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Intel cuts ATOM chips, exits mobile industry

Posted: 02 May 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:connectivity  wireless network  SoC manufacturing 

Intel cancels its smartphone and tablet mobile SoC business by ending its struggling Atom chip product line at the wake of its massive restructuring plan announced in April. The discontinued products include SoFIA, Broxton and Cherry Trail.

As Intel CEO Brian Krzanich explained in his latest blog, the chip giant's focus is now squarely on "Cloud, IoT, memory/programmable solutions, 5G and Moore's Law."

Out are mobile SoCs.

Intel is shifting resources previously directed towards SoFIA/Broxton to "products that deliver higher returns and advance our strategy," according to a company spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman confirmed:

* The Broxton platform for phones and tablets is cancelled, effective immediately

* SoFIA 3GX, LTE and LTE2 commercial platforms are cancelled, effective immediately

Considering a slowdown in demand and the cutthroat price war for both smartphones and tablets, Intel's strategic retreat from the mobile SoC battle is perhaps understandable.

Towards 5G

However, Intel isn't giving up its connectivity business.

Chip analyst Patrick Moorhead told EE Times, "There are many elements to mobility." Beyond the cancelled Atom processors, "Intel has the 7000 series modems for LTE smartphones, tablets and PCs," he explained. He expects Intel to keep its modem team.

"What's unclear is their strategy of a combined SoC and modem. Also unclear is their low-end tablet strategy," he added.

Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts president, agreed.

"Intel hasn't said explicitly that it will cease to be in the mobile market," Strauss noted. "After all, they have a proven multi-mode 4G modem and x86 application processor, now. Their problem is that they don't have any volume customer sockets."

Both analysts agree that what makes sense for Intel is to refocus its efforts on its modem technology and 5G efforts.

Indeed, Intel holds high hopes for its role in the emerging 5G market.

Krzanich, in his blog, stressed that 5G will become "the key technology for access to the cloud and as we move towards an always-connected world." Suggesting that "connectivity is fundamental to every one of the cloud-to-thing segments" that Intel hopes to drive, he pledged Intel's lead in 5G, by delivering "end-to-end 5G systems, from modems to base stations to all the various forms of connectivity that exist today and will exist tomorrow."

Strauss suspects that Intel plans to take its current 4G modem to 5G. "After all, 5G will certainly be based on a 4G foundation. That will require a billion or two additional investment, during a big market drought, but Intel can afford it (assuming investors can stomach it)," he noted.

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