Intel CEO Paul Otellini made a surprise announcement during his Tuesday night CES keynote by declaring the chip maker had formed a "multi-year, multi-device" strategic partnership with Motorola Mobility around smartphones and tablets.
The partnership will combine Intel's newest Atom Z2460 processor, dubbed Medfield, with Motorola's Android-based devices. The news comes as somewhat of a shock; Intel is clearly throwing its support behind Google's Android platform (Google agreed to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in August), which puts longtime partner Microsoft and its Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 operating systems in the backseat of Intel's new mobile strategy.
Otellini was joined on stage during the keynote with Sanjay Jha, chairman and CEO of Motorola Mobility, who said Intel chips will provide a great platform for mobile innovation. The two companies will collaborate on hardware, software and services of Atom-based Motorola devices. Jha said that the new Intel-based phones should be ready this summer.
Surprisingly, the first actual Intel smartphone won't be a Motorola device; that honor will go to Lenovo. Liu Jun, senior vice president and president of Lenovo's Mobile Internet and Digital Home (MIDH) division, joined Otellini on stage to show off the new Lenovo K800 Android smartphone, which runs on the Atom Z2460 processor. Jun said the K800 will be available in China only starting in the second quarter.
Otellini also showed off an Intel smartphone reference design running the Atom Z2460 chip. The prototype featured a 4.03-inch high-resolution LCD touchscreen, two cameras (including an 8-MP camera), and full 1080p HD video playback, as well as eight hours of talk time on a 3G network and embedded McAfee security features.
Smaller mobile devices were once a blind spot for Intel, but the company is clearly putting a strong emphasis on smartphones and tablets this year. Otellini talked about the transition from "personal computers" to "personal computing," and said that only about 10 percent of a smartphone's function is devoted to calls; he added that today's smartphones have more computing power than all of NASA on the first moon landing mission.
"The best of Intel computing is coming to smartphones," Otellini said. "Our efforts with Lenovo and Motorola Mobility will help to establish Intel processors in smartphones and provide a solid foundation from which to build in 2012 and into the future."