Intel to jointly develop x86 SoC with another Chinese chip company

Intel has announced plans to work with another Chinese chip company—well, two of them, actually. The firm will invest $1.5 billion in Tsinghua Unigroup, a state-owned corporation that controls Spreadtrum Communications and RDA Microelectronics, two "leading fabless semiconductor companies in China."

Spreadtrum and RDA design chips for smartphones, feature phones, and consumer electronics devices. As part of the deal, they'll work with Intel to "expand the product offerings and adoption for Intel-based mobile devices in China." The partnership will also produce a new SoC based on Intel's processor architecture. This chip will be jointly developed with Spreadtrum, and it's expected to be sold by both companies in the second half of next year.

Although there are no details on what the product of this collaborative effort might look like, odds are the chip will be part of the low-end SoFIA family. It could also be manufactured outside Intel's fabs. TSMC will reportedly handle the initial manufacturing for Intel's joint venture with Rockchip, another Chinese firm. A strategic agreement between those two was announced in May, and like the latest deal, it involves the development of an SoC based on Intel's x86 architecture. The Rockchip, er, chip is being geared specifically toward budget tablets.

Intel's recent partnerships with Chinese chip companies are no doubt driven by that country's massive market for mobile devices. In the press release announcing the Tsinghua Unigroup deal, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich notes that China is "the largest consumption market for smartphones." The mobile space is currently dominated by SoCs and software built for the ARM instruction set, but Intel would rather have everyone use x86, and its pockets are deep enough to provide plenty of incentives.

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