Just as Intel Corp. has successfully marketed its products as industry-standard building blocks to attain its position as the top maker of PC and server processors, the company has now set its sights on becoming the cornerstone supplier for another potential high-growth market, the communications industry.
Intel President Paul Otellini, in his keynote at the chip makers Developer Forum in San Jose, Calif., on Monday, heralded what he contends will be the eventual convergence of the computing and communications industries, a shift that will result in the emergence of more powerful smart phones and handheld devices.
"We are on the cusp of creating exciting new technologies that will allow all computers to communicate and all communication devices to compute," he said.
While companies already market cell phones packed with PDA-like computing features, Otellini said, future products would be considerably more powerful, offer longer battery life and better wireless connectivity, and be able to more readily exchange data with remotely located PCs and servers.
To help foster development of such handheld devices, Otellini said, Intel will leverage its manufacturing technology to pack more features into smaller and more powerful chips. By integrating wireless technologies such as 802.11a and Bluetooth into the silicon, devices would operate more efficiently and consume less power.
"Intels advanced 90-nanometer silicon technology will bring logic and communications capabilities together on the companys manufacturing lines for the first time ever," Otellini said. "Silicon is the convergence engine that powers a new era of computing."
But while Intel processors do power many of the worlds computers and popular handhelds, such as Hewlett-Packard Co.s Compaq Ipaq, the giant chip maker remains a relatively small player in the communications market, where smart phones manufacturers relay on chips from Texas Instruments, Motorola Inc. and others.
However, Intel will apparently seek to leverage its dominance in PCs and servers to boost its share of the communications market. In essence, Intel is telling developers this week that by basing their future handheld platforms on Intel architecture they can assure their future products will be compatible with most customers PCs and servers.
That argument carries considerable weight given that handheld devices are usually used in conjunction with PCs and serve as a central point for downloading and uploading data. In addition, just as wireless standards enable cell phone users to tap into a variety of different locations to make a call, future application compatibility will likely prove key to enabling customers to take full advantage of their smart handhelds.
Otellini stressed, though, that the companys main objective is to foster future growth.
"The ultimate goal, and the thing that we are working toward--and what all of us in the industry should be working for--is bringing computing to everyone, anytime, any place in the world," Otellini said.
To illustrate the trend toward convergence, Intel representatives demonstrated the advantages and ease-of-use capabilities of its future mobile chip, code named Banias, due out in the first half of next year. Banias is Intels first PC chip designed specifically for use in mobile products and features greater power-on demand capabilities to provide optimal performance only when needed to reduce power consumption, and offers integrated 802.11a and 802.11b wireless connectivity.
The senior executive acknowledged that some may question whether the giant chip maker is ideally suited to lead the convergence computing and communications industries.
"Why should we be one of the companies to make this happen? I think very simply that what this is, is what we have always been all about," Otellini said. "Our heritage is steeped in integrated technology. Its what we do. Its what we have been focused on from the beginning, its what we are good at, and what we believe will drive this next era of computing."
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