Mike Isaac

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Intel: Trust Us! We’ve Got Mobile Devices on Lockdown … Next Year.

Intel_Mike_Bell

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Intel has dominated the high-end, performance-oriented desktop space for years, producing some of the most powerful chips on the market.

Problem is, desktops are so last decade. The age of mobile computing was ushered in on the backs of millions of pallets of laptops, netbooks, smartphones and tablets. And the chips that Intel has classically produced just don’t do low-power, low-consumption like those of some of its competitors. CEO Paul Otellini is widely seen as having been nudged out of his job for missing the boat on this shift away from PCs.

So once again at CES in Las Vegas, Intel is reminding the world that yes, it can translate its technology over to mobile and do it well.

The company plans to roll out a new smartphone platform aimed at the low end of the Android market with its “Lexington” project. Intel has its “Bay Trail” quad-core Atom chip on the way to cover the high-end smartphones. New chips to come, too, for the Ultrabooks the company has so loudly trumpeted over the past year. It’s all supposed to last longer, work better and just plain beat competitors like Nvidia and others using ARM-based architecture.

Intel gave us a peek at the way this will work in December, when it revealed a new manufacturing process for making mobile chips using Tri-Gate transistors.

It’ll just take ’em a little while. Most of this stuff won’t hit the market until the 2013 holiday season. Yes, a full year from now.

At the very least, Intel had a few partners on board to show off. For the low-end smartphones, Acer, Safaricom and Lava will use Intel’s forthcoming platform. And some analysts think that however far off, this is a smart play for Intel.

“The Lexington platform is absolutely targeted at emerging regions, which will let Intel deliver a more functional phone than others like, say, a Qualcomm or a Mediatek,” Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moore Strategy & Insights, told me. “Combined with some of the higher-end features they’re bringing to the low-end phones, they’ll undoubtedly pick up customers with this silicon.”

But we’ll still have to wait until Christmas to see most of this stuff, while competitors like Nvidia continue to introduce subsequent generations of their successful mobile products.

Perhaps by then, the latest and greatest phones you’re seeing launch today might be outdated enough for you to pick up a new one. That’s Intel’s hope, at least.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik