Intel sets course for mobile computing

Intel sets course for new world of mobile computing by signing up Apple and BMW

The undulating waves of the high-tech seas had favoured chipmaker Intel back in the days when the world’s oceans were full of large internet liners, or desktop computers as we now call them. 

But since the emergence of smaller, more nimble vessels — mobile devices — Intel has found itself adrift, and taking on water.

There was never any danger of sinking, but Intel has had to bale out a lot of aqua from its great ship of tech, and now it’s found itself in sight of the land of milk and honey — or at least the land of Apple and its market of around a billion iPhones and iPads.

In other words, Intel has signed a deal with Apple to provide chips for its next iPhone, the iPhone 7, according to reports in the media. Fortune.com says the Apple-Intel hook-up will mean Qualcomm will be squeezed out.

Qualcomm and ARM were among the main beneficiaries of Apple’s iPhone success, and the popularity of mobile computing had left Intel looking like yesterday’s company.

But Intel was always likely to make a comeback. For one thing, it has been supplying Apple with processors for its Mac computers, both desktop and laptop. So it was constantly in with a chance to get into Apple’s other devices.

And now that it’s happened, the boost to Intel’s confidence may be enough to reinvigorate its other business units, and perform better in entirely new markets.

Last week, German automaker BMW signed a deal with Intel and Mobileye to build driverless cars. Although it’s still not a certainty that completely autonomous cars will be on the roads any time soon or even in the future, the technology associated with autonomous cars is already present in many new vehicles.

These days, many new cars can park themselves without the aid of the human driver. They can autonomously brake if the vehicle looks like it will collide with another vehicle in front when the driver perhaps isn’t paying attention. And then there’s the lane-changing and other tech, all of which are features of autonomous cars.

Estimates vary as to exactly how big the market for partially- and fully-autonomous cars will be. Boston Consulting Group says it will be worth $42 billion by 2025 and almost $77 billion in 2035.

But whatever the exact figure, it’s likely to be huge.

A quick Google search suggests that more than 820 million iPhones have been sold to date, along with an incalculable number of other smartphones from companies such as Samsung and others. Add to that the sales of tablet computers of different brands and the total number of mobile computing devices becomes mind-boggling.

Autonomous cars may not sell in such huge quantities but they’re a big-ticket item and worth much more in monetary terms to companies like Intel.

Moreover, cars are becoming increasingly connected. General Motors says it has 3 million connected cars currently on the road. IBM believes some 10 per cent of cars today are connected, and says the figure will rise to 90 per cent.

All these cars will need chips, more so as they move away from petrol and go electric. And Intel, having finally made landfall in the new, mobile-centric world, is revving up to make the most of it.