Chip giants try to sign Intel's death certificate

The world and its dog is talking about Intel missing a fantastic opportunity with mobile. Meego got surprise-dropped (official line: we support it) by Nokia and ARM chips are in devices by the legion. 

Speaking to TechEye, Qualcomm’s Alex Katouzian thinks ARM’s joint initiative with Microsoft is a way in. We reported yesterday that ARM itself is rather keen it can steal laptop market share from Intel. Qualcomm agrees. Katouzian said: “It’s possible to take away share. No one can predict it, but – if you think about this – a few years back, you used to have desktops. And you had these laptops that complimented the desktops because you could take them from meeting to meeting, so you wouldn’t be tied down to the office.

“Then the laptops took over, and no the tablets are complementing the laptop. Sooner or later, the tablet will become the main PC. Even high end handsets will become your main PC – if I have access to a larger screen that’s being driven by it, it might not be that hard.

“If that’s the case, you can see in a few years, ARM based suppliers and especially Qualcomm who are building from the ground up, low power, mobile devices, where there is connectivity everywhere, a company like Qualcomm is situated very well to take some of that market share.”

Katouzian revealed that Qualcomm’s Adreno series, with the AP8 8064, will begin sampling in early 2012 and it’s one of the highest graphics cores available on the market.

Another top dog at Qualcomm, whose name we won’t reveal, suggests that in terms of mobile, Nvidia has no leg to stand on. That’s because Nvidia will be using ARM chips as they come, not customised while the rest is built from scratch. We put this to Nvidia, which said: “Qualcomm can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? We have Tegra 2, we have all these devices that speak for themselves, and a slew of tablets and smartphones, dual core. We are already ahead of them on quad core.”

Speaking with TechEye, Nvidia’s Sridhar Ramaswamy says it’s fair that Intel has missed the boat on mobile. “They are sticking to x86. It wasn’t built from the ground up in mobile. ARM is the dominant player.” But how about PCs? Will there be some shifting and movement in the industry – who is going to shake up whom?

Can Nvidia and ARM edge in on Intel’s beat? Ramaswamy says: “It depends where it goes over the next few years. Especially with Quad Core CPUs. You can certainly expect to see mobile devices with PC like functionalities, and higher performing CPUs in mobile devices. Will it completely replace a high end PC?” He paused – “It will take a while to replace it.”

Meanwhile Nvidia’s Project  Denver, much talked about but only confirmed at CES earlier this year, is taking aim at Intel in the server markets. Supercomputers are important too, but edging in on this territory is an unlikely bet. While contracts will come through, Intel currently has a real monopoly. By taking on servers ARM and Nvidia are looking squarely at IBM, too. TechEye asked if Nvidia has a hope in heck. According to Nvidia, it’s betting on it. 

Where does Intel stand? Three giants all agree that the borders are closing in. We’d have asked Intel ourselves but the team didn’t invite us to a briefing.