Intel believes its x86 chip architecture will make its way into smartphones running Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 OS -- despite the fact that Intel does not carry processors for mobile phones and Microsoft has yet to officially unveil Windows 8.
Last week during Intel's fiscal fourth quarter earnings call, CEO Paul Otellini said Intel is well-positioned to place its x86 architecture, which powers the majority of traditional PC systems, inside mobile handheld devices.
“The plus for Intel is that as they unify their operating systems, we now have the ability for the first time to have a designed-from-scratch, touch-enabled operating system for tablets that runs on Intel," Otellini said.
In May, Intel unveiled its Atom Z6 processor and Moorestown platform but the chipmaker has yet to offer the small, low-power processors needed for smaller form factors. Although LG showcased a smartphone prototype running the Atom processor, the device never came to market and Intel has fallen behind British chipmaker ARM in this space.
But Otellini says all that will change when Windows 8 comes to handheld devices.
"We have the ability to put our lowest-power Intel processors running Windows 8, or 'next-generation Windows,' into phones, because it’s the same OS stack," he said, "I look at that as an upside opportunity for us."
By bringing Windows 8 into the smartphone picture early on, Intel is responding to Microsoft's decision to port Windows to ARM processors, while reaffirming the old, powerful Intel-Microsoft partnership.
Microsoft said it would adopt ARM earlier this month at CES 2011, while Intel said it would support Android mobile OS, in turn challenging ARM's niche market. The Android 3.0 platform equipped with ARM's Cortex architecture was unveiled at the event, running devices such as Motorola 's new Xoom tablet.
Intel's adoption of Android is part of a series of decisions going back to the Atom Z6 processor that highlight the company's interest in the burgeoning tablet and smartphone markets.
In December, Intel formed a Netbook and Tablet Group aimed at driving its strategy in the mobile space.
Intel and Nokia are jointly developing the MeeGo platform, having established research centers aimed at creating user interfaces and applications for the Linux-based MeeGo OS.
Otellini's comments -- though only indirectly referring to ARM -- change the dynamic of the rivalry to this point. Intel has remained quiet as ARM executives have been sounding off against Intel, including ARM CEO Warren East, who dismissed the notion of Intel closing the gap with ARM in the mobile market.
Intel is expected to unveil handheld devices running its processors and other aspects of its smartphone strategy at the Mobile World Congress in February.