Intel goes big on smartphones at CES

LAS VEGAS – Intel CEO Paul Otellini used his keynote at the 2012 International CES here to kick off the chipmaker’s first major push into the smartphone market.

Noting that 90 per cent of the usage on mobile phones now is not calling, but rather computing and data usage, Otellini said “the best of Intel’s computing is coming to smartphones” in the form of a reference architecture for an Android-based smartphone.

As it did with the Ultrabook, Intel is setting guidelines for smartphones based on its Atom line of mobile processors.

“It’s a customer-ready platform that allows our partners to bring their own innovation and technologies,” Otellini said. “They can build on it immediately and bring their products to market very quickly.”

Standard specs for an Intel smartphone include an eight-megapixel camera, 1080p HDMI output, and eight hours of talk time.

Otellini demonstrated HDMI output from the device, support for near-field payment systems, and talked up the security capabilities of the phone architecture, described by Intel general manager Mike Bell as “fully buzzword compliant.”

The phones will run on a “highly-optimized” version of Android, and Otellini announced a couple of plans to help make sure mobile phone apps are ready for the Intel platform. Otellini said the company has put its Windows application enablement engineers to work in the mobile sphere, testing Android apps and suggesting to developers “a few tweaks” that will make apps run better on the Intel platform. Otellini also hinted at emulator or other technology that will allow apps designed for a non-Intel instruction set to work seamlessly on Intel-powered smartphones.

Otellini also offered the first public demonstration of an Intel-powered tablet reference architecture, which will be used to design products for Windows 8.

Partners on board

Otellini was joined on stage by a pair of executives from industry partners showing their support for Intel’s smartphone push.

Liu Jun, senior vice president of Lenovo’s Mobile Internet and Digital Home Group, introduced what will be the first-to-market smartphone based on Intel’s Atom processors, the Lenovo K800. Like the rest of Lenovo’s smartphone offerings, the K800 will be a China-only product and is slated to launch in the second quarter of 2012.

Motorola Mobility chief executive Sanjay Jha joined Otellini to pledge support, announcing a “multi-year, multi-device strategic partnership” with the first Motorola phones based on Intel hardware slated to debut in the second half of 2012.

Back to the PC

While the focus of Otellini’s presentation was clearly on the new opportunity in the mobile arena, Intel’s traditional bread and butter was also on the table, as the chief executive spent a fair bit of time on the Ultrabook, Intel’s thin-and-light PC standard that’s rapidly gaining traction.

The company showed off prototype Ultrabooks based on the company’s upcoming Ivy Bridge 22 nm processors, offering a significant boost in performing for multimedia apps, and introducing new functionality like touch and near-field payment support. By improving performance on the platform, Otellini said the company aims to eliminate the tradeoffs and compromises forced on users – performance vs. battery life, power vs. mobility and the like.

“We continue to expect more from our most commonly-used computing device, the PC,” Otellini said.

Otellini was also joined on-stage by Jeff Clarke, vice chairman at Dell, who introduced Dell’s first Ultrabook offering, the XPS 13, slated to debut this spring.