Investors in chip giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) might recall that at the company's investor meeting in 2013, company executives outlined a plan to gain share in the mobile processor market. In 2014, the company planned to use its Bay Trail processor platform, which the company said was originally designed for high-end tablets and notebooks, to gain significant share in the tablet market (including the mid-range and the low-end).
To do this, the company said that it planned to offer "contra-revenue" payments in order to offset what was described as a high platform bill of materials cost. Executives then said that in 2015, Intel would roll out a new family of products known as SoFIA ("Smart or Feature Phone on Intel Architecture") which would erase this platform bill of materials disadvantage.
These initial SoFIA parts, which would first come in a variant that supported only 3G cellular connections and then would be followed by models that support 4G LTE. These SoFIA parts are built on an undisclosed, third-party 28-nanometer manufacturing process.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich then told investors on the company's Q1 2014 earnings call that SoFIA on Intel's 14-nanometer process would come to market in either the second half of 2015 or the "first quarter" of 2016 .
It seems, though, that Intel's SoFIA schedule has slipped by quite a bit.
SoFIA 3G is out, but SoFIA LTE reportedly delayed into early 2016
Intel launched SoFIA 3G and SoFIA 3G-R (jointly developed with Rockchip) earlier this year, and according to Krzanich at the company's recent stockholders meeting , both the 3G and 3G-R products "have orders for over 1 million units each."
However, according to DigiTimes Research, although the LTE version of the chip is ready for mass production, issues with the software stack will likely delay launch of the chip until the early part of 2016. The report also says that Intel isn't planning to launch SoFIA products built on its 14-nanometer manufacturing technology until "late 2016."
This isn't good news for Intel's mobile group, if true
If the DigiTimes report is true, then this isn't good news for Intel's mobile group. The report says that 4G smartphone growth is expected to be robust during the second half of 2015, so not having a product available to phone vendors to capture that LTE demand could impact the business performance of the company's mobile division in 2015.
More troublingly, it looks like Intel is going to miss its initial release schedule for the 14-nanometer SoFIA parts. If those parts were supposed to be launched in early 2016 but will now not arrive until late 2016, then that gives Intel's competition ample time to develop competing products.
Additionally, if Intel doesn't improve the feature-set of the product from what Intel had originally planned to launch in the first quarter of 2016 to what is now expected to come out in late 2016, then the product might be obsolete before it even hits the shelves.
Intel should explain its strategy at its investor meeting this year
I believe that investors are long overdue for an update on Intel's mobile progress, both from a product pipeline perspective as well as a financial perspective. It would be helpful if Intel were to give more precise launch timing projections for its mobile platforms as well as the company's current thinking on the trajectory to profitability.