Putting Intel Back On The Map

Intel just announced Silvermont, a new processor for mobile devices with five times less power consumption and three times greater peak processing capability than other chips. Based on their current Atom processor, Silvermont is a significant step forward for Intel.

This new product offers the potential to revitalize the once dominant but now fading Intel brand. Whereas putting an “Intel Inside" logo on a personal computer once enabled manufacturers like HP and Dell to charge a premium, Intel has largely missed the market for mobile device processors, essentially ceding that business to Samsung and Apple.

Not only are consumers forgetting the Intel brand, most mobile device makers are still evaluating the merits of Silvermont processors before investing large sums and committing years to developing handsets based on them. If you find yourself in a similar situation to Intel’s:

  • Get focused: It took Intel time to understand the magnitude and implications of the shift away from the desktop and laptop to handheld. But once it did, in 2010 the company brought in Apple and Palm veteran Michael Bell, giving him the organizational power and resources to focus on the exploding market for mobile devices. Now Bell and the team he’s built are making up for lost time.
  • Be the winning horse: Handset manufacturers like HTC and Motorola and service providers like Vodaphone, Verizon, and China Mobile make decisions over multi-year timeframes. They commit to technology standards that may last a decade or more and to investments that can reach into the billions. They are thus more likely to choose the partner they think will win the race rather than the one with the current leading product. While it’s important to have the best product of the day, it’s possibly even more important to have the best strategy and plan for crossing the finish line number one down the road.
  • Find a silver bullet: A single product, even one with limited sales, can create a halo effect for the entire line increasing perceived quality, leadership, and excitement. In automobiles high performance cars like the Corvette play that role while in business-to-business, next generation cross-training robots will have the same effect for process control companies like GE.
  • Offer a package of products and services: Intel is not just selling a processor. It’s also selling a complete package of engineering and support as tools for software developers, including being closely involved in helping manufacturers create new devices. For anyone needing to catch up with entrenched competitors, it often takes more than just better performance especially when the costs to switch from one to another are high as with mobile devices. By reducing those costs, ideally making them substantially lower, you will gain traction in the market place.
  • Don't oversell/undersell: Intel has to prove itself to handset manufacturers and service providers before it becomes a credible vendor. At the same time, if Intel wants to reestablish direct consumer demand for its products, it must make enticing consumer-centered claims about its new line. Yet in the delicate process of rebuilding credibility, an even minor setback can have a major negative perceptual impact by confirming, in the eyes of those still unsure, that it cannot compete.

The scientific explanation for this phenomenon is confirmation bias. In these situations one is walking a fine line between being too reticent and too boastful, exaggerating what you have or promising too much too soon, especially given that competitors are never standing still and technology development always has its risks. Having a messaging strategy with the right message for each audience that’s tested, communicated via the best mediums, and constantly refined is critical in a high-stakes situation like this.

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