Intel's Atom chip chief goes mobile
'Pursuing other interests'
Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group, has left the company.
In a one paragraph statement issued on Intel's Chip Shot PR blog, the company said that Chandrasekher is leaving Intel to "pursue other interests."
The statement said that Mike Bell and Dave Whalen, who are both vice presidents in the Intel Architecture Group that designs and makes its PC and server processors and chipsets, will co-manage the Ultra Mobility Group. This is the part of Intel that is primarily involved with the Atom processors, used in netbooks and some low-powered servers, these days. Intel has launched variants of the Atoms for smartphones and (at least publicly) has high hopes in taking on ARM-based designs, which utterly dominant the smartphone sector.
"Intel remains committed to this business," said David Perlmutter, executive vice president and Intel Architecture Group general manager, in that statement. "We continue to make the investments needed to ensure that the best user experience on smartphones and handhelds runs on Intel Architecture, and to ship a phone this year."
Back in the late 1990s, Chandrasekher was the technical assistant to Craig Barrett, who was chairman of the Intel board until 2009 and who was chief executive officer before Paul Otellini took that job in 2005. That technical assistant job means something at Intel and Chandrasekher was one of the obvious candidates to replace Otellini in about five years when he retires. (Pat Gelsinger used to be in position for that job, or at least it looked like it from the outside, until he took a job at EMC in September 2009 to become president of its Information Infrastructure Products division.)
Chandrasekher, who spent 24 years at the chip maker, was tapped to create and run its Workstation Platform Group in 1997, and was responsible for the marketing and ramp of the Pentium 4 processor. He also lead the team that brought the Centrino family of low-powered processors for laptops and notebooks. The Atom chip is a spin-off of the Centrino and was under his control as well.
The consensus out there on the Intertubes is that the success of the army of ARM processors in the smartphone and now tablet markets and the demise of the MeeGo mobile Linux variant now that partner Nokia has taken $1bn from Microsoft to adopt Windows 7 instead are what did Chandrasekher in at Intel. But no one at Intel is talking, and it is possible that Chandrasekher has other plans and actually did leave to pursue other interests. I mean, that can't always be a lie, can it? ®
Not just netbooks?
Its only been fairly recently that Atom-based server systems have arrived. Seems like a natural fit for me; plenty of demand for low power here, and vastly greater need for x86 than mobile devices.
Sure, x86 netbooks and mediapc-type things will just get gobbled up by a tidal wave of cheap arm-on-android stuff (and that feels pretty overdue to me, too) but they're hardly the only game in town.
Fool me once...
I think the deal here is that the mobile industry has seen the way that Intel and Microsoft turned the PC business into a mechanism for collecting their revenues and wants no part of it. No one in the handset or tablet business is willing to hand over their future to a company that will milk them mercilessly while actively stifling competitive innovation.
At least if you go with ARM, the de facto core of choice in the mobile business, you get software compatibility (nice, considering how tricky some of it is to author) and your choice of fiercely competing chip vendors (double nice). The fact that you’re paying a royalty of maybe 5 - 10c a chip for the use of the ARM core seems a small price to pay for the combination of software compatibility and hardware choice.
Plus Intel never really commits to anything other than its high-margin, rent-seeking processor designs. The did, after all, get rights to the StrongARM core through a deal with Digital and couldn’t make anything of that.
Blast from the past
I remember this guy paying a visit during my stint at Intel's Swindon site some years back.
A colleague mentioned finding him "quite creepy and obtuse, with beady calculating eyes - as though he wasn't interested in hearing what good work was being done, because in his head he was too busy calculating what savings could be made by off-shoring your job".
Probably Anand was just bored shitless of the tour, and suffering his acclimatisation to Swindon, so I doubt that's a fair characterisation - but the description did make me chuckle, so I thought it worth sharing.