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Chasing new markets with Intel's Atom

Chasing new markets with Intel's Atom

Belliappa Kuttanna, the principal architect of Intel’s Atom architecture, talks to IDG News Service about how the Atom Processor is evolving.

First there was Silverthorne, an Atom processor designed for mobile Internet devices. And then came Diamondville, a version of the chip designed for low-cost laptops and desktops. Now, Intel is developing versions of Atom for consumer electronics and other devices.

Belliappa Kuttanna, the principal architect of Intel's Atom architecture, oversees the development of future Atom processors. The best known of these future processors is the Lincroft system-on-chip (SOC) that will go into Moorestown, Intel's next-generation platform for mobile Internet devices, or MIDs. But the company is working on other versions as well.

The Pineview platform contains a version of Lincroft designed for low-cost laptops and desktops, known as netbooks and nettops. Sodaville is a similar system for consumer electronics and Menlow XL is designed for embedded applications.

Kuttanna discussed how the Atom processor is evolving during a recent interview with IDG News Service. What follows is an edited transcribed of that conversation.

During the Intel Developer Forum in Taipei, Anand Chandrasekher, the senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group, showed a slide that listed four new computing platforms that will be built around Atom: Moorestown, Pineview, Menlow XL and Sodaville. What is Intel's strategy for Atom?

In addition to the categories that have received quite a bit of attention of late, which are the MIDs, netbooks and nettops, we are looking to use the Atom architecture and CPUs in other segments, like the digital home, digital entertainment, consumer electronics, and embedded devices. That particular slide tried to capture some of those other usages Intel has in mind for the Atom architecture and these are products that are being developed as we speak, based on the Atom architecture.

What aspects of Atom are you looking to improve with the upcoming chips?

Power was the first, second and third consideration. In the MID space, we clearly wanted to target the communication MIDs. Clearly, we didn't have a technical solution with the current MID platform to target communication devices. Idle power reduction was our number one criteria. We also wanted to improve battery life for active usage, whether it's video playback or Internet browsing, as the case may be. That was also a key goal for us.

Apart from power, what are some of the other challenges you've tried to address with the upcoming Atom processors?

Maintaining compatability of the architecture, whether it's with the legacy PC architecture or being able to run an off-the-shelf operating system, introduced some very interesting challenges for us. We had to go in and look at aspects of platform design that hadn't been looked at for a decade or more within Intel to make sure we didn't break any of those compatibility issues.


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