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Intel’s industry position and prospects for years ahead

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Core information:


Follow-up: Intel: accelerated Atom SoC roadmap down to 22nm in 2 years and a “new netbook experience” for tablet/mobile PC market [April 17, 2011]
Update:  Intel executive quits as smartphone biz falters [March 21, 2011]: (emphasis is mine)

The Intel executive who led Intel’s so-far-unsuccessful push into smartphones and tablets quit as that business comes under unrelenting competitive pressure from companies like Apple, Qualcomm, and Nvidia.

Anand Chandrasekher, who had been senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Ultra Mobility Group, announced today that he will be leaving Intel to “pursue other interests”.

Chandrasekher had become somewhat infamous for making regular appearances at Intel conferences over the last few years and invariably waving a prototype smartphone or handheld device for the cameras, then promising that an Intel-based smartphone was on the way. But none ever materialized.

“The industry has gone right past them,” said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at Rodman & Renshaw. “They’re just another player [in the smartphone and tablet markets]. There’s no first among equals,” Kumar said, referring to the ARM processor business, which is dominated by an oligarchy of other big chip companies, including Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Samsung, Apple, Marvell, and Nvidia.

Another analyst says that Intel’s first chip designed specifically for tablets and smartphones, “Moorestown,” was a failure. “Moorestown was a complete flop,” said Linley Gwennap, principal analyst at The Linley Group, a chip consulting firm. “Intel is still struggling to get traction in tablets and particularly smartphones. Atom is in a few tablets that run Windows, but Windows tablets are not very popular, except in a few vertical applications,” he said.

Note: Although Chandrasekher bet his corporate carrier on this in 2006 when Intel sold its XScale business to Marvell, there were a number of higher placed Intel executives who were much more responsible for this major strategic mistake: (emphasis is mine)

“As part of the thorough analysis of Intel begun in April, we have examined the focus and structure of our top management level, including our use of ‘two-in-a-box’ co-managers,” said Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini. … Intel’s Sales and Marketing Group will be led by Executive Vice President Sean Maloney, 50, who previously co-managed the company’s Mobility Group. Maloney will also become Intel’s chief sales and marketing officer. … Senior Vice President David Perlmutter, 53, will continue as general manager of the Mobility Group. Senior Vice President Anand Chandrasekher, 43, formerly co-general manager of the Sales and Marketing Group, will manage a newly created business unit focused on low power Intel Architecture products and the ultra-mobile PC market. He will report to Perlmutter. … Intel Announces Management Changes [July 20, 2006]

Marvell Technology Group, Ltd. and Intel Corporation today announced that they have signed an agreement for Intel to sell its communications and application processor business to Marvell for a purchase price of $600 million plus the assumption by Marvell of certain liabilities. The planned sale will give Marvell a strong presence in the growing market segment for processors used in smart handheld devices. The sale also will enable Intel to focus its investments on its core businesses, including high-performance, low-power Intel Architecture-based processors and emerging technologies for mobile computing, including Wi-Fi and WiMAX broadband wireless technologies. … “In recent years, Intel has made significant progress and won major customers with this business,” said Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president and general manager, Mobility Group. … Marvell To Purchase Intel’s Communications And Application Processor Business For $600 Million [June 27, 2006]

Intel probably has good business reasons for selling the 1,400-person communications/applications XScale unit to Marvell. Faced with a surprisingly resurgent AMD and other challenges, Intel is rapidly cutting costs and reorganizing. XScale’s financial performance was lackluster, so the unit was an obvious candidate for a selloff. And Marvell is paying $600 million in cash, which isn’t chump change, even for Intel.

Another reason for Intel to reduce its commitment to XScale is that it’s not an Intel-native CPU architecture. XScale isn’t protected by the same financial and emotional capital that Intel has invested in, say, the IA-64 (Itanium) architecture. Indeed, XScale is ARM compatible, so every design win strengthens ARM.

As we see it, Intel now has three options: create an entirely new embedded-processor architecture; acquire another embedded-processor architecture from an outside company; or renew its commitment to developing the x86 as an embedded architecture.

Creating a new architecture is the least likely option. The world already has plenty of CPU architectures, and MPR covers new ones all the time. We don’t think Intel will embark on an expensive, risky project that could turn into another i432, i960, or IA-64.

Acquiring an outside CPU architecture is only slightly more likely than creating one from scratch.  …

Intel’s third option is to develop new, low-power x86 embedded processors. Yes, we know, Intel is already doing that. Two weeks ago, Intel announced that Senior Vice President Anand Chandrasekher will manage a new business unit focused on the ultramobile PC (UMPC) and low-power x86 products. The new unit will almost certainly use technology developed by Intel’s Low Power on Intel Architecture research project at the System Technology Labs (www.intel.com/technology/systems/lpia/). But Intel needs to step up the pace of this project and send clearer signals about its embedded x86 strategy.

Recall that a year ago, Intel CEO Paul Otellini promised to deliver by 2010 a 500mW x86 processor capable of running an operating system like Microsoft’s Vista, the next version of Windows. Otellini’s goal is to bring desktop performance to PDA-size UMPCs. Achieving that goal would be an impressive feat. But by 2010, cellphones with ARM processors might subsume the functions that Otellini envisions for x86-based UMPCs. Future derivatives of Apple’s ARM-based iPods are another source of potential competition. Even the XScale-based Blackberry communicators that Intel has discarded might evolve into versatile palmtop computers.

Intel’s Embedded Future [Microprocessor Report, July 31, 2006]


It went around the major on-line ICT publishers that Intel loses 2010 chip market share while Samsung gains, says Gartner while the source is stressing an overall finding that Gartner Says Worldwide Semiconductor Revenue Increased 31.5 Percent in 2010 to Exceed $300 Billion [Dec 8], and regarding Intel it rather made an internal remark:

Intel held the No. 1 vendor position for the 19th consecutive year in 2010, albeit with a slightly smaller share of the market, down to an estimated 13.8 percent from 14.2 percent in 2009 (see Table 1). Intel saw strong growth in the first half of the year as the PC market stocked up inventory in anticipation of a strong second half of the year, but third quarter growth weakened as consumer sentiment began to flag. Sales of mini-notebooks — a segment for which Intel is almost the exclusive supplier — were particularly disappointing.

Worth to read along with this: Gartner: media tablets are the new segment next to mobile PCs and desktops, as well as web- and app-capable mobile phones [April 16, 2011]

Instead of the referred in Gartner’s “Worldwide semiconductor revenue” press release table I am including here the same data but in diagram format:

Top 10 Worldwide Semiconductor Vendors by Gartner in 2010 preliminary -- 8-Dec-2010

Whatever it is Intel is not worried at all. Intel’s own Free Press reported from the same day Barclays Capital event in San Francisco Intel CEO defends PC amid tablet, smartphone growth [Dec 8]. ZDNet’s Larry Dignan sent his report as Intel’s Otellini: The PC ‘just doesn’t die’ [Dec 8] with the following quotes:

I think it’s easy to forget about how important notebooks are, in particular, to people’s lives, and while there is a news flash the iPad is really fun, it’s not the only device that’s out there, and in fact, if you look at it on a scale of units, PCs are at 1 million units a day this year. Compare that to, what, 4 million iPads last quarter. Pick your own number for this quarter. So, it’s a vastly different scale here.

When talking about the upcoming next generation of Sandy Bridge processors where graphics are integrated into the chip. Regarding Intel’s tablet strategy the saying was:

Tablets, the thing that’s on everybody’s lips and minds. Our strategy here is very simple. We are going to offer best-of-class hardware around our Atom system on chips, and we are going to make sure that we support all of the viable operating systems that we — that want to work with us that are in the marketplace.

So I’ve just listed here some of the 35 design wins we have in tablets. A number of them on Windows. A number of them on Android. And this is both Froyo, and then Honeycomb as it comes out. Then, of course, on MeeGo, the operating system that we’re working on along with Nokia and other companies. Some of these are in the market today. You can buy — the ones that are Intel-based that are in the market today are typically from people like AT&T or Cisco, and they’re aimed at enterprise-class machines and customers. The consumer products will roll out over the first half of next year. You’ll start seeing them on all three operating systems. Probably at CES, you’ll see lots of demos, lots of announcements, and we’re pretty excited about this product line.


Mobile doubts weigh on chipmakers Intel, AMD [Jan 14]

Despite better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and guidance posted on Thursday, and a broadly higher market, its [Intel’s] shares slipped as investors focused on the company’s failure to stake out territory in the mobile market.

Even as Intel’s stock fell, shares of other semiconductor companies rose, with ARM rising 6.5 percent to a 10-year high.

The stock market, and sentiment on the wider technology industry, for years moved in tandem with Intel following its earnings report. But in recent quarters they have diverged.

“It’s historically been the bellwether, that if you’re positive on the (technology) sector you’re positive on Intel, but I think that relationship is breaking down,” said Craig Berger, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets.

Intel 4Q a window into industry’s inflection point [Jan 14] (emphasis is mine)

Some 350 million PCs were shipped in 2010, according to data released this week, and Intel CEO Paul Otellini says that more than 1 million PCs are now being sold every day.

Net income was $3.39 billion, or 59 cents per share, higher than the 53 cents per share analysts polled by FactSet were expecting. In the same period in 2009, Intel earned $2.28 billion, or 40 cents per share.

The year-ago figures would have been higher were it not for Intel’s $1.25 billion payment to rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. to settle claims that Intel abused its market dominance to bully computer makers into avoiding AMD’s chips — charges Intel has long denied. Intel’s chips are inside 80 percent of the world’s PCs. Earlier this week, AMD ousted its CEO over the company’s growth prospects.

Intel’s revenue rose 8 percent to $11.5 billion, up from $10.6 billion last year. Analysts had forecast $11.4 billion.

For the first quarter, Intel expects revenue of $11.1 billion to $11.9 billion, ahead of analysts’ expectation for $10.8 billion.

And Otellini predicted that Intel’s revenue would rise 10 percent in 2011 — which translates to about $48 billion, up from $43.6 billion in 2010 and higher than the $45.5 billion analysts expected.

What saved Intel’s fourth quarter was strong corporate spending.

Companies, many of which froze their technology budgets during the Great Recession, are buying new servers for their data centers and PCs for their workers as their business prospects have brightened.

Operating profit in the Intel division that sells server chips jumped 47 percent to $1.43 billion, while the division that makes desktop and laptop chips grew at a slower rate, up 8 percent to $3.62 billion.

Server chips tend to carry higher profit margins than chips for PCs. The PC industry in general struggles with increasing commoditization, which lowers PC prices and benefits consumers, but erodes profits.

Although Intel’s results were strong compared with the previous year, revenue in each of its major divisions, except for server chips, was flat from the third quarter.

That showed the strain that emerged toward the end of the year, from economic problems such as prolonged unemployment and the European debt crisis, and competition from Apple Inc.’s iPad.

Sean Maloney resumes work at Intel [Jan 14] (emphasis is mine)

… earlier this month and is responsible for the chip giant’s tablet and handset solution business, according to industry sources.

As Maloney has been working closely with partners of the PC production chain in Taiwan, the resumption of work will help push the development momentum of tablet and handset solutions at Intel, the sources asserted.

Maloney has made some modifications to Intel’s product roadmap and marketing strategies for the two segments, and will solicit ODM and OEM partners such as Quanta Computer, Compal Electronics and Pegatron Technology to support Intel’s Oak Trail and Cedar Trail-M platforms.

Maloney will also step up cooperation with handset makers eyeing to re-enter the handset segment, the sources added.

Notebook vendors show no interest in Oak Trail [Jan 13, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Because Acer and Asustek Computer have both shown their unwillingness to launch Oak Trail-based tablet PCs, Intel has recently been aggressively trying to persuade these vendors with price discounts and is hoping Asustek and Hewlett-Packard (HP), which are still undecided, will change their minds and fully support the platform, according to sources from notebook players.

Since Oak Trail has only been adopted by Fujitsu, Toshiba and Samsung Electronics for their tablet PCs and these vendors are not showing an aggressive attitude to mass produce models, while HP, which originally planned to launch an Oak Trail-based tablet PC, also stepped back and is reevaluating its plans, Intel is offering Oak Trail at a price point of around US$40, about the same as Nvidia’s Tegra 2, and the company will even give a further discount for large volume orders, the sources noted.

However, because Oak Trail is unable to out-perform Tegra 2, while Intel is already set to launch its new Cedar Trail-M platform for tablet PCs/netbooks in September 2011, most of the notebook vendors are unwilling to accept Intel’s offer and would rather wait until Intel releases its new platform before placing any orders, the sources added.

Intel’s response has been the same as on the December 2010 Ottelini presentation: Over 35 Oak Trail-based netbooks will show up in 1H11, says Intel [Jan 13, 2011]

End of updates

Here Ottelini had the following slide in his presentation:

Intel Atom Tablet Designs in 2011 (Forecast)

Here the notable things are:

– HP and Acer, the #1 and #3 players on the notebook market are missing from the Windows part. We know however that Acer will play in Windows tablet space, albeit not with Intel but with AMD as has been noted in my Intel Oak Trail to beat ARM with MeeGo specific prices [Nov 25] post already.

Update: MSI is also missing which is remarkable only because of a 4 days later MSI to reintroduce WindPad tablets at CES, claims Oak Trail improves performance and battery life [Dec 13] news (emphasis is mine):

According to MSI’s Director of North American Sales Andy Tung, Intel’s tablet solution does show both battery life and performance improvements over the current Atom chips, but it’s “not extremely significant.” Based on our discussion with Tung, we got the feeling that it’s a step in the right direction for Atom but still not as long-lasting as it needs to be to compete with ARM-based tablets.

For more detailed investigation of this news see: Oak Trail bringing only minor power savings to Windows tablets? [Dec 13].

– Acer is indicated in the MeeGo tablet space which is something new and also showing that the primary line of tablet market attack for Acer is the Android platform. Again consistent with the same post (with two Android tablets coming from Acer in February), also in the sense that Intel’s intent is to apply a MeeGo specific, very pricing for the Oak Trail type Atom.

– Nokia is missing from the MeeGo design wins which is again consistent with information in the same post that “The first MeeGo smartphone requires MeeGo V1.2 and won’t happen, either on Intel or ARM until around June 2011.” The only difference is that now the same statement applies to the 2011 Nokia tablet space as well.

Overall it is not so rosy outlook for Intel’s 2011 plans for tablets. Even more so since in the smartphone space Intel is even more behind of the market. No wonder why Financial Times was reporting from the Barclay’s Capital event as Intel inside 35 tablets, no phone till H2 2011 [Dec 8]:

Mr Otellini said the phone game represented a marathon not a sprint for Intel. It was tackling issues of certification, modem integration and the telecoms software stack. Its smartphone processor codenamed Medfield was currently being debugged for shipment in 2011 and 2012, he added.

Medfield is the successor to the Moorestown chip, launched in May, which still does not match the low-power capabilities of Arm-based phone processors and has not appeared in any smartphones this year, despite Intel’s high hopes expressed at the CES show in January.

So marketwise Intel’s major worry is the tablet market now as was noted by New York Times: Intel Girds For Netbook and Tablet Wars [Dec 8] when reporting:

The chip giant has created a new business unit that it calls the netbook and tablet group. The unit will be run by Douglas L. Davis, the current head of Intel’s embedded and communications group, who will be charged with making sure Intel can fend off all kinds of competition in the burgeoning market for PC offshoots.

Intel often formally announces the formation of such groups, but kept this one quiet. Bill Kircos, a company spokesman, confirmed the move.

“Netbook shipments will be heading north of 100 million, and we’ll all soon will find out what kind of market potential there is for tablets and these increasingly popular hybrid designs,” Mr. Kircos said. “It makes sense for us to sharpen our focus on these friends of the PC, and Doug’s experience running a similar and very successful embedded division makes him the right guy to lead the group.”

Ottelini himself said according to the above ZDNet report:

I don’t think, at the end of the day, tablets are cannibalizing it. They are not replacements for notebooks. They are a competitor for discretionary income disposition. So you walk into Best Buy and you’ve got $400 burning a hole in your pocket, or in the case of the iPad, $600 burning a hole in your pocket, and you want to buy something cool for Christmas for your wife or kid or something. It’s a competitor.

On the other hand, I have not seen a kid that takes the iPad to school and not a laptop. The laptop is still the fundamental tool in school. So, I don’t see it being a displacement. I see it being an extra-fun device that you use to consume content, for the most part. And I think it’s additive to the industry. So, if it goes to 50 million or 100 million units a year against a base of PCs that are 500 million units, that’s great. And we’ll have our fair share of those.

But on the Barclay’s Capital event his major point about the future of the market was expressed on following two slides:

Intel 22 nm -- A Breakthrough in Silicon Process Technology

Intel - Architecture Contests Take Time

So while in the year 2011 Intel will play a catch up game in the tablet space and just trying the waters in the smartphone market in the years which are coming after that the company sees as quite promising because of its huge manufacturing technology lead and its learnings from the previous critical periods of its growth when Intel was able become dominant player via its architecture.

More information:
Intel says tablets and phones on the way in 2011 [Reuters, Dec 8]



  1. […] Experiencing the Cloud fueled by 3.5G/3.9G, SoC & reflectivity Skip to content HomeAboutBlogroll 2010Mobile Internet ← Intel’s industry position and prospects for years ahead […]

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  5. […] lower PC sales by tablet PC push [March 29, 2011, with comprehensive update on Aug 2, 2011] – Intel’s industry position and prospects for years ahead [Dec 9, 2010 – March 21, 2011, with “Intel executive quits as smartphone biz falters”] – […]

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