So in May 2014, Intel partnered up with with Rockchip, a Chinese semiconductor company based in Shenzhen that, like many other chipmakers based in the city, designed and produced 公板 or “public boards”, which are ‘production-ready boards designed for end-consumer electronics as well as industry applications’ (Lindtner). Lindtner places this in the broader context of shanzhai (山寨) production:
“a dense web of manufacturing businesses emerged across the city of Shenzhen, catering towards less well-known or no-name clients with smaller quantities. This less formal manufacturing network (known as shanzhai 山寨in Chinese) is comprised of a horizontal web of component producers, traders, design solution houses, vendors, and assembly lines. At the heart of their mode of production lies an open culture of sharing, in many ways compatible with the values and ethos of the contemporary open source hardware and maker movement.”
As for Intel’s interests, the 公板 model broadly matches that of low-cost SoCs (systems on a chip), which can be integrated into low-cost tablets; but what is of perhaps greater interest to them is access to the ‘local (Chinese) network of device manufacturers and design houses’ (Android Authority). (The Android Authority article comes about a year after the partnership, and about a month after the Intel Developers’ Forum in April 2015, but provides a good overview.)
An early response to the partnership is this article in FT from May 2014, but it doesn’t go far beyond speculating about Chinese IP theft.