Intel plans to win China’s smartphone and tablets market

BEIJING – Best known as a producer of PC chips, Intel now plans to win in the Chinese market for tablets and smartphones as well, a company executive said Monday.

“Our strategy in China now is to win with smartphones and tablets. We are making progress on it!” Intel China chairman Sean Maloney said during a chat with users hosted on Chinese social networking site Sina Weibo.

To compete, Intel has been developing new chips, including mobile chip Medfield, that aim to offer better power savings and fast computing speeds. “This requires strong processing power and this is where Intel’s silicon strengths come into play,” Maloney said.

Maloney’s online chat with Chinese users comes ahead of Intel’s annual developer forum in Beijing later this week. During the event, Maloney said the company will demo Medfield, which can be used in both tablets and smartphones.

Intel’s recent deal with Lenovo may help the chip giant in China, a market already dominated by tablet and smartphone chips from rival ARM, the Cambridge, U.K., company, which licenses its microprocessor designs. The Chinese PC vendor plans to launch its Intel Medfield phone, called the K800, during the second quarter of this year with local carrier China Unicom.

Earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, Intel announced that Lenovo and Motorola would release smartphones using the Medfield chip.

Intel will perform better in the tablet market, with the eventual release of Microsoft’s new operating system Windows 8, Maloney added. But at the same time, the chip maker has a large team of software engineers devoted to Android development. “Right now our only focus in smartphone is Android,” he said.

Expanding into the mobile chip market won’t be easy for Intel, said Nicole Peng, an analyst with research firm Canalys. Rivals including ARM chip producers Nvidia, Qualcomm and Samsung possess strong chip portfolios and offer their processors at competitive prices.

But Intel has made clear it is devoting more resources to smartphones and tablets, Peng said, noting the company’s partnerships with Lenovo and Motorola. “It’s never too late,” she said. “I think they have made good progress and we will see what they will announce in the future.”

Despite the focus on smartphones and tablets, Maloney also said the notebook market continues to grow. “I believe that the notebooks and the tablets are very complementary,” he said. Ultrabooks, a category of laptops with thin and light frames, will become the majority of notebooks in the future, Maloney added.

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