Intel: 'We haven't missed the smartphone boat'

Renee James talks MeeGo, ARM, Android and McAfee

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Intel believes it still has a "huge opportunity" in the smartphone market. That's according to the head of Intel's Software and Solutions Group Renee James.

TechRadar grabbed a few minutes with James and colleagues Doug Fisher and Peter Biddle to talk about Intel's plans for the smartphone market, MeeGo and AppUp, Intel's application store.

Believe it or not, Intel's Software and Services Group (SSG) would be among the top five software companies globally if it were a separate entity to Intel – and that's before adding in the proposed acquisition of McAfee which James is personally responsible for.

But surely Intel realises it may have missed the boat in the smartphone market? "No I don't, obviously," says the senior vice president of Intel SSG. "I actually think we have a huge opportunity ahead of us as the smartphone market is growing and there are hundreds of millions of users untapped."

Android uptake "daunting"

James is clearly respectful of what Google has managed to do. "On one hand if you look at the data it is a bit daunting, the uptake of Android is staggering even compared to iOS.

"On the other hand there's a lot more devices to be built and the growth is still ahead of us. The transition to smartphones from feature phones is still in its early stages."

Intel's renee james

SMARTPHONE OPPORTUNITY: Intel's Renee James

Intel-based MeeGo devices appear set to debut at Mobile World Congress (MWC), but we'll also see the OS on other architectures too – specifically ARM.

"We agreed that [MeeGo] would be… open to all architectures. And we will see this happen this year. You're going to see a major focus at MWC to be as bold this year as we were last year... particularly in some areas such as the device area."

ARM support is crucial to MeeGo's success, says James. "You'll see ARM-based MeeGo devices this year."

MeeGo

MEEGO NETBOOK: The OS running on an MSI netbook at CES 2011

"Developers won't develop for a single silicon platform... except for Apple. It has never worked and [Apple is] lucky. If it didn't work for ARM, what carrier would [accept that]?"

As we saw at CES, we'll also see MeeGo on netbooks - or we will do if the manufacturers go for it.


McAfee and beyond

Asked about the McAfree acquisition, James is pretty candid about the prospects of the $7.7bn deal going through. "Next year I'll be really, really [excited] or I'll be like 'we won't talk about this any more'."

She seems like she's joking, but you get the feeling she's actually pretty serious. Mind you, so would we if we were planning on spending $7.7bn.

"Security is an overlay over everything," James adds as she explains Intel's raison d'etre for the deal. "It cuts across enterprise as well as consumer and mobile devices as well as embedded. Security came up everywhere and we decided that McAfee was the only [company] that would be applicable to Intel's view."

MeeGo: openness the key

"We made a pretty bold statement [at MWC] last year," adds Doug Fisher, vice president of the SSG. "We said we were committed to merge the open source efforts between Nokia and Intel. We want to make sure developers have a common set of APIs to write to.

"I think there's a big opportunity still. [MeeGo] will allow for an open architecture. There are things we'll announce at Mobile World Congress that will shed a lot more light on why the value proposition [of MeeGo] makes a lot of sense for consumers and device manufacturers."

Intel atom

ATOM FOR PHONES: Intel is keen to push Atom into the smartphone space

Intel is talking up MeeGo as being a great platform for mobile networks as Intel can offer completely customisable and administer MeeGo devices. "The whole thing is customised," says Peter Biddle.

He's General Manager of AppUp Products and Services (APS) at Intel and is keen to talk about the sporadic systems used by mobile operators and how Intel can reduce customer churn for them.

"It's a real nightmare. Every major telco faces a problem where they have 10 radically different solutions. It seems unlikely that Google and Apple will be able to offer a single audit window to networks. We want to be able to offer telcos a single [interface]. Clearly there is an opportunity there."

"We seek to actively partner in the community. We are not seeking to block runtimes from running on our platform or exclude retailers or partners," says Biddle in a thin dig at Apple.

"We want to be the glue that bonds the ecosystem together, to fill the gap. What's the gap? There is a snackable app metaphor on the PC that is appealing to users."

Talking about Intel's software efforts on the PC, the AppUp software store, Biddle compares it to Apple's Mac App Store. "The internet is fallow ground for small developers. If you make software that's dependent on device you enter the walled garden or you have deployment issues. We want to give [them] the infrastructure."

Our meeting then draws to a close. James ends with a smile. "We're going to see you all at MWC though right? We have lots to talk about."

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