Several essays into consumer electronics failed going way back to its 1970s digital watch initiative. Since then Intel’s consumer lines have included microscopes, video cameras, digital cameras, a digital music player, an ill-fated video-conferencing product called Pro-Share, TV chips, liquid crystal on silicon displays, the Viiv consumer chip initiative for handling DVDs, photos and video. All have failed.
Moreover, a couple of Intel sallies into the ASIC business both failed quickly.
Furthermore, Intel’s NOR flash memory operation was losing $300 million a quarter last year and Intel is still trying to get rid of it via the joint venture with STMicroelectronics called Numonyx..
And then there are Intel’s attempts to get into communications chip markets. At the turn of the millenium, 1999-2001, Intel spent some $10 billion acquiring telecommunications chip companies at the height of their valuations.
But Intel’s attempt to make and market these chips ended ignominiously with the sale of the mobile chip operation to Marvell for $600 million.
One can easily see why Intel wants to have another go at the mobile phone and consumer chip business. The PC business is commoditising, and the mobile telecoms and consumer businesses are the next biggest chip markets. It’s as simple as that.
But, after the electronics industry’s harsh experience with Intel’s de facto monopoly in PC processors, the industry has been very reluctant to accept Intel as a supplier of mobile phone or consumer chips.
Industry analysts report that the fear of allowing another Wintel-style monopoly prevents Intel selling chips into other sectors.
Even Intel’s association with a technology affects adversely that technology’s chances of getting accepted. A chip industry CEO said recently that the biggest brake on Wimax’s deployment is Intel’s championing of Wimax.
It Intel’s involved, steer clear, seems to be the industry's message.
So the downside of Intel’s success in having its architecture adopted by the IBM PC, and so becoming the worldwide PC processor standard, is that Intel’s behaviour in the PC sector has led to doors being shut to it in other sectors.
And, maybe, there’s another downside. The skills required for managing a monopoly, don’t fit you for fighting in a competitive marketplace.