Intel is creating a $100 million fund and creating an innovation center in China to help fuel the development of smart systems like smartphones and wearable devices powered by its processors.
Also at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in China April 2, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also showed off a new device aimed at the Internet of things (IoT) and said that Edison—a small computer first introduced at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in January—will launch later this year and will give device makers a platform on which to build small, energy-efficient devices.
The chip maker continues to look to expand the reach of its silicon beyond PCs and data center servers, and is moving aggressively not only into mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, but also into burgeoning areas like the IoT and wearable devices.
At IDF, Krzanich said the company’s work with Chinese tech vendors will be a key to Intel’s future efforts.
“The China technology ecosystem will be instrumental in the transformation of computing,” he said, according to Intel. “To help drive global innovation, Intel will stay focused on delivering leadership products and technologies that not only allow our partners to rapidly innovate, but also deliver on the promise that ‘if it computes, it does it best with Intel’—from the edge device to the cloud, and everything in between.”
Intel for the past several years has been driving down the power consumption and improving the performance and features of its low-power Atom platform and embracing Google’s Android mobile operating system as it looks to carve out a larger space in the booming mobile device market. The bulk of smartphones and tablets now run on SoCs designed by ARM and manufactured by such partners as Samsung and Qualcomm, though Intel officials believe that new Atom chips built on the Silvermont architecture meet or exceed ARM designs in energy efficiency and performance.
Intel officials expect 40 million tablets running their chips to ship this year, and expect smartphone makers in the second quarter to begin shipping devices powered by the company’s new “Merrifield” SoC.
They are hoping to fuel adoption of Intel chips in devices in China and other regions via the new Smart Device Innovation Center in Shenzhen. The center will give Chinese device makers and software developers access to Intel technology, including reference designs, programming tools and customer support. The $100 million Intel Capital China Smart Device Innovation Fund is aimed at helping Chinese vendors develop Intel-powered devices like two-in-one systems (which can be used as traditional PCs or as tablets), tablets, smartphones, wearable devices and IoT systems.
Intel Launching $100 Million Fund for Smart Devices
The fund is only the latest investment Intel has made in the important China market. The company since 1998 has invested more than $670 million in the Chinese tech space through two other funds.
Intel’s Krzanich also talked about the company’s SoFIA family of integrated mobile SoCs for entry-level and value smartphones and tablets, and demonstrated the first silicon coming from the Atom portfolio. The SoFIA 3G platform will ship to OEMs in the fourth quarter, according to Intel.
Wearable devices and the IoT continue to be a key focus for Intel, which in September created a business unit specifically for the Internet of things. Krzanich at IDF unveiled Intel’s Gateway Solutions for IoT that is based on the vendor’s Quark and Atom chips. The Quark family—unveiled in September 2013—is smaller and more power-efficient than the Atom platform. He also talked about Intel’s development platform based on Galileo, a development board created with open-source hardware maker Ardiuno.
The first platforms—which have software from Intel subsidiaries Wind River and McAfee—will be available this quarter, with vendors like Shaspa, RocKontrol, TransWiseway and Vnomics developing IoT solutions in such areas as energy and building automation, energy management, transportation, retail, health care and manufacturing.
With the Edison platform, Intel on March 28 announced changes it was making. When Krzanich introduced Edison three months ago, it was to be based on Quark SoCs. In a post on the company blog March 28, Michael Bell, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group, said the first boards will be powered by 22-nanometer dual-core Atom chips. It also will be slightly larger than the original design, which was about the size of an SD card.
“While we work to extend the Intel Quark SoC family with multi-core offerings, we’ve prioritized bringing the board powered by the 22nm Silvermont dual-core Intel Atom SOC to market first to best meet a broad range of market needs,” Bell wrote.