Ina Fried

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Still Playing Catch-Up on Mobile, Intel Takes Aim at Wearables

Despite having a tough time getting its chips into phones and tablets, Intel is setting its sights on not only doing better than that market, but also on getting its chips into even lower-power devices.

At its developer conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Intel revealed its smallest-ever chip, known as Quark, designed to go into wearable computers and even products that are swallowed or disposable.

“We want to participate in all segments of computing,” Intel’s Renee James said on Monday. “We really mean everywhere.”

The Quark chips, now sampling, are aimed at a wide range of everyday objects that are expected to gain Internet connections in the coming years. Products using Quark will hit the market next year, James said, adding that the chip is five times smaller than today’s Atom processors, and 10 times as power-efficient.

But even as it eyes this new market, Intel is still playing catch-up in the market for phones and tablets — a market dominated by Qualcomm and a host of less well-known competitors including MediaTek and others. However, James said, Intel is making progress in both phones and tablets.

On the tablet side, Intel said that device makers are ready with the first products based on Bay Trail, a new version of its Atom processor based on a new generation of manufacturing technology and designed from the ground up to run on both Windows and Android devices. At one point, Intel had planned Bay Trail for a 2014 introduction, but the company decided that it could not afford to wait that long.

Intel has been placing special emphasis on developing expertise around Android, with James noting that the team devoted to that operating system is now equal to the one focused on Android. On the phone side, Intel is expected to showcase new designs from existing partners such as Lenovo, as well as some from newly acquired customers.

The chipmaker will also use the developer conference to show the first machines running chips (code-named Broad Trail) from Intel’s next-generation 14-nanometer process. In addition, Intel is announcing a previously undisclosed version of its Haswell chip that can deliver the same performance as today’s Core i5 processors and yet run in low-power machines without a fan.

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