Rockchip Electronics, a Chinese semiconductor company virtually unknown in the U.S., plans to make a big splash at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas with dozens of prototype tablets running the latest, Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich mobile operating system.
In a preview to its maiden appearance at CES, Rockchip Electronics has released a few details about what it has planned and it’s big. The China-based company says it’s Asia’s leading developers of fabless semiconductors with an emphasis on Mobile Internet Platforms.
Chen Feng, Vice President of Rockchip, said his company will showcase dozens of tablets that utilize Rockchip’s technology. “We think we will have between 30 and 40 tablets at Vegas,” Feng said in a release. “We’ve adding new products every day, so even now, as we prepare to leave for CES, we’re not sure what that final number will be!”
CES will serve as the launch of the Rockchip’s new RK2918 chip specifically designed for the new Ice Cream Sandwich release of Android which leading tablet vendors say they plan to incorporate in new models or offer as an update to current tablets this quarter.
“The global environment is right for our Android 4.0 product, and as a company, we are in precisely the right position to play a major role in satisfying a healthy portion of that demand,” said Feng.
But Rockchip isn’t merely providing another ARM-based chip alternative for tablet makers. A company official told the IDG News Service that it’s technology will help drive Android 4.0 tablet pricing down to around $100.
Tablets with Android 4.0 based on Rockchip will come to the U.S., Europe and Japan later in this current quarter, Yan Yan Xing, a Rockchip spokeswoman, told IDG. A 7-inch tablet with the new Rockchip chip may be priced at $95 to $125, while a 10-inch tablet could be $150 to $200. The prices are variable though, she said.
Any tablet priced sub-$150 from a reputable maker could have a big impact on the market given the shockwaves Amazon’s release of its $199, 7-inch Kindle Fire have caused. Earlier this week Acer introduced its dual-core Iconia Tab A200 starting at $329.99, which is considered very price competitive for a full-featured, 10-inch Android tablet.
At this time it’s not clear which vendors will adopt Rockchip’s technology -- a big part of the reason for being at CES is to woo them. But the company boasts it already has 80% market share in China with its products appearing in dozens of name brand products including Samsung, Philips, Sony, Toshiba and Archos.
Much like U.S.-based Rambus, Rockchip is a fabless semiconductor company meaning it outsources or licenses its chip designs to others.