Intel Loses Top Executive of Atom Mobile Chip Unit

Intel says it will continue its aggressive push into the smartphone and tablet markets despite the departure of Anand Chandrasekher, who ran Intel's Ultra Mobility Group.

Intel, which is trying to gain some traction in the highly competitive and potentially lucrative smartphone space, announced March 21 that the executive leading the effort is leaving the company.

In a brief statement, the giant chip maker said Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group, is leaving the company to pursue other interests. Mike Bell and Dave Whalen, both vice presidents with the mobility group, will co-manage the unit, according to Intel.

Chandrasekher's departure comes as Intel is looking to expand its reach beyond its core server and PC processor business, in large part by trying to make inroads into the smartphone and tablet markets currently dominated by chip makers such as Samsung, Texas Instrument and Qualcomm, which use chip designs from ARM Holdings.

David Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, said the company's wireless efforts will continue despite the departure of Chandrasekher, who had been at Intel for 24 years.

"Intel remains committed to this business," Perlmutter said in a statement. "We continue to make the investments needed to ensure that the best user experience on smartphones and handhelds runs on Intel Architecture, and to ship a phone this year."

Intel is the world's largest chip maker, with more than 80 percent of the global market, but to date it has been unable to make much noise in the ultramobile device space. Intel officials are saying that will change this year, with the release of the company's 32-nanometer "Medfield" Atom processor. During a talk at a conference in December, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said smartphones powered by Medfield chips will begin reaching the market later this year, and that the momentum behind the processor will continue into 2012.

Otellini reportedly said during the Barclays Capital Global Technology Conference that the competition with ARM is a "marathon, not a sprint."

In addition, Otellini said there were several PC OEMs, including Dell, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba, that were planning to use Atom chips in almost three dozen upcoming tablet designs, which would start rolling out this year. Intel has two Atom platforms for tablets-"Oak Trail" for tablets running Windows, and "Moorestown" for those running Google's Android OS and MeeGo, a Linux-based operating system developed by Intel and Nokia.

Intel has made numerous moves to gain traction in the ultramobile world, in particular with the $1.4 billion acquisition of Infineon Technologies' wireless business, a deal that closed earlier this year. More recently, Intel this month announced it had bought SySDsoft, a company that makes wireless networking software, particularly in the area of 4G.

However, Intel also suffered a setback this year when officials with Nokia announced they were going to put Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 OS onto their handheld devices instead. Intel officials said Nokia's decision would not derail their MeeGo efforts.

Even as Intel looks to muscle into ARM's dominance in the ultramobile space, the two companies also will be squaring off in the data center. ARM and several of its customers, including Marvell, Nvidia and Calxeda, are looking tomove the ARM architecture up the stack and into low-power servers in such environments as cloud computing and Web serving.