Can Intel Really Muscle Into Smartphones?

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Can Intel bend the mobile phone industry to its will and get operators and device makers onto Atom processors? Pankaj Kedia believes so

Intel’s general manager of the mobile Internet Device (MID) ecosystem Pankaj Kedia is very confident that the Moorestown generation of Atom will sweep the mobile world. It is “as inevitable as gravity”, he said to eWEEK Europe at an Intel event in London – no matter how unresponsive the mobile operators might be.

Intel may dominate desktops, servers and laptops, but phones have proven a very difficult target for the company, which has until now not had a processor with the kind of characteristics they need. Now that the company has Moorestown, a low-power, system-on-a-chip version of its Atom processor family, the company has big hopes to get into that market, despite the current hold of ARM, a company whose dominance of smartphone processors is so secure it was recently able to shrug off rumours of a purchase bid by Apple.

We asked Kedia how he could be so confident, given the strength of ARM, the conservatism of operators, and Intel’s previous failure to impress the telecoms world with its bid to dislodge the telecoms world’s next generation network standard, LTE, using its own technology, WiMax.

Where are the Moorestown products?

You’ve explained how Moorestown turns the Atom chipset into a more feasible product for handheld devices. But there’s no sign of products. What is the big picture – how are these chips going to make it into real products?

Mobile devices are increasingly looking like computers. My thirteen year old niece wants to access the Internet and watch Internet videos. She is not happy with the walled garden approach. All the things I have described sound very much like a computer and require performance.

The big picture is that Intel has been doing computers for 25 to 30 years. We can deliver 1.5GHz in a pocket device with the battery life and power expectation you have come to expect in the device. That’s the magic of Moorestown.

You can get high performance if you look at performance independently, or you can get battery life if you look at it independently. Doing both at the same time. That’s the magic.

Can Intel convince the operators?

Nokia has been talking about mobile computers for some time. Part of the failure of this idea so far has been that the operators are very conservative. You can give them a device that is as powerful as it likes, but they may just shrug their shoulders if it doesn’t come with an obvious way for them to extract more money from captive consumers. How are you going to convince them?

We have gone from zero to 1.8 billion Internet users in the last fifteen years. That growth is not stopping. People want the full Internet on mobile devices. They don’t want a WAP Internet, they don’t want a text Internet, they don’t want a slow Internet. It’s a huge opportunity – a ten year trend.

The success of the iPhone and Android is a very good indication of the way things are going. That’s the segment we are after. Computers which just happen to make a phone call.

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