Intel Finally Builds Its Missing Puzzle Piece

An obscure article on an Intel-affiliated site gives important insight into the company's efforts to shore up its smartphone efforts.

May 25, 2014 at 4:30PM

If you listen to any of the presentation materials from any of the major chip vendors to the high-volume mainstream smartphone space, the key message from these vendors is that OEMs want the whole platform. Up until very recently, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) has been missing a pretty critical piece of that platform -- a low-power connectivity solution (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and so on). Intel has long sold connectivity products for notebooks and desktops, but for its mobile platforms it has relied on external chips from the likes of Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM) and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM).

Intel Free Press article highlights Lighting Peak
Buried in the depths of an obscure article published on the Intel Free Press website is a look at several of Intel's wireless technologies that Intel demonstrated at this year's Mobile World Congress. The "sexy" part of the demonstration was Intel's XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced category 6 modem, which Intel hopes will bring its feature-set on par with what Qualcomm will be offering with its MDM9x35 (although lack of CDMA support will lock Intel's XMM 7260 out of carriers that require CDMA support).

Lightning Peak

Intel's Lightning Peak (it's the tiny chip inside the brown square). Source: Intel Free Press. 

However, the less sexy (but equally interesting) part of this article was that Intel had demonstrated its very first low-power Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combination chip intended for smartphones and tablets. This completes the final part of Intel's low-power puzzle and allows the company to offer a complete mobile platform solution using Intel-designed silicon. This not only makes life easier for the OEMs (as they have one supplier for the major components), but it also allows Intel to capture more content share in handsets/tablets.

Intel now joins Broadcom, Qualcomm, and others
Smartphone processor winners such as Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Marvell (NASDAQ:MRVL) have had the entire platform for quite some time. Broadcom has had it too, although its modem development as well as its applications processors have traditionally been weak relative to that from the competition. Intel, on the other hand, recently sorted out its modem and the applications processor (but still needs to integrate them together), but it has sourced connectivity products from third parties.

For very high-end phones, this isn't much of a problem -- the handset OEMs like to pick and choose each component in that case, and Broadcom seems to win the very high-end sockets. However, for more mass-market designs, OEMs don't want to worry about that and instead want a complete platform with drivers delivered so that they can get to market quickly. Without the full platform, gaining meaningful design win traction is, as Intel has seen, very difficult.

Intel now has the complete platform and, over the course of 2015 and 2016, should release products known as SoFIA that more tightly integrate the cellular modem, connectivity combo, and the apps processor for even more cost savings for entry-level and value handsets.

Foolish bottom line
Intel is still very new and very inexperienced in the mobile game, particularly when it comes to providing a complete platform. Qualcomm is the one to beat, particularly as it has world-class IP across the board. Further, Broadcom, Marvell, and others still have more experience in providing low-power connectivity combos than Intel does. That said, it is nice to see this major "gap" in Intel's product portfolio finally get filled. Intel investors should keep a close eye on whether this (among other things) helps boost the company's smartphone traction during 2015.

Leaked: Apple's next smart device (warning -- it may shock you)
Apple recently recruited a secret-development "dream team" to guarantee that its newest smart device was kept hidden from the public for as long as possible. But the secret is out, and some early viewers are even claiming that its everyday impact could trump the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts that 485 million of these devices will be sold per year. But one small company makes this gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and to see Apple's newest smart gizmo, just click here!

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel and owns shares of Intel and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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