Bangalore: The Indian arm of the world’s largest chip maker IntelCorp. has come some distance from both its abandoned Whitefield chip and the successful six-core server chip Dunnington. It is looking at ways to leverage the huge mobile phone subscriber base of 771.18 million in the world’s second largest telephony market.
Globally, the mobile phone chip space is dominated by Intel’s closest rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.But Intel India president Praveen Vishakantaiah expects applications for mobile phones to become more “performance-hungry” and play to the traditional strengths of the company’s processors, including its Atom range for mobile devices.
Intel is also looking at new technologies for content interaction, rights management and monetization, he said in an interview. Edited excerpts:
After Whitefield, Dunnington and your local market innovation initiative, what is happening at Intel India?
Whitefield enabled us to build strong competencies in microprocessor development. Typically, you don’t get a chance to work on a leading technology project until you build competencies. So we were lucky there. The project was not moved anywhere else, it was just stopped. But key technologies developed were introduced in the first core Nehilam family of processors. And after Dunnington, which I still jokingly refer to as “done in Garden Town” (Bangalore), there has been a lot of progress in building competencies.
Our work currently spans development work on chips, integrated graphics, system on a chip, reference boards for mobile products and platforms, firmware, drivers, platform validation and software applications.
The local market innovation initiative was launched three years ago, with both technology and business development groups looking at Atom-based products to see how it can impact people in India.
Several million dollars have already gone into it. There is even an internal VC (venture capital) mechanism for funding at different stages.
A couple of the projects are going to market. One is the universal hand-held device with biometrics, GPRS, printer, which can be used for various government programmes for authenticated transactions, in financial inclusion, logistics management and so on.
We launched Intel Insider recently for downloading content with proper rights management. We are also looking at how content and advertisement delivery can be done in a protected, secure way, and also interactively. We do want to take advantage of the huge installed mobile phone base in India.
Do you really see the Atom processor gaining share in mobile phones?
From a technology perspective, we have made significant progress. If you look at emerging usage models and applications, like say video analytics or other video-related work, this will require good performance on your phone. That is where it plays into our product space.
As you get into more and more performance requirements, our performance-per-watt effectiveness, cost comes into play. With basic transactions, phone calling etc., the performance need is not really high and there it becomes challenging. But with the usage experiences that people are demanding, we are really looking forward to more and more performance-hungry applications coming into the picture. But like anything else, it will take a little bit of time to establish itself.
Our core business is doing well, but we want to extend ourselves into other areas—in consumer electronics, phones business, new embedded areas, digital signage, in-vehicle entertainment and the like. Clearly, the Atom was conceived and developed with such performance- and power-optimized environments in mind.
Where are you looking to take Intel in India?
Our focus is on high-end competencies, getting into architecture, product conception and front-end product development in a way that drives future technologies. The question is: how much are you able to influence the direction of the company from a technology and road map perspective? I don’t have to do all the nuts and bolts here. It is that strategic influence that I am looking at. That is why innovation is a key thrust, not just in products but processes, but methodologies, designs, and new organizational models like the internal VC mechanism.
How do you see the traditional personal computer (PC) space evolving?
A lot of new usage models are coming into the PC space. The performance need is not going to change but the range of capability will need to include both security and connectivity, and at the right cost. If you put these three together, it is moving in a direction we love. That combination is our strength.
Why is there a delay in your chip for tablets?
We took a key strategic decision that we should be able to align with any platform, independent of the operating system, but all based on Intel architecture. And that is taking a little bit longer.