Intel expands mobile push in China

Chipmaker ramps up diversification drive, partnering with Chinese smartphone and tablet makers as demand for portable devices soars

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 4:00am

Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, is accelerating its involvement in mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and ultrabooks in the China market.

In March, ZTE, China's second-biggest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, announced a strategic partnership with Intel for advanced smartphones. Intel is developing unique smartphones for ZTE that are powered by its new Intel Atom Z2580 processor.

"We are expanding into the mobile device field because this is a big market," said Vincent Lee, Intel manager for southern China.

We are expanding into the mobile device field because this is a big market
Vincent Lee, Intel manager for southern China

The huge popularity of smartphones and tablets means 1.2 billion of these devices will be sold worldwide this year, estimates market research firm Gartner.

Mainland industry analyst Luo Qingqi said it is natural for Intel to branch out into mobile devices.

"Technically, [the chip] is similar to that of personal computers though not completely identical," Luo said.

In mid-2011, Intel launched ultrabooks, a category of computing devices aimed at providing faster processing speed and longer battery life in the form of thinner and lighter laptops.

Lee said the minimum battery life for ultrabooks is five hours.

"To qualify as an ultrabook, they have to meet the standards that we put down," he said.

Last year, 140 ultrabooks developed by different manufacturers came to market, based on the third generation of Intel's Core processor, according to the firm.

A number of firms including Lenovo and Motorola also launched their first smartphones based on Intel microprocessors last year. Now there are more than 10 mobile phone brands supported by Intel processors, Lee said.

ZTE and Lenovo are Intel's largest mobile phone making partners in China, Lee said, but that does not mean Intel will disregard other players in the market, which is quite fragmented.

"In China there are many local phone manufacturers. It's not just Lenovo and ZTE that are selling well in China. Neither [is it] just about Samsung or Apple. Lots of local brands from all over the country are jostling for market share."

Lee said Intel is also determined to enable these small-to-medium-sized players to adopt its technology.

But he added that mobile devices are a whole new area for Intel, which is "very different from our traditional core business - personal computers".

He said it is too early to reveal the contribution of mobile device chips to Intel's revenue.

"We are new in this segment," he said. "We have a lot to do so we can grow."