Intel looks to break into Mobile Market…Again

by Matt Klassen on May 19, 2011

While Intel may be inside everything related to personal computers, the chip-manufacturer has struggled mightily to compete in the mobile market. In fact, it was back in 2009 when Intel first promised its chips would start appearing in smartphones, and two years later we’re still waiting for something to materialize.

But amidst growing market scepticism that the company is actually making inroads towards a mobile chipset, Intel announced that it plans to have Intel-based smartphones from all the major players in stores by early next year, showing off its powerful, yet low-power, Medfield processor prototype.

One has to wonder, though, why such a successful chipset manufacturer would have such a hard time transitioning into the mobile market, a market now dominated by chips designed by Intel’s UK rival ARM Holdings?

Needless to say, even with the unveiling of the Medfield prototype, analysts are underwhelmed, taking a sceptical wait-and-see approach for a company known for its lousy execution and lousy decision making.

It could be the latter point that really defines Intel’s struggles in the mobile market. Looking for an established partner to create a mobile OS and a new mobile chipset, Intel turned to the most unreliable partner in the business, Nokia. Together the two companies created the now defunct MeeGo operating system, with plans on creating smartphones with that OS running on Intel chips.

The rest, as they say, is history, as Nokia, in one of its trademark kneejerk flip-flops, abandoned its Intel partnership and its MeeGo OS to sign a landmark deal with Microsoft to utilize its WP7 OS instead. When asked about the whole debacle, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said in a candidate for the understatement of the year, “”That was, in hindsight, perhaps the wrong partner to have picked.”

Further, Intel’s struggles in the mobile market have come in part from its products, chips that are often seen as power hungry, a trait that may work in PCs, but certainly makes an unappealing choice for mobile technology. To that end, Otellini announced that the company is changing its focus:

“We decided going forward that our roadmap was inadequate, and we decided we need to change the centerpoint [the average power used by Intel chips]. We will still build products that scale up the range, but the centerpoint increasingly will be around ultramobility.”

But it seems that Intel may once again be behind the eight-ball when it comes to mobile processors, as its new low-power consumption Medfield chipset will initially only come as a single core processor when its released later this year, compare that to the fact that chipset makers Texas Instruments, Nvidia, and Qualcomm—all of whom use ARM’s mobile chip architecture—are already promising quad core mobile processors early next year, and it looks like Intel may once again struggle to play catch up.

In the end, if Intel is truly interested in making concerted inroads into the mobile market, its going to have to do some serious market research, learn where the markets going, and try to get ahead of it. Unfortunately its history of poor partnerships and promises of lackluster processors aren’t helping its cause.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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