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Intel lost in mobile, so it's betting hard on wearables

Intel lost in mobile, so it's betting hard on wearables


After missing the boat on phones and tablets, Intel wants in on 'things'

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Intel missed the boat on mobile phones and got left behind in tablets, and now it's trying — like many others — to get a foot in the door for what it believes to be the next wave of connected devices. Instead of building those things, Intel's done a number of partnerships and snapped up device companies. Now it's going a step beyond with a platform it says will make it easier and safer for connected devices to be built, and talk to one another and the cloud.

Intel's promise is a simple one: it makes chips and sensors, but it also has data analytics that help device makers build things on top of that. It wants the companies that make these gadgets to use both. That's not a new thing for Intel to want business from anyone and everyone, but now it says it's created all the building blocks for other companies to make that happen.

Build it and they will make smartwatches

The chipmaker has already dipped into the internet of things through a special chip designed for tiny gadgets, along with a variety of wearables partnerships. That includes SMS Audio's BioSport In-Ear headphones, Opening Ceremony's MICA bracelet, and now a reported deal to make the chips in Google's next version of Glass. Intel also acquired Basis Science, the makers of the Basis fitness band, back in March. Those moves follow Intel's shake up of its business units last year to form a "New Devices " group headed by former Apple and Palm executive Mike Bell.

Today, Bell said the issue in front of it and other companies was figuring out how to get all these devices to play nice together as more of them are built. The company estimates 50 billion connected devices by 2020 — things like wearables, and medical and retail sales devices.

From bracelets to ocean windmillsNot all of those will be consumer devices, Bell said. That number includes things like medical imaging devices, windmills, and tools used in factories. But the company also wants to see its platform used in cars, game consoles, and home automation systems. Intel says it's already able to improve smart parking systems with a partnership with Siemens, point of sale systems with NCR, and energy efficiency monitoring with projects in hotels and rental properties.

But some things haven't been perfect, Bell added. Without naming names, he said some early forays into smartwatches have not been so hot. "It hasn't come to fruition as much as the hype would suggest, but we really think something's there," he said. "Most people don't want to have a square screen that uses this technology." The company's own device, which it made in a partnership with Opening Ceremony shows few signs of upending more mainstream smartwatches, but Bell said that at least it was not "ostentatious."

A lot of this is talk about the future, including bringing smaller, faster, low-power chips. And the future is really what Intel's trying to get ahead of, and be a part of, unlike how things played out for it with phones and tablets. If there really are going to be 50 billion of these devices floating around in the next decade, Intel absolutely wants to be inside every one of them.