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Intel could Atomise handsets in two years

After 'handset-sized' devices

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Intel's increased focus on Linux and real time operating systems will see it pushing its Atom architecture into handsets within three years and launching "handset-sized" devices much sooner, the chip giant's sales boss said today.

But while the vendor is dabbling heavily in the operating system market as part of its foray beyond traditional PC-based devices, it seems it would still like long-standing partner Microsoft to slide down the form factor ladder with it.

Intel paid $884m for Wind River yesterday, giving it two embedded operating systems and a development environment to play with. It also this week beefed up its support for the Moblin Linux distro for mobile devices.

Sean Maloney, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer, said the purchase of Wind River was part of its effort to drive a low-power full-fat PC architecture, in the form of Atom, into non-PC environments. He highlighted the health, automotive, and entertainment markets - which the vendor has been doing ever since it unleashed Atom last March.

He also said that as well as small comms-enabled devices - MIDs and smartphones - the vendor was targeting the full-one handset market, something that would be easier if it can offer potential partners a whole software, hardware, and development package stack.

"We're not into handsets yet, but we're just moving into that, that'll be the next few years," Maloney said.

We can expect "handset-sized" devices much sooner, he added. "We can just continue to nibble away at that."

But while Intel is hoovering up RTOS expertise that it hopes will help it offer a credible embedded and/or handset platform, Intel doesn't seem to want to keep that market to itself at the expense of long-time partner Microsoft.

"We don't have a version of Windows CE running down there," Maloney pointed out.

Asked if Intel would like to see Microsoft finally make the jump to handsets, he said "it's a question for Microsoft, not for us...I'm sure over time Windows will move down."

Intel, and Maloney, have of course targeted these markets in the past, with its Xscale ARM-based architecture. This effort came to naught, and the Xscale business was offloaded to Marvell. But Maloney said it would be a (forgivable) mistake to think it had ever dumped its ambitions to play in embedded and mobile, pointing out that even as it was winding down its Xscale effort, it was kicking off the Atom project. ®

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