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Intel's bag of chips reveals liking for iPhone-like gizmos

Posted: 21 Sep 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:WiMAX network? iPhone? x86 processors? Wi-Fi?

A look at Intel Corp.'s road map reveals its dream of enabling a new class of iPhone-like devices using its x86 processors and the WiMAX network.

At the Intel Developer Forum, the company showed a handful of working handheld data systems using the 45nm Silverthorne processor it will ship early next year. The company also disclosed its plans for a follow on platform called Mooretown.

New solutions
Mooretown includes a 45nm integrated processor. The CPU includes a graphics core, display processing and video encoding logic blocks and a memory controller. A companion chip was described as a communications hub, though Intel did not disclose whether it enabled its preferred Wi-Fi and WiMAX or any other networks.

Intel would not give more details about the product; however, it did suggest that it will be its first chip set capable of powering an iPhone-like slim system that handles voice and data.

The Silverthorne platform, called Menlow, will not include logic for cellular or other wireless links. However, OEMs could chose to add such chips, said Anand Chandrasekher, general manager of Intel's ultra mobility group.

"Our ability to support voice is much better in Mooretown than in Menlow because we can support different power states," he said.

Chandrasekher showed a mock up of an iPhone-like device to indicate the kinds of capabilities the Mooretown chip will enable. The prototype used a wider screen than the iPhone but was otherwise similar in size and features.

"It will take Mooretown to enable a device that is this thin," he said.

In his keynote, Chandrasekher said today's handhelds do not do a good job of delivering useful Internet access.

"The handheld mobile experience today is not great. It's a subset of the desktop Internet. It's not compatible. It's broken up in chunks of 30 million units," he said. "Sixty percent of people with a phone that claims it has Net access aren't using it because it doesn't give them access to sites they want," he added.

He called for better, more compatible software with better user interfaces and responsiveness that provide an always-on capability. Chandrasekher admitted that the Apple iPhone delivers that experience today although most x86 handheld devices do not.

More designs
Intel initially called the kinds of devices it was trying to enable ultramobile PCs (UMPCs). The UMPC initiative came in the wake of Intel's decision to abandon plans for cellphone chips and sell that business to Marvel. However, since the launch of the iPhone Intel modified its terms to say it is trying to enable mobile Internet devices (MIDs), in addition to UMPCs.

Intel now provides CPUs and chipsets to all Apple's computers, but it does not have any design wins in the iPod or iPhone lines yet.

"Apple is a great innovator in its own right. Perhaps, someday our paths will cross again," Chandrasekher said.

In his keynote, Chandrasekher focused on the company's progress getting out the door what will be its first handheld processor made on its leading edge process technology.

"The Menlow platform is on track to ship next year," he said. "This market is in a major transformation. If you thought cellphones were a big deal, this is a huge deal," he added.

Separately, Canonical said it will provide a mobile version of Linux for the Intel handheld platforms. Adobe demonstrated its Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) environment for handhelds running on Silverthorne. AIR lets Web applications run natively outside a browser.

AIR maintains the application on the local device even if the network connection is lost. When the network is restored, AIR synchronizes the local and Web data.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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