Page last updated at 10:10 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 11:10 UK

Boom times ahead for mobile web

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

iPhone (Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)
Net-browsing smartphones are becoming more popular

The world of mobile internet devices is set to explode in the next four years says chip maker Intel.

Research carried out for the company suggests portable net-enabled devices will grow to 1.2 billion by 2012 as the need to be connected increases.

Intel's predictions were unveiled as it launched a series of chips designed for portable web-browsing gadgets.

"The demand is there and the need is there and our technology can meet those needs," said Intel's Gadi Singer.

Big future

Alongside an explosion in mobile web-using devices, Intel estimated that 100 million households would also be watching IPTV by 2011.

"The fact that people want to be on the internet all the time means they will be looking for the ability they have today, say at their desk, and to have that anytime and anywhere," said Mr Singer, head of Intel's mobility group.

"That creates the demand for new devices and more sophisticated devices with the computing power and connectivity presenting a major opportunity."

The figures came as Intel revealed eight "system on a chip" designs aimed at the portable web-browsing market.

Cramming four separate chips into one package cut the size of the processing and wireless units by 45% and reduced power demand by 34%, said Mr Singer.

He said he expected to see the new chips in car entertainment systems, smart phones, notebooks and industrial robots.

Cash cow

Analysts are watching how Intel competes in the mobile sector where it lags far behind firms such as Arm, which dominates the market for chips in handsets.

"Intel is essentially starting out from scratch," said Gartner analyst Tole Hart.

"The mobile market is the next cash cow and the demand is high for mobile devices with higher speed chips and higher processing chips," he said. "We will have to see how Intel's product performs with, say, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments."

Dr Gerry Purdy, vice-president and chief analyst with Frost & Sullivan, said: "Internet access is going to be accomplished by a number of different product classes with the largest being cellphones."

He added: "Intel has a big market opportunity here and they should play well in this space with their new Atom processor which will work well in smaller, lighter weight devices."

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