BARCELONA, Spain--Silicon vendor Intel said it inked a "multi-year mobile device collaboration across smartphones and tablets" with the world's fifth largest handset maker, ZTE. The agreement represents another major step in Intel's push into the mobile market.
Intel made its announcement at a press conference here at the Mobile World Congress trade show. ZTE--which sold 17.1 million handsets in the fourth quarter, according to IDC--didn't disclose specifics of its deal with Intel. However, ZTE said it will sell its first Intel-powered phone in the second half of this year.
Separately, Intel announced European carrier Orange will sell a "mass market," Intel-powered smartphone. Orange declined to say which manufacturer will build the phone, or what the price of the device would be. Intel also said Indian handset maker Lava will enter the smartphone market in India with the Intel-powered Xolo X900.
Intel earlier this year announced Lenovo and Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) as its first customers for its Atom chip for smartphones. Intel is working to displace the likes of Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), Texas Instruments and Nvidia in the smartphone space--firms that have significant traction among the likes of Samsung, HTC and others. Intel is hoping to leverage its dominant position in the PC market to make a play for the tablet and smartphone industry--many expect sales of tablets and smartphones to eclipse the PC industry.
"Smartphones are really, in their essence, just small computers," said Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini.
As part of its mobile push, Intel announced two new smartphone reference designs in addition to its existing Z2460 Atom-branded platform. Intel said its new Atom Z2580 processor doubles the performance of its Z2460 platform. Intel also announced the sub-$200 Z2000 platform for low-cost Android phones. Intel said it will sample both platforms in the second half of this year, and it expects commercial products to be released that are powered by the platforms in 2013.
Finally, Intel said it expects to ship 22nm smartphone chips for carrier certification next year, and is already in development on 14nm technology for 2014. The company currently builds 32nm products for smartphones.
Interestingly, Otellini made no mention of how many cores Intel's smartphone products support. When questioned on the topic, Otellini said Intel is not going to play the "core wars" and will instead focus on what its products can do rather than how many cores they have. Most new smartphones today are powered by dual-core application processors, but vendors are beginning to promise quad-core smartphones in the months ahead.
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