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英特尔(最近一次)向移动回归

Michal Lev-Ram 2012年02月24日

首席执行官欧德宁认为,他终于找到了打入移动行业的办法。手机生产商会买他的账吗?

(插图:John Harwood

    世界上有两种CEO,一种喜欢聚光灯下的感觉,另一种则截然相反。英特尔(Intel)首席执行官保罗•奥特里尼就属于后者。不过今年一月当他出席拉斯维加斯的消费电子展(Consumer Electronics Show),站在数千名观众面前时,奥特里尼似乎也并不介意万众瞩目的感觉。那是一个史蒂夫•乔布斯式的时刻。他从口袋里掏出一个闪闪发亮的四英寸智能手机,展示给在场的观众。这个设备有很多特殊功能,包括前后摄像头和用于输出高分辨率视频的HDMI接口。

    不过这款手机上最让人惊叹的部分却是观众用肉眼看不到的,那就是它里面安装的Medfield英特尔微处理器。这款手机目前还没有上市,只是英特尔内部组装的一台原型机,但它还是让许多人欢欣雀跃,因为迁延多年,走了很多弯路之后,英特尔似乎终于推出了一款能在手机领域立足生根的产品。

    奥特里尼在消费电子展上发表讲话后,本周在英特尔的硅谷总部接受了《财富》杂志(Fortune)的采访。他对记者说:“我难道不希望早一点进入智能手机领域吗?我也希望。但我们今天才进入这个领域,这有什么问题吗?我不觉得。我认为这个领域还在起步阶段。我们仍然有机会重新定义移动计算。而且我不认为这个行业的其它玩家拥有这种潜力。”

    年收入达540亿美元的英特尔是世界最大的芯片制造商,员工超过100,000名,其中包括半导体行业一些最杰出的人才。但在智能手机芯片方面,英特尔至今未立寸功。目前市场上还没有任何一款搭载英特尔处理器的手机。这可不是个小问题,目前全世界对智能手机和平板电脑的使用日益递增,人们越来越喜欢用它们来完成过去靠台式机或笔机本电脑才能完成的工作。

    英特尔在生产强大的高性能芯片方面具有非常尖端的技术,但这反过来却成了英特尔进军移动领域的障碍,因为智能手机芯片需要的是低功率的处理器。一年半以前,奥特里尼认为英特尔需要一些在手机行业拥有坚实从业经验的管理人员和工程师,于是他聘用了曾在Palm和苹果(Apple)任职的迈克•贝尔。贝尔曾对苹果iPhone的研发做出过贡献,现在他是英特尔新成立的移动通信集团的负责人之一,负责设计或参考设计原型机,以向手机厂商展示英特尔在移动通信方面的能力。英特尔在消费电子展上展出的手机使用了自家的Medfield芯片,它的内部代号为FFRD,是Form Factor Reference Design(外型因素参考设计)的缩写,可见起个拉风的产品代号确实不是英特尔的长项。这台原型机为今年联想(Lenovo)和摩托罗拉(Motorola)等厂商发布搭载英特尔芯片的设备铺平了道路。

    奥特里尼知道,他要做的不仅仅是聘用几个关键人员而已。2010年8月,英特尔斥资14亿美元收购了德国芯片制造商英飞凌(Infineon)的无线业务,使英特尔在基带处理器领域有了立足点(基带处理器是用来管理智能手机3G无线电通信功能的元件),此次收购也给英特尔带来了大约4,000名熟悉移动设备的员工。

    There are two kinds of CEOs: Those who love the spotlight and those who hate it. Paul Otellini, chief executive officer of Intel, falls into the latter category. But in January, as he stood in front of several thousand people at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Otellini didn't seem to mind the attention. In a Steve Jobs-like moment, he pulled a shiny four-inch smartphone out of his pocket and held it up for the audience to see. The device had plenty of bells and whistles, including front- and back-facing cameras and an HDMI output for high-resolution video.

    Most striking of all was what the audience couldn't see: the tiny Intel microprocessor -- called Medfield -- inside. The phone wasn't for sale (it was a prototype Intel had put together), but the crowd cheered anyway. After years of delays and missteps, Intel, it seemed, finally had a viable product to show for its efforts in mobile phones.

    "Would I have liked to be earlier? Yes," Otellini told Fortune in an interview at the company's Silicon Valley headquarters the week after his Las Vegas keynote. "Do I think this is a problem entering today? No, I think we're in the beginning of this thing. We have the opportunity to redefine what computing means in your pocket, and I don't see any other player in the industry with that potential."

    Intel (INTC), with $54 billion in annual revenue, is the biggest chipmaker in the world. It employs 100,000 workers, including some of the brightest minds in the semiconductor industry. But when it comes to powering mobile phones, Intel is nowhere. Not a single commercially available mobile phone uses an Intel processor, and that's no small problem, since much of the world is increasingly using mobile phones -- and tablets -- to do tasks once performed on desktops and laptops.

    Intel's prowess in building brawny, high-powered chips has been its biggest obstacle to cracking the mobile world, which requires low-power processors. A year and a half ago Otellini decided that Intel needed managers and engineers with hard-core mobile experience. He hired Mike Bell, an executive from Palm and Apple (AAPL) who had contributed to the development of the iPhone. Bell, who now co-leads Intel's newly formed mobile and communications group, was charged with building a prototype, or reference design, that would show manufacturers what Intel could do in mobile. The device, which used the Medfield chip, became known internally as FFRD, short for form factor reference design (sexy code names are not Intel's forte), and it paved the way for manufacturers like Lenovo and Motorola (MMI) to commit to launching Intel-powered devices sometime this year.

    But Otellini knew he needed to do more than make a few key hires. In August 2010, Intel bought the wireless-solutions business from German chipmaker Infineon for $1.4 billion, giving Intel a foothold in baseband processors (a component that manages the 3G radio functions in a smartphone) and about 4,000 employees who know mobile devices.

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