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Smart Phones with Intel Chips Debut at CES

Lenovo and Motorola will sell smart phones powered by a new, improved Intel chip later this year.

At the end of last year, Intel showed Technology Review prototypes of chips that it said would help it enter the rapidly growing market for phones and tablets. Today, at CES, Motorola and Lenovo announced that they would start selling smart phones with Intel chips inside this year.

New entrant: This prototype phone, developed by Intel, showcases a chip that will appear in phones made by Lenovo and Motorola.

The news came during a keynote speech by Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini, who emphasized Intel’s commitment to advancing what mobile computers can do for their users. This was also the theme of an Intel event held yesterday, which focused on adding touch, voice, and gesture recognition to lightweight laptops.

Liu Jun, president of mobile Internet gadgets at Chinese PC maker Lenovo, joined Otellini to show a new Android smart phone—the K800—with an Intel chip inside. It will become available in the second quarter of the year, initially only in China.

Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola Mobility (now a part of Google), also appeared, and announced that Motorola will start selling Android smart phones with Intel chips in the second half of 2012.

Both of the phones use a new addition to Intel’s Atom lineup of mobile chips. The new chip was previously known as Medfield and now has the less snappy moniker “Z2460 platform.”

Android was designed originally for chips based on U.K. company ARM’s designs, which currently dominate the market for phones and tablets. However, Intel and Google signed an agreement last year that will see all future versions of the software support Intel chips. 

Future devices with Intel chips will also run Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system, said Otellini. Successfully entering the market for phone and tablet chips is seen as crucial to Intel’s future, because mobile computing devices are growing rapidly, and may lead to a slowdown or even contraction in sales of desktop and laptop computers, where Intel is currently dominant.

Intel demonstrated a phone of its own in the form of the “reference design” that Technology Review saw at the end of last year. The fully functional device is a kind of crib sheet to help gadget makers build devices around Intel’s chips. The phone has a slim design, a 4.03-inch touch screen, and front and back cameras. The back camera has a burst mode able to capture 15 pictures in less than a second at its full eight-megapixel quality.

Otellini hinted that future tablets will come with Intel chips, saying that his company will “raise the bar” in terms of what tablets can offer by making smart use of the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, due in late 2012. That will also make tablets less isolated from desktop computing, said Otellini, because existing desktop apps will become tablet-ready.

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