Intel, which is working to gain inroads into the highly competitive mobile device space, reportedly is joining forces with giant Chinese search engine Baidu to create software for China's booming mobile Internet market.
Included in the agreement signed April 11 by the two companies is a joint innovation lab, where developers in China will be able to access computing systems—from PCs to mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones—that are powered by Intel chips, according to a report in InfoWorld.
Intel also will give Chinese developers access to software tools, with the hope that the developers will create apps that will include voice-command and facial-recognition features, said Christos Georgiopoulos, general manager for developer relations at Intel, according to InfoWorld.
The agreement comes at the tail end of the chip maker's Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Beijing, where Intel officials made several announcements focusing on the Chinese market, not only in the mobile space but also concerning the cloud and IT infrastructure.
For Intel, strengthening its position in the Chinese market is an important step as the chip maker continues its push into the mobile space. According to market research firm Canalys, China overtook the United States in the first quarter of 2012 as the world's largest smartphone market, and the research firm Research2Guidance said in a report in July 2012 that the Chinese smartphone market could double by 2017.
Most smartphones and tablets are powered by chips designed by ARM and made by such partners as Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia, which license the ARM designs. Intel has been driving down the energy consumption of its low-power Atom systems-on-a-chip (SoCs), and has seen some adoption by device makers, including China-based Lenovo, which is offering its Atom-powered K900 smartphone.
Another Chinese device maker, ZTE, also is using Intel's "Cloverfield+" Atom chips in its new ZTE Geek smartphone, a device the company introduced during the IDF show that runs Google's Android mobile operating system.
Baidu officials said its partnership with Intel would focus only on software and hardware integration, and would not branch out into jointly developing smartphones. According to InfoWorld, they said they hope developers will use the new Baidu-Intel partnership to create mobile apps for its search and mapping efforts as it looks to become a larger player in China in the cloud. The company last year reportedly announced investments of up to $1.6 billion to build a new cloud computing center.
Intel officials made a number of announcements this week regarding new efforts in China. The chip maker has been building up its capabilities in areas beyond the silicon, including storage, networking, security and software. The company not only will bring more of these capabilities onto its chips, but also is helping to create an infrastructure fabric for the data center. In a briefing with reporters before IDF, Lisa Graff, vice president and general manager of Intel's Datacenter Marketing Group, noted the company's release in February of its own Hadoop distribution, which has been adopted by several Chinese companies, including wireless carrier China Mobile.
In addition, Intel officials said the company is developing rack-scale reference architectures for the data center, and pointed to an effort in China called Project Scorpio. Several Chinese companies—Baidu, China Telecom, Alibaba and Tencent—are working with Intel to develop a rack that will offer shared components like power, cooling and networking.
Intel also announced its Intel Cloud Innovation Center in Beijing, which is designed to accelerate the development of solutions for cloud computing. It's outfitted with more than 100 servers running the latest Xeon E5 and E7 processors and Intel's 10 Gigabit Ethernet networking technology, solid-state drives (SSDs) and Xeon E5-based storage that customers and software vendors in China can use for creating proof-of-concept tests, solutions evaluations and software development.