Intel and Rockchip partner on x86 SoC for budget tablets

Intel has entered a "strategic agreement" with Chinese SoC vendor Rockchip. According to a press release issued earlier today, the two companies will cooperate on an Intel-branded processor aimed at budget tablets. This chip will be "price competitive," Intel says, and its partner already has a strong presence in an important market. According to DigiTimes, Rockchip is the top supplier of tablet processors in China.

Rockchip currently offers ARM-based SoCs, but its work with Intel will produce an x86 chip. The SoC will have quad Atom cores coupled with a 3G modem of Intel's design. Rockchip is bringing some of it own IP to the table, AnandTech adds, including third-party graphics. The two companies will work together on integrating the various components of the SoC.

The chip will be a part of the entry-level SoFIA family Intel introduced last year. It's due in the first half of 2015, and it will reportedly be fabbed at TSMC rather than at Intel's own facilities.

At least initially, the rest of the SoFIA series will also be manufactured outside of Intel fabs. A dual-core variant with 3G connectivity coming by the end of this year, plus an LTE-enabled version in the first half of 2015. Those chips are being made without Rockchip's cooperation. They're aimed at budget smartphones rather than slates, an increasingly blurry distinction in the world of jumbo-sized phablets.

Intel has traditionally kept its CPU cores in house, so the fact that it's sharing one with Rockchip is a pretty big deal, even if the product of that coupling will be sold under Intel's name. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a statement that the move "is an example of Intel's commitment to take pragmatic and different approaches to grow our presence in the global mobile market by more quickly delivering a broader portfolio of Intel architecture and communications technology solutions." Working with Rockchip should allow Intel to address a large but low-margin market without committing too many of its own resources. Both companies will be able to sell the chip to their existing customers.

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