Intel has struck a deal with Chinese SoC outfit Rockchip to help broaden its sales network in Asia. Under the agreement, Rockchip will sell Intel branded parts, namely SoFIA SoCs which are scheduled to ship next year.
Intel is burning millions in a controversial contra-revenue programme which effectively subsidises sales of Bay Trail tablet processors. Hardware makers who sign up can expect plenty of support from Intel’s marketing department, as well as access to reference design platforms.
It is a massive effort that could see Intel spend as much as $1 billion on tablet chip subsidies and the company is now doubling down with the Rockchip alliance.
Rockchip has what Intel needs to succeed in China
Intel’s aggressive pricing is putting a lot of pressure on established SoC makers with a strong presence in China, namely Rockchip, Allwinner and Mediatek.
While the Rockchip deal may sound like a classic case of “if you can’t beat them, join them,” there is more to it. Intel appears to have done all the courting, not Rockchip.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said the chipmaker plans to take advantage of Rockchip’s strong ties with Chinese hardware makers. He described the deal as a great way to “get in there” and add more products to Intel’s roadmap. Krzanich insists it is not a change to Intel’s roadmap, but rather an addition. Intel believes it can use Rockchip’s connections to speed up time-to-market.
Going after the soft underbelly of the ARM alliance
Intel’s decision to take on the Chinese white-box market surprised some industry watchers. However, it makes a lot of sense, as this particular market can be described as the soft underbelly of the ARM alliance. It allows Intel to gain share in a booming market, without having to lock horns with the likes of Qualcomm, Samsung and other big ARM players.
“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," Krzanich said in a statement. "We are moving with velocity to grow Intel’s offerings for the growing global tablet market.”
Intel is planning to quadruple its tablet SoC shipments this year and it is on track to hit its goal. Last month the company said it has more than 90 tablet design wins, with plenty of 2-in-1s on the side.
The first Intel branded chip sold by Rockchip is a 3G quad-core and it is supposed to launch in the first half of 2015, with an LTE version coming later, but also in 1H 2015. Rockchip is allowed to co-design additional chips and the company already has an LTE solution ready to go, which should help speed up time-to-market. The deal is not exclusive and Intel can reach similar deals with other chipmakers.
Is it just us, or is Intel slowly starting to sound like ARM?