Intel, despite its dominance in PC and server chips as well as its leading silicon manufacturing technology, has struggled in the mobile race. According to Junko Yoshida at EE Times, however, rumors indicate the company may have won a major modem slot for Apple’s next iPhone. “If true, this is a real breakthrough for Intel, which has struggled for more than 15 years to break into the mobile phone market,” said Yoshida. Nevertheless, “Neither Apple nor Intel is confirming the story. More important, not everyone in the electronics industry agrees with Northland Capital Market’s assessment.” (Northland Capital Market is the financial analyst that has called a deal between Apple and Intel.)
If Northland Capital Market is correct, the big loser in the deal will be Qualcomm, which is widely viewed as the leader in the modem market. According to principal analyst Kevin Krewell of Tirias Research, “Qualcomm has the best modem technology in the market and the iPhone 6S is a premium phone. I can’t see Apple settling for second best technology.” Qualcomm is currently facing struggles of its own: the company is planning a 15% workforce reduction and is contemplating a split of its chip and patent businesses.
Intel was late to the mobile market, and it has largely been unable to loosen ARM’s stranglehold. ARM CPU and/or graphics cores appear in virtually every mobile device, and proponents of the architecture have even sought to bring its low-power expertise to servers. That effort has yet to yield much fruit, however. If Intel wins a major iPhone slot, it will have taken a large step into mobile, but it will still be at a disadvantage, particularly as the market settles and consumers approach a more PC-like buying strategy of less frequent upgrades. And as Moore’s Law slows, Intel’s process-technology lead will likely diminish, creating tougher competitive conditions.
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