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Intel expects Rockchip and Spreadtrum to go x86

by on12 November 2014

Dropping ARM within a few years

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said he expects the company’s new chip partners in China to migrate to drop ARM and migrate to x86 over the next few years.

Back in May, Intel reached an agreement with Chinese SoC maker Rockchip to sell Intel-branded SoFIA SoCs starting in 2015. In September, Intel announced its plans to invest $1.5 billion in Chinese-government affiliated chipmakers Spredtrum and RDA Microelectronics. 

Krzanich pointed out that the agreements do not prevent Intel’s new Chinese partners from using ARM designs, but he expects them to switch to Intel’s x86 architecture “within two or three years”. Krzanich said its partners simply lack the resources to build Intel- and ARM-based SoCs in parallel in the long run.

According to Reuters, Krzanich told reporters that access to Intel’s architecture and cutting edge fabs would offer its partners a new way of differentiating their products.

"If you're a small guy trying to compete, it's tough to be in that battle," said Krzanich.

Both Rockchip and Spreadtrum are working on Intel-based SoC designs, expected to materialise sometime next year. If Krzanich’s predictions pan out, its Chinese partners will simply phase out ARM designs in favour of new Intel parts gradually, between 2015 and 2018.

However, if Rockchip, Spreadtrum and RDA Microelectronics will use Intel designs, Intel engineers and Intel fabs, the real question is what will they actually do? For all intents and purposes, it appears the companies will eventually transform into Intel subsidiaries in China. 

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