Intel looks to invest in mobility and cloud computing

Intel pushes forward in its commitment to invest around $US200 million in U.S. companies this year

Intel is looking to invest in cloud computing and mobility as the company tries to meet its US$200 million investment commitment in U.S. companies over a two-year period, an Intel executive said on Monday.

Intel is placing emphasis on investing in ideas that help build the usage of hardware like PCs and handheld devices, or technologies that lead to new hardware designs, said Keith Larson, vice president at Intel Capital.

There are many fresh ideas surrounding mobility and cloud computing, he said. Mobility will continue to be interesting as consumers want to have full-fledged access to the Internet and its applications, a move that may lead to new hardware designs.

"In the consumer Internet area in general, we are always looking for new, exciting things that promote... new uses of the Internet," Larson said. Intel is also interested in investing in green technology, health care and bioinformatics, where a lot of computing power is being thrown in to solve some problems.

To pursue its goals, Intel's investment arm, Intel Capital, on Monday announced it was investing US$15 million in companies including elderly health care site, real estate Web site SmartZip Analytics and cloud infrastructure provider Virtustream.

Intel Capital and other venture capital firms in January committed to investing $3.5 billion in U.S. technology firms over the next two years, with Intel and other U.S. companies including Google, Microsoft, eBay and Cisco stepping up efforts to hire U.S. college graduates. When announcing the effort, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said Intel would invest $200 million, and that the companies would hire 10,500 additional graduates from U.S. colleges in 2010, with many companies doubling their hiring from 2009.

Intel declined to break down the amount it has invested to date from its $200 million commitment. However, Monday's announcement is a step forward in investing the capital, Larson said. He declined to comment on specific amounts invested in each company.

Larson did not comment as to whether the investments would help create new jobs. However, he said many jobs are being created by startups with fresh ideas, but hiring could depend on what happens to the company.

"Many of the new jobs created in the U.S. have been created by the young, venture-backed companies," Larson said.

But beyond helping build technology infrastructure, the chip maker also has its own interests at stake as it tries to expand its presence to new industries.

The investments in SmartZip falls into the category of new and interesting Internet-based applications for users, Larson said. There has been an increased interest in the U.S.'s real estate market in recent years, and the idea of giving users access to data generated by improved analytics is an exciting one, Larson said. SmartZip currently provides home investment ratings and reports on 70 million U.S. residential properties.

Intel's investment will help Virtustream develop and expand its cloud computing platform. Virtustream characterizes XStream as a "hybrid enterprise cloud platform" that provides guaranteed computing resources from multiple operating environments.

"In general the idea of cloud computing, you're seeing that as a burgeoning area. I think that's something we have a high degree of interest in promoting," Larson said.

Intel has in the past invested in health care and introduced health care devices. Last year, Intel and General Electric entered an alliance to market and develop home-based health technologies that could provide home-based health care technology to seniors and patients with chronic conditions. In 2008, the company introduced the Intel Health Guide, a PC-like device designed for elderly patients that collects data such as blood pressure, weight and blood-glucose levels. The device is also designed to provide patients access to doctors through videoconferencing. The company has also released the Intel Reader, an e-book reader for users with certain learning disabilities or visual impairments.

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