For the last few years, Intel has been racing to catch up with Qualcomm and other mobile silicon vendors. Although it’s still far from its goal, on Monday Intel plans to use the stage at Mobile World Congress to show just how far it’s come.
At its media event in Barcelona, Intel will announce that all of its Atom processors produced from here on out will be 64-bit designs. It has developed a 64-bit kernel for Android devices, and its first souped-up processors will make their appearance in the second quarter, starting with the long-awaited Merrifield system-on-a-chip.
The 3.12 GHz Merrifield will make its debut in several devices starting in the second quarter. In the second half of the year, Intel expects Merrifield’s bigger brother, the quad-core 2.3 GHz Moorefield, will make its first appearance.
On the radio side, Intel achieved a key milestone in October when it commercially released its first LTE multimode modem. That was key to penetrating the smartphone market where devices need to fall back on 3G and 2G networks, and it’s resulted in some key wins. Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung have all already launched devices using its multiradio modem.
And also on Monday, Intel plans to announce a new modem shipping in the latter half of the second quarter that boasts the latest LTE features. The XMM 7260 baseband chip supports carrier aggregation, which allows a device to download data from two separate 4G transmissions simultaneously, and category 6 LTE, which doubles the speeds available over a single LTE transmission to 300 Mbps.
Finally Intel will discuss how it has expanded its relationship with its current customers Asus and Lenovo beyond the occasional design win for a smartphone or tablets. Both have agreed to use Intel’s application processors and modems in multiple smartphones and tablets and 2014, starting with the Asus FonePad 7 LTE unveiled at Mobile Wrold Congress. Lenovo will use Intel’s modems in its Ultrabooks as well. Intel is also enlisting the help of contract electronics manufacturer Foxconn to push its mobile silicon into cheaper tablets.
In an earlier interview, Intel Mobile and Communications Group marketing director Julie Coppernoll told me these new design wins and Intel’s growing portfolio of products show that Intel has graduated from a one-off supplier for a specific devices to a full-fledged vendor, capable of supporting a device maker’s entire portfolio of phones and slates. “We’re moving away from single wins,” she said.
Spec-wise Intel definitely seems to be reaching parity. It answered Apple’s 64-bit challenge fairly quickly, though the Merrifield platform itself was late to arrive. On the modem side it appears to have closed the gap with other chip vendors, supporting the most cutting-edge advances in LTE in its latest SoC. But there’s one key product it is missing.
Intel is still lacking an integrated application processor-modem, which is critical to targeting a broad spectrum of smartphones. It’s coming, Coppernoll promised, we’ll just have to wait until this time next year to see an integrated Intel chip in a device.
Intel logo image courtesy of Flickr user huangjiahui