Intel to Focus On Mobile Chips, Make Wearable Computer Push: CEO

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich says the company will prioritize its low-power Atom chips over Cores, which are more aimed at PCs.

Intel's new leaders say the giant chip maker will have a sharp focus on the mobile device space going forward, and that wearable technology—like Google Glass—will also be of keen interest to them.

Intel, whose x86-based processors dominate the PC and server markets, has begun to make strides in the building chips for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. New CEO Brian Krzanich and President Renee James say they intend to push the company even harder in that direction, even if it means emphasizing their low-power Atom platform—aimed at mobile and embedded devices—at the expense of the more powerful and less energy-efficient Core processors for PCs and high-end tablets.

In an interview with Reuters, the two executives—who took over leadership at Intel when Paul Otellini retired in May—said they wanted to build on whatever momentum the company already has in the mobile device space.

"We see that Atom is now at the same importance, it's launching on the same leading-edge technology, sometimes even coming before Core," Krzanich told Reuters. "We are in the process of looking at all of our road maps and evaluating the timing of some of those products. It's fair to say there are things we would like to accelerate."

Intel, like many other established technology vendors, misread the impact smartphones and tablets would have on the computing industry. Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Microsoft and others have been hit hard by the slowdown in sales worldwide of PCs, as consumers and business users spend more of their money on tablets and smartphones. Systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) designed by ARM dominate the mobile device market, a space Intel has been courting for several years.

Intel has been driving down the power consumption of its processors, and later this year—with the new "Silvermont" microarchitecture—officials expect new Atom chips ("Bay Trail" for tablets, "Merrifield" for smartphones) to challenge ARM chips in performance and power efficiency. The chip maker got a boost in June when Samsung officials said one of its Galaxy Tab 3 tablets would be powered by an Atom SoC.

The numbers explain Intel's interest in mobile devices. According to Gartner analysts, global PC shipments will fall from more than 341.2 million in 2012 to less than 289.3 million next year. By contrast, tablet shipments will climb from 120.2 million in 2012 to more than 276 million in 2014, while smartphone shipments between 2012 and 2014 will grow from 2.2 billion to 2.5 billion.

"Consumers want anytime-anywhere computing that allows them to consume and create content with ease, but also share and access that content from a different portfolio of products," Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement. "Mobility is paramount in both mature and emerging markets."