Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Intel PlanningThinnest Netbook, Dual-Core Netbook Atom

At the Computex show in Taiwan, Intel disclosed that it was in production of a dual-core Atom chip for netbooks. Intel also revealed "Canoe Lake," a reference design for a 14-mm thick netbook, the world's thinnest.

Intel's Computex announcements are also expected to include Asus, with whom Intel will launch a pre-installed version of its AppUp app store, first running on Windows and later on the MeeGo operating system.

"Acer will be ready with MeeGo-based mobile devices," said Gianfranco Lanci, Acer's chief executive, in a statement. "MeeGo's open software platform will present our customers with another choice of a friendly, easy-to-use operating system. We are pleased to collaborate with Intel in our continuous drive to provide effortless technologies that empower people at work, home - anytime, anywhere."

But thus year's Computex will be about Atom, Intel's embedded processor.

Intel launched and began shipping four Atom microprocessors at Computex: the N455 and N475 for netbooks, and the D425 and D525 for so-called "net-top" desktop PCs.

While all four of the cores support DDR-3 memory, just one of the new chips is a dual-core offering: the D525, a 1.8-GHz chip. Unfortunately, however, Intel did not disclose the model number or clock speed of the new dual-core netbook Atom, part of the "Pine Trail" family; both the N455 and N475 are single-core chips. The chip, rumored to be called the N550, is in production, however, executives said, with products slated to ship by the 2010 holiday season. (An Intel spokeswoman said that the N550 was a "rumored number".)

A new platform for tablets and netbooks, known as "Oak Trail," will also be launched in early 2011, building upon the "Moorestown" platform for PCs with support for Windows 7, MeeGo, and Google operating systems (including Chrome OS and Android) with a 40 percent lower thermal design power.

The "Canoe Lake," "Oak Trail," and new Atom chip launches are part of Intel's "Atom Everywhere" strategy, according to Anil Naudauri, the markting director for netbooks and tablets for the PC client group. In May, Intel announced the "Lincroft" or Atom Z6 platform for smartphones. A month earlier, Intel said its "Tunnel Creek" platform would allow third-party IP designers to bolt on third-party cores with their own custom silicon. And then, of course, there is Google TV, the Atom-powered fusion of the TV and the Web that will be powered by Atom silicon.

The addition of a dual-core Atom for netbooks will be significant, since the company's dual-core efforts have so far been confined to the net-top space. Both the D525 and D425 run at 1.8-GHz; in addition to the extra core, however, the D525 also runs at 8.5 watts of TDP, versus 6.5 watts for the D425. The N455 runs at 1.66-GHz and consumes 6.5 watts; oddly, that's the same rated power consumption as the N475, which runs at 1.83-GHz.

Intel's Oak Trail, platform, builds on the Moorestwon platform Intel has previously designed for the smartphone market, pairing the Atom Z6 chip with the Whitney Point platform with the integrated Langwell platform controller hub. Although there's the expected array of legacy I/O (plus SATA, HD audio, and HDMI) the real push will be enabling a "port of choice," allowing OEMs to choose whichever operating system best suits them, Nanduri said.

In addition to the 40 percent reduction in thermal design power, Oak Trail will be 40 percent smaller and 35 percent thinner, Nanduri said.

Intel devoted very little detail to Canoe Lake, its prototype for a 14-mm netbook, which will apparently be licensed to OEMs. The prototype form factor will incorporate the Pine Trail dual-core Atom, and will be used as the Atom answer to other thin notebooks and laptops, such as the MacBook Air and Dell Adamo XPS.

Nanduri said that there's still quite a bit of interest in ultrathin mobile computing devices, including netbooks. "Clearly there's a market for it," he said. "We were motivated to cater to the market's needs. We've been talking to partners about the technology, and we expect to see very positive momentum for using this."

Both David (Dadi) Perlmutter, executive vice president and co-general manager, Intel Architecture Group, and Renee James, senior vice president of the Software and Services Group, are expected to make speeches tonight at the Computex show, introducing the new products and partnerships.

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