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Going Mobile: Intel To Focus on Low-Power Atom Processors

Going Mobile: Intel To Focus on Low-Power Atom Processors
By Jennifer LeClaire

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"ARM is a very impressive technology and my hat is off to both the ARM company and the many partners they've got who manufacture silicon and products based on those chips," said analyst Charles King. "But we've seen many times in the past where Intel put their mind to entering and winning a market -- and they are pretty tough to beat." Intel will focus on its Atom processors.
 


Intel is making its move on the mobile front. As the market transitions from PCs to mobile devices, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich is aiming more resources to chipsets for smartphones and tablets.

Krzanich told reporters in San Francisco on Monday about his plans for the Atom chip. According to a report in Bloomberg, he admits the company resisted the shift in emphasis from PCs but is now embracing the opportunity.

The opportunity is real. According to IDC, global tablet shipments are booming at the expense of PCs. By 2015 tablets are expected to outpace PC sales. Given that Intel has less than 1 percent of the mobile market, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., Intel needs to make a move.

Can Intel Shift the Market?

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, said that although chips based on architecture from U.K.-based ARM Holdings have largely dominated mobile products, Intel has been on a mission to increase the combination of performance and power efficiency for the last couple of years.

"The results have been pretty spectacular. It's no longer the apple and oranges comparison between Atom and ARM that is has been in the past. Intel's Atom is getting closer and closer to a level of parity with ARM," King told us. "The question is whether or not there's going to be enough to bring developers and handsets and other device makers into Intel's camp."

King has a good feeling Intel's efforts will pay off. In fact, he said, at the point where Atom becomes more viable for the mobile market, he believes it will spark strong interest and activity among Intel's traditional partners to jump into that space. The result: competition and innovation, which will benefit consumers and businesses over time.

Driving Innovation

"ARM is a very impressive technology and my hat is off to both the ARM company and the many partners they've got who manufacture silicon and products based on those chips," King said. "But we've seen many times in the past where Intel put their mind to entering and winning a market -- and they are pretty tough to beat."

As King sees it, Intel has at times lagged behind either in features or functionality, but the company has enough experience, brilliant employees and financial deft to catch up and often overtake other players.

"A very competitive, innovative Intel has tended to make most every market a more interesting one and a more competitive one in ways that benefit customers," King said. "I would expect to see the same kind of dynamic play out in mobile."
 

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