We're used to seeing the term 'Intel Inside' on a host of products – but could the Intel nameplate become a common sight on the outside of a product?
In light of comments by Mooly Eden, Intel SVP and president of Intel Israel, it seems to be a prospect that's within the realm of possibility. "Today it is about more than the processor," Eden told an event in Tel Aviv last week. "It's more about a system and a usage model."
Eden made the comments during a question and answer session that covered a wide range of topics, including Intel's activities in Israel, new products and technologies, and – the elephant in the Intel room these days – who will lead the company after the departure of Paul Otellini next year.
Unsurprisingly, Eden didn't reveal who the leading candidate to take the top job might be, and dispelled rumours of specific names flying around online. "It's the job of the board of directors to make this decision and I am sure they will make the right one. They are already discussing the choices."
Candidates from inside and outside the company are being considered, and of course Intel insiders are the most likely to be chosen. "Dadi [Intel SVP David Perlmutter]," who is Israeli, "is definitely a candidate," said Eden, to the cheers of the hometown crowd.
But it was Eden's response to questions about Intel's plans in the mobile space that gave a more concrete hint to where the company's future may lie.
"What are you planning to do about this?" asked an audience member, holding up an iPhone. "I've got the answer right here," Eden responded without missing a beat, as he whipped out a Motorola RAZRi device - among the first, but by no means last, smartphone to use Intel chips.
So far, there are half a dozen Intel Inside smartphones, available in Europe and India - but expect to see a lot more in the coming months. "We are at least a year ahead of everyone else in process technology," said Eden. "If we can't grab a significant share of the market, it will be our own fault."
But Intel may be planning to go even further. "Today it's more about an overall system, a usage model," Eden said. "The tech culture in Israel has grown to be able to provide solutions for systems."
Eden did not elaborate on what he meant by a "usage model," but the term has been bandied about by a number of companies, and could well refer to the hardware/software/cloud/marketing strategy popularised by Apple, in which users are locked into an 'ecosystem' controlled by the company.
If it's a model Intel is considering, it would be following in the footsteps of Microsoft. Traditionally primarily a software company, Microsoft has recently ramped up its hardware business, alongside its ongoing cloud and app store efforts.
Microsoft has come to terms with the need to go for the "usage model", and is working on expanding its offerings. On his recent visit to Israel, Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer said that "until now Microsoft has been about software, but now we have to look at devices. A lot of innovative technology is going to be delivered in devices, and a lot of that technology, regardless of the front end, is going to be a cloud service." This is the future of tech, said Ballmer, "and we aim to be in the forefront of this transition".
If Intel has made a similar commitment, Eden did not specifically mention it. But it appears that Intel is planning to go beyond its current offerings, embracing new opportunities. The proof? In a side conversation, Eden mentioned that the company is planning a new device (I was asked not to reveal what kind of device, but it's definitely innovative and is far outside the company's usual suite of offerings) to which it is putting the finishing touches (the SDK is apparently already available to select developers).
It's a consumer-oriented device, being developed at Intel Israel R&D centre in Haifa, and will be unveiled at the CES trade show early next year. And the device will be a new one for Intel, so it may not be subject to deals the company has with manufacturers that already sell Intel-powered laptops and ultrabooks. Will this be the firm's first opportunity to introduce an 'Intel Outside' product?