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Smartphones vanish MIDs market

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Intel believes its upcoming 32nm processor shrink will move it firmly into the pocketable, internet-enabled device market - but that focus may leave the 45nm Moorestown mobile platform out in the cold.

At Wednesday's Technology Summit in San Francisco, the company's sales skipper Sean Maloney focused solely on the company's upcoming 32nm line, with nary a mention of future 45nm parts - except to state, tellingly, that "I guess you could say that we're getting near the tail end of that big high-K 45nm thing, which ran through the last 18, 24 months."

Moorestown, scheduled to ship early next year, might find itself on the very tip of that tail.

Maloney waxed rhapsodically about the company's 32nm and 22nm future, echoing CEO Paul Otellini's remarks at Intel's May investor's meeting, describing the company's growth areas as being netbooks, handhelds, consumer electronics, and embedded applications.

Maloney indicated that success in those areas will be driven by the company's upcoming process shrinks. "As we move down into 32 nanometers and then later 22 nanometers," he said, "that's when we really come into our own in some of those segments where we traditionally haven't played because of power consumption. We've made some good early steps, and as the newer stuff rolls out we believe we'll start to make some giant steps."

Although those giant steps will not (it could be inferred from Maloney's remarks) be made by 45nm parts, plenty of attention at the Summit was given to one upcoming 45nm platform, Pine Trail. But that platform targets a different market than the one Moorestown was intended for.

The 45nm Pine Trail is a netbook platform, while the 45nm Moorestown was intended for smaller devices such as the now-vanishing category known as MIDs, aka mobile internet devices. MIDs, once regarded as The Next Big Thing, have had their future usurped by smartphones. As Maloney admitted at the Summit, "smartphones and MIDs are almost interchangeable terms."

And Pine Trail is on track to boost Intel's netbook business. Mooly Eden, Intel's mobile-platform general manager, insisted that - contrary to some recent rumor rumblings - Pine Trail is on track for shipment early next year. "I've seen a lot of speculation in the press about Pine Trail," Eden said, but added, "Quote me: Pine Trail is on schedule...and we will ship revenue units this year."

But when Moorestown ships early next year, it will almost certainly be too large and power-hungry for smartphones, and Pine Trail will have made it irrelevant for netbooks. Intel won't move firmly into the smartphone space until Moorestown's follow-on, Medfield, appears in 2011. And, yes, it'll be a 32nm part.

Eden described Moorestown's problem succinctly when he divided the mobile market into two segments: smartphones you "carry on you" and netbooks you "carry with you."

Intel did not immediately respond to our request for a statement on Moorestown's place in the company's mobile-offering spectrum, but with smartphones having eaten MIDs' lunch, and netbooks soon to be well-served by Pine Trail, Moorestown may have no place to call home. ®

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