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Intel & Nvidia eyeing up Chinese chip manufacturers to help penetrate mobile?

Intel, Nvidia, and Broadcom are reportedly looking at China-based makers of chips for smartphones and other mobile devices with an eye towards making acquisitions.

Companies like Spreadtrum Communications, RDA Microelectronics, Leadcore Technology, and Innofidei are among the semiconductor design firms that could be snapped up, DigiTimes reported Tuesday.

Meanwhile, those mainland China-based companies may also be considering merging with each other in different combinations to better compete with Qualcomm and MediaTek, the Taiwan-based tech journal reported, citing unnamed industry sources.

Qualcomm and MediaTek, which both have quad-core chips for smartphones and feature phones that support an array of wireless technologies, are "becoming increasingly competitive" in the Chinese mobile device market as local chip makers with less tech at their disposal struggle to keep up, according to DigiTimes.

MediaTek, a Taiwan-based company known for its feature phone chips has been pushing out more powerful smartphone solutions this year. The chip maker's products support EDGE, WCDMA, and TD-SCDMA, while US-based Qualcomm has CDMA 2000, WCDMA, TD-SCDMA, and LTE at its disposal for its mobile chipsets.

Chinese mobile chipset makers generally specialise in a wireless technology like TD-SCDMA or Wi-Fi and Bluetooth but not both, incentivising a local merger or a sale to a big foreign company like Intel, according to sources.

The baseband solutions built by Chinese companies like Spreadtrum Communications and RDA Microelectronics could be attractive to a pair of big US chip makers that have come somewhat late to the mobile device party.

Nvidia has had a lot of success with its Tegra line of products for tablets but hasn't done nearly as well in the smartphone market, probably because it's still playing catch-up with the likes of Qualcomm on baseband technologies. Intel, though it remains the runaway leader in PC chips, has struggled to penetrate the mobile device market in any capacity, though the company is banking heavily on the introduction of Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system later this month, as well as the evolution of hybrid tablets to change that pattern.