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Intel Offers Peek At Atom-Based Cedar Trail Processors

Zewde Yeraswork

Intel says its Atom-based Cedar Trail processors will run inside mobile and desktop hardware beginning in the second half of 2011. This week at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, the company is talking about new features it's building into the platform.

Cedar Trail, the next version of the Atom platform, is built on 32-nm technology and designed to run inside netbooks, entry-level desktops and all-in-one PCs. New features include support for Blu-ray 2.0, HDMI and DisplayPort as well as a dedicated full 1080p video playback engine.

In a Monday interview, Mark Miller, director of outbound marketing for Intel’s Netbook and Tablet Group, said the goal is to make netbooks capable of handling a wider range of computing tasks. "We’re really taking the traditional netbook and increasing it with a number of new features for media use as well as performance," he said. "We’re finding that gaming is becoming increasingly popular so we’ve added graphics capabilities, 1080p and so forth. It adds up to a pretty exciting reinvigoration of the netbook category.’

Intel last week launched its Atom Z670 Oak Trail Processors, which are built on 45-nm technology, and Miller said the company plans to continue accelerating the Atom line.

’We’re saying we’re bringing the process technology from 45 nm to 32 nm, and next to 22 nm by 2013, which is essentially faster than Moore’s Law,’ Miller said. ’That allows us to do pretty exciting things on the chip, including improved performance, battery life, and, frankly, cost structures.’

Miller said Intel plans to migrate its product portfolio to low-power devices, offering single-core and dual-core versions of Atom, while differentiating its platform and maintaining performance levels.

’In the world of netbooks and tablets, battery life is king,’ Miller said. ’It feels like the PC market all over again in some ways. As we migrate down, we’ll hit leadership levels in battery life as well as performance and adding features. This is the strength of Intel over the last thirty or forty years of its existence.’

Next: Channel Interest In New Atom Platforms


Intel is seeing a lot of interest in both Oak Trail and Cedar Trail, particularly from channel partners. "We have three technology generations in the next three years. That gets the resellers in the channel very interested in the future of the Atom line for their uses," he said.

Intel was late to the tablet market and is trailing ARM in the segment, but Miller said Intel has time to catch up. ’Obviously, it’s a milestone for Intel to be in the tablet segment a this point,’ he said. ’We’re in the first standing of the tablet game. Current market share numbers favor our competitors, but we’re pretty confident in the end game. It’s still early and this is a pretty big day for us.’

However, Google’s Android 3.0 operating system currently runs only ARM, and while Intel and Google have collaborated on Android-based TV sets and set-top boxes running on Atom processors as well as Google’sChrome-based Cr-48 laptops, the timetable for Android-based tablets running Atom remains unclear.

Intel’s Oak Trail processors support Google’s Android OS -- which has been adopted by many tablet makers– as well as Windows 7 and the MeeGo platform Intel developed with Nokia.

Nokia is now working with Microsoft to develop handsets running Windows Phone 7, and the handset maker's commitment to MeeGo is unclear. However, Miller said Intel is proceeding with its plan get MeeGo tablets running Intel processors on the market.

’We expect customers to run anything from Windows, to different flavors of Android, as well as MeeGo this year,’ Miller said. ’We’ll have products on the shelves that support all three operating systems. There’s also a lot of innovating things happening with multiple operating systems within a single device, including hybrid type devices that operate as a tablet and will switch operating systems behind the scenes to a more optimized usage model. There’s some experimentation with that as well in our procesors.’

Much like Intel’s new Sandy Bridge integrated graphics processors, Intel’s Atom Z670 Oak Trail processors integrate the processor’s memory controller and an Intel GPU onto the reduced CPU die.

With the addition of graphics processing capability, Intel expects its Atom architecture to make its way into the embedded space in tablets made specifically for verticals such as retail, medical, and industrial applications. In addition, Intel says it has also launched its Atom Z650 processor for embedded devices with 7-year lifecycle support on Windows and MeeGo operating systems.

Intel unveiled its Oak Trail chips at Computex last June. In December, Intel formed its Netbook and Tablet Group, a new business unit dedicated to the mobile device market.

’What the formation of the Netbook and Tablet Group has done is added focus and, frankly, resourdces to accelerate our presence in the market,’ Miller said. ’It’s a very competitive space with tablets, one which continues to grow. I don’t know that the strategy has changed, but Intel wanted to put the benefits of its starategy into these segments by adding resources toward growing markets.’

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