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China's Allwinner Outsold Intel, Qualcomm In Tablet Processors In 2012 121

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the allwinner-takes-all dept.
An anonymous reader writes "ARM licensee Allwinner sold more application processors for tablet computers in 2012 than Intel and Qualcomm put together, according to this EE Times article that references market researcher Strategy Analytics. Overall one in five tablet processors was provided by a Chinese vendor in 2012, according to the article, partly because they sell chips at half the price of similarly specified chips from better known vendors."
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China's Allwinner Outsold Intel, Qualcomm In Tablet Processors In 2012

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  • by Reverand Dave (1959652) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @01:36PM (#43666727)
    This issue has been called into account by electronics manufactures in the western world against eastern manufacturers for decades. Basically, they are selling at or below cost to suck up market share. We (N. America) used to complain a lot louder about it until we started making all of our shit there too. However, popularity does not indicate quality. Just look at the millions of shitty pop records on the market now.
    • by macraig (621737)

      I was willing to grant your argument some shred of credibility until I read the last sentence. Apparently you didn't even take your own argument seriously enough to maintain a straight face.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      People discount "Chinese hacking" stories, but I do remember how the US solar industry got utterly destroyed. First the solar companies were complaining about intrusion attempts and showing logs about attacks. Six months later, out came the panels from China that cost less than it took to gather the rare earths to dope the PV silicon.

      Congress saved Harley from being curbstomped when foreign competitors came out with better products. Of course, something as critical to US national security as distributed

      • oil independence seems lost on people in DC

        Not at all. Given some of TPTB there, they consider independence a bad idea.

      • People discount "Chinese hacking" stories, but I do remember how the US solar industry got utterly destroyed.

        Don't forget Nortel too.

      • Because we wanted cheaper solar, so when facts came out that the chinese was stealing the tech and selling it for nothing everyone cheered, except the US solar manufactures. Harley is a household name, we didnt wanna be riding Gofastlongtim bikes, so the US govt put a stop to that
    • by poity (465672)

      I'm not sure this would qualify as dumping as Allwinner devices aren't competing for the same consumers as Intel or Samsung devices. In solar and rare earths, branding hasn't mattered -- panels are panels, rocks are rocks, they're commodities and no matter where they're from they compete for the same buyers -- so selling them at below market price can have a great impact on the other players in the market. Allwinner chips, however, mostly go in sub $100 tablets that compete only in their own segment -- they

    • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:54PM (#43667517) Homepage

      Basically, they are selling at or below cost to suck up market share.

      no, they're not. they're a profit-maximising company, just like any other profit-maximising company. if they did what you're accusing them of doing, they'd go bankrupt.

      what we believe they have done is just said, "right: we're going to aim BIG". rather than be scared shitless of the NREs for processor development, they simply decided that they would aim for an extremely large number of processors, and either got a PRC Govt Grant or just got very very good investors. they would then have negotiated an EXTREMELY good rate with one of the fabs, based on the projected volume, and that alone would allow them to sell at the price that they set out to sell at. especially if they placed a cash order for a vast number of chips.

      so it's simple economics and sound business sense that has allowed them to sell a 1ghz processor at $7.50 when all *PREVIOUS* competition *INCLUDING COMPETITORS IN CHINA* were selling at around $11 or even $13 for a product that had less features.

      the other thing that has allowed them to take the world by storm in this area is the extremely high level of integration in their SoC, as well as working with (i believe they actually own) X-Powers to create an exceptionally low-cost and highly optimised Power Management IC, called the AXP209. the cost of this PMIC is $1.50 in volume.

      basically you can get away with $30 worth of parts to do a seriously good little board, which has 1gb of RAM, 4gb of NAND Flash, ethernet, SATA, USB2 and HDMI and more, when everyone else is struggling to hit $35 to $38. that's a big, big difference in this kind of market, and it explains why, when the Allwinner A10 was introduced, that a major recession occurred INSIDE CHINA, in the Electronics District of Guangdong, Shenzen.

      i'll say that again, in case you didn't understand. whilst you are accusing China (the country) of "price dumping in the USA", *one very ambitious young company* managed to cause a MAJOR RECESSION IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY.

      why is that? it's because the electronics industry in china is critically dependent on and focussed on volume sales. the Allwinner A10 and its associated PMIC and high level of integration left many factories holding out-of-date stock. companies that did NOT move over to the A10 in time were left with stock that they couldn't shift. if they did shift - reneging on contracts in the process, in many cases - they left the SUPPLIERS holding the stock, and i don't know if you're aware of this but China basically operates on a cash-only, cash-up-front basis.

      the shift caused by the introduction of the A10 was so vast, and so quick, that it basically wiped out any company that didn't change over in time. including the ODM company that we were talking to at the time, whose clients (factories) all had invested in AMLogic's $13 processor at the time.

      so - please do be better informed before making assumptions and accusations such as those which you are making, ok? the country you live in is a very small market compared to china. america is not even particularly relevant, here, because americans expects bigger, better and much much faster than a 1ghz single-core low-power ARM processor. please take more care, ok?

      • they're a profit-maximising company, just like any other profit-maximising company. if they did what you're accusing them of doing, they'd go bankrupt. ... got a PRC Govt Grant or ...

        Yes, government handouts are an excellent way to maximize profits.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        There is another factor. Chinese OEMs naturally prefer Chinese parts. I say naturally because the datasheets are available in Chinese (not badly translated from English either) and they can deal with local reps and distributors.

        Let me be clear that it isn't racism or anything like that. Allwinner is just providing a good service to Chinese companies. Intel doesn't have the networks or the Chinese staff to match it.

        • by lkcl (517947)

          There is another factor. Chinese OEMs naturally prefer Chinese parts.

          you're right... and yet this should not surprise anyone. insert "country X" for "Chinese" and you'll get the same answer. in fact, i think you'll find that "company X prefers to work with parts that are sourced locally".

          I say naturally because the datasheets are available in Chinese (not badly translated from English either) and they can deal with local reps and distributors.

          with the rhombus tech initiative, we're doing ok. just :) it is extremely hard though. luckily i've been picking parts that are clearly and obviously commonly available, done in volumes so huge that the datasheets leaked in some cases years ago out onto the internet.

          but yes: it's much e

          • There is another factor. Chinese OEMs naturally prefer Chinese parts.

            you're right... and yet this should not surprise anyone. insert "country X" for "Chinese" and you'll get the same answer. in fact, i think you'll find that "company X prefers to work with parts that are sourced locally".

            For chips? You're kidding (at least if you think it has to do with convenience rather than government pressure). I can believe that non-Chinese chip vendors are doing a bad job on translating their literature or having local reps (perhaps because they realize it's pointless in the face of Chinese government pressure) but there is no other reason to prefer locally made chips. It's not like you're talking about parts built specifically for your product (e.g. plastic moldings). When I pick chips for a design I

            • by lkcl (517947)

              For chips? You're kidding

              no i'm not. the extreme case is buying all china parts and sourcing a 32mhz XTAL that's only available in europe. the lead times alone would absolutely kill such a project, let alone getting the export licenses.

              TI's SoCs for example - the ones with a DSP - are actually classified as "weapons" for god's sake! they have BXPA "Munitions" classifications slapped on them.

              remember that it's usually the top-end ICs that are exclusively made in e.g. Taiwan: there are plenty of semiconductor companies that can do

                1. Low performance crystals are about as generic as you can get - not so ARM based SoC's.
                2. If you needed to use something like the TI ARM/DSP SoC's, you couldn't buy an equivalent in China anyway, so what does it matter?
                3. It's the very fact that semis are not geographically constrained that means there is no reason to prefer local supply. Shipping costs are negligible, and it's not like your local fab is going to do a special run for you by next week.
      • by makomk (752139)

        They're a profit-maximising company that's heavily subsidised by the Chinese government. From what I can remember, the main companies who were affected by this were other Chinese manufacturers of ARM SoCs though; Allwinner aren't really playing in the same market as companies like Qualcomm and Intel.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        either got a PRC Govt Grant or just got very very good investors.

        How do you think you get a grant from the government? You do what they want.

  • Intel sold basically 0 tablet CPUs, and Qualcomm is not that far ahead of them.

    How did they compare to Samsung, whoever actually fabs Apple ARM CPUs and Nvidia?

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Intel sold basically 0 tablet CPUs

      Yes, yes, we know the Surface Pro sales have been disappointing.

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by amiga3D (567632) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @01:57PM (#43666953)

      Samsung is manufacturing those in Texas. Technically that is in the US although the residents there seem to think differently.

      As of August 2012,[18] the A5 is manufactured at Samsung's Austin, Texas factory. Samsung invested $3.6 billion in a facility in Austin to produce chips such as processors, and nearly all of that wing's output is dedicated to Apple components.[19] Samsung has invested a further $4.2 billion at the Austin facility in order to transition to a 28 nm fabrication process by the second half of 2013

      • Texas. Technically that is in the US although the residents there seem to think differently.

        No conflict there - residents outside of Texas agree.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Technically Austin is in Texas, although the residents there seem to think differently. :-)

          (Disclosure: Currently living there.)

          • Technically Austin is in Texas, although the residents there seem to think differently. :-)

            (Disclosure: Currently living there.)

            So do you think they're right?

      • by mirix (1649853)

        Do you know if they do packaging as well?

        Often it seems outfits have fabs in western countries, but then send the bare dies off to the orient to be packaged (in epoxy, with pins and stuff- wire bonding the pins to the die, etc. I don't mean onto reels or into tubes / trays, though I imagine that is done at the same place).

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by pchan- (118053) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:28PM (#43667257) Journal

      These are cheap for a reason, and they're unpopular in the rest of the world for a reason.

      The Allwinner chips used in these tablets are all ARM Cortex-A8 based. A Cortex-A8 is basically unfit for a tablet. The lowest end tablets sold by Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Sony, Acer, and Asus 4 years ago didn't have a CPU this slow. Just because they can get away with selling these in China doesn't mean that they are worth anything.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by citizenr (871508)

        Allwinters most popular chip at the moment is quad Cortex-A7.
        Rockchip is another Chinese manufacturer making quad A8 (RK3188)

        Both are faster than fastest Tegra3.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Both are faster than fastest Tegra3.

          For what definition of "faster than"? A7 is a pretty weak core. It was optimized for very low power and die area, not for high performance. Tegra3 uses Cortex-A9, which is an older design but actually faster if all else is held equal (same clock speed, equivalent memory subsystem).

          (The reason you see quad A7 popping up in cheap Allwinner SoCs is that A7 is tiny. Really tiny. Area has a direct relationship with cost in semiconductor manufacturing. Also, ARM probably charges lower per-unit royalties for

          • by citizenr (871508)

            I admit I was misleading. GPU is faster, CPU is slower.
            Rockchip on the other hand wins both cpu and gpu comparison (with crusty overclocked quad mali400) against fastest Tegra3.

            My point was cheap Chinese SOCs aren't about bottom dollar_and_performance anymore. They are still bottom dollar, but performance starts to catch up.

          • by pchan- (118053)

            Both are faster than fastest Tegra3.

            For what definition of "faster than"? A7 is a pretty weak core. It was optimized for very low power and die area, not for high performance. Tegra3 uses Cortex-A9, which is an older design but actually faster if all else is held equal (same clock speed, equivalent memory subsystem).

            (The reason you see quad A7 popping up in cheap Allwinner SoCs is that A7 is tiny. Really tiny. Area has a direct relationship with cost in semiconductor manufacturing. Also, ARM probably charges lower per-unit royalties for smaller / lower performance cores like the A7.)

            Someone mod this guy up. A7 is a single issue, in-order core with basically no frills. An A9 like in the Tegra 3 is a triple issue out of order processor with a much faster FPU. It blows an A7 away in performance by a wide margin, although it is a much larger and more expensive chip.

        • by julesh (229690)

          Allwinters most popular chip at the moment is quad Cortex-A7.

          Really? Because when I look at alibaba et al, what I see is mostly A13 based, which is a single-core Cortex-A8.

          • by citizenr (871508)

            Plenty of A31 around, still If I was shopping for a cheap tabled I would look at RK3188 instead.

      • by matrim99 (123693)

        Sometimes a person is perfectly fine with buying and using a toaster instead of buying and using a whole oven.

        The same goes for tablets; for casual surfing or communications, a slower, smaller tablet is fine for many people. Those who have tasks that require more CPU power will, of course, purchase different tablets more suitable for those types of tasks. But those uses don't' negate the value of cheap, "lightweight" tablets for other users' uses.

        • Re: So what? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by iamhassi (659463) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @05:12PM (#43668993) Journal
          I find that hard to believe. I've owned one of these cheap chinese tablets, and the only thing it ran was a browser and even that was slow. Very few apps ran fast enough to be useable, and the only games that worked were 10+ years old like bejeweled. So while some people might buy these cheap tablets to "try out a tablet", it won't be long before they're throwing it across the room in frustration and wishing they just bought an ipad
          • by edxwelch (600979)

            So, you are saying you owned something from China that didn't perform well, but don't mention the model or processor.
            The article is specifically taking about Allwinner, which use Cortex A8. That's the same processor running in the origonal iPad and performs pretty fine for browsing the web.

  • so? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cenan (1892902) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @01:39PM (#43666753)

    The article mentions 20% volume market share, that's pretty much the chineese share of the world's population. Congrats, you've retaken your own market, good for you guys.

    The article also mentions that Apple has a 48% revenue share. What the fuck guys. Pick a measure and stick to it. All that tells us is that Apple phones are probably more expensive per processor than their competitors. Big surprise.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      20% market share != 20% world population

      There is such a thing as socioeconomics.

  • Luthair outsells Newegg in CPUs delivered to his friend Fred.

    Seriously, this is a fairly specific claim, ignoring and ignores the much larger number of CPUs sold in phones.

  • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @01:44PM (#43666815) Journal

    So wait, they beat the single-digit of designs that used Intel Atom and failed, combined with the almost nothing of Android tablets not made by Samsung?

    How impressive!

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      The rest of the Android category belongs to Nvidia.

      They compared to two companies that sell tiny amounts of Tablet CPUs.

  • by Robert Frazier (17363) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:00PM (#43666979) Homepage

    I have a couple of tablets with Allwinner A10 SOC. Even better, there are development boards available with SOC, and some of them are Open Hardware, well documented boards. If you look at Wikipedia's list of Single Board Computers,
    you will find the Allwinner on a number of development boards, such as the A13-OLinuXino, Cubieboard, Gooseberry, and Hackberry. In addition to Allwinner tablets, I have a couple of Raspberry PI SBCs. I'm hoping to get one of the Allwinner based development boards in order to see how it compares to the Raspberry.

    Best wishes,
    Bob

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Are there any with an open GPU? This is the big obstacle to getting XBMC on an Allwinner device.

      • by adibe (2480114)
        Are there any ARM development boards that have an open source GPU driver?
        • by Hatta (162192)

          No. Which is all the more reason why the first vendor to open their specs is going to grab a lot of marketshare.

        • Depending on how you define "open source", the Raspberry PI has it.

      • by citizenr (871508)

        GPU is not a problem, video decoder (cedar) is, but there is a working open source driver now for A10. There is also a working open source driver for MALI400.
        Both experimental, but nightly builds work ( as good as experimental stuff would)

      • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@co[ ]ll.edu ['rne' in gap]> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @03:21PM (#43667741) Homepage

        The GPU isn't the problem. It's the fact that Allwinner still hasn't created an Android OMX stack for their hwaccel video codecs.

        People don't understand that the ARM SoC world is different than the desktop world - in the desktop world, EVERYTHING graphics-related is on the GPU, and it's all blobbed up.

        In the ARM SoC world, the graphics subsystem is split up significantly, with a lot of mix-and-match opportunities.

        For example, Mali 400MP GPUs are found in a wide variety of SoCs - Samsung Exynos4, Allwinner, Amlogic chips, Rockchip RK3066, some MediaTek chips, and I think a few others. People say, "when will there be hwaccel on Mali" - the answer is NEVER. This is because hwaccel video decoding is done by separate components in the SoC. In the case of Samsung Exynos, it's Samsung's MFC. In the case of Qualcomm, it's "vidc". In the case of Allwinner, it's CedarX. Amlogic's is just "amplayer" or something like that. FYI, at least the kernel interfaces (albeit not the firmware) for MFC and vidc are open-source, as are OMX stacks for both of those implementations.

        You can also see other interesting pairings too - for example, Samsung's MFC engine is very similar between Exynos3 and Exynos4, despite Exynos3 having a PowerVR GPU, and Exynos4 having Mali 400MP.

        Samsung's MFC has "good enough" OMX support to do XBMC on Exynos3, 4, and 5.
        Allwinner simply has NO OMX decoding solution for Android using CedarX, only their special proprietary player.
        Same for Amlogic's amplayer - the only reason XBMC works with Amlogic chips is because XBMC had "special" nonstandard playback support added.

        The end result is a lot of people.

        • by Hatta (162192)

          It's the fact that Allwinner still hasn't created an Android OMX stack for their hwaccel video codecs

          Who said anything about Android? I want XBMC on GNU/Linux.

        • Yeah, I went through this process a few months ago for a handful of devices I needed, and this is the only reason why they weren't cheap Allwinner devices. I know my project isn't a bleep on a blip on their production scale, but if I made this decision then others probably have too.

          A whole different class of projects can exist when devices are $60 instead of $200 - I hope their software can catch up to their hardware sooner rather than later.

      • by afidel (530433)

        Huh? XBMC on Android uses the standard NEON interface for video acceleration, if you want to run it under ARM Linux you'll need to configure your kernel to enable NEON support but you should be able to use the same code as the ARM branch.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          XBMC on Android uses the standard NEON interface for video acceleration

          There are also Tegra builds and generic non-NEON builds of XBMC for Android floating around, e.g. on XDA.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Huh indeed. I think you might be confusing NEON [arm.com] the ARM SIMD engine with OpenMAX [khronos.org] the media processing API.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I have a Cubieboard. It has an A10. It's not so 'open' as advertised. The GPU on all A10 devices, a MALI 400, is closed, but the relima project is making good progress in creating an open driver. This GPU however can only be used GLES, not video decoding in hardware. For this there's CedarX which I think is Allwinner IP. For all practical purposes blob support does not work, at least on proper Linux. Maybe Android support is better, I haven't tried it. This CedarX definitely isn't open and I don't know of a

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        Are there any with an open GPU?

        Under construction [limadriver.org]

    • by Khalid (31037)

      Yes the Allwinner seems to be a real game changer. Those guys : http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/news/ are building an open hardware platform similar to the Raspberry PI and based on the Allwinner A10, if I remember well it's price will be around $25, while it's much more powerfull. There have already been some articles here on Slashdot about it.

    • Thanks for that Wikipedia Suggestion - Now have it bookmarked

    • So what ? Do you want a medal ? Cheap shit is cheap shit. It won't survive long term.
      • Very kind of you. I would never turn up my nose at a medal.

        That it is inexpensive is what makes it interesting. I can afford to dedicate an Allwinner A10 tablet as a glorified remote control/streamer for MPD, one with the ability to check my mail and browse. I also use it to shut down various computers when I leave the house. I can take one apart, without worrying too much about whether I can get it back together. I would be much less inclined to use it this way if it were more expensive.

        As for the

  • I get a warm and fuzzy feeling with ARM. With Intel I get a feeling of a place filled with MBAs doing their damndest to screw over everyone from partners, customers, competitors, and their own engineers. Engineers who I picture working in a windowless over-bright florescent nightmare stirring pots of nasty chemicals.

    I never was an AMD person because my coding just was happier on Intel products. But with ARM I look forward to them expanding their products and make my life better. With Intel I just don't ca
    • I never was an AMD person because my coding just was happier on Intel products.

      Unless you were doing APC work, distributed or symetrical processing, or creating fancy bulk data moves with gpu's, or some really farout math, you shouldn't have noticed a whole lot of difference between the two platforms. How was your code "happier" on Intel? It would have been really happy to run on AMD if you ever ran into Intel's "divide by zero" [wikipedia.org] bug in the mid 90's.

    • I, and most posters here, are fine with ARM. I do embedded stuff, so I've long forgotten how to work with Intel chips (and good riddance). The question here is why Chinese manufactured ARM processors are so much cheaper than other ARM designs. Chip fab is an insanely capital intensive business, with labor costs barely in the noise, so that doesn't explain the Chinese prices. The most likely explanation is the simplest: dumping. Just like Japan did with memories in the 80's. Of course they vociferously denie
      • I recently ordered an number of identical electrical components from China. $2.00 each shipping included. Even though I entered the quantity in a single line item they all came separated shipped. So each component came from Asia by air, each was in its own bubble wrap, each was labeled, and each had its own package it still came to $2.00. I can't see the component being $2. So minimally China is subsidizing them through shipping.

        I am fairly sure that few non-subsidized companies on this planet could wareh
  • Of course, they're outselling the poorest selling portion of the market so it doesn't really matter.

    But regardless, good for them. I suspect some of this is to get big names to consider putting their product in their devices. Seems reasonable if it pays off.

  • But how reliable are they?
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:35PM (#43667319)
    Allwinner sold more tabletprocessors than Intel and Qualcomm. The report they cite is that Qualcomm is in the top 5 smartphone and tablet processors. As far as I know Qualcomm doesn't do a lot of business in the tablet market because most of their chips are in smartphones. As for Intel, they haven't sold many tablets to date as x86 tablets are not that common. Apple and Samsung are in both smartphone and tablet markets so they should be represented. Am I the only one that thinks this isn't as shocking as it seems?
    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      There are currently almost NO tablets with Qualcomm processors.

      I think one Lenovo unit has some sort of Qcom in it. Sony's Tablet Z has an APQ8064, but it hasn't hit the market outside of Japan yet. I can't think of any other examples really - but Qualcomm DOMINATES in phones right now.

      The tablet situation might change at I/O - lots of rumors that the Nexus 7's replacement will be Qualcomm-based.

      NVidia and TI have, so far, been dominating the Android tablet market. iPads have been Samsung-manufactured Ap

  • Why not.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:59PM (#43667559) Homepage

    The A8 and A13 processors absolutely rock and dont require a stupid NDA for you to sign just to get your hands on what is needed to use it.

  • Wow, they're really partying like it's 2008! Somehow I don't think anyone is afraid of Allwinner unless they manage to steal 28nm and below technologies really soon.

    They are already outclassed massively and it's only going to get worse as everyone moves to 22/20nm and before long 14nm.

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