In the development of mobile device chip, Intel Corp. is focusing on the tablet computer market. It also initiated the China Technique Ecosystem (CTE) to work with Chinese companies. In fact, it was its cooperation with Chinese makers of “white-box” — China-made, grey-market — products that reminded people of Taiwanese chip designer MediaTek Inc. MediaTek built its name by supplying chips to low-end and mid-range smartphones, and has been associated with Chinese knockoff phones. As MediaTek seeks to shake off connections with knockoff products, Intel’s high-profile cooperation with Chinese white-box brands makes one wonder if the American chip maker is reacting desperately.
Intel offers tablet vendors Bay Trail CPUs with decent performance and competitive price, making it difficult for big brand tablets with ARM-processors to compete. Intel looks to Chinese white-box vendors and provides them with packages that include processors, supply chain management, sales distribution and subsidies on prices; in return, Intel obtains the opportunity to advance into the Chinese tablet market.
According to Intel’s statistics, nearly 30 Chinese white-box tablet brands have been working with Intel under this program, including Ramos, Hampoo, Teclast Electronics and DPT Group. The average output volume for those companies in the first half of 2014 was 1 million units, mostly priced at under US$100 apiece. In this price range, Chinese white-box vendors are dominating the tablet market. Intel participated in Computex 2014 with Yifang Digital and Beijing Blue Coast Line, seemingly symbolizing that they were in the same boat. In Intel’s cooperation with companies under the CTE program, Intel’s involvement is up to 95 percent, from product design to sales process; MediaTek might be the only rival in the industry when it comes to a full-scale involvement. In other words, in addition to product design, Intel will also choose components, improve production line and set a target output volume for the cooperators. After the products hit the market, Intel also offers its existing sales distribution. To put in simply, it is as if Intel wishes it could just skip the vendors and deliver the X86 tablets directly to the consumers.
Intel’s overly control shows its eagerness for the tablet market. Some experienced white-box brands apparently are not happy with Intel’s control and that a comprehensive product package provided by Intel may actually make them lose the competitive edge. Brands with certain level of technology experience are able to create products of the same level of quality with Intel’s assistance. With regards to Intel’s tablet chips, X86 is more complicated in structure than ARM and price has always been what’s making it difficult for X86 to tap into the mobile device market. While Intel’s mobile division continues to incur loss, it makes the public wonder how much longer Intel’s mobile division can last as the U.S. chip maker provides white-box brands with subsidies.
Intel’s cooperation with white-box brands is mainly to build a bridge between PC and mobile phone market. The target output volume for X86 tablets in 2014 is 40 million units. Intel stops improving the performance of its chips and production technology round the clock. However, Intel is a technology-oriented tech company after all; technology will be the reason behind both its failure and success.