Intel’s new found commitment to Ultrabooks might lead you to believe they are giving up on the Atom market, but the company used its forum at Computex to reassure the media that the platform is not just alive and well, but evolving quickly. According to Intel’s Executive Vice President Sean Maloney, Atom will continue to be an important processor platform for future Netbooks, tablets, and even Smartphones.
The world's biggest chips maker has thus far been absent from what is predicted to be one of the biggest moneymakers in silicon: mobile. Intel has been working to develope an Atom-based CPU that could work in mobile phones. The so-called Moorestown chips were shown off in May, but you're going to be waiting a bit longer still to get your hands on a phone rocking an Intel chip. The first Moorestown CPUs should be arriving in phones starting in 2011. They have also hinted a Moorestown tablet could show up by year's end.
Intel has been trying to figure out the mobile market for a number of years with little success. In 2006 they seemed to write off the idea completely when they sold their XScale mobile CPU division to Marvell. Intel then went on to push standard Atom CPUs in mobile devices. Power concerns kept this from taking off.
ARM-based CPUs currently rule mobile because of their high performance to power use ratios. Intel may have expertise in developing great desktop and laptop silicon, but can they overcome ARM's foothold?
Atom chip sales might be down, but defintely not out. With the release of Moorestown, Intel will try to reinvigorate its low power processor platform, making a hard push for high-end smartphones and the emerging tablet market.
"Intel has delivered its first product that is opening the door for Intel Architecture [IA] in the smartphone market segment," said Anand Chandrasekher, Intel senior vice president and general manager of the Ultra Mobility Group. "Through "Moorestown," Intel is scaling the benefits of IA while significantly reducing the power, cost and footprint to better address handheld market segments. As a result of our efforts, the Intel Atom processor is pushing the boundaries of higher performance at significantly lower power to show what's possible as handheld devices become small, powerful mobile computers."
Kicking off the new platform is the Intel Atom processor Z6xx series, previously codenamed "Lincroft." Built around a high-K 45nm manufacturing process, these chips boast 512K of L2 cache, 3D graphics (Intel GMA 600), video encode/decode capabilities, and memory and display controllers built into an integrated system-on-chip (SoC).
The other part of the platform is the new Intel PCH MP20 chipset, previously known as "Langwell." Langwell integrates a range of I/O blocks such as a NAND controller, low-power audio engine, high-resolution camera, USB OTG, and a handful of other goodies. It's also accompanied by a dedicated Mixed Signal IC (MSIC) called "Briertown," which serves up support for popular software platforms like Android, Moblin v2.1, and MeeGo, Intel says.
Ready for the best part? Intel says the new platform supports a range of scalable frequencies, up to 1.5GHz for high-end smartphones (compared to today's mobile darling, the 1GHz Snapdragon chip) and up to 1.9GHz for tablets and other handheld devices.
Most netbooks and other ultra-mobile PCs currently run on Intel’s Atom x86 chips, but according to Analytics firm ABI, they shouldn’t get too used to being on top. In a new report, ABI is claiming that ARM-based chips will overtake Intel by 2013. ARM has been pushing for the opportunity to power non-smartphone devices for some time now. In October they introduced the Cortex A5 MP architecture, which they claim can efficiently power a netbook style device.
Intel is not currently sweating bullets, but they may be gearing up for a fight. Intel has established an Atom developer program to push the platform further. The chip maker has also unveiled plans to sell a version of the Atom intended for smartphones called the Moorestown. This is a direct challenge to ARM on their home turf.
The dominance of ARM is far from a sure thing, though. Rival analytics firm IDC has stated that ARM-based netbooks are unlikely to capture more than 10-20% of the market. They cited manufacturers’ tight relationships with Intel. Also, Windows does not currently support ARM chips. Since Windows is the dominant platform even on netbooks, the future for ARM netbooks is still hazy. If Linux netbooks took off, as Robert Castellano of The Information Network predicted last year, ARM would definitely have an in. Linux just needs to have its year. Hey, it could happen.
According to some recent rumors that have surfaced over at DigiTimes, Intel will be using some intellectual property from their new foundry partner, TSMC, in order to help fill out its upcoming ultramobile chipset.
The intellectual property, currently codenamed Langwell, will work as the southbridge for Intel’s Atom successor, which is only known by the codename Moorestown. The diagram above displays how an Atom-based CPU core, a GPU core, a memory controller, and two video processing blocks can be worked around the Moorestown platform.
No word yet if this rumor is true, but the evidence looks pretty solid.
How do you celebrate the 1-year anniversary of what's become one of the hottest selling chip series in recent history? Make it faster, and then show it off during a keynote at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Beijing..
It was Intel senior VP and GM of the Ultra Mobility Group Anand Chandrasekher who gave the keynote, which included the first live demo of Intel's next-generation Atom-based MID platform, codenamed "Moorestown." The upcoming platform is due out in 2010 and consists of a system-on-chip that integrates a 45nm Atom CPU, graphics, video and memory controller, and I/O hub.
During the keynote, Intel also announced a pair of new Atom processors for MIDs. First on the lineup is the Z515, which incorporates the new Intel Burst Performance Technology (BPT) and runs at 1.2GHz. But of more interest in the Z550. This chip races along at 2GHz and supports Hyperthreading, and it does so at under 3 watts of power.