Saturday, May 21, 2011

Intel Re-Writes Its Roadmap for Mobile Device Chips

Intel, king of desktop Relevant Products/Services and laptops, is in the unaccustomed position of trying to claim some territory in a landscape it does not dominate -- mobile Relevant Products/Services. The company is now making clear how important this new world is.

Earlier this week, CEO Paul Otellini told a meeting Relevant Products/Services of financial analysts that he is refocusing the company away from being PC-centric, even to the point of redoing its vaunted microprocessor roadmap and going after the king of mobile, United Kingdom-based chip designer ARM. Most tablets and smartphones are ARM-based.

Roadmap 'Inadequate'

Otellini said at the meeting that the current "roadmap was inadequate," and that the company was shifting to more advanced manufacturing and a stream of lower-powered chips.

Intel's Atom chips, the low-powered processors that have been used in many netbooks, consume too much power Relevant Products/Services for Intel to challenge ARM among other mobile devices. The midpoint in power consumption for the current generation of Intel chips is about 35 to 40 watts, but Otellini said that the midpoint will now be shifted to 15 watts, and new processors for tablets and smartphones will be oriented around 5 watts or less.

As part of its roadmap redefinition, the company is planning a move to a 14-nanometer manufacturing process by 2014, which would mean smaller transistors and hence less power requirements.

In addition to Intel trying to get a better foothold in tablets and smartphones, it is battling reports that Apple is considering moving its Mac computers to ARM processors, replacing its current Intel chips. Otellini dismissed these reports, saying that it would "take a long time and cost someone a lot of money."

Intel is also facing the fact that Microsoft, long its fellow king in the "Wintel" land of the desktop, has said it will be developing a version of its next Windows operating system specifically for ARM processors. But Intel is raising the specter of a fragmented Windows, with multiple versions behaving differently on different ARM microprocessors.

'Factually Inaccurate'

On Tuesday, Intel executive Renee James said during a presentation at the company's Santa Clara, California headquarters that the Intel-based version of the upcoming Windows 8 will run older programs, but that the ARM-based versions won't.

James said there won't be just one Windows for ARM, but four versions, and it raised the possibility that applications running on one version might not work the same on others. On Thursday, Microsoft issued a statement saying that Intel's version of multiple versions was "factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading." However, the software giant didn't clarify exactly what it has in mind for its ARM future.

Martin Reynolds, an analyst with Gartner Relevant Products/Services, said that Intel's upcoming Medfield chip is a key part of their growing mobile strategy.

"Medfield is competitive with ARM in power consumption and processing," he said, adding that Intel still needs to demonstrate how the chip will "do more things, or do them better, on a smartphone Relevant Products/Services."

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