Intel to investors: Now we're serious about smartphones

Intel says it's ready to apply its considerable development and manufacturing resources to smartphones. What took it so long?

Intel-based Lava smartphone.

Intel has a message for investors and the rest of the tech industry: We're dead serious about smartphone chips now. (Finally, wags might add.)

At its annual investor day on Thursday, Intel reiterated that its first dual-core smartphone processor, the "Medfield" Z2580, is coming later this year and will be offered with Intel-branded 4G LTE silicon.

And to drive home its commitment to phones, CEO Paul Otellini said that phone chip development will move ahead at "twice the rate of Moore's Law." Put another way, chip development that would ordinarily take six years will be carried out in three.

"They have a real chance...if they choose to get aggressive," said Anand Shimpi of chip review site Anandtech.

Intel's first dual-core smartphone chip, the Atom Z2580, is due later this year, followed by 'Merrifield' silicon due in 2013 -- a redesigned Atom chip.  These chips will also be offered with Intel-branded 3G/LTE silicon.
Intel's first dual-core smartphone chip, the Atom Z2580, is due later this year, followed by 'Merrifield' silicon due in 2013 -- a redesigned Atom chip. These chips will also be offered with Intel-branded 3G/LTE silicon. Intel

Intel's current Atom chip for smartphones -- which is a single processor core -- competes with leading ARM-based phones in performance, according to Anandtech. While its battery life is not market-leading, it is competitive with the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Nexus, Anandtech said.

In 2013, Intel is expected to introduce a redesigned phone chip dubbed "Merrifield" with souped-up graphics based on a new chip architecture.

And expect to see more evidence of Intel's push into the phone market when Lenovo announces the K800 in the coming weeks and then Orange, ZTE, and Motorola bring out phones with Intel chips in short order.

Of course, Intel is not a shoo-in. It won't benefit from the "x86" intellectual property that essentially restricts competition in the Windows PC market. And executives admitted as much Thursday when they said they will have to compete with brute development and manufacturing force by advancing their chip designs at a faster pace than the ARM competition.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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