Intel sets out small chip strategy

Chipmaker is gunning for glory in the mobile market with new chip plans.

Change ahead

Intel has lifted the lid on a new manufacturing technology that it claims will allow it to launch a new generation of chips for smartphones and tablets.

The world's largest chipmaker dominates the PC industry but has been slow to adapt its processors for mobile gadgets that depend on batteries and demand power efficiency.

At an industry conference in San Francisco on Monday, Intel reported on the progress of its technology for making SoCs, or "systems-on-a-chip" with features measuring 22 nanometers.

"Intel's 22 nm SoC technology will be ready for high volume manufacturing in 2013," Intel said in a copy of the presentation.

Intel's current mobile SoCs are manufactured at 32 nm, while Qualcomm makes its top-end SoCs at 28 nm and Nvidia uses 40 nm technology. Manufacturing chips with smaller features allows for better performance and power efficiency.

Intel already makes PC processors at 22 nm, but since SoCs pack more features onto one piece of silicon, manufacturing them at 22 nm is more complicated, said Patrick Moorhead, of Moor Insights & Analysis.

"They (Intel) have all the right ingredients to make a very competitive mobile chip but we won't know if they do until 2013," Moorhead said.

While Intel's industry lead in manufacturing technology is well established, competitors and many on Wall Street say the chipmaker's mobile SoC designs do not stand up to SoCs designed by Qualcomm, Apple and others with technology licensed from Britain's ARM Holdings

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