Move may mark the start of the x86 smart phone invasion, though
As previously reported, Intel has been pursuing an acquisition of Infineon Technologies AG’s wireless unit. Infineon AG, spun-off in 1999 from Siemens AG, has seen lots of recent business making broadband signal processing chips for numerous Android smartphones and for the iPhone.
The deal is now official. Intel plans to close the deal by calendar Q1 2011. It will purchase Infineon’s wireless unit, WLS, for $1.4B USD in cash (a vastly smaller sum than its recent $7.68B USD acquisition of the world’s top antivirus software maker, McAfee).
The deal does not include much of Infineon’s R&D or fabrication business. It also does not cover the company’s ARM CPU offerings, which it’s hoping will soon gain traction in Android smartphones.
The move gives Intel a mobile wireless communications platform, which it can potentially employ with Atom platform x86 processors as part of a system-on-a-chip (SoC) solution for smartphones. That SoC package could also employ hardware-security using intellectual property from McAfee.
Currently there are no smartphones on sale with x86 processors (current smartphones use the alternative ARM architecture). Intel hopes to soon change that, and the assets from Infineon help prepare it for its upcoming battle in the smartphone sector.
Intel promises to play fair, though and to continue to support ARM customers like Apple. The company’s press release states, “WLS will operate as a standalone business. Intel is committed to serving WLS’ existing customers, including support for ARM-based platform.”
The acquisition could also help Intel add wireless 3G or 4G connections to its netbook chipsets. Infineon and Intel’s press release indicates that they are currently gunning for WiMAX as the 4G (fourth generation wireless) technology of choice. Sprint, the first carrier in the U.S. to deploy a widespread 4G network uses WiMAX, but the nation’s top network Verizon is betting on LTE for its 4G effort. Infineon has also looked into LTE technology in the past.