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Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, also believes Intel's Medfield Atom processors, along with its new "Clover Trail" Atom processors for tablets, show the progress the chip maker has made in driving down its processors' power consumption, a milestone it had to reach to succeed in the mobile space.
"I actually think Intel has accomplished more out of this move to mobility than Microsoft has," Moorhead said. "And Intel doesn't get enough credit for this right now, but its Medfield solution for smartphones and Clover Trail for tablets are very competitive mobile products, and the irony is that they are being fabbed on a legacy 32 nm process. So imagine when they get to a 22 nm process or 14 nm process. I think they are going to be a force in mobility."
Randy Copeland, CEO of Velocity Micro, a Richmond, Va.-based system builder, shares Moorhead's optimism. For years, Copeland explained, the smartphone and tablet market would have been a very low-margin business for Intel. The company was better served sticking to its bread-and-butter server and desktop markets. But now that mobility is booming, and Intel has made the decision to get a piece of that market, it's hard to imagine any rival chip company can stop it. "Intel is making the right moves in moving into [mobility] slowly. In addition to that, I think ... Intel is certainly the top silicon manufacturer in the world," Copeland told CRN. "I mean, they have manufacturing power that just can't be rivaled. And if they wanted to own the mobile space, I think they would already."
The Linley Group's Gwennap noted one real hindrance to Intel's mobile strategy is that it lacks a completely integrated smartphone solution that consists not only of the processor itself, but other technologies like Bluetooth, WiFi and radio circuitry systems that are required to make a mobile handset run. Intel competitors like Qualcomm and MediaTek currently offer these packaged solutions.
That said, Intel is making strides to get there, Gwennap noted. In January 2011, for instance, Intel closed its acquisition of German chip design firm Infineon's Wireless Solutions unit, a move that strengthened its communications portfolio of WiFi and 4G WiMAX products and proved it was serious about the mobile space.
In December 2011, Intel also created a dedicated Mobile Communications Group (MCG) to accelerate its push into the mobile market. The group is spearheaded by Mike Bell, a former Apple employee who had a heavy hand in developing the first iPhone, and Herman Eul, who came to Intel from its Infineon acquisition.
According to Intel spokesperson Claudine Mangano, Intel's new MCG group, which launched last January to spearhead its push into the mobile market, is buzzing with energy. "Mike often talks about the atmosphere almost as if it's like a startup within Intel, so there's a lot of energy and excitement," Mangano said.
Mangano declined to provide sales figures for Intel's Atom Z2460 Medfield processors, but said the company is pleased with the progress so far.