OQO Shows off Handheld Computer Based on Atom

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Handheld computer maker OQO showed off an Atom-based device at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, a significant design win for the chip maker.

Pictures of the Atom-based OQO device published by mobile-computing blog UMPC Portal show a device that looks identical to the company's Model e2. Unveiled with other Atom-based computers, the OQO device is marked with a piece of white tape labeled "OQO MID," a reference to mobile Internet device, the term Intel uses to describe small handheld computers.

Details about the Atom-based OQO, including pricing and availability, were not available.

OQO's current Model e2 lineup uses processors from Via Technologies, a Taiwanese processor supplier that was first to see a market for low-power processors that could fit inside mobile computers and embedded applications. The OQO handhelds have won praises for their polished design and addition of features, such as support for high-speed mobile networks and use of solid-state drives in some versions.

The appearance of the Atom-based OQO device is an important milestone for Intel. The company's sales executives tried to convince OQO to switch from using Via's C7 processor to one of its own processors for some time without any luck, according to a source familiar with the relationship between the chip maker and OQO. That changed with the release of Atom.

In many ways, Atom is Intel's answer to the C7, targeting a product niche that Via carved out for itself when Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices were instead focused on chips that ran at ever higher clock speeds, and generated increasing amounts of heat. With the release of Atom earlier this year, Intel signalled its intention to compete in this segment of the market as seriously as it does in all others and put Via's C7 squarely in its sights.

Like Via's C7 series, the Atom processor is also designed to consume little power. The chip is available in two versions, one designed for handheld computers that is paired with a single-chip chipset, and a second for laptops that uses a standard two-chip chipset.

It was not immediately clear which Atom version is used in the OQO, but the MID label suggests the computer likely uses the version with the single-chip chipset, a platform formerly called Centrino Atom. That version of the processor, the Z series, is available at several clock speeds, ranging from 800Mhz to 1.86GHz.

OQO executives could not be reached for comment.

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