After tablet PCs, Intel-powered mobile phones coming soon?

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By Alexander Villafania

MAKATI CITY, METRO MANILA – Intel has been the dominant force in the personal computer (PC) business for at least three decades.

But in the last two years, consumer electronics, especially Internet-capable smartphones and tablet PCs have become favored, always-on computing devices. While PCs are still strong in terms of sales, more prolific usage has the tablet PCs and smartphones becoming the clear winners.

Still, Intel is determined that it will be seen in a lot of devices, come 2012. In fact, the company has lined up its roadmap for the year.

The roadmap covers plans for its Core i series including the introduction of a new architecture code named “Ivy Bridge” that would see processors shrinking to 22 nanometers, down from the current 22 nm.

One of the big stories for Intel next year is its return to the small-form factor device market, something that it has not been in for a while since it sold its XScale microprocessor in 2006.

Now, the company is harking on the capabilities of its Atom processor, which is its netbook processor that is expanded to include mobile phones and tablet PCs as a system-on-chip (SoC) component.

The Atom roadmap includes its continued direction for netbooks with the introduction of processes under the codename “Cedar Trail.”

The other direction would be on smartphones and tablet PCs with two Atom models, codenamed “Medfield” and “Clover Trail.” With it, they would be back to competing in the handheld device market currently being lorded over by the likes of Qualcomm, Samsung, Texas Instruments, Nvidia, and Apple.

During a recent meeting with media, Intel Philippines executives gave a glimpse of what the future would hold for Intel and its market in Asia.

Jermyn Wong, business development manager for Intel Microelectronics Philippines, said that mobile devices powered by the new Atom SoCs will arrive sometime in the first half of 2012.

A reference model of an Atom-powered Android device was already revealed in September this year during the Intel Developer Forum.

Wong noted that the new Atom processors will be more powerful than those from current generation processors for mobile devices (some of which already have dual core processors running at up to 1.5 gigahertz). These would also be able to easily run 1080p full high definition videos.

He also noted that not only would the new Atoms run on mobile devices, there are new hardware in the pipeline that will also use Atom, such as Internet-enabled TVs and some embedded devices (a “smart” refrigerator, perhaps?).

He said expectations are high for Atom especially due to changes in usage. People will continue to spend more on technology as their needs arise and when they need to be always connected.

Wong, borrowing a new term on technology, said that next year will see a “screenification” where devices with different screen sizes will most likely appear in 2012 and will be used for different purposes.

“People won’t be doing the same things in the same devices. They will choose what device works for them for specific functions and this will drive more development in devices that have features suited for target users,” Wong said.

And so will the Philippines be seeing phones powered by Intel in 2012?

According to Wong, chances are, yes. It’s only a matter of when the hardware manufacturers that use Intel Atom processors would start launching their devices. How Intel would match up against the current leaders in the mobile device processor space remains to be seen.

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