As the future dims for PCs and servers, Intel is setting its sights on developing processors for smartphones and consumer electronics.
The Intel Developer Forum showed that the chip-making giant is overclocking its product development efforts to blitz the smartphone and consumer electronics market.
Even though PC and server chips account for the bulk of Intel's revenue, executives at the San Francisco event last week made it clear that the company believed the future lies in markets where Intel has very little presence. To change that around, Intel had one word: Atom.
The low-power processor that ships today in most netbooks is being down-sized quickly to fit into smartphones and CE devices, particularly high-definition TVs and set-top boxes. Intel expects both markets to help keep its revenue-generating engine running in high gear as growth in the aging PC market grows.
"The PC market in general isn't going to grow as quickly as it used to," John Spooner, analyst for Technology Business Research, said. "It's that simple. They need to expand their base to keep growing."
In 2010, Intel plans to release Moorestown, codename for the company's second-generation platform for handheld devices. The platform comprises a system-on-chip that integrates a 45-nanometer Atom, a graphics processor, memory controller, and video encoder/decoder.
But Intel plans to release its big gun in 2011. Codenamed Medfield, the third-generation of the platform will be a 32-nm, Atom-based system-on-chip that will likely be Intel's first real competitor to the ARM architecture that dominates the smartphone market today through a variety of vendors, such as Broadcom, Qualcomm, Samsung and Texas Instruments.
In addition, Intel has partnered with Nokia, the world's largest mobile-phone maker, in developing its technology for the smartphone.
"There's people who believe there's no way Intel can come in," Gartner analyst Leslie Fiering said. "But Intel is very serious in designing for the smartphone, and when they get there, they will bring development tools and a lot of (processing) power to burn."
Server Market SplitsvilleJust because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.