It looks like an exodus of high level folk is starting at Intel (INTC) with Anand Chandrasekher leaving the company. If you had any doubts about how badly the loss of Nokia to Microsoft hamstrung Intel, you need to look no farther.
In a terse press release, Intel said Anand, Senior VP and General Manager of the Ultra Mobility Group (UMG) has now left for the classic reason, ‘to pursue other interests’. A few short weeks ago, this group was a high flier, with Atom owning the netbook world, and chips like Penwell set to redefine the phone and data-consuming widget market. It all looked so good.
Then came AMD’s Ontario/Zacate platforms, and they kicked Intel out of the netbook market. No sane buyer with any scrap of technical sense would pick an Atom netbook over a Fusion version, the choice is that stark. And AMD is cheaper. Intel was forced to compete on price, something that they are loathe to do, but will when pressed. It probably won’t make a difference in the long run though, there is no quick fix for the silicon shortcomings.
While the netbook segment loss was bad, it pales in comparison to phones, specifically Nokia. Microsoft played Intel for a fool, ran circles around them, and then threw them under a bus when they felt like it. The bus careened off the body, and ran over Meego, Intel’s joint OS with Nokia. Neither patient survived the ambulance ride to the hospital, but Intel seems rather reluctant to make the somber trip to Wall Street to tell the victim’s family the news. Microsoft seems to have had a party, mainly because they are also blissfully, possibly willfully, ignorant of their current predicament too.
The sad part about this is that technically speaking, the latest Atom chip, Moorestown, was a brilliant chip. It was at least as good as anything the ARM camp had on tap, and the hardware had a lot of potential. A high end phone with this chip, not to mention it’s successor Medfield, would have been an amazing device, exactly the hardware Nokia had a reputation for making. As a bonus, Intel spent a lot of money making Meego, an OS that effectively replicated a small fraction of what Android brought to the table, coupled to an ecosystem aspiring to a double digit percentage of Android’s app count some day. Lets just say that the hardware rocked and end it there.
Getting back to Anand Chandrasekher, you will recall that UMG stands for Ultra-Mobility, aka things smaller than a netbook. Intel’s penetration in that market was essentially zero, with the odd win here and there dwarfed by ARM device counts and the netbook market. This segment was not growing in a meaningful way for Atom, especially troubling in light of the fact that this is what Atom was designed for. You may recall that netbooks, where Atom sold well until CES, were an unintended consequence that Intel fought tooth and nail to stifle for fear of cannibalization.
As I said last week, Atom has failed. What could have been won’t ever come to pass, ARM now owns the market Intel was desperately trying to defend, and they are creeping ever upwards. In the UMG space, even Microsoft has thrown their hat in with ARM, leaving Intel with nowhere to go.
While his exact reasons for leaving Intel, and whether or not Anand was pushed or jumped has not made it to SemiAccurate central, it really doesn’t matter. This promising segment is now lost to the ARM camp, and Intel’s silicon roadmap up to 22nm does not seem to be aimed in the correct direction. Anand Chandraseker is only the first casualty, others will undoubtedly follow as Intel tries to clean the tire marks off its back.S|A