Nokia and Intel to team on mobile architectures

Intel and Nokia are in a research agreement to work on Intel chips and chipsets for mobile devices.

Intel and handset maker Nokia are teaming to develop new mobile computing device and chipset architectures, the companies said Tuesday.

The companies will define a new mobile platform and collaborate on several open source mobile Linux software projects.

This relationship is a big win for Intel, which is trying to establish itself in a mobile device market dominated by processors designed by rival Arm. Arm chips go into most of the world's cell phones.

The iPhone, for example, uses a chip based on Arm's Cortex A8 architecture. Handsets from Nokia already use Arm chips.

Intel is the top supplier of microprocessors for laptops and desktops, with around an 80 percent market share in chips. Two years ago the company entered the mobile space by introducing smaller and more power-efficient chips called Atom for mobile devices.

Atom chips were popular in netbooks, which are small PCs designed for Internet access, but the chips were considered too power-hungry for smaller mobile devices like MIDs.

Nokia and Intel have worked on both wireless broadband and digital content, but there is room to expand the relationship, Intel and Nokia officials said on a conference call to discuss the announcement. The companies will research and make new devices with chips based on Intel architecture that could accelerate the adoption of mobile devices.

These devices will be pocketable and reach out to a new range users beyond netbook and MID users, said Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager at Intel's Ultra Mobility Group. Beyond that, the executives were vague on products that may result from this relationship, but said they wanted to merge the computing and mobile world in pocketable devices.

The devices are intended to empower users with a rich computing experience through access to Internet and software-based services.

"We'll talk about products when we're ready to talk about products, that's not for today's discussion," Chandrasekher said. They didn't provide a time line for when to expect products.

The technology agreement for now will revolve around the companies working together on Intel chip and chipset architecture from which the devices will be created. Intel will provide the expertise in chip design, while Nokia will provide the expertise it has in designing mobile devices.

The companies will also work on the open-source Linux project called Moblin to write software for mobile devices. The Moblin project is run by Linux Foundation, with Intel being its biggest backer.

This partnership will have no effect on Nokia's current relationship with its Arm partners.

Intel has made a significant investment in smaller chips that consume less power. The company said that its upcoming Moorestown platform for mobile devices will consume up to 10 times less power when devices are in idle mode. The chips will start shipping in 2010, Intel has said.

With the Nokia deal, Intel now has two of the world's top three mobile phone makers with plans to use its chips in mobile devices. LG said earlier this year that it would use Intel's mobile chips in an upcoming MID.

These two design wins should put Intel in a better position to compete with companies like Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, which make chips for mobile devices based on the Arm architecture.

Nokia was the world's largest mobile-phone maker in 2008, according to IDC. Nokia shipped around 468.4 million phones, followed by Samsung, which shipped 196.7 million phones. LG was third, shipping around 100.7 million mobile phones.

Last year Intel introduced specific Atom processors -- code-named Menlow -- for MIDs, but handset makers expressed concerns about poor battery performance delivered by devices with those chips. After failing to find enough adopters, Intel started using those chips in netbooks.

Intel hopes to recover from that setback with the upcoming Moorestown platform. Moorestown consists of a system-on-chip built around the Atom processor core, the Langwell chipset, as well as modules for Wi-Fi and mobile broadband network access.

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Agam Shah

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