Without naming any smartphone manufacturers, Paul Otellini, president and chief executive of Intel, said Wednesday that smartphones running an Atom-based system-on-chip, codenamed Medfield, would be coming from "premiere-branded vendors." Otellini made the comments during a keynote at the Barclays Capital Global Technology Conference in San Francisco.
Medfield, a 32-nanometer platform centered on the low power Atom processor, is expected to be Intel's first serious challenger to processors designed by ARM Holdings in Cambridge, England. ARM's technology is licensed by multiple chipmakers whose products are used in nearly every smartphone in the market. Apple is a licensee and designs its own flavor of ARM-based processor for the iPhone.
While Intel has yet to prove any success in smartphones, the chipmaker is committed to working its products into devices, the fastest growing mobile phone category. "I view this as being a marathon not a sprint," Otellini says of Intel's approach to battling ARM.
In developing its smartphone technology, Intel has partnered with Nokia, matching the world's largest mobile-phone maker with the world's largest chipmaker. The difficulty in building a smartphone platform has been less about the processor and more about developing modem integration, the telephony and protocol stacks and other technologies unique to cellular phones, Otellini says.
While Intel is new to smartphones, the billions of dollars it has in the bank make it an immediate player. The same is true in the consumer tablet market, jumpstarted this year by the introduction of the Apple iPad. The iPad currently accounts for more than 90% of the market; its closest challenger to date being the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Apple's share is expected to lessen as other major computer makers jump in, such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Acer.
For tablets, Intel has two Atom-based platforms, Oak Trail and Moorestown. The former will be for Windows-based tablets and support all the drivers commonly associated with the operating system, Otellini says. Moorestown will power Google Android and MeeGo tablet OSes. MeeGo is a Linux-based OS developed by Intel and Nokia.
Intel chips today are being used in business tablets from AT&T and Cisco. A total of 35 Consumer tablets running Oak Trail and Moorestown will hit the market in the first half of next year, Otellini says. Manufacturers will include Toshiba, Lenovo, Dell, Asus, and Acer. Many of the new devices will be demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Shows in Las Vegas, Nev., in January.
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