Intel reveals more partners for its Atom chip

As expected, Intel announced additional partners for its recently unveiled Atom chip at the Mobile World Congress trade show held this week in Barcelona. Expected, because once the company made the multiyear agreements with Lenovo and Motorola Mobility public during the Consumer Electronics Show, it was widely anticipated more announcements would be coming.

The expected news came during an Intel news conference at the trade show in Spain on Monday. More unexpected were the names: ZTE Corporation, LAVA International, Orange S.A., Visa. Wait, Visa? The unexpected is where news gets interesting.

Orange is a subsidiary of France Telecom and one of Europe’s top mobile companies. The company will release a smartphone based on Intel’s Atom chip in late summer. It will be available in France and the UK.

ZTE Corporation is one of China’s biggest telecommunications equipment makers, and China is one of the biggest telecommunications markets in the world. ZTE plans to collaborate with Intel on a number of smartphones and tablets over a number of years. It plans to launch its first mobile device using the Intel chip in the second half of 2012. The company made quite a splash at the Mobile World Congress, showing off no fewer than 15 new Android and Windows Phone devices. ZTE offers phones that use chips from QUALCOMM and NVIDIA, two handset heavyweights, among others.

One of the biggest unknowns is LAVA International, a fast-growing handset maker in one of the fastest-growing markets in the world — India. The company plans to launch India’s first smartphone, based on the Intel Atom chip, during the second quarter of 2012. India has the world’s second-largest mobile phone subscriber base and will have first crack at a phone powered by an Intel chip.

The alliance with Visa is interesting, since it does not involve using Intel’s chips in a smartphone. Instead, Visa plans to work with Intel to develop mobile commerce applications for consumers in both developed and developing countries. Visa has approved Intel’s smartphone reference design for its Visa payWave system. payWave lets smartphone users simply wave their phone in front of a secure reader to complete purchase transactions. Having its reference design certified for payWave means that products that use Intel’s smartphone reference design will be able to use Visa mobile services.

Intel also announced the release of several versions of its Atom chip, across several price ranges. The company is obviously eyeing emerging markets where inroads can be made, without following in the tracks of the competition.

Lesley Epperson

Lesley Epperson covers the semiconductor and electronic component industries for Hoover's. After all those chips, she often needs to engage in a less esoteric pursuit: hunting down the perfect margarita.

Read more articles by Lesley Epperson.

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