Is this thing for real?
Sure looks like it. Although they strangely asked us not to take any pictures during the press briefing, Intel passed around a nifty Broadwell reference design tablet code-named "Llama Mountain." The screen was 12.5" in size, and the chassis was 7.2 mm thick. The system was running Windows 8.1, and idling at the desktop, its skin felt relatively cool to the touch.
Intel appears to have crammed a fairly potent x86 PC into a system not much larger than an iPad Air.
We don't yet know the full specs of the first Core M processors, but Intel has clearly set the expectation that Broadwell-Y will match the performance of Haswell-Y in half the power envelope. The Haswell-based Core i5-4200Y has a 1.4GHz base clock and a 1.9GHz Turbo peak. I fully expect to see a Core M processor with the same clock speeds in a sub-nine-mm tablet.
The zillion-dollar question is whether having truly astounding performance in a tablet-style power envelope is enough to move the market in Intel's direction. Will Windows-based tablets and two-in-ones become so attractive with the Core M onboard that consumers will overlook the clumsiness of Windows 8.1's dual-mode usage model and dearth of touch-oriented applications?
Yeah, that's a tough one.
A related and more interesting question is what Intel's tolerance is for exploring lower price points. Broadwell-Y is darn near half the size of Haswell-Y, and assuming the 14-nm process matures as expected, it ought to be incredibly cheap to manufacture. One of those 10" Windows tablets becomes a much more attractive alternative to an iPad when its price is comparable—or possibly even lower.
Intel also has the intriguing option of pursuing new territory now that Android on x86 is a reality. One could imagine an 11" convertible tablet a la the Asus Transformer lineup sporting a Core M processor and bringing a whole new class of performance to the Android market.
That's just speculation, though. What matters most are the systems Intel's partners actually release during the coming holiday season. One or more of those will have to get some real traction with the buying public in order for the Core M to succeed out of the gate. We'll be keep an eye on the prospects to see what develops.