already did for the previous Clover Trail tablets but they should be the first to be able to take advantage of 64bit Android when it comes out…

      For Windows devices, higher resolution isn’t as desirable as it is on Android and iOS devices… For one thing, the traditional desktop still does not scale well with small screens and high resolutions… So unless you stick to the ModernUI then you would have serious usability concerns with a small screen and a too high resolution, especially if you have to use it with only a touch screen as capacitive is not accurate enough for controlling the desktop with too small icons, etc…

      Another factor is running a full desktop OS means you can run more powerful programs/apps but higher resolution puts hefty increase of system resources and depending on what you’re running it could quickly put a strain on the system and prevent adequate performance…

      It’s not such a issue with Android and iOS as you don’t need to worry about running power apps on those platforms… Besides, most Windows legacy apps were optimized for lower res screens.

      Anyway, resolution was never the only factor you should consider for screen quality… for one thing it’s subjective, as the effectiveness of resolution depends on what size screen you’re viewing that resolution from and how far away you will be expected to view it… Watching a TV with 1080P for example is fine because you can expect to view it from far enough away that a lack of pixel density doesn’t matter… The inverse being a Smart Phone as you can be expected to see the screen from very close and thus pixel density needs to be high to avoid noticing the individual pixels from that distance…

      Thus what you should really consider is pixel density as that determines how far away from a device you can view the screen before you see the individual pixels… But basically a smaller screen can get away with lower resolution and still look good because it takes less resolution to equal a given pixel density for a smaller screen…

      This is besides the fact that there are plenty of other factors that determine screen quality, like color intensity, color accuracy, contrast ratio, viewing angle range, etc…

      Really, a screen like a e-ink reader can have very high resolution but you won’t be watching a movie on one and high resolution screens can still have lousy quality if the other factors aren’t good enough!

  5. I’m waiting to see if some of these tablets start getting options for dual-booting then I can have a nice small android install for games and reading and such, then a windows install for more intensive tasks. Wouldn’t it be in Intel’s best interest to show that their chips are more versatile?

    1. Agree, Even triple boot is even on the Cards. Windows, Linux, Android. Now that would be something.

      1. Why do they make a 64bit processor that can take 4gb of ram yet cripple it with 32bit windows 8, 32bit uefi (which essentially locks it to windows) and 2gb of ram then subsidize it (facepalm)

        1. Remember, MS hasn’t released the 64bit drivers for Bay Trail to get 64bit Windows 8 running yet… While, Bay Trail T is locked to what’s available in the mobile market and right now there aren’t any affordable 4GB RAM options for LP-DDR3 RAM…

          While, many OEMs just cut corners to get devices to market as fast as possible and still used much of what they used for the older Clover Trail based devices…

          However, it’s all expected to change in the next few months… MS should release 64bit drivers soon and Google is also going to be releasing 64bit Android that can help boost performance over the still 32bit ARM SoCs… Much like how Apple managed to get some performance boost with their 64bit A7 SoC and immediately updating iOS to 64bit… though, 64bit ARM SoCs won’t be that far behind…

          So, all these Bay Trail devices should be getting full 64bit support soon and the older devices may still be update-able, as the hardware is the same and they just need to provide updated Firmware and the drivers…

          Also, higher capacity RAM will start to become more common… While many will be sticking to LP-DDR3 for at least another year or two many are still upping what they will offer and that should make at least 4GB finally mass produced enough to become as common as 2GB is now…

          Though, most of that may be closer to the later half of the year as they’ll be waiting for the next gen hardware before really pushing the higher capacities…

          So far, I know the Nvidia’s Tegra K1 specs support up to 8GB and the next gen ATOM Cherry Trail T will also increase the mobile SoC support to 8GB as well…

          We may not see 8GB offered for another year or two but we can expect 4GB at least… While DDR4 will steadily be pushed and it will offer higher density RAM, meaning the same size chip will have higher capacity… Helping to bump up what capacities can be offered… but it may take about two years as getting a new standard adopted can take time even if it is clearly better…

          1. well i am going to get the first 10 inch tablet with a wacom digitizer hoping either Asus releases a premium model of the t100 or a vivotab10 or Lenovo releases a Thinkpad tablet 3.

          2. Well, Asus is releasing a 8″ with pen soon… Hopefully, someone will release a 10″ with pen as well… It would be nice if Lenovo updated the previous Thinkpad Tablet to Bay Trail but so far they seem to be forgoing the pen in any of their Bay Trail tablets…

          3. yeah I heard about that I’m going to wait and see what is revealed at MWC before solidifying my Vivotab 8 purchase.

          4. The Vivotab almost had me, but it lacks video out. Back to waiting.

  6. I’d really like to know how much a Baytrail SOC and all the other SOCs (S800,T4) etc actually cost. Would be a great article to show this – Looking at you Brad Linder 🙂

    1. It’s hard to be definitive as most don’t reveal their pricing and the pricing tends to be subjective as costs vary by how large the order for them may be…

      ARM SoC manufacturers can usually ensure very large orders and thus can usually ensure minimum costs but smaller orders will cost more and thus it varies as much as say just over $30 range to under $10 depending on how big the order is… Qualcomm gets a good deal of all orders, though, and thus can usually be very low priced in the teens…

      For Intel, starting prices are listed on their site for $42-$47 for Bay Trail T SoCs… but just like ARM the prices can get much lower if they can get large enough orders but that’s hard to do when first breaking into a new market as they’re trying to do with the mobile market and thus why they’re subsidizing for now to get pricing competitive with the big sellers…

      The other X factor is how much profit each OEM is trying to get for their devices, companies like Apple can usually ensure the lowest costs for making their devices but they also usually push for the highest profit margins and thus Apple devices are not the cheapest even though the BOM is usually very low for them…

      Conversely, companies like Google don’t need to make profit on the hardware as their real business is the Internet and all their connected services, ads, etc sources of income… thus they can sell their Nexus devices for very little profit…

      So, ultimately, for consumers only the end product costs matter and whether we think those devices are worth the price or not…

  7. Subsidies or not, some of those windows tablets and hybrids are starting to be attractive to me and I would consider buying one even if windows 8.1 is often maligned beyond reason…Apple and Android are fine on phones but I would rather have windows.

  8. I’m pretty sure it’s not only tablets but phones as well. Asus has been using Intel chips for their tablets and phones for a while now, and they are cheap. , , much too cheap to be paying Intel’s regular prices.

  9. This is really an act of desperation on Intel’s part. It is hard to blame them when ARM already has such a gigantic and overwhelming lead in the mobile/tablet market.

  10. Not sure if Intel’s going to get a lawsuit or not but I certainly would rather have an Intel device than an ARM one in terms of Linux use. I’ve seen a lot of upstream commits in the past year or so by Intel to get Bay Trail working on Linux.

    Of course, for Windows, I’d rather have Windows 8 than RT even on a 8″ or smaller screen.

  11. Isn’t this anti-competitive? And besides, it only makes sense if they don’t shift atom to the new node (aren’t they supposed to be changing nodes this year?

    Personally no bay trail offering has convinced me that it’s a good investment for my uses/needs and if prices go up they definitely won’t.

    Personally I have no problem with Windows RT (in theory). The first wave didn’t convince me since high end phones had better processors. But my main problem with RT is not legacy apps but rather the inability to side-load apps. I like app stores, they provide a safe and centralized wayto find the apps you need or discover new ones. But prohibiting the use apps from other sources like humble bundle or the developers at xda sucks.

    So if the Windows app store selection provides the apps I need whenever I choose to buy a Windows tablet I won’t be willing to pay extra for legacy app support (I hardly ever need them and it’s never urgent enough that it can’t wait till I get home). What I WILL pay extra for (within limits) is oomph/performance.

    1. Reminds me of the bad old days when Dell’s earnings were buoyed up by Intel’s Market Development Funds (MDF),, used to prevent AMD from making inroads into Dell. If
      memory serves, at one point, the MDF acocunted for all of Dell’s profit for the period, to the tune of $800 million. The joke was that any time Dell was in danger of not meeting its quarterly financial targets, Round Rock would call Santa Clara and the latter would pony up enough money so Round Rock could meet its financial goals.

      A lawsuit could indeed open up things here, except that Intel culd claim that in this particular market segment, Intel isn’t dominant, so at least the monopoly hammer can’t be brought down on Intel. If anything, Intel could claim it’s bringing more competition to an ARM-dominated landscape.

      On the other hand, Samsung could bring a dumping charge against Intel in South Korea . If Samsung felt like it was being pincered by Apple and Intel, Samsung could just do this. A sympathetic home court (pardon the pun) helps. Intel would have to be careful to maintain uniform prices worldwide, to avoid this charge.

    2. So long as Intel isn’t trying to prevent competition then it’s not anti-competitive… Remember, Intel is the new kid on the block as far as the mobile market is concerned and not until they can sell chips in the millions could they realistically start matching costs… Smaller productions will always cost more and it’s a lot harder to convince OEMs to try your product if you can’t at least match costs of the mainstream offerings.

      Besides, subsidizing is something a lot of companies do to break into new markets… provided they can afford to…

  12. Works for me, the end user. Unless ARM vendors start standardizing, opening up their platform and contributing to upstream Linux support.

    1. That’s my main problem with ARM. There aren’t any standards that companies are adhering to when it comes to interfaces and general driver support. At least with x86, you’re more likely to get support for your hardware components especially when upgrading the Linux kernel.

      With ARM, if you upgrade the kernel, there’s a good chance some things won’t work due to no in kernel drivers and proprietary drivers never being updated to support the kernel.

      There’s a chance NVIDIA ARM SoCs can be okay for Linux users. They’ve started open sourcing their Tegra drivers (older versions right now though). Their universal proprietary video drivers have included ARM support last year. With the K1 sharing the same architecture as their PC GPUs, it’ll probably be supported by their universal driver. It may be closed but at least NVIDIA is known for supporting their GPUs. The drivers still have fixes for my 6 year old NVIDIA GPU and works well on new Linux kernels.

      1. Did you see what Linux Torvalds said about nvidia, I suppose if you had seen that you will understood the situation with nvidia and Linux, the big problem with the optimus technology. support…. there was not at all during about one or year, hackers from project bumblebee developed by themselve driver because most recent nvidia hw (on x86), didn’t work at all with Linux.

        On the other side, Samsung, worked hard to integrate their chips in Linux mainline.

        1. Can you provide a link to where Samsung provided commits to mainline support for the Mali GPUs in Samsung chips? I wasn’t aware they did this.

          As for NVIDIA, ya they make it difficult for open source drivers but their binary drivers are excellent which gamers ultimately care about. Optimus support may be lagging but drivers for other GPU companies are even more behind in terms of features and performance. On the ARM side, the situation is even worse where both the open and closed drivers aren’t good or kept updated. The situation with ARM and Linux is worse than with NVIDIA and Linux. Except for Samsung chips based on your comment.

          Also, as said above, NVIDIA has been working on open source code for their Tegra line. At least for the non-GPU part but with the K1 at least the binary driver might be good.

  13. Damn! I hope the ARM ecosystem has the will to stick around, they have the money but are they willing to loose some fighting Intel?

    Also the Chinese [ and Taiwanese ] ARM players [ Rockchip, Allwinner, Mediatel, Telechips et. al. ] can probably keep their prices as low if not lower than intel, this is their chance to grow

    1. I hope they stick around too. I think in general there is much less worry but when it comes to Windows who knows. The cheap Chinese ARM makers don’t count since like on Windows phone, only certain authorized SoC’s will work with Windows RT. And even with lower prices it doesn’t compare to Intel footing the bill for the screen or however it is this works.

      1. Not too sure about that as some of them are subsidized too, by local government, etc but that money won’t last forever… We’ll see…

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