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Blurred lines: Intel to combine tablet, phone and PC chip groups

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Whether you call it the “post PC” era or something else, it’s clear that the idea of personal computing has been changing. The rise of smartphones, followed by that of tablets, have yielded mobile device sales that far outnumber traditional computer sales since 2011. As a result, Intel is grouping its two chip groups together: Next year, the company will have a “Client Computing” group to handle processors for both PCs and mobile devices.

CES: Intel powered Android tablet with 10 hour runtime Thumbnail
CES: Intel powered Android tablet with 10 hour runtime

According to the Wall Street Journal, which reported the news on Monday, the new group will form in early 2015. Kirk Skaugen, who currently leads the PC Client Group, will gain the mobile and modem chips in the new Client Computing area.

While the PC area has been hugely profitable for Intel, the mobile chip area isn’t. Not even close in fact: The Journal said Intel’s mobile division lost $1 billion in the third quarter. Although an estimated 40 million mobile devices sold this year run on [company]Intel[/company] chips, the revenues were vastly offset by subsidies; essentially, Intel has paid device makers to choose its chips in smartphones and tablets over those available from rivals [company]Qualcomm[/company], [company]Samsung[/company] and others.

Combining the two chip groups makes sense as the market continues to redefine what a computing device actually is. The capabilities of smartphones and tablets are growing quickly; perhaps faster even than traditional PCs in some regards. And Intel could add more of its own silicon inside laptops with further integration of the wireless business it gained when buying Infineon in 2010 for $1.4 billion.

Some of this organizational change could be a bit of a front, though. By combining the PC and mobile chip businesses, it may be more difficult in the future to determine how well Intel is doing in both areas. It’s easy to see that now since they’re separate groups. And the company could be hoping that this change helps buyers see Intel’s device vision: It doesn’t matter if you want to use a phone, a slate or a computer; it has the chip for you.

Image credit: Kevin C. Tofel/Gigaom