Inside Intel's Mobile Strategy: Opportunities and Challenges

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2015-09-30 Print this article Print
Intel's mobile strategy

Krzanich and other Intel executives like to say that if it computes, it runs best on the Intel Architecture. During Krzanich's tenure, they have made efforts to prove that is true in the mobile space as well, both in tablets and smartphones, though the results have been a mixed bag. Intel was able to muscle its way into the tablet space in 2014 by offering OEMs huge cash subsidies to use its Atom "Bay Trail-T" platform.

The company that year was able to move 46 million Intel-based tablets into the market—beyond its goal of 40 million—but it came at a cost: The mobile business lost more than $4 billion. However, now established in the space, Intel officials this year set a goal of narrowing those losses by $800 million in 2015, which is well within reach with two months to go, Shenoy said.

What the tablet experience showed was that Intel can leverage its strengths to gain share and credibility in a market in which it held little presence, he said. And even as tablet shipments begin to decline, the company expects to be a player in the devices—"phablets" from underneath and two-in-ones from above—that are putting pressure on tablet sales.

Intel is hoping to have similar success in the competitive smartphone space, which saw 1.3 billion units shipped worldwide in 2014. Intel has continued to lag behind such ARM partners as Qualcomm, but officials expect to make gains over the next few years. The company's chips support both Microsoft's Windows and Google's Android operating systems, and the first of the Atom x3, x5 and x7 products, based on the "Cherry Trail" architecture are ramping.

In addition, a key step came this year when Intel rolled out the Atom x3 SoFIA chip, the first to include integrated cellular modem technology. The chips currently offer 3G connectivity. Chips with LTE connectivity are sampling now and scheduled to ship in the first half of next year. Intel is partnering with Chinese chip maker Rockchip to help get its SoFIA chips into the market.

Shenoy expects OEMs over the next few quarters to unveil new device designs that use the SoFIA technologies.

What makes the communications technologies—both integrated and discrete—so important is that in a highly connected and mobile world, many people are looking to their smartphones to be central computing devices. "It is about having a computer in your pocket and not just a phone," Shenoy said.

Aicha Evans, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel's Communication and Devices Group in the Platform Engineering Group, told eWEEK that the chips "are the bus drivers of information. … Our job is to transfer information as quickly and efficiently as possible."

Over the past several years, Intel has done well building out its expertise and features for its communications offerings, Evans said. It's now become about growing the number of chips they sell, which she expects will happen as the company adds to its current 3G capabilities with LTE next year and, down the road, 5G for which Intel is "uniquely positioned" because of its broad technology portfolio and ecosystem.

And Evans believes Intel is closing the gap in the modem space with Qualcomm, which has been more than a generation ahead.


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