3G-HSPA, Mobile Linux and Open Source are the Big Winners in Intel-Nokia Technology Partnership

Intel referred to it as "this year’s most significant collaboration in our respective industries." The Intel-Nokia strategic partnership will "align and shape the next generation of mobile computing." But it was very difficult to extract any tangible take always from the press conference announcing the partnership. That’s because no specific products were identified and no time frames were given to see the results of this highly acclaimed collaboration.
 
To a large extent, the press conference was a lot of hand waving and gesturing, without providing anything of substance that we might expect from such an important strategic relationship. This is the third time in the last decade that Intel and Nokia have announced a partnership, with the previous two attempts not producing much if anything at all. So the industry might have a right to be skeptical this time. Nonetheless, it certainly sounded exciting. 
 
Anand Chandrasekher, Sr VP and GM of Intel’s Ultra Mobility Group stated, "The leaders in both computing and communications are coming together to accelerate innovation while driving exciting new revenue opportunities. Intel and Nokia are joining forces to announce a long term strategic relationship that will align and shape the next generation of mobile computing."
 
We are all aware that smart phones and intelligent hand held devices contain powerful processors and need mobile broadband capability to unleash "the tremendous power and potential to reshape our lives." With many different wireless communications options, most of us expect that "the future will bring even more ways to be connected- a future full of different possibilities." Yet that kind of talk dominated the prepared remarks of Intel and Nokia during the conference. 
 
Nokia told us more of what we already know: "The Internet continues to evolve and touch every aspect of our daily lives. Today, there are more Internet users (at 1.6B) than there are fixed phone lines (at 1.3B). There are over 64B web sites exist and more are added every day. And the Internet continues to grow in every aspect. New applications will drive the need for more powerful compute engines and faster (mobile) broadband wireless access, Consumers looking for mobile devices to do more, e.g. sensors, new apps, new materials, new device design and form factors (e.g. netbooks MIDs). We need to extend computing platforms, build on common open platforms and explore new architectures."
 
Anand told us that Intel would continue to "relentlessly focus on driving down the cost and power requirements (of new devices), while delivering continuing performance improvements." Should we have expected something different? We were also told more of the obvious, "Mobile devices require high bandwidth- mobile broadband communications and ubiquitous Internet connectivity at a reasonable cost. Users should expect a rich experience, any time, anywhere. New and exciting services across a range of devices, including new ones the companies will be defining together."
 
So what’s really new? There are three aspects of the partnership, which is not limited to just hardware and Research and Development:
 
  1. Intel and Nokia will collaborate on several open source initiatives, most importantly Mobile Linux. Nokia pointed out that "Hardware and software are decoupled these days. Mobile Linux is an important part of the new converged mobile computing world." We would expect Intel and Nokia joint software development to be centered on two open source projects:
  • Moblin, originally an Intel project but now run by the Linux Foundation.
  • Maemo, a Nokia implementation created for an Internet tablet.
  1. Intel is licensing 3G HSPA modem technology from Nokia, complementing its own WiFi and WiMAX silicon. (Note that two years ago, Intel licensed an HSPA module from Nokia for use in notebooks. This technology transfer is intended for Intel to offer HSPA silicon for mobile hand held devices).
  1. Intel and Nokia have entered into "a long term strategic partnership to develop a new class of mobile computing devices." Those future mobile computing devices will be based on Intel architecture defined chip sets and will "leverage each company’s expertise." 
And what about Mobile WiMAX? Don’t expect anything from the partnership. In response to a question on further WiMAX co-development, Anand replied, " This announcement has no effect on WiMAX one way or another. We are still committed to it. In this announcement, we are expanding our wireless portfolio to be able to implement Nokia’s 3G HSPA technology."
 
–>This implies that Intel will no longer debunk HSPA technology in favor of Mobile WiMAX and suggest that network operators leapfrog 3G and move to Mobile WiMAX instead.
 
When a questioner pointed out that Nokia now had licensed 3G-HSPA to five different companies, Intel and Nokia responded as follows.
 
Intel: "3G HSPA technology has been licensed to build into future mobile offerings. No comments on products or timing. Nokia and Intel’s vision is very similar- bringing communications and computing together. This is not an exclusive agreement."
 
Nokia: "3G HSPA is what’s on the market today (implying Mobile Wimax is NOT really on the market). Nokia is licensing its 3G-HSPA-modem technology as widely as possible within the industry.”
 
When asked if Intel had made any other inroads in the mobile phone business (which the company has tried to crack for years, but has not succeeded), Anand replied, "Intel is not public on any wins in the mobile phone arena except for LG." Then when asked what type of LG device would be forthcoming, Anand would not comment on the specific LG device that will have "Intel inside." 
 
Author’s Note:  This was surprising, considering that Intel had previously touted the LG MID (with Ericsson HSPA module) as the highlight of this year’s Barcelona MWC.

 

The stonewalling continued in response to other very reasonable questions about partnership deliverables:
 
Question from Bloomberg News: “There have been a lot of announcements about visions of the future. Intel has tried to get into the mobile communication business for a number of years, yet they have not succeeded. There’s still a degree of skepticism until we know when the first Intel powered mobile device will be out there. Can you tell us?”
 
Intel: "We will work together on strategic technology collaboration which spans three areas: Intel Architecture defined chip sets for future mobile computing devices, mobile and MIMO collaboration to deliver a very rich software environment for applications and user experience, Intel licensing of Nokia’s 3G HSPA technology   No products announcements at this time- not for today’s discussion."
 
Question: "Do you expect the Atom family (Intel’s lower power micro-processors) or x86 family to be embedded in future mobile computing devices?"
 
Intel: "No comment on brands or usage."
 
Nokia: "Premature to say how we will apply the technology at this stage."
 
How will the Mobile Computing Industry be affected as a result of this partnership?
  1. Could these mobile devices, with open source operating systems like mobile Linux, cause MSFT to lose its software domination of the computing world? Could this mean the end of Wintel dominance of the computing industry?   Mobile Linux- one of the three focus areas for Intel-Nokia partnership – is a direct competitor of MSFT’s Windows Mobile. As people increasingly use mobile computing devices to do things that would have required a PC a few years ago, MSFT is likely to lose ground.   Mobile computing devices, e.g. smart phones, MIDs, all-in-one gadgets, etc are already replacing a lot of things we do today on PCs. This trend will likely accelerate as mobile computing replaces desktop computing.  
  2. Does this announcement negatively impact Mobile WiMAX, which already has been severely criticized for the lack of mobile devices with native mode air interfaces? After all the Intel talk about WiMAX MIDs, we are still waiting for those devices to hit the market in a big way. Will "the Internet in your pocket," be based on 3G-HSPA, rather than Mobile WiMAX?
An anonymous Intel employee provided his read on the partnership:
"This announcement does not change any of Intel’s plans on WiMAX which are solid going forward. Intel has not been a major player in Smart Phones/MIDs and we want to get into that space with the Intel Atom® Processor so this one part of this strategy. Also most smart phones shipping today at least have 2G/2.5G and many also 3G. So this licensing deal help fill a gap in our wireless technology portfolio. 
It also allows us to provide WiMAX solutions to Nokia once more networks get deployed and they want their mobile devices to have WiMAX support as well. So by no means does this negatively affect our WiMAX strategy. It only opens new doors for us with a large customer like Nokia."
  1. When will the new mobile computing devices hit the market? They will need to come quickly, if they are to compete with all the new smart phones from Apple, RIM, and Palm. We hear there will also be MIDs coming soon from Samsung and various Taiwanese companies. Previous Intel – Nokia partnerships, e.g. HSPA modules for notebooks, have not been successful so the industry is skeptical that this one will succeed. We would expect to see Intel-Nokia mobile computing devices on the market in less than one year and perhaps as early as this Christmas.
References:
Intel and Nokia Announce Strategic Relationship to Shape Next Era of Mobile Computing Innovation
 
Intel makes stab in the dark with Nokia deal  

http://www.tgdaily.com/content/view/42977/118/ 

Intel- Nokia Partnership Facing Market Challenges

http://www.informationweek.com/news/hardware/handheld/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=218100945

0 thoughts on “3G-HSPA, Mobile Linux and Open Source are the Big Winners in Intel-Nokia Technology Partnership

  1. Ken, Thanks for your observations on the relevance and importance of open source software, especially at it applies to mobile computing devices. Squeezed between Google’s Android and Intel-Nokia’s versions of mobile Linux, where does that leave Windows Mobile?

    As computing moves from desktop to mobile platforms, could this be the end of the Wintel duopoly that has monopolized personal computing for the last 20 years?

  2. Just cause for skepticism:
    Previous Intel-Nokia “partnerships” have failed

    1. Oct 2006:
    Nokia supplies HSPDA module that Intel will include as part of its next-generation Centrino Duo platform (to be sold to notebook PC OEM customers).

    Intel/Nokia Deal Gets Mixed Reactions
    http://www.unstrung.com/document.asp?doc_id=105059

    Outcome: Intel quietly walked away from this arrangement one year later not giving any reason.

    2. Oct 2007: Nokia agrees to use Intel WiMAX chips in its tablet PCs:
    Intel and Nokia make first step to forming mobile internet axis
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/11/intel_nokia_mobile_internet/

    Outcome: Earlier this year, Nokia discontinued its WiMAX MIDs without announcing plans for any new ones. A Nokia executive refered to WiMAX as the (ill fated) new Betamax.

    In light of these failed efforts, why would anyone have confidence in this new partnership? Especially when no devices, components or time frames were announced?
    ————————————————————-
    What we might expect as actual products:

    Let’s say Nokia comes out with a 3G-HSPA smart phone with Intel’s Atom procesor, rather than the ARM chip it gets from TI or Qualcomm? Is that something special?

    And what if Intel sells a chip set to smart phone or MID OEMs that includes the next great version of the Atom processor bundled with 3G-HSPA modem chip technology from Nokia? Would that be such a big deal? So far it has only announced LG as a MID/ smart phone “win” for its Atom processor. We would hope there are many more coming, else Intel is in big trouble as the mobile computing world gains market share from notebook PCs.

  3. Dick,

    Thanks for your incisive comments about the Intel-Nokia strategic partnership. When questioners on the call mentioned that previous partnerships hadn’t produced any realizable results, both Intel and Nokia deflected the question and re-iterated their party line about visions of sugar plums for the mobile computing landscape. Not even a glimpse of what kind of future mobile devices the companies might be working together on, where their co-development efforts were taking place, or any time frame for the deliverables. All in all, extremely disappointing considering their lack of a successful track record.

  4. Why Should This Time Be Different?

    Why didn’t anyone on the conference call mention the previous failed partnership:

    Intel, Nokia partnership creates market for wireless laptops/
    posted on 04 Oct 2006 at:
    http://www.eetindia.co.in/ART_8800436573_1800005_NT_b752de12.HTM

    Did that partnership change the market dynamics for “embedded cellular modems in portable computers” as promised? As far as I know, Intel did not even pursue this business and never sold any HSPDA modem cards to its notebook PC OEM customers.

    Why should this partnership be any different? This time, there weren’t even any products announced, road map or time frames specified. Wish I could make money from a strategic vision. Better yet, I’d like to become a “thought leader.”

  5. Information Week: Intel, Nokia Partnership Facing Market Challenges
    Beyond the technology agreements, the companies will need to hone in on two or three form factors or risk market confusion, analysts suggest.

    Beyond the technology agreements, little is known about the product direction Nokia and Intel are headed. Intel chips today are too power hungry for anything smaller than a netbook, which are mini-laptops with screen sizes ranging from 8 to 10 inches.

    However, that’s expected to change when Intel releases the next-generation Atom-based mobile platform, code-named Moorestown, which Intel claims consumes 10 times less power when devices are in idle mode. Intel is expected to start shipping the platform in 2010.

    http://www.informationweek.com/news/hardware/handheld/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=218100945

    Conclusion: We expect that smart phone/MID makers will wait for the Moorestown version of the Atom processor before announcing their 3G-HSPA devices with “Intel inside.”

  6. Visions of sugar plums or the real deal?

    Intel obviously recognizes the shift from desktop to mobile computing, but so far has been unable to capitalize on it. Will the lower power version of Atom processor (code named Moorestown) be the ticket, especially when combined with 3G-HSPA silicon technology)?

    Being able to offer a choice of 3G-HSPA, WiMAX, and WiFi silicon and COMBINING that with Moorestown just might be the connected moving parts that have so far been either missing or broken.

  7. With the promise and potential of WiMAX MIDs still waiting to be realized (if ever), we are now likely to see 3G-HSPA MID-Phones from LG and Nokia with “Intel inside.” They will use the Moorestown version of the AToM processor, which has not yet been released for production.

    This partnership of technology visions will likely dilute Intel’s strong push for Mobile WiMAX and serve to confuse the industry (as Nokia has trash talked the technology as the new Betamax). This comes on top of Intel’s cancellation of the Rosedale 2 processor without providing a decent explanation.

    The upshot is that there won’t be any hand held Mobile WiMAX devices with Intel silicon anytime soon. But there are many other WiMAX semiconductor companies who can take up the slack- e.g. Beceem, Sequans, GCT, Wavesat, etc. They will benefit from Intel’s credability gap and the confusion caused by the Nokia partnership (the 3rd one).

  8. Intel + Nokia: In search of relevance, by Rob Enderle

    Analyst Opinion – Intel and Nokia announced a strategic relationship this week, a relationship that would point to a cooperation targeting the development of next-generation communicatiosn devices. The smartphone space is defined by four product vendors and one processor – none of which are currently Intel or Nokia. ARM is the dominant processor technology that is supplied by companies like Marvell, which uses technology that has been picked up up from Intel and Qualcomm. What is the tactical and strategic outlook of this segment, in which only one thing is certain: Going forward, you’ll generally want a smartphone other than the one you actually have.

    From a tactical standpoint, this cooperationshould open doors for Intel with cell phone OEMs. Intel needs to create the impression of a growing feeding frenzy for their new Atom based cellphone processor. Companies don’t like to change technologies, regardless of the benefits. Changes represent risk and there is little in the way of margins in this segment, so mistakes can be incredibly painful for a cellphone company. In general, they practice the “better the devil you know than the one you don’t philosophy” which works against a challenging vendor like Intel. Conceivably, this was a good tactical move for Intel to gain mindshare and then use that to drive future sales.

    For Nokia, the tactics of this aren’t as beneficial or clear. Nokia needs to sell current products and this relationship suggests there may be better ones coming shortly, which will obsolete what is already in the market. Developers on their Symbian platform may see this as a signal that Nokia is planning to abandon it. But Nokia has little mindshare in the smartphone space and they may be bleeding Symbian developers anyway. It puts Nokia in the news, however, it could also hurt current sales, creating a risky and potentially expensive tactical risk. There is also beginning speculation that they may not be working on a new Smartphone at all, but a Netbook of some kind, setting an expectation that might not be met.

    Strategic implications

    This is weaker for Intel, because Nokia simply isn’t perceived as a major player in the smartphone space. To be successful, that would have to change. From a strategic standpoint, their relationship with Apple or a partnership with RIM, Palm, or Google would be vastly more powerful, because they are all seen as major players in the targeted segment today.

    Strategically for Nokia, this is actually a little stronger, because it puts them in the news as a smartphone player and gives them a chance to start to rebuild an image as a leader in the smartphone segment. Getting people talking about Nokia is one of the first steps to building relevance back. C, thisoupled with a compelling device could allow them to get back into the game at some future point.

    http://www.tgdaily.com/content/view/42994/119/

  9. All digital silicon radios from Intel?

    I attended Intel CTO Justin Rattner talk at the Computer History Museum on June 25th. He covered many interesting research topics in a thought provoking interview with Kate Greene of MIT Tech Review.

    The single topic I was most intriqued by was the concept of an all digital radio– one with no analog components (e.g. RF front end, analog antenna/receivers). Intel Research engineers have modelled radio transmission as a digital computational machine, according to Mr Rattner. They have constructed a silicon prototype based on 45nm semiconductor process technology. The goal is to commercially realize an all digital radio chip using 32nm process technology.

    Silicon scalability would be a huge benefit of an all digital radio. Unlike analog technology (which is not in Intel’s DNA), digital technology can be scaled to smaller diameters by using the latest process technology which tracks Moore’s Law. That means digital radios will be smaller than their analog counterparts. The digital radio can also be more easily combined with other digital functions, such as baseband PHY and MAC. However, there have also been advances in mixed signal technology that are resulting in such combinations for Mobile WiMAX chips.

    Smart sensors, power reduction techniques, delivery of wireless power, robots with social networking capabilities were some of the other interesting topics Justin touched on. All in all a very enlightening and entertaining interview.

    Reference:: Intel innovation lights up research day
    Intel’s ‘show and tell’ event allowed the company to highlight how it hopes to harmonise its research and business objectives

    Rattner says Intel’s researchers start by finding out what the company’s problems are, because “ultimately they translate into research objectives. I like to think Intel is somewhat unique in its ability to align its research with its business objectives.” At the moment, Rattner’s hot topic is the embedded chip market, where Intel is pushing its Atom processor for mobile devices.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/jun/24/intel-research-day

  10. Low Power Intel Processors and the Wind River acquisition:

    Intel has a comprehensive plan to reduce power consumption on its device oriented processors. Moorestown will be the 2nd generation of the Atom processor, followed by Medfield in early 2010. Power efficiency is expected to improve with each successive platform.

    We expect the recent Wind River acquisition to play a key role in Intel’s mobile computing offerings, providing the necessary software to complement its low power processor line-up.

    “This acquisition will bring us complementary, market leading software assets and an incredibly talented group of people to help us continue to grow our embedded systems and mobile device capabilities,” said Renee James, Intel vice president and general manager of the company’s Software and Services Group. “Wind River has thousands of customers in a wide range of markets, and now both companies will be better positioned to meet growth opportunities in these areas.”

    Surprising that the Wind River play has not gotten more mention from analysts covering the Intel-Nokia collaboration. It will be a key part of Intel’s deliverables to cell phone, netbook, and MID OEM customers.

  11. Intel is still committed to Mobile WiMAX, but there have not been any tangible “design wins” yet in the hand held space. It will take the Moorstown version of the Atom processor along with substantialy more Mobile WiMAX deployments for that to happen.

    With the semiconductor industry moving ever more deeply into System on a Chip (SoC), Intel needs to combine broadband wireless silicon with its low power processors. Using Mobile WiMAX home grown silicon, there is no licensing cost. If they have to license LTE silicon, there would be a substantial licensing charge per SoC sold. Hence, it is critical to Intel for Mobile WiMAX to succeed.

  12. Rather then use Intel’s Atom processor/Moorestown and mobile Linux, an analyst believes that Nokia will instead use an ARM processor with Google’s Android software platform/OS for its entry into the netbook market. The article states:

    Nokia plans to launch an ARM-based netbook that relies on the Google-pioneered Android mobile operating system in 2010, writes Lazard Capital Markets analyst Daniel Amir in a research note issued this morning. In the same note, he predicts that the total number of netbooks sold worldwide will reach 25 million in 2009 vs. 10 million in 2008, with the majority of them being Intel-based machines running Windows.

    Amir said he expects the Nokia notebook to be sold through carriers, which fits with Nokia’s distribution system for mobile phones. From the note:

    “In our conversations with ODMs, we have confirmed that Nokia is planning to enter the netbook market with a Google Android, ARM-based netbook that would be sold at carriers. Considering this market is dominated by the PC players, we believe Nokia could face an uphill battle to succeed in this market.”

    http://gigaom.com/2009/06/26/analyst-nokia-to-offer-an-android-netbook-in-2010/

    So if this analyst is correct, Nokia will be going with a netbook that has nothing to do with the technology that is to be the basis for the strategic relationship with Intel.

  13. Again, the public is left wondering what the 1st Nokia-Intel “mobile computing device” will actually be. Based on the previous comment, it doesn’t appear to be a netbook. That leaves smart phones and MIDs (if there is such a thing). Intel has talked about MIDs for several years. He is a report of an Intel presentation on this subject in January 2008 at an IEEE ComSoc-SCV meeting:

    The Internet in Your Pocket: Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) & WiMAX
    http://ewh.ieee.org/r6/scv/comsoc/Summary_011608_MIDWiMAX.pdf

    Here’s a quote from that ComSoc-SCV meeting summary:

    MIDs most hit consumer price points and support the following requirements:
    • Small form factor
    • Good battery life
    • PC-like performance
    • PC-like internet experience
    • Affordable: PC OS/Internet/Communications ecosystem
    • AND: Anytime/Anywhere BROADBAND (MOBILE WIMAX)

    “3G will not make for a great mobile Internet user experience, but mobile WiMAX will.”
    ——————————————————————-
    But won’t LG and (probably Nokia) make 3G (and not WiMAX) MIDs?

  14. HSPA no threat to WiMAX, says Intel

    How does this square with Intel licensing HSPA technology from Nokia, for use in mobile computing devices?

    “Despite the rollout of HSPA networks gathering pace around the world, with the top-end of the HSPA range (without MIMO) offering peak downlink rates of 14.4Mbps, it does not unduly concern Siavash Alamouti, CTO of Intel’s Mobile Wireless Group.”

    http://www.telecoms.com/11909/hspa-no-threat-to-wimax-says-intel

    NOTE: Mr. Alamouti will be speaking at the Oct 14th IEEE ComSoc SCV meeting. He will describe the latest research results of his Mobile Wireless Group.

  15. There have been a lot of commments on this and other articles I’ve written related to Intel’s WiMAX products and 3G/4G technology and strategy. Some are confused. Others have noted a disconnect between Intel Capital’s continued investment in WiMAX service providers and Intel Corp’s cancellation of the Rosedale chip and unfulfilled promises about WiMAX MIDs and Mobile WiMAX in general. I can NOT answer those questions. Furthermore, I have no business relationship with Intel Corp.

    Please do NOT post your Intel questions or comments here. Instead direct them to Intel’s web site/PR Department. Please take up your complaints directly with Intel Corp and not with me.

    Thanks,

    Alan Weissberger
    IEEE ComSoc SCV Vice Chair and Program Chair
    (X-Professor SCU Grad EE Dept)

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