Inside Intel's Mobile Strategy: Opportunities and Challenges
Partnerships with regional tech vendors like Rockchip and Spreadtrum in China provide a smart way to get into these markets, according to Jeff Orr, research director at ABI Research. "Intel figured out that the way to be successful in the U.S. and Europe doesn't work in China," Orr told eWEEK. "There is a huge amount of 'made in China' pride in China." In addition, the definition of the mobile space may be expanding to include the tens of billions of devices that make up the fast-growing Internet of things, wearable devices, sensors and drones. Performance, power efficiency and connectivity will all be ingredients for the silicon that will go into these devices, and the work Intel has done with Atom and other mobile technologies will apply to these newly connected systems, Shenoy said. While acknowledging Intel's missteps in the smartphone and tablet markets, Orr said Intel's ability to recognize and react to the mobile space and the growing IoT opportunity has been impressive.Once they understood what was happening, Intel was able to react quickly, Orr said. That included such moves as understanding the importance of battery life in a mobile device and finding ways to optimize the power consumption, such as not using all the chip's cores for all applications, but rather using as many as necessary to process the workload while keeping the rest idle and saving power. It also means being able to develop two different product lines at the same time—such as Core and Atom—and stretching product families across platforms rather than assign chips to particular systems, he said. The chip maker, through the scalability of its processors, also has been able to drive the development of systems that can be used in multiple ways, such as two-in-ones and detachables—which can be used as a traditional PC or a tablet—mobile all-in-ones, which can be used in multiple ways, and tablets that can use keyboards or a stylus. "You can see where these kinds of blended-use cases are the direction that the market is going," Orr said. Intel most likely won't dislodge ARM from the smartphone space, but the company is driving new markets, thanks to the capabilities and features it's putting into its silicon, such as multiple OS support. Intel's RealSense 3D camera technology is another such capability, enabling OEMs to build devices that let users change the focal depth of their photos or to leverage its ability to accurately measure height, length and depth of objects in the photo for a range of uses, from comparison shopping to mapping, he said. It can be used for everything from collision avoidance systems in cars to helping people with visual impairments.
"The company had to go through some major upheavals of the business units to right the ship to align with the future, rather than how it's made its money in the past," he said. "It is a problem for any company—Intel included—to see a potential disruption in their space. They don't tend to see the cliff in front of them, and don't know how to react when they see that cliff."