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John Wallace, Intel's product marketing manager for tablets, also emphasized Intel's momentum in the mobile space, and told CRN he has noticed the "tone of the conversation" related to the company's mobile efforts is starting to change.
"Step one really was getting our products down to the power levels they needed to be to power this next generation of devices," Wallace said. "It's actually been really refreshing to see the skepticism or criticism changing. A year ago it was, 'Intel is never going to have a low-enough power chip to fit into one of these devices to compete with ARM.' Now, you don't really hear that challenge very much anymore, since we launched Medfield."
Regardless of whether Intel ever matches ARM in the mobile space, analyst Gwennap noted that the company is still benefiting from the mobile boom because of its server business. As smartphone and tablet adoption soars, so, too, does the need for servers that can handle the influx of information pouring into data centers around the globe.
In the third quarter of 2012, Intel saw its PC Client Group revenue drop 8 percent year-over-year to $8.6 billion. Its Data Center Group, however, grew during the three-month period, and saw its revenue shoot up 6 percent year-over-year to $2.7 billion.
"I think there is going to be a business for Intel for a long time in PCs, and the server market is really benefiting from growth with all these mobile devices," Gwennap said. "As people are using more of these mobile devices, they need more services from the cloud, and that's where these Intel servers come in."
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A new CEO may bring changes to Intel's mobile strategy. Intel in November shocked the tech world when it announced CEO Paul Otellini will retire in May. Otellini, 62, will retire three years before Intel's mandatory retirement age of 65; the company hasn't announced who will fill his shoes.
Otellini, who spent eight of his 40 years at Intel in the CEO seat, was a driving force behind Intel's alignment with its x86 architecture. When he steps down, The Linley Group's Gwennap said, it's possible the company could start exploring options for adopting ARM architectures for its tablet and smartphone chips.
"Otellini has just been very dogmatic about that whole thing, saying 'We don't want to use any other architecture than our own, never ever','" Gwennap said. "So if you brought in somebody who was a little more open-minded, that might open up that particular door."
The move wouldn't be a completely unprecedented one for Intel; the chip maker previously used ARM architectures within its former XScale business, but sold the unit off to Marvel Technology Group in June 2006. Larry Chao, a former tablet marketing manager at Intel and now director of business development at Kno, a software company based in Santa Clara, Calif., agreed that, without Otellini in the CEO spot, ARM architectures could make their way into Intel's mobile chip line-up.
"I think with the change of guard that we will see Intel embrace ARM more than Paul [Otellini] did," Chao told CRN. "But what Intel has shown with the latest generation of Atom is that there is no power penalty with Intel architecture."
At the same time, Chao, who also spent a few years working directly under Otellini as a program manager, said Otellini was always a big advocate for Intel's mobile charge, and that his direction will no doubt be missed. "He definitely saw that smartphones were going to be, sort of, the next PC, and he was always really clear on that," Chao said. "He definitely helped bring the company in the right direction."