ARM Chief Executive: Intel Has A Long Way To Go In Mobile

Intel on Tuesday said its first smartphone processors will crush ARM designs when Intel launches the chips later this year, but ARM's view is that Intel still has a lot of ground left to make up.

In a keynote at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco, Intel Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith said the emergence of the smartphone and tablet device categories represents an opportunity for Intel and not a challenge to its commanding lead in the CPU market. Smith said mobile devices will allow Intel to ship "billions" of processor units, instead of the hundreds of millions it currently ships.

However, ARM, which currently holds an 87 percent share of the mobile PC segment from licensing its CPU architecture to others, has a different view. Speaking Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, ARM CEO Warren East told Reuters that ARM still has the edge over Intel in the mobile market.

"(Intel) is still a long way apart in processors on the market," East said. "Unless they can make their processors smaller they will struggle."

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ARM has scheduled the release of processor designs with built-in LTE modems to manufacturers early next year, Intel's chips with LTE support, on the other hand, are scheduled to come to market in in Q4 of 2012, East said.

ARM expects an increase in its royalty revenues as more manufacturers adopt its multicore processors in their devices, some of which are making their debut at MWC, according to East. "As they have more functionality, we are giving more value to our customers," East told Reuters. "And we expect to be paid more."

Intel unveiled its new smartphone processor, code-named Medfield, on Monday at MWC. Smith said Medfield offers twice the processing performance of an ARM chip running inside the same phones and also offers longer battery life compared to ARM's processors. Medfield is currently in production and expected to come to market later this year.

Medfield will support Google’s mobile Android platform, as Intel looks for phone manufacturers to adopt its mobile processors in their devices.

Medfield includes a 32-nm fabrication process, a significant reduction in size from its 45-nm predecessor, codenamed Moorestown. Intel says its initial Medfield offerings will come with an HSPA+ modem acquired from Infineon in Intel's $1.4 billion acquisition of Infineon Wireless Solutions, which officially closed last month.

Next: ARM Seeks Entry Into Traditional PC Market

ARM is hoping its current momentum in the mobile space carries over to the traditional CPU market, long-dominated by Intel's x86 chips running on the Windows platform.

East also welcomed Nokia's decision to prioritize Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform over the MeeGo OS it developed jointly with Intel. Nokia and Microsoft last week said they will form a broad strategic alliance in order to develop a new mobile device ecosystem based on Microsoft's Windows Phone software to compete against rivals Apple and Google.

Intel said it was "disappointed" that Nokia is placing the open-source MeeGo platform on the backburner in favor of Windows Phone 7, and stood by the MeeGo project. ARM, evidently, feels differently about Nokia's decision.

"It's good to see them with a strong direction," he said. "For us it's a broadly positive thing."