Intel gets into the wearables business

September 10, 2013: 3:46 PM ET

The chipmaker tries to make a splash on Apple's big day.

130910152204-brian-krzanich-620xaFORTUNE -- Apple's not the only company with new products to show off today. Early Tuesday morning in San Francisco, chipmaker Intel unveiled an upcoming family of processors called Quark, especially made for wearable devices and industrial "Internet of things" applications.

The company's new leadership team, comprised of CEO Brian Krzanich and president Renee James, announced the new chips at the company's annual developer conference, which took place the same morning as a slew of other tech events, including Apple's (AAPL) new iPhone launch, a customer conference hosted by cloud-based software provider Workday (WDAY), and TechCrunch Disrupt, a launching pad for startups. But Intel (INTC) still managed to attract an impressive crowd, as it does every year (despite the lagging PC business, it's still the largest chipmaker in the world).

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While demand for PCs -- and therefore for Intel's chips -- has slowed, and the company has long struggled in mobile, it's hoping to jump ahead of the game with Quark, processors that are tailor-made for the fledgling wearables product category (think smart wristbands and glasses and all sorts of medical devices that attach to your body). According to CEO Krzanich, the new Quark processors will be five times smaller and 10 times more power-efficient than Intel's Atom chips.

"We will go and put our leadership and our silicon and our technology into every segment of computing," said Krzanich. "Servers, PCs, tablets, phones, and beyond. Segments that are still being developed -- wearables and Internet of things."

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Just last week, Intel rival Qualcomm (QCOM) announced Toq, and phonemaker Samsung unveiled Gear, bulky smartwatches that connect to wireless networks. Intel also showed off a bare-bones "reference design" -- a prototype wristband aimed to show partners what the new Intel chips, which ship next year, can do.

Of course, the company also had some news to share on the PC, tablet, and mobile front. Krzanich said Bay Trail, Intel's first 22 nanometer "system-on-a chip" will power a range of new Android and Windows tablets later this year. He also said that Intel-running tablets will launch for as little as $100 by the end of 2013. Later this year, Intel will also start shipping chips based on its 14 nanometer process.

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About This Author
Michal Lev-Ram
Michal Lev-Ram
Writer, Fortune

Based in Silicon Valley, Michal Lev-Ram covers enterprise and mobile technologies for FORTUNE. Prior to joining FORTUNE, she wrote for CNNMoney, Fast Company, Popular Science and other business and technology publications. She was also a staff writer at Business 2.0 and holds a B.A. in journalism from San Francisco State University.

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