Intel Ultrabooks Promise Thin, Powerful Mobile Computing - InformationWeek
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02:48 PM

Intel Ultrabooks Promise Thin, Powerful Mobile Computing

The computers will be powered by Atom processors, which Intel says will outpace Moore's Law as they shrink from 32 nanometers to 14 nm over the next three years.

Intel announced a "different category" of notebook computers Tuesday with an upcoming line of "Ultrabook" PCs that combine tablet functionality with ultra-thin laptop design.

At the Computex computer show in Taipei, Intel's vice president Sean Maloney said the Ultrabook will be less than 20 millimeters (0.8 inches) thick, lightweight, and still include high-performance Intel processors.

"There'll be some confusion if you look at the fold factor; when you open it you'll see a PC but if you're on the go, just fold it and suddenly it's a tablet," Maloney said at a Computex media conference. Is it a PC? Is it a tablet? I think it doesn't matter."

By the end of 2012, the new Ultrabooks will take up 40% of the consumer laptop market, Maloney stated. Intel is currently working with manufacturers to get the first wave of Ultabooks out by the 2011 holiday season, based on Intel's existing Core processors and priced at under $1,000. Asustek on Monday at the convention revealed a new UX series PC in Intel's "Ultrabook" class, and said it will be released toward the end of this year.

The second wave of Ultrabooks will be released during the first half of next year and will be based on Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge processors, as well as USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt technologies. The third and final Ultrabook wave is expected to materialize in 2013, based on a new Core processor design code-named Haswell. Intel said Haswell will have half the power consumption of Intel's current processors, which will enable thinner designs and longer battery life.

"Computing is taking many forms," Maloney said in a statement. "Technology innovation is a catalyst, and we believe the changes Intel is making to its roadmaps, together with strong industry collaboration, will bring about an exciting change in personal computing over the next few years."

Maloney also said the Atom processor will outpace Moore's Law in the years ahead, moving from 32 nanometers to 22 nm to 14 nm over the next three years. This will result in a "significant reduction in transistor leakage, lower active power, and an increase of transistor density," particularly for smartphones, tablets, and netbooks.

While Intel dominates the PC and server processor markets, its processors are non-existent in smartphones and tablet computers that rely on lower-power ARM-based processors. Intel's latest announcement is another signal the company is serious about having its chips play a bigger role in the lucrative mobile technology market.

Boyd Davis, VP of Intel's architecture group, told reporters earlier this year that Intel will respond to market demands for flexibility and lower energy use by creating low-power processors that will also deliver some of the company's most popular server features, such as 64-bit compatibility, error correcting coding, and virtualization technology. At Computex, Maloney also said that Intel is also preparing its new Cedar Trail chip for netbooks, which will enable ultra-thin, fanless computer designs with new capabilities such as Rapid Start technology. Rapid start uses flash storage to hold the computer OS and applications for quick start-up.

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