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Local Talent Pool Draws Intel to San Diego

The struggle to sign and retain top engineering talent led Santa Clara-based Intel Corp. to open an office in Scripps Ranch.

While the company won’t say much except to confirm that the office is opening this year at Scripps Poway Parkway, others view the move as a simple matter of ratcheting up the competition for engineers in the wireless and mobile industry, dominated locally by Qualcomm Inc.

“It’s competitive and difficult to get (engineering) talent in Silicon Valley,” said Rory Moore, chief executive of CommNexus, the nonprofit telecom organization. “Intel looked around the country and felt because of all the great talent that’s in San Diego, they’d move down here.”

Jon Carvill, Intel spokesman, said the local office opened this year, but declined to say what month, how many employees it currently has, or what the approximate number will be.

The office is part of Intel’s mobile and wireless communications group that supports development of products for smartphones, tablets, baseband radio business and other products, Carvill said.

Last year, Intel merged four divisions into a single unit. The merged units were netbook and tablets, ultra mobility, mobile communications, and mobile wireless, according to several published reports.

The longtime maker of chips that power personal computers and servers, Intel has been gradually moving into developing chips for mobile devices.

Intel, which generated revenue last year of $54 billion, acquired a wireless solutions business from Germany-based Infineon for $1.4 billion in 2010.

In June, Orange, a United Kingdom-based wireless carrier with about 175 million customers on five continents, launched a new smartphone that is powered by an Intel Atom chip. The phone is called San Diego.

The development of the Atom chip was the focus of Intel’s ultra mobility group that until this year was headed by Anand Chandrasekher. Earlier this month, Qualcomm named Chandrasekher its new chief marketing officer, overseeing the company’s global marketing and external communications.

Chandrasekher was at Intel for 25 years and held a variety of top jobs including heading Intel’s worldwide sales and marketing group, corporate vice president of mobile platforms group, and as co-general manager of the Intel 486 processor division.

This hire plus Intel’s expansion into the mobile wireless space are clear signals of a heating up of competition against Qualcomm, the market leader in making chips for phones, tablets and other mobile devices and wireless infrastructure.

Bob Slapin, executive director for the San Diego Software Industry Council, said both companies are seeking to develop more powerful chips that use less battery power, and are looking for highly experienced engineers versed in this technology.

“It’s very significant that they’ve opened an office here,” Slapin said. “There’s a lot of competition to put more power into smaller chips and to find the engineers who can do that and Qualcomm, at least in the U.S., has probably got the biggest share of that talent.”

A Qualcomm spokesman declined to say whether any of its employees have recently jumped ship for Intel, or to comment on the NorCal chipmaker moving into its backyard.

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