Intel Looks to Smartphones, Tablets, Networking as Growth Areas

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Intel Looks to Smartphones, Tablets, Networking as Growth Areas

by Jeffrey Burt

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Intel Slowly Collects Smartphone Design Wins

Intel continues to try to make inroads into the booming smartphone and tablet markets, primarily with its low-power Atom system-on-a-chip (SoC) platform. The vendor has a number of design wins from the likes of Lenovo, Acer, Lava and ZTE, though no Intel-based phones have yet landed in the United States. Intel is aggressively innovating on Atom—the company recently released its 32-nanometer Clover Trail+ chip and is on schedule to release the 22nm Merrifield by the end of the year.

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More Intel-Based Tablets on the Way

According to Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith, tablet volumes in the first quarter more than doubled from the fourth quarter of 2012, and the company expects them to double again in the second quarter. Intel chips already power tablets that run Windows 8 and Android, and in the second half of the year, the company will launch Bay Trail, 22nm Atom chips that promise higher performance and lower power consumption than current Clover Trail SoCs. Already a range of vendors—from HP and Acer to Lenovo and Dell—offer Intel-based tablets.

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Intel Says Ultrabooks Will Change Personal Computing

Intel executives are pointing to the upcoming launch of Haswell—the next-generation Core processor—as a catalyst that will drive new ultra-thin, energy-efficient designs for such devices as Ultrabooks and hybrids. The combination of Haswell, mobile form factors like Ultrabooks, convertibles and hybrids, touch-enable devices and an improving global economy will help drive growth in Intel's Client Group.

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Low-Power Computing Is Also Important in the Data Center

Small, energy-efficient microservers will be a key area of competition with ARM, and Intel officials believe they have the advantage there. Currently, Intel offers its Atom Centerton chips that are being used in the first iteration of Hewlett-Packard's Project Moonshot microservers. Intel is now sampling the upcoming 22nm Avoton chips, which will launch in the second half of the year.

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Intel's Coprocessors Aim to Challenge GPUs in HPC

Intel last fall rolled out its Xeon Phi coprocessors, which are designed to work with traditional chips to boost the performance of massive computing systems in high-performance computing (HPC) environments. Organizations with HPC environments have been turning to GPU accelerators from AMD and Nvidia to help with this, but now Intel is bringing its x86-based technology to the game.

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Intel Is Expanding Its Role in the Data Center

Intel in the past few years has bought a range of companies to grow its capabilities in such areas as storage, networking, software, security and cloud computing. Now the company is beginning to use these acquired skills to grow its reach in the data center beyond the silicon. For example, at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing this month, Intel officials introduced reference designs for a "rack-scale" server architecture based on Intel technology to create groupings of servers, storage and networking products that are more modular, efficient and dense.

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Intel and Its Networking Ambitions

Data center networks have become a top priority for many organizations, and Intel over the past few years has worked to build its capabilities in that area. The company bought Fulcrum Systems in 2011, followed by QLogic's InfiniBand business and Cray's HPC interconnect assets. Now Intel is working to integrate network and storage controllers into its chips for supercomputers, a move that will ramp up the performance of the systems as the company pushes toward exascale computing.

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Intel Makes a Push Into SDN

At the Open Networking Summit this month, Intel executives laid out the company's strategy around data center networking, SDN and network function virtualization (NFV), joining open protocols to the hardware and software. At the same time, Intel unveiled reference architectures to help enterprises, cloud service providers and telecommunications companies quickly create hardware and software for SDN and NFV. Among the reference designs is one called Seacliff Trail, an SDN switch platform that uses Intel Core or Xeon chips. In other SDN moves, Intel earlier this year invested $6.5 million in startup Big Switch Networks and became a founding member of the OpenDaylight Program.

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Embedded Devices a Draw for Intel

Like other chip makers, Intel is looking to the embedded device space as a growth area. In a recent example, Intel created its Intel Media unit, which will oversee its Internet television efforts. The Intel TV initiative, set to launch later this year, will include an Intel-powered set-top box and accompanying software that enables users to view on-demand and live content on a range of devices, including smartphones and tablets. In addition, there reportedly will be a camera looking out that will be able to detect who is watching and make viewing suggestions accordingly.

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Intel as a Cyber-Security Force

Intel made a dramatic step into the security space with its 2011 purchase of security software maker McAfee. The acquisition not only enables Intel to integrate more security onto the silicon, but also makes it a player in security in a wide range of devices, including smartphones and tablets. In addition, Intel is a founding member—along with Advanced Micro Devices, EMC and Lockheed Martin—of the Cyber Security Research Alliance, a consortium created to help address the growing need for research and innovation concerning national cyber-security.

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Intel and Its Large Software Business

Intel over the past several years has built its software business into one of the largest in the industry, with $588 million in revenue in the first quarter, a 3 percent increase from the same period last year. Intel executives last year said that 12,000 of its 100,000-plus full-time employees work in software development and testing, as the company not only wants a say in what processors systems use, but also in the software that runs inside them.

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Intel's Hadoop Distribution

The chip maker has been working with Apache Hadoop—the open-source platform for big data environments—since 2009, and in February rolled out its own Hadoop distribution. The Intel Distribution for Apache Hadoop, optimized to run on the company's Xeon server chips, will help Intel become a more significant player in the burgeoning big data space.

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Intel Looks to SSDs

Intel has been in the solid-state drive (SSD) business for several years, growing its presence in this booming part of the storage industry and giving it one more avenue into a range of computing devices. Most recently, Intel on April 23 said its SSD 335 Series is adding a new version with 80GB capacity.

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Intel as a Chip Foundry

Intel is beginning to leverage the capacity in its massive manufacturing facilities to develop a growing foundry business, where it will make processors for other companies. The company's Custom Foundry unit was created about three years ago, with Intel signing three chip vendors—Achronix, Netronome and Tablua—as customers. In February, Intel signed on programmable chip maker Altera, the largest company to date to be a foundry customer.

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