Intel has signed up Motorola and Lenovo to use its chips in smartphones this year -- a surprise that is the most consequential announcement of the Consumer Electronics Show so far from a stock perspective.
There's also more to this than meets the eye.
Yes, Intel CEO Paul Otellini had promised that Intel's Atom chips would make their debut in phones in the first half of 2012, but the chip giant had made similar vows in previous years and failed to deliver. Most recently, Intel's pact with Nokia fell through, mainly because Nokia abandoned the Intel-tuned Meego OS in favor of Microsoft's Windows phone .
With this latest announcement, Intel has not only signed up two partners, but two who are known for their hardware chops. Lenovo, while a novice in smartphones, has a thriving PC business and a valuable brand in China. Motorola is in the process of being acquired by Google .
How positive is this for Intel?
That depends. If the companies -- particularly Motorola, with its Q3 launch -- can build a premium phone for the U.S. market around Intel's chip, it could be the beginning of a crucial growth opportunity.
But there are considerable hurdles.
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