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Intel and Nokia make first step to forming mobile internet axis

Nokia to use Intel's chipset in WiMAX devices

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Intel HAS to succeed in mobile devices - smartphones, media players, low cost widgets for low income communities and so on - or it will become stuck in laptop replacements, a growing market but not large enough to carry the future of such a giant.

Adopting WiMAX and Linux are good tactics, but remain heavily focused on the traditional PC customer base, some of which - Dell included - are struggling. A company of Intel's scale, to be credible in the new mobile generation, needs Nokia as a customer and an ally.

So Nokia's choice of the Intel chip for its first WiMAX tablets is a major credibility boost, however political it may have been, as well as a sign that the creation of an Intel-Nokia axis around WiMAX, which has looked logical ever since both stood together at the creation of the WiMAX Forum in 2003, is likely to come to pass.

This could hasten the development of a real volume market for mobile WiMAX handsets, but could cause problems for Texas Instruments and other traditional Nokia suppliers, and, as the Finnish company strengthens its web of alliances, for other contenders for the mobile internet throne such as Google, Microsoft, and the largest cellcos.

The challengers to Intel's WiMAX chips

The WiMAX CPE silicon specialists are trying to maximise their impact in the run-up to 802.16e wave 2, the key platform for mobility, and while they still have some respite from a full-on challenge from Intel, which may have got its story right, but has not yet executed the actual chips perfectly.

Wavesat, Beceem, Sequans, Runcom, GTC and others are all seeking differentiation in this market, and focusing on adding value to the base WiMAX specifications, in order to stay ahead of the sector, and of Intel. Also playing in this increasingly crowded space are Comsys, Altair, NextWave, RedDot Wireless, Redpine Signals, TeleCIS (in 802.16-2004) and Troicom.

Meanwhile, other majors are set to move in too. Motorola showed off its own 802.16e CPE chipset design at the recent WiMAX World event in Chicago and is also working with Texas Instruments on handset silicon.

Fujitsu has not had the impact that its early moves into WiMAX might have promised, but is ramping up its efforts and promising end-to-end products from CPE and base station chips to full systems, something also pledged by NextWave (which even throws spectrum licenses into the deal).

Samsung is likely to use a combination of its own and third party silicon for different ranges, and its closeness to Beceem, in which it is an investor, has made this start-up hotly favored to pick up some of this vital business.

Qualcomm, of course, remains officially hostile but owns various OFDMA assets, such as the former 802.l6e developments and team from TeleCIS, and could move quickly if it saw an unmissable market opportunity.

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Next page: Wavesat and IBM

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