Intel has announced an agreement to work with Chinese chip maker Rockchip on next-gen Intel processors aimed at low-cost Android tablets.

Rockchip is probably best known for producing its own ARM-based processors for tablets and TV boxes. But the company is also a fabless semiconductor company which means it has expertise in working with Chinese foundries to bring chips to market quickly.

Rockchip logo

The agreement with Intel effectively means Rockchip will be the first company to effectively license Intel technology to produce its own chips with Intel processor cores — although the finished product will still have Intel’s name on it, not Rockchip’s.

Intel’s plan is is to work with Rockchip to produce Intel’s upcoming entry-level, quad-core Atom-based “SoFIA” chips with integrated 3G modems.

The chip-maker had already planned to deliver dual-core SoFIA chips in the fourth quarter of 2014 and quad-core LTE versions in the first half of 2015. Now Rockchip will deliver a third SoFIA chip. Its quad-core 3G chips are also scheduled to launch in the first half of 2015.

SoFIA chips will be aimed at entry-level and “value” tablets, so don’t expect Rockchip and Intel to work together on the next Core i7 CPU anytime soon. But as Intel tries to compete in the price-sensitive, entry-level phone and tablet space, it’s interesting to see the chip maker reaching out to Rockchip, a company that’s best known for making inexpensive ARM processors.

via AnandTech

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17 replies on “Intel and Rockchip to deliver next-gen Atom chips for Android tablets”

  1. What is Intel’s motive? Is it a waste of money? You can’t kill ARM. Andriod will always be open…a never ending battle to suicide. What is it Intel? I’m going crazy trying to figure this one out.

    1. Same motivation as any company that wants to make sure it’ll survive well into the future… Mind, there’s plenty of examples of companies that failed to do so… Like RIM/Blackberry, Nokia, etc that relied far too long on their previous successes and didn’t adapt to the changing markets fast enough…

      Intel knows that even if the PC market doesn’t continue to decline that the market for computing devices is no longer limited to just the traditional PC market and unless they want to eventually become a marginal company they’re going to have to adapt and get ready for the changing markets…

      Mind, mobile isn’t going to stay the way it is now either… People will eventually want to do more and more on their devices and eventually we’re going to have a lot of overlap between what used to be mobile and more traditional PC devices…

      It’s not going to happen overnight, of course, but Intel is making the moves and changes they need to get there… Already, they achieved comparable power efficiency as at least the higher end ARM products… They still need to get costs lower but by the time they start moving out 14nm many of the changes they’re making now to reduce costs will be in effect and they can start relying less on subsidizing to be competitive…

      They’ll still need significant market share before their costs get truly comparable but if they can do that then they would have achieved cost competitiveness as well…

      In the meantime they’re in a better position to push 64bit advantage than ARM is… Many won’t make the transition until next year and mainly with lower end Cortex A53 as the A57 will first make its way into the server market before it can be applied to the mobile market to provide competitive performance to what Intel will by then already be offering…

      While the next Cherry Trail update that should come out by end of the year or early next year at the latest will fix the present weakness on graphical performance, as Bay Trail’s GMA is still only about upper mid range of what mobile devices can offer, but Cherry Trail should more than double performance to close that gap…

      Then by the end of 2015 we’ll see Intel release the next major advancement for the ATOM with Broxton, which will be a scalable and customizable architecture… meaning it would then have the same advantages as ARM presently does to be able to fit any need without needing to come up with a new platform to do so…

      Of course, there’s a lot that can happen between now and then but it’s pretty clear what Intel is up to…

      Those on ARM’s side won’t stand still either but for now it looks like they need Intel to stumble to prevent Intel from leveraging its own place in the mobile market… but so far Intel is on course and surprising deals like this one with Rockchip puts them in a better position than anyone could have predicted even a few months ago…

    1. SoFIA is Intel’s first mobile SoC, for Smart Phones, with integrated cellular modem… initially offering 3G and later will release a LTE version… and is meant for low, value/budget, range products…

      Basically, meaning Intel can finally start competing (at least in the low end part of the market) with the likes of Qualcomm and MediaTek with comparable fully integrated SoCs…

  2. How do they fab something at 14nm which Intel has to do for power and size? Intel has to produce special fabs to make these chips. Are they going to launch Intel China? If so there goes the tech sector to the Chinese market. More jobs gone.

    1. Actually, this goes beyond just Rockchip… TSMC is also supposed to be involved…

      Reasoning is that Intel’s XMM 7260 discrete modem is built on TSMC’s 28nm process and porting it over is difficult.

      While the engineers at Intel could have just build a modem on the 22nm or 14nm processes, but rebuilding the modem on a new process would very likely require that the company go through the entire carrier certification process all over again and they want to get this to market ASAP…

      Inversely, porting of the Silvermont CPU cores and whichever GPU Intel chooses to use is probably not anywhere near as difficult since there isn’t any need for carrier certification of the other IP blocks…

      Meaning, they’re actually using TSMC’s and Rockchip’s 28nm FAB for these SoCs…

      But eventually (reportedly late 2015), this family of products will be finally ported to Intel’s 14nm process. So we’ll then see Intel move its entire cellular baseband line to its own fabs by sometime in 2016…

      Remember, SoFIA is for entry level and primarily for emerging type markets and is not meant as a top of the line offering from Intel…

      1. What’s the benefit of having your chip out there at low cost? To starve off the competition?

        1. It’s all just competition… entry level products aren’t new, Intel is just trying to get in on the already existing market and provide competition for what is already out there and lay out their own stake in the market…

          If this was for the PC market, instead of the smart phone market, it would be like releasing a budget laptop or even a netbook…

          Not everyone needs a high end product to fill their needs, or have the budget to necessarily get the highest end products… Thus lower cost solutions cater to that part of the market…

  3. Reads like total “end of days” stuff…

    Rockchip and Intel, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!

  4. Wow, I can’t wait to see what low-cost SOCs come out of this. I would really love to see some x86 powered Dongle-sized PCs

  5. Hard to believe Intel picked them given their bad record with release of rk3188t under the radar as well as not being compliant w release of GPL stuff for their chips.

    1. Agreed. Ever since the GMA500 linux support issues I have given up on Intel Atom. It’s just not worth the time at any price point.

      1. Well, good thing they use Intel HD now in Atoms as well. Or at least better than the SGX graphics was. Not sure on the long run thou, Intel gives pretty shitty support…

      2. You don’t have to worry much longer about tablets on up… as Bay Trail returned the ATOM to Intel’s own GMA and that will be much easier to run Linux distros on… They already got Linux as an option on some of the desktop targeted Bay Trails…

        Though, general support is still being worked on to get everything working out of the box for most distros but it won’t be much longer before they work out the remaining things that still need a bit of work… Just make sure your distro has the latest Kernel and it’ll help a bit if your device has a 64bit UEFI as most work done to get Linux running on modern Intel systems has been around working with 64bit UEFI… otherwise you’ll have to work around the limitations of the 32bit UEFI and the lack of support it has presently…

        But we’re talking about mobile devices here that are mainly smart phones… These will only run Android or similar mobile OS… Fortunately, that means they’re a lot easier to support versus running a full desktop OS…

        Mind, the GMA 500 was based on Imagination PowerVR GPU and Imagination actually has over 80% of all the graphical IPs for the mobile market… meaning you’re dealing with Imagination PowerVR GPU’s in most mobile devices regardless of whether it’s ARM or Intel…

        Though, such examples of closed driver support for mobile hardware is one of the reasons why you usually won’t see GNU/Linux desktop distros offered on most ARM devices either…

  6. Rockchip and Intel working together! Next thing you know Apple will lanch a Windows 2-in-1 (Although.. that wouldn’t be a bad thing…)

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