Intel is getting much more serious about its mobile hardware strategy, announcing a newly-hatched deal with Chinese semiconductor maker Rockchip on Tuesday.
The game plan is to churn out a new series of entry-level Android tablets running on Atom processor family chips with Intel's 3G modem technology, resulting in a new Intel-branded mobile System-on-a-Chip (SOC) platform.
Rockchip comes in to help on the design side, notably regarding input on screen sizes and form factors, which in turn will affect pricing.
Both Intel and Rockchip will also be responsible for selling the quad-core SoFIA 3G platform to their respective OEM and ODM customers.
Intel did not disclose the financial terms of the agreement, citing ongoing talks.
Set to roll out in phases over the next several months, these new tablets are also intended to help beef up Intel's SoFIA family for entry-level and value-priced mobile devices.
The first launch is scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year when the dual-core 3G version ships first. The 3G and LTE versions of the quad-core SoC offering will follow during the first half of 2015.
Earlier this year Intel announced two SoFIA mobile SoCs with integrated cellular basebands, a dual-core Atom with integrated 3G, due out by the end of this year, and a quad-core Atom with integrated 4G LTE, slated for next year. The purpose of the deal with Rockchip is to get a quad-core part with 3G to market more quickly.
"This product really is meant to sit in [between] there as a quad-core with 3G," Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich said on the follow-up conference call. "It is purely targeting the right product with the right features at the right cost for this market."
Like the other two SoFIA chips already announced, this one will be manufactured by TSMC, a contract chipmaker, because it uses modem technology that Intel acquired from Infineon, which was designed for TSMC’s process. In 2016 Intel plans to bring its manufacturing of the SoFIA chips in-house.
Pricing has not been announced yet.