Intel knows that a low-power processor alone won’t be enough to gobble up design wins in the phone and tablet markets. It needs to deliver a total solution to partners to makes their lives easier. To jump-start that effort, Intel has started to make acquisitions. First came WiMax modem maker Comsys, but the much bigger deal was Intel’s $1.4 billion purchase of Infineon, a leading cellular platform provider that has offered baseband chips to everyone from Apple to Nokia with the goal of accelerating LTE.
Chandrasekher said this new arm of Intel will be sampling its LTE chips this year, and it will be in production (in phones) by the 2012 holiday season. The company also claims it now has the smallest HSPA+ chip and the world’s lowest-power HSPA+ chip.
“You’re on this trajectory, this technology trajectory where you’re making big advances and big improvements, but the point is that all your competitors are, too,” said Pulskamp. “So you’ve got to somehow leapfrog this technology trajectory, and one way to do this is through acquisition.” He even speculates that Intel could support both ARM and x86-based solutions as a way for the company to hedge its bets in the mobile space.
While Intel has acquired more pieces to the puzzle, Nvidia isn’t convinced that will be enough to help Intel in the short term. “They don’t have the GPU. They don’t have the extremely low-power audio and video engines, and they don’t have that huge amount of software infrastructure that has taken us and others a long time to build up to deliver the whole solution,” said Dally.
ARM’s Drew says never to underestimate Intel, but he also believes that his ecosystem will continue to lead for one simple reason: experience. “I was reading von Braun’s book about going to the moon, and they were asking him, ‘How do you know you’re ahead of the Russians?’ And he said, ‘To get to the moon, you have to make a thousand mistakes.’ And we’ve made more mistakes than Intel, so technically we’re ahead.”
Now it’s Intel’s turn to shoot for the moon. Except it doesn’t have room for mistakes.