Trends From IDF 2009: Smaller, Faster, With Intel Everywhere

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All About Atom

Intel's roadmap for its Atom-based products is somewhat different. Instead of packing twice as much stuff into the same chip area, as Intel does when it moves standard desktop/laptop CPUs to new manufacturing processes, the company plans to integrate more functionality into Atom and to shrink the platform by half.

While Atom is currently prevalent in netbooks (with the Menlow platform), the new Moorestown platform shrinks and integrates more functions into fewer chips so that it can slip into mobile Internet devices (MIDs) and larger smartphones. It also adds hyperthreading to Atom, boosting performance in threaded apps. Overall, performance should be similar to that of current Atom-based products, with the exception of better video decoding. Intel has seriously reduced power consumption (especially idle power) to enable the transition, too. You should see products early next year.

Moorestown is built on a 45nm process; we probably won't see many smartphones with x86-based chips inside until Intel's 32nm Medfield chips hit the market. That will further integrate parts of the whole platform into a single piece of silicon and continue to reduce size and power consumption. In Moorestown, Intel has focused largely on HD video decoding acceleration and audio, so you might see the platform in low-power set-top boxes, too.

Elsewhere on the mobile front, Intel introduced a new version of its Linux-based netbook/MID operating system, Moblin. Moblin 2.1 sports a new interface appropriate for the small screens you see on MIDs and large smartphones. All of the mobile OS work in the world is meaningless without great applications, of course, so Intel has also started an app-developer program and an app-store framework that manufacturers can put into their netbooks and MIDs to give users one-stop shopping for apps. Interested developers can join the program now at the new site.

Intel Inside Your TV

Eric Kim holds up Intel's new TV system-on-chip, the CE4100.
Eric Kim holds up Intel's new TV system-on-chip, the CE4100.
Not enough "Intel everywhere" for you? How about a new system-on-chip designed for TVs? No, it isn't for set-top boxes or media PCs, but for actual TV processing. The new CE4100 chip can run at clock speeds of up to 1.2GHz and includes a display processor, a graphics processor, and a video display controller. It can decode two 1080p video streams simultaneously.

Support for hardware acceleration of Flash Player 10 video is expected in the first half of 2010, so HD YouTube on your connected TV will be a reality. OpenGL ES 2.0 standard support will provide 3D graphics, as well--and if you think picture-in-picture is annoying, just wait until your TV can run dozens of "widgets" to pump information all over the episode of Heroes you're trying to watch. Intel already has a chip for TVs and set-top boxes, the CE3100, but the CE4100 is a significant upgrade.

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