Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Intel Hits the Oak Trail but Has Its Eyes on the Cedar Trail

The Intel Developer Forum is getting under way this week in Beijing, which means you can probably count on some kind of response to Oracle’s prodding of Intel and Hewlett-Packard about the Itanium chip last month.

Today, however, was about the Atom chip, the other chip on which Intel has pinned such hopes yet seen little payoff as yet. The company announced that the latest version of the Atom, known till now under the codename Oak Trail, is available beginning today.

The new chip is about 60 percent smaller, meaning it consumes less power than its predecessor to get the same level of computing work accomplished. Intel says it will be capable of delivering “all day” battery life in tablets and allow for a fanless design in small notebook PCs, meaning those devices will be both cooler and quieter. Intel has also added a feature called Deeper Sleep that conserves power during periods of inactivity.

And as is often the case when Intel debuts a new chip, it also points toward the near horizon. In this case, it’s Cedar Trail, yet another version of the Atom, this one built with a bleeding-edge 32-nanometer manufacturing process, which means all the elements on the chip will be even smaller yet. Intel’s current line of PC processors, the Sandy Bridge generation, is built on the same manufacturing technology. Cedar Trail will not only be smaller, but also will sport such things as a media engine for video playback at full HD resolution of 1080p.

Tablets and smartphones to this point have been another sore spot for Intel, where chips built on the core designs of U.K.-based ARM Holdings tend to hold sway. Intel’s chips have so far suffered from a nagging need to sip precious battery power far less greedily as compared to designs of ARM-based chips from the likes of Broadcom, Qualcomm, Samsung and others.

The new chip will run on tablets running Google’s Chrome and Android operating systems; MeeGo, the smartphone platform that Intel has been working on with Nokia (though its future is in question since Nokia’s decision to embrace Windows); and Microsoft’s Windows.

Meanwhile, Intel still has a lock on the market for traditional PC and server chips, though as we all know, tablets–one in particular–have been causing all kinds of troubles for the players in that end of the market.


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