LAS VEGAS - Intel Corp. is betting on a big expansion of “ultra-mobile” computing, an idea with East Valley ties that depends on people being willing to tote around a portable device beyond their ubiquitous cell phones.
In an interview Monday on the sidelines of the International Consumer Electronics Show, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said energy-efficient, Web-connected computers with full keyboards and screens in the 3-inch neighborhood can give people more of what they want from the Internet than cell phones can.
To help stimulate development of the technology, Intel plans in the next few months to begin shipping processors and associated “chipsets” that demand relatively little power and are smaller than standard PC processors, allowing them to be crammed into tinier devices.
The development has several East Valley angles. Intel’s newest chip factory, which opened in October in Chandler, is the only one in Intel’s system with the capability for high-volume production of the tiny integrated circuits needs to provide full Internet functions in such small units.
And Freescale Semiconductor is developing in Tempe the power-management chips that will operate in conjunction with Intel microprocessors inside the mobile computers. Some of those chips will be manufactured in Chandler, according to a Freescale representative.
The success of the new products is far from certain. So-called ultra-mobile computers, smaller than average laptops but bigger and more fully featured than most cell phones, have so far found a tepid response.
Many potential buyers have found little reason either to scale down from notebook computers or up from cell phones that have been improving their Web browsing experience, especially when the price often tops $1,000.
“How do you make people realize that this is something advantageous to them and different from the notebook experience?” said Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC, a market research firm. “That’s the trick. Nobody’s been very good at that yet. ... It’s not as widely compelling as it needs to be if they want it to compete on the level of a phone or a PC.