Intel Expands Mobile Presence With New Partnerships, Atom Roadmap


Intel revealed new details surrounding its entry into the smartphone space at this week’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, including three new OEM partnerships and an updated roadmap for its Atom mobile processors.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini said Monday during a press conference that the Silicon Valley giant has struck deals with three smartphone makers around the globe. The first is Orange, a brand of France Telecom, which will launch an Atom Medfield-powered phone code-named Orange Santa Clara in the United Kingdom and France this summer. Yves Maitre, Orange senior vice president of mobile multimedia and devices, joined Otellini on stage and said the new phone will be targeted toward a mass market, and will tout "very, very high speeds."

Otellini also lifted the curtain on Intel’s new partnership with Chinese smartphone maker ZTE and Indian smartphone maker Lava. He Shiyou, ZTE's executive vice president and board member, said the company will go to market with an Intel-fueled device this summer, while Lava owner Vishal Shegal showed off his company’s new Xolo phone – running a 1.6 GHz Atom processor – which is slated for release next month.

"We are extremely proud of what we are trying to bring into the market," said Lava’s Shegal. "And, for us, it’s a very big step."

Otellini noted that China and India are two of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world, with the latter having doubled in size over the past two years. The chip maker started to carve a space for itself in the U.S. mobile market last month, when it announced a multi-year alliance with Motorola Mobility and said an Intel-powered Motorola phone is set to launch this summer.

[Related: Intel Signs Mobile Alliance With Motorola, Throws Support Behind Android]

Intel used MWC as a platform to unveil yet another multi-year alliance – this time, with Visa. The chip maker and financial giant are teaming up to equip Intel-powered smartphones with Visa payWave, a contactless payment methodology that allows users to make purchases with the swipe of their smartphone at any participating vendors. Visa president John Partridge described the functionality as a "virtual digital wallet" that allows users to make transactions more securely by not sharing personal information with merchants.

Moving beyond Medfield, Otellini detailed the company’s next steps in the mobile arena. "It wouldn’t be an Intel presentation if we didn’t have a roadmap," the CEO said.

He explained that the Atom Medfield Z2460 chips shipping today will be followed by Atom Z2580 chips. These next-gen chips will "double everything" delivered by its predecessor, including CPU and graphics performance, he said, and will also be 4G LTE-enabled. The Z2580 model will be ready for 2013 reference designs.

Third in line is the 1 GHz Atom Z2000 chip intended for "value smartphones" or those that fall under a $150 price point. Like the Z2580, products running the lower-end Z2000 are in the works for 2013, Otellini said.

The CEO also revealed Intel’s plans to produce its mobile chips using 22 nm technology – rather than Medfield’s 32 nm technology – in 2013 and shrink it to an even smaller 14 nm by 2014. This rate out-paces the company’s usual "tick-tock" manufacturing model, but he said accelerated timelines are a must when developing for the quickly evolving mobile market.

Otellini seemed confident in Intel’s ability to enter the smartphone space with ease. He said that Intel, for over 40 years, has been a key driver behind all major computing transformations – and that mobility is no exception. "We are not a stranger to the mobile market," he told the audience, making reference to the company’s long history in the wireless radio space.

The CEO said that Intel’s current Atom Medfield mobile processor has undergone industry benchmark tests that position it as an industry leader in both power and speed. The new chip will also bring to devices an 8-megapixel camera that can take 10 pictures in less than one second, along with 1080-pixel videos.

"It’s a lot more than just a chip," Otellini said.