Intel might not have given up on the mobile processor market after all

Laurent Giret


Earlier this year, Intel announced its plans to cut 12,000 jobs following a general decline in its business. As a result, the company also stopped developing its mobile Atom chips codenamed “Sofia” and “Broxton,” a decision that could lead many Surface enthusiasts to believe that a Windows Phone with an x86 processor (which is necessary to run Win32 apps) was now unlikely to be developed.

By betting too much on the legacy x86 infrastructure, Intel clearly missed the mobile revolution while cheaper and more power-efficient ARM chips are now powering the most powerful smartphones in the market. However, the chip maker who is still investing in IoT and modems also remains interested in mobile SoCs. Venkata Renduchintala, president of the Client and IoT Businesses and Systems Architecture Group at Intel (and former Qualcomm exec), explained the company’s position in an interview with PCWorld today (via Windows Central):

First of all, we rationalized what we were spending our R&D on. We had a couple of mobile SoC products that I don’t think were worthy to continue to conclusion. That doesn’t mean to say we’re no longer doing mobile platforms. On the mobile platform side, my commitment is to talk less and do more. When we have something to say we’ll talk about it.

Please note that the exec doesn’t explicitly say that Intel has not given up on its mobile x86 chips. Furthermore, it’s also worth reminding that two months ago, Intel announced that it has entered into a licensing agreement with ARM to produce ARM chips for other companies, and LG will be the first major phone manufacturer to use Intel’s custom foundry’s 10 nm design platform for an upcoming mobile chip.

But could Intel eventually become an ARM chip maker as well? In the same interview, PCWorld asked Renduchintala if Intel was open to the idea of taking an ARM CPU license to improve its offerings in the IoT space, and this was the answer:

Open to? Yes. My view is fairly straightforward — that Intel’s IoT plan has to not only be able to harmoniously integrate Intel-based microprocessors and MCUs, it has to be able to aggregate and harmoniously integrate a plethora of different types of MCUs, whether it be ARM-based, MIPS-based, or proprietary MCUs. All of them have the ability to monitor, sense data that they want to get on to an information highway of some kind. Our ability to [support] many different client environments is going to be a necessity in any vertical IoT strategy we have. There are many areas in the ARM ecosystem where Intel can pragmatically play in for its own benefit. I’m a big believer in paying respect to established ecosystems.

While the IoT market is different from the mobile market, the fact that Intel could consider manufacturing its own ARM chips is definitely interesting. The chip maker is certainly aware that both the mobile and IoT market are evolving much faster than the decreasing PC market, and we’re glad to see that the company seems ready to embrace change. We invite you to read Renduchintala’s full interview over here, let us know in the comments if you think the chip maker is right to remain committed to the mobile market.