Intel today announced the launch of its Atom N435 processor, a new low cost CPU that will allow its partners to reduce the cost of netbooks. The target price point Intel is hoping its partners hit is $199 or less, both for the benefit of emerging markets and to help revive interest in a category that's been somewhat cannibalized by the red hot (and still emerging) tablet market, even though the average slate costs much more.
There’s very little to differentiate one netbook from another these days. Manufacturers are basically just putting different enclosures around the same hardware. That’s largely a result of restrictions placed on netbook specs by Intel and Microsoft. With the upcoming Atom N470 (Pineview), the spec requirements will be lifted a bit, but they’ll still be there.
Currently, netbooks are limited to 1GB of RAM in most instances. When the N470 is released around March 2010 that limit will be raised to 2GB. Manufacturers will also be able to include a 32GB solid state drive if they so choose. Intel boldly pointed out that they could totally put Intel’s Moblin OS on them too… no pressure though.
While it’s nice to see some movement here, is it anywhere near enough? Don’t most users that want more RAM just add it anyway? So, good news, or just plain depressing?
However, the word from the horse’s mouth is that Pine Trail will be shipped to customers before the sun sets on 2009. The U150 will feature a 10-inch touchscreen and run Windows 7. Pine Trail is the codename for the next generation of the Intel Atom.
Citing un-named notebook makers, DigiTimes says Intel will launch its next generation Atom processor, currently codenamed Pineview, in the second half of 2009. The new chip will come in both single- and dual-core flavors, although the dual-core variant will only be used in nettops, DigiTimes says.
The new chip will be built using a 45nm manufacturing process with built-in Northbridge functions, such as an integrated memory controller and graphics. Intel is expected to pair the new chip with its upcoming Tiger Point Southbridge to create a new, lower cost netbook platform currently codenamed Pine Trail-M.
But not only will future netbooks cost less as a result of Pineview, but they might be smaller too. By integrating the Northbridge with the CPU, Pineview requires significantly less motherboard space by up to 60 percent, bringing the total down from 2,174mm squared (Atom N270 + 945GC) to 773mm squared. The new platform will also cut back the amount of PCB layers from six to four, while also reducing maximum TDP from 8W to 7W.
In other words, look for tomorrow's netbooks to be smaller, faster, consume less power, and easier on the wallet.
Intel’s most recent processor roadmap, released earlier this week, reveals their plans for technology extending all the way into the 32-nanometer realm.
The roadmap reveals some new codenames for the world to gawk at, including Medfield, which is slated for 2010, and it’s predecessor, Pineview, which should be on its way for a 2009 release. The two processors are still based on 45-nanometer technology, much like today’s Atom processor.
Pineview might be housing Intel’s own graphics processing technology, right on the chip.
The Medfield chip would be part of a new generation that includes the processor, memory controller, multimedia functions and I/O into a single chip. It’s also reported that battery life of netbooks that include the chips will have their battery lives drastically increased.