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Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) CEO Brian Krzanich is set to give the opening keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 6. Last year, Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM ) gave the keynote. This year, Intel, the chip company often lambasted for "missing mobile," will take the spotlight. Investors are sure to be interested in what Mr. Krzanich has to say. So, what could he talk about?
Let's see those Android tablets!
One market segment that the company will be aggressively pushing into during 2014 is the tablet market. The tablet market sports a business model that seems to be much more like the traditional PC market than the smartphone market, which is a big reason why Intel is going to push here first. The smartphone market is fundamentally a different model heavily reliant on cellular capabilities, contracts, and subsidies.
The company's 22-nanometer next-generation Bay Trail chip is shipping in Windows 8.1 tablets today. But there hasn't been a single announcement of a Bay Trail-based device running Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) Android -- easily the most popular tablet operating system today, even eclipsing iOS. While Intel had promised that designs would be announced during "holiday 2013," they were pushed back into early 2014.
It will be interesting to see which vendors are going to announce Bay Trail-based Android tablets, but an educated guess would be that Dell, ASUS, Acer, Lenovo, and a bunch of lower-end Chinese tablets will showcase designs at CES. It seems unlikely that Samsung will use Bay Trail in any Android designs during this round, as its Galaxy Tab/Galaxy Note lineup is already slated to use Exynos/Snapdragon chips.
How about Quark?
CES 2014 will be the show where wearable devices take center stage. Qualcomm has made it crystal clear that, beginning with the launch of its Toq smart watch, it plans to participate quite heavily in the "Internet of things." Intel's announcement of its ultra-small and low-power Quark product line is a big hint that Intel also plans to participate fully in the "Internet of things," which CEO Brian Krzanich claims, "can make almost everything smart."
The first iteration of Quark isn't anything special -- it's basically the old 1989 i486 implemented in a modern 32nm CMOS process. But future iterations built from the ground up for these types of embedded applications could be extremely compelling. It will be very interesting to see what Intel announces and with whom it will be partnering.
The proper venue for smartphone-related launches tends to be Mobile World Congress, not CES, so it's not likely that Intel will announce too much about its upcoming smartphone platforms. However, given that Qualcomm is likely to be vocal about next-generation platforms, it may force Intel's hand. This, however, is not an area that is likely to be a source of strength for the company during the first half of 2014 -- with Merrifield -- but in the second half, Moorefield should be quite compelling. Perhaps a demo of the latter is in order?
Foolish bottom line
CES should be interesting to anybody interested in the semiconductor/consumer electronics industry, but given that Intel's CEO is giving the opening keynote, and given that Intel has been so behind the rest of its more mobile-oriented semiconductor peers, this could be a chance for the company to really push ahead and show investors and tech enthusiasts alike what it's really made of.
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