Even though by signing a strategic pact with Nokia Corp. Intel Corp. gets additional intellectual property and technologies needed to compete for handsets with its x86 microprocessors, at least one analyst believes that this is not enough for the giant chipmaker to find Atom chips inside smartphones. But is it really not enough?
“While licensing Nokia's baseband technology should help Intel in its quest to generate wireless design wins for its Atom processor, we continue to believe the deficiencies of Atom in power consumption, cost and software relative to other applications processors render it an uncompetitive product,” said Christopher Danely, an analyst for J.P. Morgan, said.
Earlier this week Intel and Nokia signed an agreement that will enable Intel to license Nokia's HSPA/3G modem technologies with the aim of developing “advanced mobile computing solutions that deliver a powerful and flexible computing experience”. Even though the companies did not provide details or peculiarities, it is highly likely that by “powerful computing” Intel considers its Atom platforms.
At present Intel offers Atom Z500-series microprocessors (with special chipsets they form code-named Menlow platform) produced using 45nm process technology that boast with thermal design power in the range between 0.65W and 2.4W. However, the chips are only used in several mobile Internet devices (MIDs) and are not featured inside smartphones since 0.65W thermal design power is still too high for such products. The next-generation low-power Intel architecture (LPIA) code-named Moorestown platform featuring new processor core, graphics and I/O capabilities is also not even positioned for smartphones. It is hard to say whether MIDs powered by Moorestown will be successful: they will be sleeker, slimmer, will have longer battery life, but they will end up competing against netbooks (which are more powerful) and smartphones (which are more compact).
But in 2011 Intel promises to deliver code-named Medfield platform, which the company positions for smartphones and this is exactly where it can use Nokia’s technology. Obviously, Medfield will not be aimed at Nokia only, therefore, other makers may also switch to x86 technology.
All-in-all, while in the short-term and mid-term future Nokia’s baseband technologies will hardly help Intel to push Atom technology into lower-power devices, in the long-term it will allow the company to address new and broader markets in the long-term future.