BARCELONA--Intel’s foray into the smartphone space is a “marathon, not a sprint,” according to the firm’s CEO Paul Otellini.
Speaking at a company press conference on Monday, where the firm announced new partnerships with Orange, Lava International Ltd., ZTE and Visa, Otellini reminded attendees that Intel was no stranger to the mobile market, having been involved in RF for many years.
“In 2011, Intel shipped more than 400 million cellular platforms,” he said, adding “it is a very, very important segment to us.” In order to fully immerse itself in the mobile space, however, Otellini said Intel was ready to go beyond the radio.
“We have to start thinking about this in a more holistic fashion,” he said, noting that in modern day mobile phones only 10 percent of important functionality came down to phone calls, while everything else was computing.
With Intel’s strong background in computing, Otellini said his firm was able to approach the smartphone market “from a different perspective,” leveraging Moore’s law as well as a strong, in-house manufacturing prowess.
“Intel is one of few remaining integrated device manufacturers,” said Otellini, noting that the company not only designed but also fabbed the chips itself, giving it total control over every step of the process and a seemingly un-matchable cadence.
“We’re about to eclipse our 32-nm with our own 22-nm product,” he said, noting that Intel has doubled its pace in order to keep up with the mobile market which demands ever lower power at higher performance with every generation. Indeed, the firm is already working on building its 14-nm SoC.
At the same time, however, Otellini warned that the mobile effort really didn’t center only around the chips, but that platform mattered a great deal too.
“It is a lot more than just a chip,” he said adding that Intel took great pride in its commitment to open standards and support of over 14 million developers already using the Intel architecture.
Orange’s SVP of mobile multimedia and devices, Yves Maitre, joined Otellini on stage to express his excitement at addressing the mass market with a phone he said had “Incredible features and incredible powers.”
“We decided 18 months ago to really address the mass market,” he said though he admitted it was a “huge challenge” that had the operator questioning whether it would be able to pull it off. Using Intel’s reference platform and Gigabyte manufacturing had really made the dream a reality, said Maitre.
Otellini also expressed his excitement at partnering with both Lava and ZTE, which gives Intel a presence in India and China.
Lava, said Otellini, is one of the fastest-growing Indian mobile handset companies, in a country currently demonstrating three times the growth rate of the rest of the world in terms of smartphone conversions.
150-200 million phones a month sold in the Indian market, making it an attractive proposition for Intel’s ready made reference design.
Lava will be selling Intel’s platform under its new XOLO brand and will make the phone available by the beginning of the second quarter of this year, according to Lava co-founder and board director, Vishal Sehgal.
With a new Intel multi-year mobile device collaboration for smartphones and tablets with ZTE too, Intel now has some reasonable weight behind Atom, through Lenovo in the Chinese market, Motorola in North America, Orange in Europe, Lava in India and ZTE in China, Europe and eventually North America.
“This is pretty important for Intel as it allows the firm to start building an ecosystem of ODMs and show what Android on Intel can really do,” said analyst Jack Gold, adding that it would also get consumers to see “Intel Inside” on smart devices like phones and tablets.