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New Atom chips to overcome Intel's mobile dilemma

Posted: 14 Apr 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Atom Oak Trail? Atom Cedar Trail? Medfield chip?

Intel Corp. has started shipping the Oak Trail version of its Atom processor designed for use in netbooks and tablets. According to the chip giant, it will also develop and ship before the end of this year a subsequent version called Cedar Trail, a 32nm dual-core Atom processor that combines all system I/O.

Doug Davis, general manager of Intel's new netbook and tablet group, delivered the news in a keynote at the Intel Developer Forum held April 12-13 in Beijing. The speech marked Davis' first high-profile appearance as head of the group formed late last year as part of Intel's vow to get into the tablet market.

The news comes at a time when Intel is at a difficult impasse in mobile. Some engineers say its coming Medfield chip, a 32nm integrated Atom aimed at smartphones, consumes too much power for handsets. Intel recently lost Nokia as a partner co-developing the MeeGo mobile Linux software for Medfield when the handset maker decided to focus on the Windows Mobile platform.

In the wake of the smartphone problems, Anand Chandraseker stepped down as general manager of Intel's ultramobility group driving its cellular strategy.

Separately, Intel has not been able to get design wins for Atom in any top-tier tablets from Apple, Motorola, Research in Motion or Samsung. The x86 giant has dominated the market for netbooks, but market watchers say netbooks have hit a plateau and are being surpassed in volume sales by tablets.

The net result is Intel is without a strong position in any of the rapidly growing mobile markets. Davis, widely hailed for his work as general manager of Intel's embedded group, was expected to put the best face possible on Intel's netbook and tablet situation at IDF Beijing.

The 45nm Intel Atom Z670, a.k.a. Oak Trail, is a two-chipset that consumes up to 4W and costs about $75. It includes a 1.5GHz dual-threaded single Atom processor with video, graphics memory and display controller blocks in a 386mm2 die. A separate chip supports HDMI 1.3a, serial ATA and other system I/O.

Intel showed at IDF as many as 20 netbooks and tablets using the chipset, some of them ODM reference designs. As many as 35 Atom-based netbooks and tablets will be available in 2011, starting in May, Intel said.

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