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Intel Mobilizes at IDF 2013 with Opening Keynote

At Intel’s own IDF today in San Francisco, California, the company’s new CEO Brian Krzanich kicked off the conference by doing his keynote speech. During his Keynote speech, Brian wowed the audience with a series of incredible developments that came as a result of the company’s renewed focus on the mobile industry.

First, Brian talked about Intel’s system-centric approach and how they are moving towards an SoC approach and how the company is moving towards being in everything. He then talked about the company’s process technology advantage and their unique position as the leading processor company.

Following that, Brian showed off something that the world has never seen before. He showed off a brand new laptop with passive cooling running on something new from Intel. Their Broadwell processor, which is supposed to be manufactured on Intel’s 14nm process. This means that Intel is not only ready with 14nm but they are already producing finished working prototypes with it. Brian stated that Intel expects to be shipping 14nm Broadwell towards the end of this year, but didn’t clarify whether or not the chip will be shipping as a consumer product or as a chip for OEMs to design around.

Following that, Brian talked about how that wasn’t enough for Intel as a company to redefine themselves. He moved on to a new technology that Intel has been trying to chase after for many years. After Intel bought Infineon, they effectively absorbed all of their mobile modem business and started cracking on building themselves a 4G LTE modem to compete with Qualcomm. Well, with today’s announcement, Intel has finally broken into the 4G LTE market and done it while integrating it into their own 22nm SoC.

Currently, Intel’s 4G capabilities will allow for the devices to do 4G LTE for data and 3G for voice and will by next year be capable of 4G data and 4G voice via VoLTE. In addition to being 4G capable, the new modems from Intel will be capable of carrier aggregation, which would result in improved downlink speeds in places where certain carriers do not have enough bandwidth on certain bands. This announcement means that Intel is slowly catching up with Qualcomm and could possibly take away design wins from Qualcomm next year with some of their new 22nm SoCs.

And continuing the mobile theme, Intel announced their Quark Family of SoCs, which are aimed at the market of the whole "Internet of Things." Qualcomm last week talked about their own SoC capable of delivering a new connected home and improved data capabilities. The Quark X1000 chip is 5 times smaller and 10 times less power than a standard Atom chip, however the company didn’t give any concrete figures about how it would work nor really any performance figures. The real point of this chip is that it is a fully synthesizable open architecture chip, trying to counter the fact that Qualcomm’s own IOT chips will support many open standards.

Personally, I believe that this is Intel’s own attempt to kill two birds with one stone by creating a processor that can be virtually used by anyone trying to create a smart device for IOT while simultaneously enabling Intel to fab those chips for their partners that do adopt it. The fact that Intel will be more involved in the Internet of Things will also mean that they will be fabbing more chips and filling more of their excess capacity that so many people seem to be worried about.

Intel’s President Renee James went over some of the applications of Intel’s technologies and really focused on medical applications. Two interesting things that she showed were wearable medical devices including Sotera’s wearable medical monitoring device which I had originally seen at Qualcomm Life’s launch. Interestingly enough, Qualcomm is invested in Sotera and it looks like they also have gotten Intel onboard. We also got clarification from Intel after we posted this story that they had invested in Sotera in the same round of funding as Qualcomm. It will be interesting to see which company ultimately becomes the primary partner of Sotera or if the company will remain committed to both companies. They also showed a monitoring device that sticks onto a patient’s skin by MC10, which is currently in trials and will hopefully be the future of medical wearable devices.

Overall, this had to be one of the strongest keynotes of any IDF I have ever attended and it really shows that Intel is still very focused and that focus has shifted from being a company that builds big chips for servers and desktops to a company that builds chips for mobile devices and the Internet of Everything. Intel is poised to compete directly with Qualcomm in mobile and it looks like Qualcomm is already competing with Intel with some of their performance ARM SoCs. It remains to be seen how well Intel will execute on their vision, but when Intel sets their minds to something, they are a force to be reckoned with. Plus, who doesn’t want to see some more competition in the mobile space, anyways? 2014 is going to be the first interesting year in mobile in a long time.