What will Rockchip gain?
Rockchip also finds four main benefits in this deal:
Getting 3G modem technology from Intel can substantially improve Rockchip's competitiveness. Based on the stats I've gathered, I see that Allwinner shipped around 48 million chips globally in 2013, while Rockchip delivered more than 40 million, and MediaTek around 21 million. Considering MediaTek's rapid growth in the market since last year, we expect the situation to elevate to a tripartite confrontation this year. This makes owning the 3G modem technology all the more important to Rockchip.
Chinese fabless chip companies are beginning to sense limitations in the quality of resources they can get from the ARM ecosystem. ARM license fees are getting higher, the foundry process keeps getting upgraded, and the capacity of advanced processes are becoming much tighter. It's one thing if you are a Tier 1 fabless chip company like Qualcomm or Marvell. It's another thing if you are one of the many Chinese fabless chip suppliers. Rockchip hopes to avert the risk of being treated lightly by the ARM ecosystem. It also hopes to differentiate itself by establishing alternative resources for its products. For instance, Rockchip was the first Chinese company to license ARM Cortex-A12. But when Rockchip launched ARM's A12-based chip, ARM rolled out Cortex-A17, which put Rockchip in an awkward position.
The competition among app processors will be eventually determined by the availability of capacities at foundries like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and Globalfoundries. Intel's capacity will help secure Rockchip's competitiveness in the future.
If the relationship goes well, Rockchip will get a chance to crack the smartphone market.
But the Chinese company also faces a few uncertainties. First, different corporate cultures and operational modes between the two companies could prove too problematic for cooperation and communication. Second, the X86 ecosystem is far from healthy. Last, Rockchip needs to build up its R&D forces for X86 technology, which includes both hardware and software. That's easier said than done.
Will Intel and Rockchip become a tour de force to break up China's never-ending cycle of cutthroat competition -- solely based on prices -- in the tablet market? We certainly hope so.
-- Miya Kong, a Chinese marketing execuitve at VeriSilicon in Shanghai and a longtime ovserver of China's electronics industry, shares her personal insights on China in her new blog series here.
Intel steals everything they can through their engineering and confidence agent placements in Global Foundries and Rock Chip to springboard their own competitive foundry advantage.
If I was Messrs. Jha, Goldsberry, Ajami, Ang, Bartlett, Daly, Fox, Hubbers, Venkatesan, Wijburh, Caulfield would personally refuse the business on competitive principles of democratic capitalism and industrial social responsibility.
Yet, I am not the aforementioned decision makers and it is not my business.
Although I will suggest:
To give intelligent, responsible, and capable direction for sustainable business within industry for society.
As a prerequisite for planning that serves customers and society as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Understanding technology and business possibilities to meet the needs of customers and society as cost effectively as possible.
With exemplar stewardship cognizant of social welfare.
By enlarging the capabilities of the operation; melding together people, process, design, fabrication and utility knowledge for competitive advantage.
To assess equal opportunity for complimentary participation; partnership, cost and reward sharing.
To recognize the obligation to investors; planning for an adequate economic return on their investment.
To address economic responsibility as a design and process steward in the countries of industry operation.
To further the well being of the global electronics industry as an advocate of responsible, stable and sustainable growth models that make economic sense
Note that smartphones these days all have 2 or at most 3 Gigabytes of DRAM. Why? because with 32 bits, 4 Gig is all you get, and you need at least some set aside for IO.
Yes, I know with virtual addressing and (shudder) page registers, you can use more memory than this but if you want software to have the capability to address a single block of memory that's more than 4 Gig, you are out of luck with a 32 bit processor.
With lower power DDR4 coming, phone manufacturers are going to want bragging rights for having lots of DRAM, and so 64 bits is coming. Apple is already there, though they haven't increased their DRAM yet.
Junko, I agree that there are capacity concerns with TSMC and competitive concerns with other ARM partners. If they are willing to consider Samsung, then there will be 3 more 14nm fabs, plus one from Globalfoundries. However, I'm not convinced that this will improve Rockchip's competitive position.
Hi, JimMcGregor, I would agree to what you mentioned here.
However, what I found extremely interesting inMiya Kong's piece is the fact that Chinese fabless chip companies are concerned about the potential capacity constraint in the future, and more importantly, at least Rockchip seems to believe the fact that being one of the many Chinese fabless companies plaing in the ARM eco-system gives them neither advantage nor differentiation.
That anixiety -- reported on the ground in China -- is newsworthy.
Agreed. I don't see how this is a "big deal". Intel's chips aren't that competitive in both performance and price even at 22nm with Trigate. How are these chips going to be competitive on 28nm in mid-2015, without Trigate? And only 3G?
Also, this is a sign of both desperation and defeat from Intel - the fact that they are recognizing they can't use their own brand (Intel) and their manufacturing advantage to crack the mobile market, and that they have to license their architecture away to do that (only as wishful thinking).
It's a sign of desperation, just like it was for Nvidia to license Kepler (which nobody seems to want). It's definitely a "plan B" type of strategy.
And Rockchip will get get 14nm from Intel in the "near future"? Give me a break. Even Intel is delaying 14nm until 2015 for mainstream. Rockhip will be lucky to get it in 2017. ARM chips will be at 10nm FinFET by then.
I do agree that the cortex A12 and Cortex A17 make NO SENSE, and I really don't understand why ARM is pushing them. They should've been pushing an ARMv8 Cortex A55 at the same time with A53 and A57. Instead they are forcing the market for remain on 32-bit for a lot longer than necessary. But this is of no consequence in terms of competition with Intel or Rockchip's x86 chips.
This is definitely a move by Intel to break into the Chinese market, but the products still need to be competitive, which has been the issue with Intel's mobile strategy thus far, especially on Android. Also note that this announcement is only for 3G, while Rockchips'a competitors are coming in with 4G technology and a broad range of ARM-based products.
I would agree that this may be a good opportunity for Rockchip, especially since they will gain Intel support. However, I am still skeptical that it can overcome the momentum and performance of the competition.
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