Chinese powerhouse Lenovo, in addition to becoming the world’s second-largest PC supplier, has risen through the ranks to become China’s number two smartphone provider. It’s this latter fact that is leading the company to look into designng its own chips, in order to better compete in the cutthroat mobile world.
Lenovo has reportedly been looking at developing its own circuit designs for the last decade or so, maintaining a small but nimble research team. That team is expected to grow by an order of magnitude by mid-2013 with teams based in both Shenzhen and Beijing. It wouldn’t be the first company in China to make this move, as up-and-coming Huawei has starting producing in-house designed chipsets for use in the company’s smartphones and tablets.
As it stands, Lenovo doesn’t seem to favor any one particular chip supplier over another – in the past several years, we’ve seen the company use chips from MediaTek, Samsung, and, earlier this year, take advantage of Intel’s newest Atom-based smartphone chips.
Last year saw Samsung take top honors in the increasingly important Chinese smartphone market, with nearly 18% marketshare. Lenovo came in #2 at 13.2%, Apple in third at 11%, Huawei in fourth at 9.9%, and Coolpad in fifth at 9.7%.
Not only would Lenovo-created chips allow the company to increase its margins – and software optimizations – over current levels, but it’s possible that the company could leverage its chip technologies in the growing ultrathin notebook and small desktop markets. It would, for example, be a perfect use for Google’s nascent Chrome OS.
Even with the ramped up design team, it’ll be some time yet before we see Lenovo’s efforts bear fruit. Assuming the company does decide to go forward with employing its own chip, it’s unlikely to show much before late 2014, early 2015 at the earliest.