Pat Pilcher: Intel on smartphones

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Intel's Graham Tucker expects a growing focus on smartphone performance coupled with extreme battery life. Photo / Supplied
Intel's Graham Tucker expects a growing focus on smartphone performance coupled with extreme battery life. Photo / Supplied

At the recent CES consumer electronics gadget-fest, Intel announced a slew of mobile initiatives including a bunch of new chips for smartphones that has the potential to dramatically increase mobile computing power as well as the seemingly conflicting feat of extending battery life.

I caught up with Intel's Australasian Technical Manager, Graham Tucker to find out more about Intels plans in the smartphone space.

PP: Intel sppears to have made quite push into the mobile space. What is the rationale underpinning this move?

GT: There is unit growth in all mobile segments - smartphones, tablets and notebooks. And the lines are starting to blur between all these devices. We're seeing Ultrabook convertible devices in the market now, offering a tablet experience when you want one, and a laptop when you reach that point where you need to actually start creating content. Users are demanding uncompromised computing capabilities in all their mobile devices.

PP: What are the new mobile centric chips that Intel have announced?

GT: There are two processors for smartphones that have been announced, the Intel Atom Z2420 mobile for the value segment and the Intel Atom Z2580 (formerly Clover Trail+). The Atom Z2580 is scheduled for introduction in the first half this year. In the tablet space, Intel Atom Z2760 (Clover Trail) based products are currently shipping.

PP: The mobile/smartphone market is a pretty competitive place, what do you see as Intel's key competitive edge with these new chips?

GT: If you look at what Intel has recently delivered for smartphones and tablets; power consumption, battery life and form factor have improved dramatically from one generation to the next, and not at the expense of performance.

Our competitive edge is a combination of factors starting at our process technology, ability to build high performance and efficient system-on-chips (SoCs) and to work in many software ecosystems. What it really comes down to is this, to be competitive we needed to focus on uncompromised computing and battery life. And we're confident we've met the consumers' needs.

PP: What are the main design and technical challenges to creating silicon for smartphones?

GT: The technical challenges have been developing our SOC capability. That said, we feel very good about the progress we've made in 2012 in bringing a competitive smartphone SoC to market. And we'll build on this in 2013 with new high performance and value platforms that continue to raise the bar. We have had state of the art process and architectural design capability for some time.

PP: What do you think the future holds for smartphone design?

GT: There will be a growing focus on performance coupled with extreme battery life. New slim form factors will emerge too. Interoperability between all users devices is a key requirement, we're on the path towards ubiquitous computing. With technologies like near field communications (NFC) and by using an industry standard architecture like x86, this is all on the horizon.

PP: What about killer features for smartphones, what will these look like in the near future? Will we see an ultraphone just like there's been Ultrabooks?

GT: How we interact with all computing devices will change. Starting with our Ultrabook strategy, we are examining what we call perceptual computing.

Looking at new capabilities such as close range hand gestures, finger articulation, speech recognition and augmented reality, devices will be able to perceive our actions which makes interacting with these devices more natural, intuitive and immersive. As performance increases in tablets and smartphones, some of these capabilities are a possibility. It's all very exciting once you understand the possibilities.

PP: Looking out longer term, Google have already created quite a stir with their wearable Google glasses concept, do you think the traditional phone form factor will change much? If so how?

GT: In 1943 Thomas J. Watson, the head of IBM at the time, said, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." I guess what I'm trying to say is that computing changes so rapidly that anyone who tries to predict it can quite quickly look quite silly. Do I think it will change? Absolutely. Do I think I know how? Yeah, I've got a couple ideas, but when it comes to changing form factors, well, I'm still waiting for my flying car.

PP: Thanks Graham, Good luck with that Flying Car.

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