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9/28/2012
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Intel, Hardware Partners Show More Windows 8 Devices

Intel eyes more share in mobile market with new Clover Trail chips that promise longer battery life for Windows 8 smartphones, tablets, and hybrid devices.

Intel's Tech Roadmap: Visual Tour
Intel's Tech Roadmap: Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Intel finds itself in an unusual position--an underdog. It is way behind in the mobile market and needs to score a few hits to get back in the game. It is ramping up its very efficient product operation and, with its partners, plans to attack the growing and lucrative market for smartphones, tablets, and lightweight computers.

At an event Thursday in San Francisco, Intel offered its most in-depth look yet at its forthcoming Atom Z2760 processors. Several hardware partners were present to show off the Windows 8-based products they've built around the new chips, which were previously code-named "Clover Trail" and are intend for tablets, notebooks, and hybrid devices. The chips, part of Intel's attempt to penetrate a mobile market currently dominated by ARM, are designed to enable longer battery life and thinner, lighter form factors without compromising computing power.

A dual-core, four-thread system on a chip (SoC), Clover Trail supports clock speeds up to 1.8 GHz and features Intel Burst Technology to dynamically accelerate processing, Intel Hyper-Threading Technology for better multi-tasking, and security perks such as hardware-enhanced encryption. Devices fueled by the next-gen Atom processor can be as thin as 8.5mm and a light as 1.5 pounds. They should also boast more than three weeks of connected standby, 10 hours of active battery life, and standby resume times of under a second.

Intel's event was a relatively thorough look at the new SoCs--but not an unveiling. Clover Trail details and rumors have circulated for some time, including a recent mini-controversy over whether the chips will support Linux. Likewise, many of the showcased OEM devices, such as the HP Envy x2 and theDell Latitude, were previously announced.

Most of the products will not be generally available until Windows 8 is launched.

[ Intel is active on a number of fronts. Read Intel Charges Ahead With WCT Wireless Power Standard.

Jeff Orr, senior practice director for mobile devices at ABI Research, said in an interview that the event is still significant, despite the repetition, because it illustrates how Intel and its partners are differentiating their products from existing options and other next-gen products. He emphasized that the Atom-based devices are designed to offer battery life "on par with what is expected of the ARM-based Windows RT tablets" while also offering a PC-like experience that, unlike the RT devices, includes support for legacy x86 applications. Orr said the Clover Trail devices should thus offer "easier transitions to business markets," though he noted that BYOD policies should make Windows RT viable in the enterprise as well.

The Intel event comes as some have begun speculating whether Windows 8, on which the chip maker is hanging much of its mobile plans, will be a success. A Gartner statement, for example, characterized the new OS as a "gamble" for Microsoft and offered a variety of reasons that adoption might be slow. Intel, meanwhile, was compelled to publically deny reports that CEO Paul Otellini feels Windows 8 is too buggy to launch.

Orr said these potential detractions do not pose big problems, particularly for business users. Even if Windows 8's initial days are characterized by bugs, "the enterprise organizations are not first to adopt," he stated, noting that busineses generally wait until a service pack has been deployed. He noted that the presence of touch-based devices is "an unknown" that distinguish the upcoming launch from previous Windows offerings. Still, he said "it's something that the market will figure out," adding that he believes "the operating system and devices will work fine."

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