September 16, 2009 / 4:47 AM / 8 years ago

Intel gears up for mobile battle

<p>A man walks past an Intel wall at the 2009 Computex trade show in Taipei June 3, 2009.Pichi Chuang</p>

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Intel has slashed the power consumption of its new "Moorestown" chip platforms for mobile devices, a big boost for its efforts to grab a slice of a booming market for chips in cell phones and other consumer electronics.

Anand Chandrasekher, a senior vice president at Intel and general manager for the ultra mobility group, also said the company is open to joining forces with the world's largest cell phone maker, Nokia, on a Linux-based operating system.

Analysts have previously said Intel's chip-and-chipset platforms will be too power-hungry for portable consumer electronics and cell phones, when compared with rival platforms based on ARM Holdings Plc architecture.

But Chandrasekher told Reuters the company has almost kicked the problem.

Battery life -- hurt most by large screens and powerful processors -- is one of the most crucial metrics in the phone industry. Last month, a senior Nokia executive said ARM is today "miles and miles" ahead of Intel on energy management.

"We're gonna be very close and almost match," Chandrasekher said of the power consumption of Intel's Atom-based "Moorestown" platform.

He said Intel's average power usage is improving as the company has been able to sharply cut the amount of power the chip uses, and have it idle between tasks.

"This is really their first foray into mobile and smartphones. This is the scouting party if you will," said Real World Technologies analyst David Kanter.

"Their 32 nanometer process is really going to make some quite compelling products for cell phones."

Intel's next mobile platform, codenamed "Moorestown" and due out in 2010, is based on a 45 nanometer Atom chip. Its 32 nanometer Atom-based mobile platform, codenamed "Medfield," is due out in 2011.

Chandrasekher said the Moorestown platform should also help to boost Intel's position in the market for mobile Internet devices, or "MIDs."

MIDs -- an emerging segment with devices envisioned as being larger than smartphones but smaller than netbooks -- provide an inexpensive way to get online to watch videos, send instant messages, email and use a variety of applications without having to peck at the tiny keys on a smartphone or cart around a PC.

"This market is very large. There is a vacuum here. When we come to mid-next decade, it's a 400 million to 500 million unit category," Chandrasekher said.

This year, Intel unveiled a deal with Korea's LG Electronics on developing a MID based on "Moorestown" and Linux-based Moblin 2.0 software.

In June, Intel unveiled a technology partnership with Nokia on mobile devices and analysts had said the deal gave Intel a chance to take on leading cellphone chip makers Qualcomm Inc and Texas Instruments Inc, a big Nokia supplier.

A Software Marriage?

Intel is expected to introduce new features for the Moblin operating system, give an update on its "Moorestown" platform due out in 2010, and discuss new tablet designs at its annual Intel Developer's Forum in San Francisco next week.

It could further extend its push into mobile by merging its Linux-based operating system with Nokia's, as part of the wide ranging co-operation pact the two had previously announced.

"That opportunity does present itself. We are open to it," Chandrasekher said.

Chandrasekher said the firms aim to bring Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo software closer to each other and find synergies in software development.

"If I develop an application for Moblin, it should run on Maemo. If I develop an application for Maemo, it should run on Moblin," Chandrasekher said.

He said one of the biggest differences between two operating systems would then be their focus on different screen sizes -- Maemo for smaller and Moblin for larger.

Tying up the operating systems would enable the two to compete with Google's Android platform, which is winning increasing attention in the high-end cell phone market.

Additional reporting by Clare Baldwin in San Francisco; Editing by Anshuman Daga

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