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Report: Lenovo to design own chips

Posted: 01 Apr 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:chip design  smartphones  tablets  K900  Atom 

China’s second largest smartphone seller Lenovo will reportedly foray into the chip design segment. The company is expected to design own chips for smartphones and tablets.

“Lenovo is looking to expand its IC design team from 10 to 100 by the mid of this year,” EE Times quoted an industry source with direct knowledge of Lenovo’s recruitment of chip designers. The PC maker will be hiring 40 engineers in Shenzhen and 60 in Beijing.

This initiative appears to be driven by the company’s desire to control its own destiny in smartphones and tablets--a la HiSilicon at Huawei. (HiSilicon is a chip division of Huawei.)

Unlike Samsung or Apple, Lenovo has a checkered history of adopting different apps processors from a variety of suppliers for its smartphones. The company adopted MediaTek’s MT6573 in the Lenovo A60 smartphone in 2011, while it became the first company--outside Samsung --in 2012 to design in Samsung Electronics’ quad-core apps processor Exynos 4 in its LePhone K860.

Lenovo, however, announced earlier this year a 5.5-inch smartphone, dubbed K900, by integrating Intel’s first dual-core Atom chip for phones. The Atom Z2580 is said to have roughly doubled the CPU performance of Intel’s single-core Medfield processor used in Lenovo’s K800 phone, which was introduced a year ago.

While Lenovo might have been enjoying its freedom in choosing the best apps processor available on the market, reality bit hard, sources said, when Samsung Electronics refused to supply its newest version of the Exynos apps processor to the Chinese company.

Indeed, on the growing Chinese smartphone market last year, Lenovo became Samsung’s biggest rival--with Samsung holding a 17.7 per cent share, with Lenovo at 13.2 per cent and Apple at 11 per cent.

Meanwhile, Lenovo has been beefing up its senior management team to prepare itself to become a leading consumer electronics vendor.

The world's second-largest supplier of personal computers last month (February) named Jerry Yang, the co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo, as a "board observer.” Further, Lenovo added Tudor Brown, one of the founders of ARM, as a non-executive director to Lenovo's roster of seasoned veterans.

It’s far from clear if an internal group of mere 100 IC engineers can make a dent in the already crowded apps processor market. And yet, as Shao Yang, CMO of Huawei Device, recently said in an interview with EE Times, having a chip division of its own could help [the handset company] “negotiate better with other semiconductor companies.”

- Junko Yoshida
  EE Times





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