Intel's Atom Chip To Power Future iPhone

by: Eric Savitz

The next generation of the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone - by which I mean, not the 3G iPhone due on July 11, but the version after that - will be powered by a version of Intel’s (NASDAQ:INTC) new Atom family of low-cost, low-power processors, according to JoAnne Feeney, an analyst with FTN Midwest.

In a research note this morning, she wrote that the Atom-powered iPhone may arrive sometime in 2009 or 2010.

Feeney says that the Atom development program is “well ahead of schedule.” She notes that Intel’s current roadmap includes Menlow, the 45 nm platform on which the current version of Atom is built; Moorestown, a new version with lower power consumption due in 2009, also at 45 nm; and an as-yet unnamed version in 2010 that takes the Moorestown design down to 32 nm while further improving power efficiency and cost. But she now thinks the company will be showing Atom at 32 nm in the second half, with a demo at the Intel Developers Forum August 19-21. That would pave the way for the adoption by Apple for the next gen iPhone, she says.

Feeney notes that the iPhone 3G is expected to use a customized Samsung application processor along with baseband, RF and GPS chips from Infineon (IFX). She says the Samsung chip will cost Apple an estimated $13.50 apiece; if Apple can sell 25 million iPhones, she says, Intel could generate incremental revenue of $250 million for Intel. (That would imply the current lowest priced Atom, at around $20, coming down about 50% in price.)

Meanwhile, Feeney also says that Intel’s Montevina platform delays are “a bit more severe than thought.” But she adds that “near-term uncertainties are more than offset by improving long-term prospects.” She maintains Buy ratings on both Intel and rival Advance Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD).