Intel Guts Future Atom SoC Family Abandoning Smartphone And Low Cost Tablet Markets

A couple of weeks ago, we had to report on the unfortunate news that Intel would be laying off 11% of its workforce, which equates to roughly 12,000 workers. With this move, Intel assured investors that it would be refocusing its efforts going forward, in effect chopping off what doesn't have a significant return and looking to products that do.

This refocusing has led Intel to drop a bomb on their Atom product line. In effect, chips destined for smartphones and tablets are no longer on the roadmap. Instead, resources that were dedicated to the currently-available Sofia chip and upcoming Broxton have been reallocated to "products that deliver higher returns and advance our strategy."

ASUS ZenFone 2
ASUS' ZenFone 2 is one of the final smartphones to feature Intel Atom

This news isn't going to strike those who keep a close eye on the market as much of a surprise, but it's still unfortunate nonetheless. Intel has sunk billions of research and development dollars into the mobile market over the years, and this decision effectively means those dollars didn't help the company reach its goals, which was to simply be adopted more in the core mobile space. In case you were wondering about Atom X5 -- a Cherry Trail chips designed for hybrids and PC-like tablets -- it's also gone.

If there's one competitor that's going to take delight in this news, it's ARM. ARM was Intel's de facto competition in this space, and Intel's move has proven just how difficult it is to unseat ARM as the top dog in this space.

Intel Atom Inside

Intel is of course not going to be exiting the mobile market entirely. It still has an successful wireless business, which includes delivering high-performance modems for smartphones. The company believes that it can strike hard with its 5G technologies, which it expects to be much more successful than its previous products. Further, the company will rely heavily on it's Core processors series, including Core m, which will target hybrid 2-in-1 devices like Microsoft's Surface line, Samsung's TabPro S and many similar detachable devices. 

It was a sad day when Intel announced its recent layoffs, and it's likewise sad to see Atom go the way of the dodo on smartphones. Intel's exit certainly doesn't mean that its products were poor; the company was simply unable to unseat ARM in a significant way. Intel leaving this particular market means that the last great Intel-based smartphone is ASUS' ZenFone 2, which features Intel's quad-core Atom Z3580.