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Intel CEO spells out Atom, small-device push

Paul Otellini tells investors the chipmaker expects to capitalize on system-on-chip opportunities driven by its upcoming 32-nanometer technology.

At Intel's investor meeting Tuesday, CEO Paul Otellini discussed how the company is moving to system-on-chip technology in a big way.

Otellini began by saying that the market outlook remains positive. "A little better than we expected. So far, so good." He said he was "more firm in my belief that we will see seasonality in the second half," alluding to Intel's expectation that the PC market should pick up in the second half of the year. Otellini added that Gartner's forecast of a PC sales decline between 9 and 10 percent in 2009 may be too pessimistic.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini answers a question during the Intel investor meeting Tuesday
Intel CEO Paul Otellini answers a question during the Intel investor meeting Tuesday

System-on-chip (SOC) opportunities will be driven by Intel's upcoming 32-nanometer technology. "All that you're doing is reducing (a computer) system to a single chip," he said. Market segments that will benefit from this technology are Netbooks, smartphones, and embedded devices, he said, adding that Netbooks and smartphones each represent a $10 billion market opportunity by 2011.

Otellini talked up Intel's new relationship with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which involves "deep collaboration" on the Atom SOC chips used in smartphones. It means, he said, "taking Atom and porting it over to the TSMC process, to help further Intel architecture into those new markets."

Traditional PC markets will give way to "targeted micro-segments" such as the high-end desktop gaming segment, exemplified by PCs from Voodoo and Alienware, Otellini said. "The old big, beige, boring desktop is dead." Intel's upcoming Larrabee graphics chip will address this market, in addition to standard multicore processors.

The consumer desktop market will be transitioning to iMac-style all-in-one systems, Otellini said. There will be Atom-based "Nettops," small entry-level computers priced at a couple hundred dollars, he said. The desktop market will see "small growth" as people incrementally replace the 800 million units in use.

Otellini said Intel will mix and match technology across different product segments very quickly now--the number of cores and the type of graphics, for example, will be quickly rejiggered across different product categories.

Intel views its fab (factory) strategy as extremely important. Otellini said that Intel is one of the few companies that has committed to a next-generation 22-nanometer manufacturing process. "Intel was able to create a market for Netbooks faster than the (Nintendo) Wii and iPhone...Only Intel has the (manufacturing) scale to do this," he said.