PARIS — In 2009, Intel Corp. has made several moves to position itself in the French market, including an investment in a laboratory specialized in High-Performance Computing near Paris and the opening of a new design center in wireless technologies in Sophia Antipolis. Recently, speculations have emerged that Intel plans to purchase Freescale Semiconductor's wireless operations in Toulouse. Is this pure coincidence or full of sense?
Historically, Intel France has two offices. The sales and marketing office in Meudon, in the outskirts of Paris, is the headquarters for the western European region, which includes Benelux, France and Iberia. This office, numbering 100 employees, is part of Intel's EMEA sales and marketing organization.
Intel settled in Sophia Antipolis Science Park in 1999 after it acquired Shiva Corp. Now, the office is home to 20 employees from the Intel Worldwide Telecom Certification and Engineering teams.
The Telecom Certification Team provides telecom certification services for Intel products related to the public telecommunications network. This group is developing best-in-class Internet Edge products by integrating latest technologies into easily deployable solutions. The engineering design team develops hardware and software profiles for countries worldwide, also performing pre-tests for design validation.
In March, Craig Barrett, president and CEO of Intel, announced that Intel has signed a five-year agreement and invested in a university research center specialized in High-Performance Computing (HPC) in Jouy-en-Josas, near Paris, France.
When the project was officially launched, Barrett declared: "Research is an essential vector for a country's economic health and long-lasting competitiveness. Through this investment in innovation, and in particular in research, we commit ourselves to accelerate ICT penetration and the materialization of their assets in France and in other European regions."
In April, as Texas Instruments was indeed disengaging from some of its mobile phone activities, Intel announced the opening of a new design center in wireless technologies, reporting into its Ultra Mobility Group which is developing very low-consumption components for mobile PCs (UMPCs and MIDs). The unit aims to design RF subsystems for communicating mobile objects.
Last week, French press reported that Intel Corp. intends to acquire Freescale Semiconductor's wireless operations in Toulouse, France, and to take over 53 out of the 236 employees that Freescale said it would lay off by the end of 2009. Speculations have been progressing at a brisk pace and have left analysts pondering Intel's strategy.
Forward Concepts Inc.'s principal analyst Will Strauss commented to EE Times: "The Freescale Toulouse facility does not include a wafer fab, but is primarily an analog design center with a small group of RF designers within the organization. Likely, it is the RF designers that Intel is acquiring. Intel wants to get back into the cellular chip business since such chips will be required for future 3G-capable netbooks and MIDs. Intel has acquired the 3G intellectual property from Nokia, and Nokia has entered the netbook market with the help of Intel.
Strauss continued: "If Intel already has a facility in Toulouse, it makes sense to beef it up with newly-available wireless talent. TI's biggest layoffs from the cellular business occurred last April, likely including redundancies at the TI Toulouse facility. And I presume that Intel acquired some of those former TI employees, beginning Intel's wireless direction in Toulouse. RF design talent is rare, so Intel's moves are smart."
According to Strauss, "only Intel has the financial muscle to enter the cellular chip market, even if it has no plans to sell those chips to other companies since its Atom-based business is already in the tens of millions of netbooks/MIDs per year. Since France has the available talent, I believe that Intel will continue beefing up their Toulouse operations, but now as primarily a wireless center."