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Intel launches new Atom processors, touts mobile wins

The chip giant says during Mobile World Congress that it's making real progress in mobile and that it has signed new agreements with Lenovo, Asus, Dell, and Foxconn.

Hermann Eul, the head of Intel's smartphone business, provides details about its Merrifield and Moorefield Atom chips. Shara Tibken/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain -- Intel on Monday launched its new Atom processor for smartphones and talked up its progress in mobile as it tried to alleviate worries about its continued struggles in the market.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company unveiled two new 64-bit Atom processors and an LTE-Advanced chip during a press conference at Mobile World Congress. It also announced multiyear agreements with Lenovo, Asus, and Foxconn to develop mobile devices that run on Intel chips. Lenovo and Asus have partnered closely with Intel in PCs, and both also have introduced tablets with Intel chips inside. Lenovo introduced a smartphone with Intel in the past, but the device didn't really catch on.

Intel on Monday said Lenovo and Asus plan to introduce a variety of smartphones and tablets this year. Dell, meanwhile, will unveil new Android and Windows tablets, and Intel will work with Foxconn to drive the availability of high-quality, affordable Intel-based Android tablets. Foxconn will release devices, beginning with tablets, this year.

"We have made significant advancements in our mobile computing," President Renee James said during Intel's press conference at Mobile World Congress.

Intel dominates the market for PC and server chips, but it has struggled in smartphones. Virtually every mobile device runs on chips based on a design by rival ARM Holdings, created by companies such as Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics, with Intel left to compete for scraps. Intel has said 2014 will be a better year for its smartphone business, but whether that's the case remains to be seen.

Intel hopes its new 64-bit Atom processor, codenamed Merrifield and now named Z3480, will catch on with smartphone makers. The chip is 64-bit, which allows for faster processing, and runs at 2.13 GHz. The chip is based on Intel's 22 nanometer, or billionths of a meter, Silvermont microarchitecture. The company noted the chip is the first to feature the new "Intel Integrated Sensor Solution" that manages sensors data even when the device is in a low power state.

Intel said it expects devices from "multiple" handset makers to launch beginning in the second quarter.

Intel also gave information about its next-generation 64-bit processor codenamed Moorefield. The chip is aimed at devices expected in the second half of the year. It builds on Merrifield by adding two additional cores for up to 2.3GHz of computing performance.

Intel President Renee James touts the company's progress in mobile. Shara Tibken/CNET

"With this, we prepare the world for an even faster, even richer application processor experience," said Hermann Eul, the executive in charge of Intel's mobile business. "That's what we mean when we talk about 'look inside.'"

Along with the new application processors, Intel also unveiled its XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced processor. The chip, which is currently certified to run on 70 percent of LTE networks globally, provides speak speeds of up to 300Mbps downlink and 50Mbps uplink. Companies planning to use the chip include Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung.

Eul said the company has "line of sight" to 78 tablets using its processors.

He also said Intel will launch a processor that has 3G technology integrated by the end of 2014. It will integrate 4G LTE into its mobile processor, codenamed Sofia, in the first quarter of 2015.

"These are from below $99 going up to performance platforms beyond $400," Eul said.