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Will Intel Define Tomorrow's Smartphone?

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Patience is a virtue, young grasshopper. When Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) announced a mobile software partnership back in February, nobody expected to see results right away.

Now that deal has blossomed into an Intel research center in Finland, where the chip shop's engineers can work together with Nokia's researchers to hammer out user experiences for a mobile future. The Nokia and Intel Joint Innovation Center (no, NIJIC doesn't mean anything in Finnish) will start out by looking at how 3-D graphics and hologram projections can help users accomplish everyday tasks. You know, like asking Obi-Wan Kenobi to swing by and help out a bit.

This is indeed a most desperate hour for both Nokia and Intel, as both the world's largest mobile phone designer and the leading processor wrangler are struggling to keep up with the new rat pack: Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , and all of their hardware partners. Intel wants its chips inside your next smartphone, but the Atom has hardly made an impact on that market yet; Nokia can feel its global mastery slipping away, and it will take any help it can get before time runs out.

Despite rivals' big lead, Intel's executives talk tough. CTO Justin Rattner told Reuters that the next few generations of Atom chips will equal the low-power performance of the ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH  ) Cortex family. After that, there's nothing but blue skies ahead: "I expect us to just pull away after that, because we have a fundamental technology advantage, which they don't have."

OK, Mr. Rattner. Remember that little "patience is a virtue" adage? I suggest we hold off on calling a home run until the pitch is in the air, at the very least. Still, it's always nice to see industry giants working together across geographic boundaries and sector frontiers. Good luck with your research, NIJIC.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Google, Intel, and Nokia are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers choice. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of and has written puts on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. The Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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