Intel, Google Alliance Puts Chip Maker in Mobility Game

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 09-18-2011

At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF), Sept. 13-16, 2011, in San Francisco, the industry got a good look at how the chip maker plans to push its way into the mobility sector. Most significant was a new alliance with Google, which pledged to optimize future versions of its popular Android operating system for Intel s Atom platform.

At the same time, Intel executives began to provide details about their ultrabook initiative. It's designed to fuel mobile PC sales and stave off a nascent challenge by ARM and its partners as they strive to move into the low-power PC segment.

The Google partnership could be a particular boon for Intel and its mobile efforts The move will give Intel a powerful partner that is seeing Android embraced by a wide range of vendors, from HTC to Samsung to LG Electronics. Such a partner will be crucial to Intel as it goes forward, according to Greg Richardson, an analyst with Technology Business Research. In the mobile world, partnerships are important, given the emphasis users put on the ecosystem around a device. "Until now, we've seen Intel going it alone," he said.

The rapidly expanding smartphone and tablet markets are dominated by chips designed by ARM Holdings and made by the likes of Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments. Despite Intel's efforts to muscle its way in--with its low-power Atom platform, for example, and its work developing the open-source MeeGo mobile operating system--the vendor hasn't gotten much traction.

Speaking at IDF, Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini noted the significance of the Google alliance, saying it will help expand the reach of the Intel architecture. Neither he nor Andy Rubin, the senior vice president of mobile for Google--who joined Otellini on stage--gave many details about the partnership. But Otellini did say he expects "multiple manufacturers worldwide" to come out with Intel-powered smartphones next year.

"The first Intel phones will be all Android-based; hence the importance of the Google partnership," he said.

Otellini said that despite the head start ARM has in smartphones, the market is still fluid. "The smartphone business is not established in terms of the ultimate shakeout of who is going to win and who is going to lose," he said, noting the strong showing Android now has in this space despite Apple s strong start with the iPhone.

Meanwhile, "ultrabooks" will enable Intel to keep a strong grip on the PC market. Intel executives envision very light, thin devices that marry features found in tablets such as long battery life and instant-on capabilities--with the advantages of traditional notebooks, including productivity and compatibility.

The first ultrabooks will appear this year from OEMs such as Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba. The next wave will come next year, powered by Intel's upcoming "Ivy Bridge" chips. The third stage will come in 2013, powered by a "Haswell" chip that will offer huge gains in productivity and energy efficiency, Otellini said.

For more, read the eWeek article, Intel Makes Strong Mobility Move with Google Alliance.