Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Secretive Intel quietly woos makers in China

Agam Shah | April 15, 2016
In addition to PCs and mobile devices, Intel is now trying to get hardware companies in China to develop drones, robots and IoT devices

Intel's logo at Computex.
The Intel logo, displayed on the company's booth at Computex 2015 in Taipei.
 Credit: Martyn Williams

Intel is in transition right now: An executive shakeup this month laid the path for new boss Venkata Renduchintala to put his imprint on the company's PC, Internet of Things and software operations.

So no wonder the vibe at this week's Intel Developer Forum in Shenzhen was mellow. Intel kept the show a low-key affair, choosing not to bring it to the attention of a worldwide audience, unlike previous years.

But IDF Shenzhen remains an important event on Intel's calendar. China is a huge  market, and it's also a place where the chip maker encourages small hardware shops in the alleys of Shenzhen to experiment with PC, mobile and now, IoT ideas.

There's also perhaps a strategic reason Intel didn't make much noise about IDF Shenzhen. The company this year has been generally quieter than usual, with fewer news announcements. There are also many questions brewing around products such as its Atom chip, which is struggling in smartphones and hasn't been updated for servers since 2013.

Intel instead is trying to bring some coolness to its brand by presenting its technologies at events like Fashion Week, the Grammy Awards, the Superbowl and the X-Games, where it showed off its server, wearable, and IoT technologies.

The chip maker even has its own reality TV show called America's Greatest Makers to reach out to the community of enthusiasts and do-it-yourselfers. Enthusiasts have not warmed up to Intel, relying instead on underdogs like ARM on top-selling developer boards like Raspberry Pi 3 and BeagleBone.

But small Chinese hardware companies have benefited from Intel's efforts to fund PC and mobile device development and are loyal to the chip maker. Intel in 2014 said it would sell 40 million tablet chips through subsidies worldwide, which helped Chinese makers in particular develop innovative devices and bring tablet prices down. Intel's move at the time was an attempt to catch up with ARM, which ruled the then-hot tablet market.

Intel sold 46 million tablet chips that year but took billions of dollars in losses in its mobile division. The outcome was considered a blunder for CEO Brian Krzanich, who has since opted not to make public declarations about aggressive sales goals.

However, judging from recent announcements, Intel believes it has a good chance with Chinese companies in the IoT area. Chinese hardware companies are usually quick to hop on to the latest trends, and Intel wants its loyal Shenzhen base to consider developing robots, drones, sensor devices, and other home and industrial automation products.

Intel at the show announced a "Makers Go Big" initiative, which "aims to foster the next generation of Chinese inventors and entrepreneurs," the company said. Intel will continue to invest in the Intel Mass Makerspace Accelerator Program, announced at last year's IDF in China to fund and support makers in China.


1  2  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.