Joule_Krzanich
(Image courtesy of Intel).

Intel to Amputate Three Modules For Internet Of Things, Including Joule

Last year, Intel stopped selling SoCs for smartphones and tablets, marking the latest confession that the world's largest chip maker still struggles to compete in power-saving chips. Now, it is scrapping three more products targeting the Internet of Things.

Intel revealed plans to end the Edison, Galileo, and Joule compute modules, exposing yet again how it had bowed and warped under years of pressure from ARM, whose chips only take sips from batteries in smartphones and other devices. Intel had aimed the modules at applications like fitness trackers and sensors embedded in construction helmets.

The company quietly updated the product pages of all three modules in its quality document management system, where it posts updates on its product portfolio. The documents indicate that the last of the modules will be sold by the end of the year. A representative for Intel was unavailable for comment Monday after normal business hours.

What stands out is how suddenly Intel beheaded Joule, which chief executive Brian Krzanich only announced last year at Intel's annual developer conference. The company said that Joule compressed an entire personal computer into the size of a matchbox, making it powerful for prototyping autonomous drones and robots. 

The module impressed with its four computing cores and compatibility with Intel's RealSense three-dimensional camera, but Intel hit stumbling blocks almost immediately. Sales were barred in Taiwan, China, Japan, and other countries as the device awaited certification, while many engineers balked at the $219 starting price. 

Galileo seems to have fizzled in Intel's eyes since the company donated 50,000 modules compatible with the popular Arduino board to universities in 2013. Intel also appears to have lost faith in the Edison products it shut down. The company started manufacturing Edison in 2014 using 22 nanometer production.

Intel still has grand ambitions for its Internet of Things business, though. Last year, it hired a former executive vice president of ARM, Thomas Lantsch, to run the fast-growing unit, which also includes efforts in autonomous cars and industrial equipment. The group earned almost $2.64 billion last year, up from around $2.3 billion the year before.

The sanding down of the computer modules is the latest setback for Intel's battle with ARM, whose chips not only dominated smartphones but sprung out of the gate for growing markets like sensors and wearables. That head start was a major reason that Japan's Softbank purchased ARM last year for around $32 billion. 

After Intel cut out its tablet and smartphone chips based on the Atom architecture last year, the company refocused on cellular modems for 4G and 5G networks to be used in cell phones. It did, however, hold up deals to develop mobile SoCs with Spreadtrum and Rockchip in China.

Other new chips are filling the void. Late last year, Intel released new Atom industrial and automotive chips, which squeeze enough computing power into cameras and industrial computers to avoid sending video and other information to the cloud for analysis. The company still also sells its Curie modules for wearables.

In August, Intel will release another miniature P.C. called the Compute Card, which puts storage, memory, and wireless connectivity into a credit-card-size module. Last year, the company bought Movidius for its image processing units, which will be combined with RealSense for applications like drones and personal computers.

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