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Intel details plans for Android chips at Mobile World Congress

by Phil Hornshaw

Computer chip maker Intel has Android on its mind. The company, famous for making processors for PCs, has plans for high-powered chips that will make their way into Android devices through 2014.

The company showed off its road map at a presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, this week. It talked about what the future will look like for Intel chips in mobile devices, and that future is looking small. Intel’s current chip architecture, the Medfield Atom Z2460 that’s coming to Motorola and Lenovo phones this year, measures 32 nanometers. Next year, it’ll be down to 22nm; by 2014, Intel intends to cut its chip down to 14nm (the theoretical limit to how small silicon chips can be is 10nm). In other words – really, really small.

The Verge reports that Intel’s speed at cutting down its chip size puts it on pace to create some pretty powerful little chips. The more space is saved by Intel cutting down its processors, the more power the chip maker could conceivably pack into Android devices. If it can half the space it takes to deliver the power behind the Medfield Atom, that means it can effectively double the power of the chip in the same space it currently devotes to it.

Intel didn’t reveal too many technical details about its upcoming chips at the conference, though the chip maker is usually pretty open about such things. In terms of the mobile market, though, Intel said the space is highly competitive and moving fast. That suggests that Intel doesn’t want to say much because other companies might be listening. Intel probably thinks that rolling out plans for smaller, more powerful chips is likely to shake up other mobile device makers including Samsung and Apple. The company also said it has the factories set up to start working at full capacity on both PC chips and mobile ones, signaling that Intel could become a big player in mobile, just as it has been in PC.

It’s always good to hear about increased competition, especially with Intel preparing a longish-term strategy for mobile devices. Hopefully that will push other device makers to create powerful and affordable chips in order to keep up with Intel. This will mean even more options for new mobile devices that push the envelope of what phones and tablets are capable of delivering.