Chinese fabless microprocessor company Rockchip will design and sell embedded processors based on Intel's Atom chips to its own customers in the low-end Android market, the two companies said Tuesday.
The strategic agreement between the two companies appears to involve Rockchip's design capabilities, plus its own network of established sales relationships within Asia. With the announcement, Intel said that it will add a third chip to its SoFIA lineup of integrated processors, which will combine both Intel's own Atom processor with its own embedded modems. The SoFIA line is scheduled to ship in 2015.
Hardware makers value integrated systems-on-chip (SoCs) to reduce cost and board space, resulting in smaller, cheaper tablets and smartphones for consumers. To date, Intel has offered discrete radio components and Atom processors, but not an integrated solution. That will change next year with the SoFIA's introduction.
Intel already sells its Atom chips to Lenovo, which has quietly risen to become the fourth-largest smartphone vendor in the world. But Rockchip, an ARM vendor focused on the low-end market that currently dominates Android tablet sales, would be a first for Intel. Intel has made it clear that it's courting the Android market in a bid to increase market share.
"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 Brian Krzanich, Intel's chief executive, in a statement. "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. We are moving with velocity to grow Intel's offerings for the growing global tablet market."
Intel's SoFIA family is now expected to consist of three different offerings, Intel said: the dual-core 3G version expected to ship in the fourth quarter of this year, the quad-core 3G version that is expected to ship in the first half of 2015, and the LTE version, also due in the first half of next year.