updated 03:05 pm EDT, Tue May 17, 2011
Intel shifts to lower-power Atoms for phones, more
Intel during investment presentations Tuesday promised a more definite track for his company's struggling mobile plans. At one event, CEO Paul Otellini said the company's earlier plan for mobile was "inadequate" and would focus on even lower-powered designs that would move twice as quickly as Moore's Law. Along with the 32 nanometer version of the Atom, Saltwell, the executive also acknowledged the 22nm Silvermont and ultimately a 14nm version, Airmont, within three years.
The emphasis was now less on mainstream notebook processors and more on ultra-mobile hardware such as phones and tablets, he said. Even notebooks would eventually get to 15W peak power instead of the typical 25W and 35W of today. Smartphones would arrive sometime in the first half of 2012 through unnamed partners.
Intel's executive VP for mobile, David Perlmutter, clarified some of the plans. He promised "thin-and-light devices at mainstream laptop prices." Many Intel-based devices in the future would have the features commonly attributed to tablets today, such as instant-on, persistent Internet access and 10-hour battery life, he said. There would also be more instances of crossover hardware that could flip between PC and tablet designs.
"In two years we expect that Intel-based devices will combine the best attributes of PCs and tablets," he added.
Otellini at the same time acknowledged that Intel had been reeling from Nokia's decision to switch to Windows Phone and deemphasize MeeGo, the OS it had been developing with Intel. The CEO admitted that Intel had been putting all its hopes on Nokia and working "almost exclusively" with the Finnish company. What work had been done was made into a reference design being pitched to companies as an example.
He once more hinted that the sudden departure of the ultramobile lead was actually a forced departure and touted the "new management" of the mobile group as a sign it would succeed. The presentation gave Otellini a chance to jab ARM, claiming that Intel actually made more revenue on tablets. Windows 8 wouldn't work well on ARM since Microsoft would have to adapt it to four different ARM variants, effectively porting it four times, he said.
The executive likewise didn't believe that Apple had locked up the tablet market with the iPad or that ARM had too much of a lead, arguing that it was still too early to say. An Intel-based Android device might be unveiled as soon as Tuesday as proof of Intel's plans, which saw 2,000 Atom-based systems and 21 percent of them defections from rivals like ARM.
"The tablet race is nowhere near finished," he said. "No one knows the size of this market... It will require a tremendous amount of experimentation here for several years."