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In smartphone push, Intel to partner with Google

Tue, 09/13/2011 - 12:05pm
JORDAN ROBERTSON - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press

Intel Corp. has landed an important partner — Google Inc. — in its push to get its processors into smartphones.

The alliance the companies announced Tuesday is more important to Intel than the standard technical partnership.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has yet to translate its success from personal computers — 80 percent of the world's PCs use Intel processors — to mobile phones. Intel's chips have been too power-hungry and have drained small batteries quickly, which has allowed processors based on a different design pioneered by U.K.-based ARM Holdings to seize control of the market. Intel is banking on a new type of chip, called Atom, that uses less power.

Intel's mobile efforts have been plagued by setbacks, and it needed Google's blessing to convince handset makers that its chips will work well with Google's Android, now the world's most popular smartphone operating software. While Android is technically "open source," which means its code is freely available, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google exerts tight control over how versions are rolled out and which companies get early access, a policy that has prompted some complaints from the companies.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini and Andy Rubin, Google's top mobile executive, announced the partnership at Intel's annual developer conference in San Francisco.

The deal is also an important sign of how Intel's relationship with its most important partner, Microsoft Corp., is changing. Microsoft's decision to make upcoming versions of its mobile software work with ARM-based chip has strained the longstanding "Wintel" alliance. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft showed a preview of its Windows 8 software at a developer conference this week in California.

Otellini, Intel's CEO, said the deal shows Intel is "off and running" in the smartphone business. Android and Intel phones are slated to appear next year, he said. He dismissed suggestions that Intel's chances were limited because rivals have a head start.

"The smartphone business is not established in terms of who's going to win and who's going to lose" in smartphones, he said. "You saw how quickly Android took market share from Apple (Inc.). So, good products on good platforms can really make a difference in this industry."

In response to a question from an audience member, Otellini also said Intel isn't interested in buying Hewlett-Packard Co.'s personal computer business, which is up for sale.

"No thanks," he said, adding that "in terms of competing with our customers, I don't see us going there."

In another key move, Otellini announced Intel's first major joint product with McAfee since Intel completed the $7.7 billion acquisition of the security software maker in February.

Intel and McAfee have developed a technology called "DeepSAFE" that helps detect hacking attacks at some of the deepest levels of a computer. It will be available later this year. The new product is a sign that Intel's acquisition of McAfee was motivated in large part by Intel's desire to improve the security of its chips, not just the software that runs on people's computers, which has been McAfee's focus.

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