Recently I have had the need to learn about different processors in computing devices. Most of the analysis has been of ARM processors, which were originally developed by Motorola for cell phones and now power smart phones, tablets and a few laptops. ARM chips are a lower cost alternative to INTEL with historically lower energy consumption.
In learning about ARM processors I have had to understand their architecture, the different processor speeds, the multiple versions of ARM and the new manufacturing techniques being used. One can really learn a lot reading manufacturer specifications. In the course of this investigation I even came across a techy who was working on a whole new processor design to reflect that much of computing power is now really web-based and processor functionality could be reduced with coincident cost savings. Very interesting idea as one ponders how to reduce the cost of computing devices. After the screen, the processor is the next most expensive component (although in some tablets the battery can match the screen cost).
My preliminary conclusion is that the next battle ground in tablets will be at the processor level, as manufacturers look to offset increased screen cost with price/performance improvements in processors. Also, except for screen improvements, processors may be the only way to differentiate tablet hardware, This conclusion may very well be true for other computing devices.
Interesting to me that Apple is the only computer manufacturer that does its own chip design. The importance of chip design to Apple is shown in this story which shows that all chip design for all devices at Apple is for the first time under one executive. Designing your own chips enhances the integration and performance with the other components in a device and perhaps enhances a uniform user experience across multiple devices. This story from Bloomberg suggests Apple may switch from Intel chips to the same chips in the iPad and iPhone for its other computers as early as 2017 to achieve a more uniform user experience.