Ina Fried

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Intel to Detail Its Phone Plans at CES Next Month

Intel plans to use next month’s Consumer Electronics Show as the launching point for its effort to get serious in the market for the chips that power smartphones.

The company has come up with an iPhone-esque prototype of an Android device running its chip. More than just a concept device, though, the phone (pictured here) is a fully baked design that Intel is making freely available for phone makers to use in whole or in part.

“You’ll see a number of Intel customers using the guts of this phone to go into the market in the first half of next year,” CEO Paul Otellini said at a Credit Suisse investor conference last month. “And we’ll have more announcements of that at CES.”

Otellini is slated to give a keynote speech at the Las Vegas event on Jan. 10, so that would be a logical place for any news, though the company has also scheduled a notebook-related press conference for the prior day.

Technology Review posted a story on Tuesday, talking about Intel’s efforts and quoting Intel as saying the phones should hit the market in the first half of 2012. However, Otellini suggested in his Credit Suisse speech that Intel is aiming to have products out there sooner rather than later.

“We’ll be shipping in the first quarter of next year,” Otellini said.

Intel has previously talked about its plans for phones, and Android in particular, including at its September developer conference, when Otellini invited Android chief Andy Rubin on stage to talk about Google’s work to make Intel chips a first-class citizen for future Android releases.

The chip giant faces a host of competitors as it enters the space, including the current Android leaders — Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Nvidia. Broadcom has also said it has designs on the market, particularly the low end, an area dominated by MediaTek.

Though cognizant of the competition, Intel has said its tests show its reference design as a solid competitor not just on performance, but also in the all-important area of battery life, where many have felt that Intel could not compete with ARM-based processors.

The move is about more than phones, though. Intel already faces steep competition from ARM and Apple in the tablet arena, and with Windows 8 it will also see challenges on the PC side of things.

Leading Intel’s effort are former Infineon executive Hermann Eul, and former Apple and Palm executive Mike Bell. The chipmaker recently reorganized its mobile efforts, putting the two executives in charge of all aspects of the project.

After years of talking about being in the smartphone processor game, it will be interesting to see if Intel can actually make some headway.

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