Intel's Mobile Strategy in 2015 and Beyond

By Robert Burgelman, Debra Schifrin
2015 | Case No. SM236 | Length 19 pgs.

     “Intel’s Mobile Strategy in 2015 and Beyond” examines the company’s 2014 – 2015 strategy to become a more important mobile player. In early 2015, the semiconductor giant had virtually no presence in the smartphone market, and had only recently gained a real presence in the tablet market. Getting into the mobile market was strategically vital for Intel as the notebook market had been shrinking due to cannibalization from tablets. Flattening demand for notebook processors also meant that production volume in Intel’s multi-billion fabrication plants was flattening as well. Intel’s mobile efforts had led to losses of $5 billion by the first quarter of 2015. Most phones and tablets ran on a competing architecture designed and licensed by ARM Holdings, and Intel competitors Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung and MediaTek made most of the processors for mobile devices. Intel’s efforts to gain market share included compensating its manufacturing customers for the cost of using Intel’s more expensive chips. Its goal was to supply chips for 40 million tablets by the end of 2014 (which it exceeded). Intel was also engaging in new partnerships and investment tactics in China to sell Intel-branded chips for the low end of the tablet market. In pursuing the mobile market, Intel had encountered technology challenges and delays, as well as an internal resistance to selling the lower-priced, lower-margin mobile processors, despite having data showing customers’ increasing desire for mobile products. Intel had very little time to establish a relevant presence in the mobile market, and the question was whether implementing these new strategies would be enough. 

Learning Objective

The objective is for students to understand the difficulties that Intel, as a dominant supplier in the PC industry, has had in changing strategic direction to include mobile, even as the need to do so becomes paramount. Students should be able to articulate the roots of these challenges and how they are creating strategic dissonance in Intel’s top management. Students can then identify Intel’s strategic options and evaluate the ones that the company has pursued and are currently pursuing.
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