Intel/Ericsson fend off Qualcomm with MID deal

Caroline Gabriel/Rethink Research
29 Oct 2008

While Intel may dream of Wimax being the only game in town for mobile broadband, in reality it has to accommodate multiple standards if it is to be a major play in the mobile market. An earlier attempt to work with Nokia on HSPA for notebooks foundered on various conflicts of interest, but now Intel is making a new attempt, this time in collaboration with Ericsson, which will provide HSPA elements for Intel's Moorestown processor for mobile internet devices (MIDs).

The deal extends Ericsson's business in HSPA chips from its current laptop base to the emerging category of MIDs. The Swedish giant's semiconductor unit is in the process of being put into a joint venture with STMicro, and the Intel alliance will be a valuable asset to that firm, strengthening its position in the embedded 3G+ sector, where Qualcomm is increasingly powerful.

At the Intel Developer Forum in Taiwan earlier this month, Anand Chandrasekher, general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group, showed off Moorestown, the successor to the current iteration of the Atom low power microprocessor for mobile products such as net- books and, in future, smartphones. While Atom has mainly featured in compact, wireless optimized laptops - with third party 3G silicon - Moorestown will be more aggressive in the MID space, and now Intel will be able to offer makers of these devices a full set of chips through the Ericsson alliance. Intel will also work with Option and with some unnamed Taiwanese chipmakers in the same area.

Moorestown consists of a system on chip (SoC) design code named Lincroft, which integrates a 45nm microprocessor, graphics, memory controller and video encode/decode functionality onto a single chip, plus an I/O hub codenamed Langwell. This connects to wireless, storage and display components. Chandrasekher said that Intel is on track to reduce the Moorestown platform's idle power by more than 10 times compared to first generation Atoms. The platform will be released in late 2009 or early 2010 and will support various wire- less technologies including 3G, Wimax, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and mobile TV.

For its part, Ericsson aims to take a lead in embedding HSPA in all kinds of mobile devices from MIDs to consumer electronics gadgets such as GPS navigators, gaming consoles and devices optimized for social networking. Johan Wibergh, head of Business Unit Networks, said that the company sees 'great potential in embedding mobile broadband in MIDs, creating new markets in the industry".

Wibergh added in a statement: 'Ericsson continues to create one internet and one experience for the consumer, regardless of location or device, fixed or wireless. We are very excited to work with Intel to bring together the telecom and computing industries and extend the mobile broadband ecosystem.'

Ericsson provides HSPA chipsets in compact modules and a module will now be optimized for Moorestown and for the Moblin Linux system that Intel favors. It is also working on MIDs with Taiwan's Compal and, along with Intel, is expected to extend its reach into Taiwan's ODM community over the coming months, to seize pole position in that vital segment for ensuring the success of consumer devices.

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