Why Intel Is Beating the Dow Today

The chip giant is launching a serious assault on the mobile-computing sector.

Anders Bylund
Anders Bylund
Feb 25, 2013 at 2:00PM

The Dow Jones International Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is a mixed bag today. As of 1:15 p.m. EST, the blue-chip index is just 26 points, or 0.19%, below breakeven.

One of the strongest gains came from semiconductor titan Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), which rose 0.7% on renewed hopes in the mobile market.

Intel just unveiled a handful of products aimed at the heart of mobile systems. The push into smartphones and tablets continued with two Atom-branded central-processor designs, one focused on high performance and the other more concerned with low cost. These chips support the Google Android software out of the box, and three device builders will introduce Android tablets with Intel Inside this quarter.

In addition, Intel presented a reference design for Atom-based smartphones. Aimed chiefly at developing markets, the platform is already set to debut in Egypt, Kenya, and India this spring. Industry watchers like the combination of low cost and complete feature lists that Intel is offering, and Google will surely appreciate another tool for cracking open the smartphone market in a number of massive populations. We're talking about billions of cost-conscious potential customers here. If this platform is a hit, Intel might sacrifice some profit margin in exchange for large revenue streams.

Last but not least, Intel also introduced a single-chip modem for 4G LTE wireless data connections. QUALCOMM (NASDAQ:QCOM) revealed a similar product last week, and a plethora of wireless radio stocks plunged in response to the new competition.

The same stocks are falling today thanks to Intel's entry into the market, albeit to a lesser degree. Skyworks Solutions (NASDAQ:SWKS) has lost 3.6% today, and RF Micro Devices (UNKNOWN:RFMD.DL) has dropped 1.7% -- far less serious than last Thursday's 11% plunges. Intel is, after all, a relative upstart in wireless radios and less of an obvious threat than sector leader Qualcomm. Still, the salad days of low-hanging fruit may be over for Skyworks and RF Micro as single-chip solutions replace their bread-and-butter multiprocessor concoctions.

It's much too early to count the old wireless guard out -- especially the quality-focused team at Skyworks. I'm sure they all have single-chip responses brewing in order to stay relevant. But it's also clear that Intel takes the mobile market very seriously. The company's smartphone and tablet portfolio has never been this complete, and I like the unexpected focus on low-cost products for underdeveloped markets.