March 3, 2009
Intel has introduced Atom processors that take the low-power chips into new markets, including in-car infotainment systems, Internet-based telephones, and other non-PC devices.
The Z500 series makes the Atom useful for applications other than mini-laptops, also called netbooks. The ultraportable systems with screen sizes of 10 inches or less have accounted for most Atom sales to date. The latest models include industrial temperature options, as well as different package size choices better suited for embedded industries. In addition, the new products have integrated 2-D and 3-D graphics, video-acceleration technology, and support for multiple operating systems, including Linux and several versions of Windows. Intel's major competitor in these new markets will be ARM, which designs power-efficient RISC processors. ARM products are often found in smartphones, such as the popular Apple iPhone. Intel's Atom isn't yet ready to meet the low-power and design needs of smartphone makers, but the latest announcement is an indication that Intel continues to move in that direction. Along with in-car applications, the Z500 series is aimed at what Intel calls "media phones," which provide voice communications over the Internet, as well as access to applications such as e-mail and text messaging, as well as Web content. Along with the latest Atom chips, introduced Monday, Intel unveiled a reference design for media phones. The hardware development platform includes schematics and validated software stacks. The Atom Z500 series is scheduled to be available in the second quarter. Intel has launched a Web site for more information on potential uses for the new products. Intel introduced the latest series the same day the company announced a collaboration with semiconductor manufacturer TSMC to develop the Atom for smartphones and mobile Internet devices. The latter are larger than a mobile phone but smaller than a netbook. Intel did not say when the Intel-TSMC developed products would be available.
A new manufacturing process and handheld Web devices are part of Intel's ambitious road map. InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of this topic. Download the report here (registration required).
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