The mobile revolution that transitioned computers out of our offices and into our pockets is already in full swing. Some tech-makers made the shift easily, while others like Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) struggled to adapt. But mobile isn't finished evolving, and with a few new chip designs, Intel may make a mobile comeback.
A new mobile strategy
Intel recently hosted its annual developer forum and introduced a new system-on-a-chip architecture and new Quark chip aimed squarely at putting the company back on the mobile track.
The Bay Trail system works on the current Atom chips, but delivers higher performance with low power consumption. It was the newest refresh to the Atom architecture in five years . Bay Trail has seen CPU speeds faster than NVIDIA's Tegra 4 and Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 800, two of the top mobile chips on the market today.
Bay Trail will show up in low-end tablets in the $100 range and Intel hopes that will boost the company's place in the mobile space. The latest version of the Atom chips with Bay Trail architecture are expected to offer more than eight hours of battery life while watching HD video on 7- to 10-inch tablets.
But that's not the only weapon Intel is putting into its mobile arsenal. The company also launched its smallest-ever chip, called Quark, for wearables, industrial equipment communication, and even consumable medical tech. Yes, consumable. The chip is one-fifth the size of the company's Atom chip and uses one-tenth of the power.
While both the Bay Trail architecture and the Quark chip are important advancements for Intel, the company will have to overcome serious competition from Qualcomm if it really wants to make waves in mobile.
Easier said than done
Qualcomm's chip leadership is unrivaled, with its Snapdragon processors powering devices like Motorola's Moto X, Samsung's Galaxy S4, and Google's Nexus 7 tablet. The company also boasts chips with integrated multimode LTE connectivity, which Intel has lacked.
Last month, Intel bought Fujitsu Semiconductor Wireless to boost its LTE expertise, but it still falls short of Qualcomm's lead. Intel's Hermann Eul recently told Fierce Wireless that it's now shipping its first multimode LTE chip, but its lack of LTE representation in the market up until now has hurt the company's mobile ambitions.
Intel investors should be pleased with the company's recent chip and system-on-a-chip announcements, as well as its work with LTE, but competing with Qualcomm won't come easy. Intel's advantage in the space is that it knows how to produce a massive amount of chips while cutting production costs. But the company really needs to make major inroads in wearables to solidify its mobile future. Investors should keep an eye on how well the new Quark chip is received and which companies integrate it into smart watches and other gadgets. Keep an eye on any major deals for the new chip in industrial equipment and medical devices as well. Both are growing industries for small chips, and Intel may have released Quark just in time to meet demand.
Fool contributor Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google, Intel, and NVIDIA. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Intel, and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.