Intel's major operational shift to mobile will not include ARM; the company made that much clear at a recent analyst meeting.
Intel chief executive Paul Otellini said the company is changing up its microprocessor roadmap, moving from midpoint to low processing power, a technology more suited for mobile products. Otellini said it is the third major directional shift from Intel, the first being in 1995 to Pentium and the second in 2003 to Centrino.
We are aiming our center point for all of our design activities at sort of the 35 and 40-watt midpoint today in the notebooks that most of us use. We're shifting that down, substantially, to 15 or so watts. We're still going to build products that scale up that dynamic range, for other market needs, obviously. But the center point is going to be about ultramobility, Otellini said.
Intel made it a point to tell analysts and investors that is has no plans to go down the same path as some of its rivals, notably Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Intstruments, and use ARM processors to build a more mobile friendly chip. ARM's processing architecture is used in chips for numerous mobile devices including the highly popular iPhone and iPad.
By sticking with x86, Intel will continue to shrink the manufacturing nanometer process size to get the low power best suited for mobile products. Currently, its Atom chips, which are used in laptops and tablets, are using 32-nm Saltwell architecture. Otellini said it will go from 32-nm to the 22-nm Silvermont architecture and eventually the 14-nm Airmont architecture, by 2014.
Intel has already said its Medfield processor will have phones in the market next year. Otellini admitted the company got off to a slow start in the market because of a failed partnership with Nokia.
That was, in hindsight, perhaps the wrong partner to have picked, said Otellini.
In addition, the company also promised 10 tablets using its own mobile computer processor. The tablets, which are manufactured by Asustek, will be on display at Computex, a computer trade show in Taiwan, on May 31. While some market analysts are skeptical of Intel, Hans Mosesmann, an analyst with Raymond James, is confident because of the company's recently introduce 3D Tri-Gate transistor technology.
Intel may not get 50-60 percent share in tablets/smartphones, but we are quite confident the company will not get 5 percent of the market either. Intel is in the game, and the 3D Tri-Gate transistor capability at the 22nm node puts Intel approximately three years ahead of anybody in the world of semiconductor manufacturing, in our opinion, which is unprecedented, Mosesmann said.
Intel's verbal jabs at the UK-based ARM weren't just limited to mobile. The company also made sure to mention that future versions of Windows 8 running on ARM architecture, which is what Microsoft promised at the Consumer Electronics Show, will not support legacy apps.
BMO Capital Markets analyst Ambrish Srivastava noted this announcement would limit the number of ARM-based Windows products to newer form factors. This factor, Otellini says, makes the Intel PCs more real than the ARM-based ones.
What's a real PC? For the next 10 years, it's going to be one that has access to and can run legacy applications, Otellini said.