Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) want more than just total domination of the smartphone market. They intend to invent a whole new category of mobile computing gadgets, and then keep a stranglehold of that new market.
The Finnish cell phone maven and Californian chip titan just took the wraps off a new partnership. The pair will work together to create "a new class" of mobile computing gizmos that "combine the performance of powerful computers with high-bandwidth mobile broadband communications and ubiquitous Internet connectivity." These devices will be different from smartphones, not quite netbooks, and definitely not notebooks.
They will fit in your pocket, and both Intel and Nokia want to blow you away with what these thingamabobs can do. Nokia executives are talking about "new ideas in design, materials, and displays" far beyond what you see in the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhones and Palm (Nasdaq: PALM ) Pre handsets of today. Sounds exciting, if a bit nebulous.
Intel gets its hands on some Nokia licenses for 3G mobile broadband communications, so it's probably fair to assume that upcoming ultra-mobile Intel chips might handle wireless connections on their own. The Atom product line might give birth to something more along the lines of some current Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN ) and ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH ) processors, where logic circuits, media processing, and communications capabilities come in one tidy package.
How Nokia plans to build mind-blowing next-generation handsets around such a chip is up in the air. Nokia has a list of open-source projects that it wants Intel to support more actively. The Mozilla browser platform is a flexible foundation for building network-connected applications. The X.Org display and Pulseaudio sound transports let me run programs on one machine and experience them somewhere else. And then there's the GStreamer multimedia platform.
With all of those technologies involved, I'd imagine rich media streams, both audio and video, where some of the heavy lifting is done by servers on, say, Verizon's (NYSE: VZ ) end rather than by your handset.
Only time will tell, of course. What is certain today is that the mobile computing space is one hot sector, and all the big boys are tripping over each other in a rush to innovate their way to Number One. For now, that crown appears to be Apple's to lose -- but not for a lack of effort from its smartphone rivals.