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You Are Now Entering the 21st Century: Intel

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Intel introduced five versions of its new Atom chip and the Atom Centrino platform, once code named Menlow, at its Developer Forum in Shanghai Wednesday, the stuff of its so-called life-altering Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) and newfangled embedded solutions.

Four years in the making, the widgetry includes the Atom processor, a k a Silverthorne, and a single low-power chip with integrated 3D graphics called the Intel System Controller Hub that’s supposed to enable the promised PC-like capabilities and long battery life in gismos that slip in your pocket.

Said gismos, backed by wireless options like Wi-Fi, WiMAX and cellular, are supposed to start arriving in May.

Atom, the smallest chip Intel has ever produced, has a thermal design power range of 0.65W-2.4W – if you can imagine that – and an average range of 160mW-220mW and a idle power range of 80mW-100mW, Intel said.

The average laptop chip runs at 3.3GHz and needs 35W at peak.

Intel credited technologies like Deep Power Down, CMOS mode and Split I/O power supply as well as its vaunted 45nm high-k metal gate transistor formula for the chips’ energy efficiency, size and battery life.

The Atom chips are good for speed up to 1.86GHz and some will support Intel Hyper-Threading.

Intel is promising a rich user experience with fast web page downloads and support for the sine qua non Adobe Flash and JavaScript.

The System Controller Hub offers accelerated 720p and 1080i HD video decode capabilities, High Definition audio, PCI Express, USB host and client and SDIO.

Intel, which claims 20 customers, says we can expect a new breed of video players, navigation devices, converged tablets, in-vehicle infotainment systems, portable POS devices and more rugged computing devices.

For embedded applications, Intel is offering longer seven-year lifecycle support.

MIDs will run Vista, Windows Mobile and XP (apparently Microsoft is going to extend XP’s life past the June 30 cutoff date for certain devices) as well as Ubuntu and Asianux.

Design-wins (probably running Linux) include Lenovo, Fujitsu, Asus, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba.

The question remains: Will Apple adopt the Atom?

Prices should start at around $400-$600 in a recession year.

Intel told Reuter it is anticipating gross margins close to close to mainstream PCs from the $11 cost-per-chip Atom, which Intel will sell in quantity for $45.

It’s counting on a $40 billion market being created by 2011.

Intel’s competition includes ARM, TI and Qualcomm.


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