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Thu 9 Jun 2005 04:00 AM

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Intel's Manitoba finally finds a mobile home

Intel is moving up the ladder in the mobile phone market, having finally found a customer for its Manitoba mobile phone platform in the shape of British-based operator O2.

Intel is moving up the ladder in the mobile phone market, having finally found a customer for its Manitoba mobile phone platform in the shape of British-based operator O2.

The chip giant launched Manitoba in 2003 and has devoted years of effort and tons of money trying to make its mark in the cell phone market, but to date has failed to secure any customers. However, Reuters has reported that Intel executives revealed at its wireless and mobility conference in San Francisco that O2 would use the platform in a music phone it plans to ship.

Intel has long trumpeted its intention to get into non-PC markets, but so far has not rocked the mobile phone world. However Intel claims with the new Manitoba customer and its plans to introduce its second-generation processor for cell phones in the second half of this year, it is turning a corner in the mobile phone market.

Intel will introduce its second-generation processor for cell phones in the second half of this year, said Sean Maloney, executive vice president and general manager of the mobile platforms group, at the company's conference. The company predicts to ship around 30 million processors to the cell phone market this year, and exit the year on a run-rate "significantly" greater than 30 million a year.

Maloney said the Intel was late to market with its first-generation cell phone processor, code-named Manitoba, which failed to meet performance expectations. The company however, expects the second-generation processor, code-named Hermon, to fare considerably better, Maloney said.

The opportunities in the mobile phone market are significant, according to industry analysts. The segment probably represents the largest single market for processors, with about 680 million cell phones shipped in 2004. Texas Instruments has dominated the cell phone processor market, with a market share of 50% or more. TI has had a close association with long-time cell phone market leader Nokia. With the cell phone market expected to grow to around 1 billion units over the next few years, gaining even a 15% share of the market would represent 150 million new processor sales for Intel, according to analysts with Forward Concepts.

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