Intel sees Tizen as mobile growth opportunity

Intel keeps mobiel push up in effort to catch Qualcomm, Nvidia and others
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BARCELONA, Spain--Intel sees the Tizen open-source platform as a way to grow its mobile business beyond putting its Atom-based chipsets into smartphones and tablets running Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, according to an Intel executive.

In an interview with FierceWireless here at the Mobile World Congress trade show, Robby Swinnen, vice president and general manager of Intel's service provider group, said he expects the first Tizen smartphones to be commercially released this year and that other large OEMs will join the Tizen initiative.

Intel is one of the founding members of the Tizen Association, which was created through the merger of the former MeeGo and LiMo platforms. Samsung Electronics is the largest backer of Tizen, and CNET reported that Samsung will release its first Tizen phone in July or August.

Swinnen said that having gone through the collapse of MeeGo as an independent platform when Nokia (NYSE:NOK) inked its strategic partnership with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) for Windows Phone, he knows what it takes to build a new mobile ecosystem. He said it is "very tedious" in terms of building the resources, developer support and leadership for a new platform. "Tizen has a good shot," he said. The platform is also backed by Huawei, Fujitsu, NEC and Panasonic.

"You should see other significant OEMs joining Tizen" this year, Swinnen said. His comments are notable in light of the fact that all of the devices that will run Mozilla's forthcoming Firefox OS will run on Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon processors.

Intel is trying to catch up to Qualcomm both in terms of the baseband market and applications processors. According to Strategy Analytics' latest report on the market, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Intel, Broadcom and ST-Ericsson grabbed the top five spots in the market in terms of revenue share, in that order. The research firm said Qualcomm led the cellular baseband market with 52 percent revenue share in 2012, followed by MediaTek with 12.5 percent and Intel with 12.3 percent.

Swinnen said that Intel's single-mode LTE chipset solution is shipping now and that it will begin multimode LTE shipments later in the first half of this year. The chipset giant announced the XMM 7160 modem, which it claims is one of the world's smallest and lowest-power multimode-multiband LTE solutions. The 7160 supports 15 LTE bands simultaneously, and includes a highly configurable RF architecture. It is similar in some respects to an LTE chipset solution Qualcomm announced last week.

Intel acquired Infineon's wireless unit in 2011, and Swinnen said that has helped the company establish a "beachhead" with many mobile OEMs.

Last year Intel had around 10 mobile design wins with its Atom-based Medfield line--including devices for China, India, Brazil, eastern and western Europe, Russia and Africa--and that it will look to grow that this year. "There is no upper limit," Swinnen said, while declining to give a goal for how many design wins Intel will have in 2013.

Swinnen said Intel has yet to really crack the U.S. market because of how aggressively the market has embraced LTE and the fact that Intel's LTE solutions are only now being shipped. The company does not expect to have an integrated LTE modem and applications processor on a single chip until next year, something companies like Qualcomm and Nvidia have already produced.

"There is a high desire to have Intel being an active participant in [the U.S.] market because all of the channels would like to have a stronger drive to innovation as well as silicon choice," he said.

Swinnen said that, with its 2012 design wins, Intel has answered questions about whether its mobile chips could compete with solutions based on architecture from ARM Holdings. He noted that Google has optimized Android to work on Intel chips and that the company has fine-tuned its solutions to work for mobile devices.

Intel also just announced that its new 32nm dual-core Atom processors--Clover Trail+ Z2580, Z2560, and Z2520--will be available in speeds up to 2.0 GHz, 1.6 GHz and 1.2GHz, respectively. The processor also features support for Intel Hyper-Threading Technology, supporting four simultaneous application threads and further enhancing the overall efficiency of the Atom cores. The integrated platform also includes an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator engine with a graphics core supporting up to 533MHz with boost mode, allowing things like 1080P hardware-accelerated video encode and decode at 30fps. The platform includes support for Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and Asus, Lenovo and ZTE announced support for the platform.

For more:
- see this Intel release
- see this The Verge article
- see this CNET article

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