Ina Fried

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In a Change, Intel Hopes to Matter at Mobile World Congress

Historically, Intel has not been much of a presence at Mobile World Congress, nor much of a factor in the mobile market. This year, though, it hopes to change all that.

“2012 will be the year when we deliver the proof that yes, we are there,” Intel general manager Hermann Eul told AllThingsD in an interview last week at the company’s Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Intel announced a reference design for phone makers as well as initial deals with Motorola and Lenovo. The company hopes to build on those by announcing new names and technologies in Barcelona next week.

This year may be devoted to getting in the game, but Eul said Intel’s ambitions extend well beyond just being one of several players.

“It will take us maybe a year or two,” Eul said. “We can make things work that nobody has thought of. That is our clear target. It is not about playing a me-too.”

Intel’s first foray is in the high-end Android space, but the company eventually hopes to be a serious contender throughout the smartphone market.

The biggest challenge, Eul said, has been just getting the company to think differently when it comes to the mobile market.

“Change is always hard for human beings,” Eul said. “Change is harder for people that are successful, and Intel is an ultra-successful company.”

But Eul said he has been impressed with Intel’s dedication as well as its willingness to put outsiders in charge of such key businesses. Eul joined Intel in February 2011, when the company acquired the former Infineon communications chip business.

When Eul walks the corridors of Intel or sits in meetings, people often talk about the many years or decades they have been at the company.

“I can only respond in months, not in years,” he said. “This is such an important part of business for Intel, and Intel has put this in the hands of people not even a year with the company.”

Eul’s unit, which is co-run with former Apple and Palm executive Mike Bell, is responsible not only for the chips that go in Android phones and tablets, but also those that will power Windows 8 tablets.

For Eul personally, the hardest thing about the shift has been the move to Silicon Valley and giving up the unlimited speed of the Autobahn in his native Germany.

“I have always enjoyed things that go fast,” said Eul, who also enjoys skiing and wakeboarding. These days, though, he is busy enough trying to move fast in the chip business, even selling off a beloved motorcycle.

“That was painful,” he said, but added, “I recognize my life does not leave me time for my motorcycle.”

That said, the steaks here are better, so he’s learning to adjust.


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