At Mobile World Congress, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) unveiled its very first integrated applications processor and cellular modem solutions under the Atom x3 brand name. The company actually rolled out three chips: Atom x3-C3130, Atom x3-C3230RK, and Atom x3-C3440. The former two parts are 3G parts aimed at Android devices only, but according to the company, the higher-end x3-C3440, which features LTE capability, will finally support Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 10 mobile.
Support coming later, but Intel is finally embracing Windows 10
According to Intel, Windows 10 mobile support for the x3-C3440 is "in development" and details will be announced later. However, the key thing to note here is that Intel finally seems to believe that targeting Windows-powered smartphones is the right thing to do long-term.
This is in stark contrast to previous comments from the former head of Intel's mobile group, in which he suggested that Intel would go after Windows mobile only if it thought it could generate a reasonable return on investment.
Does this mean that Microsoft will use Intel's chips?
Although Microsoft makes Windows Phone available to third-party handset makers, Microsoft's own mobile division (the former Nokia mobile phone group) is known to be the largest vendor of Windows Phones by far. I don't expect this to change anytime soon.
If Intel is planning for Windows 10 mobile support with its Atom x3-C3440, then I would imagine that the company thinks it has a pretty good shot of winning a future low-cost Lumia device. We'll see if Intel can actually win such a spot in the coming months, though.
My expectation, though, is that Intel is unlikely to win more than a design or two in Windows 10 mobile this round. However, the groundwork that Intel lays with this part could translate into more wins for future Intel smartphone parts.
This probably isn't a big revenue opportunity, but it's good to see
Microsoft doesn't exactly have a lot of share in the smartphone market, so I don't think that this is a particularly huge revenue opportunity for Intel. Furthermore, Intel seems to have only a single chip that will work with Windows 10 mobile at some point in the future, while Qualcomm, the supplier of chips into current Windows Phones, has a top-to-bottom product lineup that will work with Windows 10 mobile today.
So, in the near to medium term, don't expect Intel to gain a lot of share within Microsoft. Over the longer term, if Intel has a more competitive top-to-bottom product stack, and if it continues to view Windows 10 mobile support as a priority, then perhaps it can gain more share within Microsoft's handsets. That's by no means guaranteed, though.
That being said, I'm pleased that Intel isn't going to ignore potential opportunities within the Microsoft Windows ecosystem. Although Windows isn't big in phones today, and although it may never be as popular of a mobile operating system as Microsoft and its stockholders would like, it's important for Intel to support it just in case Windows 10 mobile happens to take off big.