Intel has realized that it’s a smartphone world, and that if there’s money to be made anywhere it’s in the emerging markets–where dumbphones and featurephones still rule and the smartphone may have transformative power. To appeal to these markets, it’s designed a “reference” smartphone that uses its new Atom Z2410 mobile-friendly processor inside.
This tactic may sound familiar, and indeed it’s something Intel’s done several times before. You’ll have read about its bizarre and slightly desperate-sounding reference design definition of the “ultrabook,” a PC laptop that’s more or less a clone of Apple’s original MacBook Air. You may also remember its Classmate PC, a reference design for netbooks targeted at emerging markets and education, and which has had some success with efforts such as Portugal’s Magalhães classroom netbook.
What’s essentially happening with the new smartphone is Intel is aware it’s almost completely missed the boat in terms of powering phones and tablets, having ceded (mostly by slow reactions) the game almost entirely to ARM chips. This is increasingly a mobile tech world, so much so that tablets are set to outsell laptops, Intel’s traditional market. Everyone, even in emerging markets, wants a smartphone. Intel wants in on the game. To distinguish its device from so-so Android units, which are selling like mad, Intel’s smartphone is said to be topnotch in terms of power and offer emerging-market-friendly dual SIM slots and an FM radio.
Is Intel desperate? Is this move marketing genius, good for the developing world–or is it too little, too late?