We finally understand operators, says Intel

An Intel executive has admitted that the company’s historical inability to win a share of the mobile space stemmed from its failure to properly understand the operator community. Herbert Weber, EMEA marketing director for mobile and communications at Intel, told that the firm has since taken the time to understand the nuances between the PC and mobile business models and has adjusted its offerings and features accordingly to appeal to operators and consumers alike.

“We have made attempts to get in to the mobile phone market before, and it didn’t work out, so now we have taken the time to listen, learn and get it right,” he said.

“With our previous attempts, we were a little bit naive. We were coming from the server and PC space and we didn’t understand the operator market solidly enough. We have now taken the time to understand the operator market and telecoms market much better.”

He said a key difference is that the mobile handset market is much more consumer-oriented than the traditional server and PC business and that the service provider’s business model is tailored to cater more to individual decision makers and consumers, rather than IT executives and group decision makers.

“So the user defines much more of the feature set of the mobile phones than in the traditional PC and server space,” said Weber. “In the PC industry, making the computers more powerful and more versatile was, and continues to be, a good strategy. In the phone and operator business it is not really question of how people are designing phones, differentiation is made by features and usage – it’s much more personal,” he said.

“People like their own mobile phone; they don’t talk so much about their own desktop. A desktop PC is typically a shared device and a notebook is, to an extent, personal but often also shared with several other people such as family members. But with mobile phones, typically, every member of the family has their own. So the mobile phone is a true personal device, and operators know that and the operator business model is well suited to this kind of market.”

Weber said Intel’s strategy now is to integrate a variety of connectivity technologies into its mobile chipsets as well as focusing on improving power consumption in handsets.

“We now have a solid collection of wifi, GSM, GPS, LTE as well as application processor technologies, which ultimately we intend to integrate onto one chip or very few chips over time. The key difference is that all of the hardware the underlying intelligence we now have in-house to manufacture ourselves,” he said.

In terms of power consumption, Weber said that Intel has been known for producing high-performance chips but not necessarily known for being the lowest power consumption chip supplier into the mobile phone business, which the firm has taken steps to address.

“We have made significant improvements into our design and architecture and now we don’t need to hide behind anyone in terms of battery lifetime of our phones and power consumption. We are now on par with where the market is today and we intend with our next devices – the Maryville chipset going to 22nm and the next wave of chips coming in the 14nm platform – to be better than the rest of the market in terms of power and battery lifetime.”

Part of Intel’s strategy is to capitalise on growing usage in emerging markets. The first mobile handset based on the Intel Inside reference design has already arrived in the market in India through local manufacturer Lava International, and the firm is planning two more announcements in the next couple of weeks. Weber revealed that there will also be Intel Inside based phones arriving in the Chinese market shortly.

“That doesn’t mean Intel Inside based phones are not for the mature markets, we are working very closely with Orange and an announcement is imminent in several countries in Western Europe too.” Intel heralded its debut in the mobile devices market in February, with the unveiling of the first commercial handset powered by its Atom chipset. Network operator Orange has co-designed the device, which it calls a ‘proper’ smartphone experience, but targeted at the mass market. The handset, codenamed the ‘Santa Clara’, will be available in the summer, and features branding by both Orange and Intel.

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