US chip titan Intel on Tuesday announced it will move into the booming smartphone market with a China debut of a handset made by Chinese computer powerhouse Lenovo.
"The best of Intel computing is now coming to smartphones," California-based Intel's chief executive Paul Otellini said during a presentation on Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
"It is coming first to China, the largest market for smartphones in the world."
Lenovo senior vice president Liu Jun joined Otellini on stage to introduce the K800 smartphone, powered by an Intel processor and Google's Android software.
The smartphone features a rich 4.5-inch multi-touch screen and can stream video wirelessly to Lenovo televisions.
The smartphones will run on the China Unicom network when they are released in the second quarter of the year.
The smartphone's price has yet to be finalized, but could fall in the $600 to $700 range, according to Lenovo.
Intel has created a "reference device" to show off the prowess of its smartphone chip technology to other hardware makers.
Motorola Mobility, which is being bought by Google in a $12.5-billion deal, has also allied with Intel to make an array of mobile devices based on Intel chips in the coming years.
Motorola's first Intel-based smartphone should in the hands of telecom carriers for validation by midyear, with handsets released to the market soon thereafter, according to company chief Sanjay Jha.
"We are delighted to be partnering with Intel to deliver smartphones and tablets based on Intel's Atom processor to consumers and businesses," Jha said.
"Though there are five billion mobile subscribers in the world, less than 800 million are using a smartphone today," he said.
"With Android as the leading smartphone operating system globally and advancements in computing technology, we see tremendous opportunity."
Intel has been under pressure to field small, powerful chips for mobile devices as consumer lifestyles and preferences shift from desktop or laptop computers to smartphones and tablets.
Demand for personal computers has shown little momentum during the past year while it has exploded for smartphones, particularly in emerging markets.
Intel built its fortune on powerful chips for personal and business computers, while companies like Qualcomm and NVidia have staked out territory in a mobile gadget processor market ruled by Britain-based ARM Holdings.
Apple licensed ARM technology to make chips for the California company's coveted mobile gadgets.
To make matters worse for Intel, ARM chips have been making inroads with makers of personal and business computers.
"You had a situation where ARM was starting to encroach on Intel territory and Intel couldn't push back," said independent Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle.
"It is critical that Intel establish itself as a viable competitor everywhere ARM is," he added. "It appeared we were moving to the post-PC era and Intel needed to show that we are not."
The arrival of a post-personal computer era was declared by Apple's late co-founder and chief Steve Jobs as iPads and iPhones changed lifestyles around the world.
The alliances with Lenovo and Motorola Mobility should help Intel avoid perceptions that the company is becoming irrelevant and buy it time to adapt to the changing market, according to Enderle.
"Right now, at least creating the perception they are still in the game is real important to Intel," he said. "But at the end of the day, people have to want and buy these phones."
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