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Report: Intel Corp.'s Mobile Chief Bails

By Ashraf Eassa - Apr 4, 2016 at 9:30AM

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Bloomberg says Intel's Aicha Evans is out.

Aicha Evans. Image source: Intel. 

According to a report from Bloomberg, the head of Intel's (INTC 0.84%) wireless chip group, Aicha Evans, is planning to leave the company. This departure comes as the chipmaker has struggled to develop competitive products for, and ultimately gain a foothold in, the market for mobile applications processors and cellular basebands.

What does this departure mean for the chip giant? Let's take a closer look.

Remember what she said back in 2015?
Back in early 2015, AnandTech published an interview with Evans at the 2016 Mobile World Congress. In the interview, AnandTech's Ian Cuttress asked Evans if, "by this time next year" Intel would be talking about its first integrated modem and applications processors built on its 14-nanometer chip manufacturing technology.

Her response was the following:

I sure do hope so, otherwise we have a problem. I might not even be here! But our CEO was quite clear that he wants me to ship at least one of the SoFIA line in 14nm in 2016. He literally pointed me out during the presentation to tell me! But this is important, it is another foundation we have to establish.

Of course, generally reliable website BenchLife recently spilled the beans that the first (and apparently only) 14-nanometer SoFIA product is scheduled to hit the market in mid-2017.

In addition to a major delay of an already very delayed integrated applications processor and modem product, the company's recently announced XMM 7480 LTE modem -- which is scheduled to sample in the second half of this year -- isn't even up to snuff with what competitor Qualcomm (QCOM 0.40%) has been shipping since 2015.

An oddly prophetic statement, in hindsight
At the time, I read Evans' statement as her somewhat "fearing for her job" if her teams did not get the 14-nanometer SoFIA product out in time. In hindsight, given that she's reportedly resigning, I now read it more as a dissatisfaction with the apparent mess that Intel's mobile group is, and a recognition that there's little she can do to actually fix it.

Intel has been cutting back its investments in smartphone and tablet development for quite some time in a bid to shore up the profitability of what was once the stand-alone Mobile and Communications Group. It's not surprising that such cuts would make it substantially more difficult for the team to develop competitive products.

Management can't hide from investors forever
Intel's top brass has remained very quiet about its efforts in the mobile space for quite a while. Management shares little with investors about its future product plans and the progress it's seeing with the products it has previously talked about, leaving it up to well-connected websites, such as BenchLife.info, to leak this information to the general public.

At this year's investor meeting, which will likely be hosted in November, I hope Intel management will be more transparent about its efforts in the mobile/wireless space. Either the company needs to be in this game to win, or it needs to get out. There's no room for under-performing, under-spec'd, and highly delayed products in the cutthroat market for mobile silicon.

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