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Intel lays out strategic mobile roadmap

Intel CEO on performance, price, power management

By , Network World
February 28, 2012 09:42 AM ET

Network World - Intel used to talk endlessly about Moore's Law -- doubling the transistors that can be put on an integrated circuit about every two years -- as the source of ever-greater benefits for everyone in the PC value chain every two years like clockwork. But today, fittingly at Mobile World Congress, Intel CEO Paul Otellini in effect declared that the company could no longer wait on Moore's Law.

Otellini outlined Intel's strategy to become in the burgeoning mobile market what it manifestly is not today: a power. In a strange way, his presentation to reporters and analysts and the questions that followed underlined that reality over and over.

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Intel, like so many other traditional tech giants, has been caught by surprise by the rise of smartphones, and now tablets. That was underscored symbolically two years ago, when Microsoft, one half of "Wintel" which still rules on the PC market, wanted an applications processor for its hardware specification for Windows Phones, the radically revamped UI for its mobile operating system. It worked closely with Qualcomm, whose Snapdragon CPU powers all brands of Windows Phones today.

But Windows Phone's market share is scarcely the size of the margin of error in most analysts' reports. The two biggest mobile platforms, Apple's iOS and Google's Android, are selling in the millions worldwide, and not one of them runs an Intel CPU. Apple designs its own custom iPhone and iPad CPUs and farms out manufacturing to Asian foundries. Android handset makers choose from a range of chipmakers.

But as Otellini noted in his remarks, most people spend most of their time on mobile phones computing, not talking: updating Facebook four times an hour, watching movies or video, searching the Web -- hundreds of tasks of all kinds, all of which need a CPU that can deliver performance without killing the battery.

He talked in traditional terms about how Moore's Law has let Intel continue silicon innovation, moving from a 32-nanometer process in 2009 to 22-nanometer process for its Ivy Bridge chips, due out in weeks in new PCs and laptops. He talked about the ecosystem of Intel software developers, numbering 14 million, with 6 million applications available, an environment made possible, he said, by Intel's support of open standards. He also talked about Intel's legacy of support for multiple operating systems.

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