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Intel partners with Rockchip to make SoCs for low-end tablet market

updated 10:10 pm EDT, Tue May 27, 2014

Agreement will see Silvermont Atom cores in SoCs from Chinese company

Looking to gain an edge in the tablet market, Intel has announced a partnership with Chinese fabless chip maker Rockchip. The agreement between the two companies will allow Intel to widen its foothold in the chip market, and spread its offerings to low-end tablets. Intel will provide Rockchip with core technology to incorporate into system-on-chips (SoC) that Rockchip is specialized in making.

The deal will help Intel fill a hole in its offerings, appealing to tablet makers outside of the realm of Windows devices. The SoC, though manufactured by Rockchip, will be branded as Intel under its SoFIA family platform. By stepping into the market for lower-priced tablets, Intel will be looking to enter into the Android arena with Rockchip's designs and low-cost manufacturing practices.

At the heart of the chip will be Intel's Silvermont Atom cores, featuring the company's 3G modem technology. The SoC will use four of the cores for the entry-level chip. Any other built-in features for the SoC will be left up to Rockchip to add in, meaning Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, any onboard memory and the GPU can come from other sources.

"The strategic agreement with Rockchip is an example of Intel's commitment to take pragmatic and different approaches to grow our presence in the global mobile market by more quickly delivering a broader portfolio of Intel architecture and communications technology solutions," said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich in a statement from the company. "We are excited to work with Rockchip. With today's announcement, we've added yet another derivative to the Intel SoFIA family, and we expect to have them all in market before the middle of 2015."

The agreement between the companies can also help leverage a better position for Intel in China by using the connections that Rockchip already has in place. With the market for chips becoming more competitive in the United States, causing companies like Nvidia to stop offering the Tegra chips for smartphones, companies have turned to China. Companies can then look to release cheaper devices with fewer features at a larger volume.

"We are always looking for innovative ways to differentiate our product portfolio, and the first-of-its-kind collaboration with Intel helps us do this," said Rockchip CEO Min Li. "The combination of Intel's leading architecture and modem technology with our leading mobile design capability brings greater choice to the growing global market for mobile devices in the entry and value segments."

The new SoC created with Rockchip will be the third entry in the SoFIA line, adding to a lower dual-core 3G chip that will ship later this year and a quad-core LTE SoC that will ship in 2015. The agreement allows both Intel and Rockchip to sell the chips to design and electronics manufacturers.

by MacNN Staff



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