SANTA CLARA, Calif. Intel Corp. plans to offer 3G cellular silicon as part of its move into systems-on-chip for networked devices, said chief executive of Paul Otellini. Separately, the company will not try to offer a 28 nm process technology despite comments some will use that interim node.
"We want to have that [3G] capability," said Otellini in a Q&A session at an annual analysts meeting here. Cellular silicon "could be in a daughter card, but in some platforms it needs to be integrated into the SoC, and we want to be able to do any configuration," he said.
Otellini said he had nothing to announce about how or when Intel would obtain 3G silicon.
As the desktop PC ages, Intel is driving its Atom processor into SoC designs to attack mobile, embedded and consumer markets, Otellini said. He also reported the processor giant is seeing small signs of recovery in its overall business.
"I am getting increasingly confident the dip may not be as bad as [market watchers] are showing," Otellini said, pointing to projections from Gartner of a ten percent PC market decline in 2009. "What we are seeing is a little better than expected," he said.
The estimated 46 percent growth in monthly IP traffic is a "fundamental driver for silicon technology," Otellini said, spawning new Web-connected embedded, consumer and mobile systems that will use tens of billions of dollars in silicon annually.
The company has 14 Atom-based SoC designs in the works in its upcoming 32 nm process targeting those markets. It also has defined a shared library of modular parts and standard interfaces for its SoCs, he added.
In February, Intel demoed Westmere, its first 32 nm processor and said it is developing a version of the process specifically for SoCs. The company has started work on two processor designs for its follow on 22 nm technology.
Intel will not develop an interim 28 nm technology, said Mark Bohr, an Intel fellow in the company's manufacturing group. The company's 32 nm processor has greater transistor density than the 28 nm products some competitors have discussed and by the time a 28 nm interim node emerges, Intel will have its 22 nm process available, he added.
The SoC drive will help Intel expand beyond its billion-dollar business in embedded systems today. "As we go to SoC we can compete in a broader swath of the marketplace against ARM, MIPS and [IBM] Power," Otellini said.
Atom will make up about 15 percent of Intel's sales of client chips in 2009, said Stacy Smith, Intel's chief financial officer.
Intel has yet to announce any major design winds for its Canmore chip, an SoC for digital TVs launched last year. Otellini cautioned that the consumer electronics sector "is a slow-moving marketplace and will embrace the Internet in a phased fashion."
By contrast, mobile systems such as notebooks and netbooks are driving most of the company's current growth, he said. "The old boring beige desktop is almost dead," said Otellini, although he predicted Intel will still see "small growth" in annual desktop sales.
Intel's efforts to restructure over the past three years will enable it to squeeze profits from SoCs carrying lower price tags than PC processors, Otellini said. The company expects to employ about 78,000 people by the end of 2009, down from 103,000 in mid-2006, in part by consolidating fabs and selling off businesses.
"We do not need to go through a massive frantic downsizing as a result of this downturn," said Smith.