Intel's Diamondville will be based on Silverthorne processor

Intel's Diamondville will be based on Silverthorne processor

New chip targeted at ultra-low cost and low power notebooks

Intel's Diamondville, a new chip targeted at ultra-low cost and low power notebooks, will be built around the core of Intel's upcoming low-power Silverthorne processor. The Diamondville chip is scheduled to start shipping next year, and is intended for low-cost computers for emerging markets, like the Classmate PC and the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC), Intel has said.

"Diamondville is the progeny of Silverthorne, a derivative of Silverthorne", Intel senior vice-president and general manager of the company's Ultra Mobility Group, Anand Chandrasekher, said in an interview Friday.

Silverthorne, a new 45 nanometre, low power microarchitecture-based processor, is fully compatible at the instruction set level with Intel's Merom architecture, according to Chandrasekher. Merom was the codename for Intel's current Core 2 Duo processors for notebooks. "Whatever software runs on Merom will run on Silverthorne without the need to recompile it," he said. He expected software compatibility with PCs will be a key differentiator for devices built around Silverthorne.

"What we have done is changed the microarchitecture dramatically, effectively tore it up and re-did it, to get to lower power", Chandrasekher said. Menlow, a chipset for mobile Internet devices (MIDs) and UMPCs (ultra-mobile PCs), that is scheduled to ship in the first half of next year, achieves Intel's low-power target of 0.5 watts for chips for Internet devices, he added.

Intel plans to target Silverthorne at a variety of other applications such as embedded markets like automotive, and consumer electronics applications like set-top boxes and DVD (digital versatile disc) players.

"These segments are in addition to MIDs, and are new spaces for us, and we have not participated in them either because the (low) power was not there, or because the (low) cost structure wasn't there," Chandrasekher said.

When it ships next year, Menlow will support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WiMax, and GPS in silicon. Intel is not delivering cellular communications or advanced protocols such as HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) on its chips, because there are others who can do that part better than Intel, according to Chandrasekher. Device makers can get it either on a module or as silicon and add it to the devices, he said.

Intel is also not likely to integrate communications functionality into the Silverthorne applications processor, as a majority of customers want the flexibility to decide what modems they want to include, depending on which geographies they are designing their products for, Chandrasekher said.

As it targets the mobile Internet and consumer electronics markets, Intel will also be introducing products faster than before, according to Chandrasekher. "We believe that this is a critical piece for winning in these markets," he said. Intel is currently scheduled to deliver one new product a year with Menlow to be followed by another product, code named Moorestown, in 2009. Consumer electronics and phone makers change their designs every year, as they look for something new and dramatic every single year, Chandrasekher added.

Getting Intel's chips into new markets like consumer electronics and mobile Internet however takes more than silicon, and requires Intel to offer reference designs to its customers. "It is as much of a platform sell or more than what we ever did for the Centrino, so from that standpoint our investment in it is higher at the platform level," Chandrasekher said. Intel is however avoiding designing a standard motherboard with all the features in it, because that would limit innovation from device manufacturers, he added.

It is however not clear as yet whether Intel is planning to use its "Intel Inside" branding strategy for the new markets, which have very large and established companies and brands. "If it makes sense for us to brand these devices, we will consider it," Chandrasekher said, and added that Intel's primary consideration at this point is to get the product done right. "If we have a product here that we feel deserves a brand, then we will visit that equation at that point of time," he added.

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