Netbook, smartphones to go multicore in 2010?

Analyst predicts multicore processors will gain acceptance in mobile devices from next year, accounting for 88 percent of CPUs in mobile segment by 2013.

In spite of their importance to servers and PCs, multicore processors are not commonplace in mobile devices such as netbooks and smartphones. But, an analyst says that may change from next year.

In a statement released last week, Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat, said 2010 will be "a key year" for the adoption of multicore chips in netbooks and smartphones. He added that CPUs with more than one core will also be deployed in mobile Internet devices (MIDs) and ultramobile PCs (UMPCs) the following year, while other consumer products will make the shift in 2012 and 2013.

By 2013, 88 percent of all processors targeted for use in the mobile segment will be multicore, McGregor noted.

He said multiple cores are currently common in processors based on the x-86 architecture, but noted that the ARM architecture "will see a higher growth rate as it transitions to multicore configurations".

Multiple cores in mobile processors, he added, will increasingly be geared toward "integration of graphics and multimedia acceleration", in contrast with the delivery of high-performance computing in traditional multicore designs.

Industry players ZDNet Asia contacted had mixed reactions to In-Stat's predictions.

Intel's Atom, which is targeted for mobile devices such as netbooks and MIDs, is currently only available as a single-core architecture. Only entry-level desktops, termed by Intel as Nettops, are powered by multicore Atom processors, a spokesperson told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail.

"The next-generation Atom processor for handhelds--MIDs and smartphones--codenamed Moorestown, will also be single-core," he said. "We haven't announced any plans to launch multicore processors for these product categories."

Blackberry maker Research In Motion (RIM) has no commercially-available smartphones powered by multicore CPUs. The company declined to comment on future products. However, a spokesperson said in an e-mail that RIM has observed a trend where consumers want to do more with their smartphones, whether for work or leisure.

"Moving forward, we can expect companies developing and introducing new technology to support this demand," she said.

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