Intel plans to sprinkle its Atom chip everywhere

Intel plans to sprinkle its Atom chip everywhere

Summary: Intel's Atom chip, which has primarily been used in netbooks, will increasingly be deployed in new areas---including embedded applications, home monitoring, smartphones and automobiles to name a few.


Intel's Atom chip, which has primarily been used in netbooks, will increasingly be deployed in new areas---including embedded applications, home monitoring, smartphones and automobiles to name a few.

The news comes on the heels of Intel’s stellar first quarter results. On the conference call, CEO Paul Otellini mentioned plans for dual core Atom chips. The plan is to develop "derivatives of our new Atom processor for many new market segments," said Otellini.

Here's a look at the other Atom money quotes from Otellini:

There is Atom in netbooks and then there is Atom going into other products. Atom going into other products is design cycle and you will see other kinds of products with Atom in it over the course of this year.

The next innovation coming out on Atom is Dual Core which comes out in the second quarter. So that will ramp for the holiday season this year and I think that will be a very attractive product. Then in early Q1 we have another integration at much lower power product coming out that is a derivative of it for SanDisk netbook business. You will see us use technology to make the platform a bit better each time or to integrate more features and make it cheaper.

So where will these Atom derivatives appear? If the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing is any indication Atom will be everywhere.

Intel executives outlined the following at IDF:

  • The chip giant is planning a lineup of system-on-chip products that will be used in the home to manage energy (see keynote). Atom will be at the center of these system on a chip efforts.
  • Intel said HawTai, a Chinese automaker, is using Atom processors and MeeGo software for in-car infotainment systems (see keynote).
  • On Monday, Intel outlined how the Atom chip will show up on Smart TV systems and work its way into smartphones and tablets.

Add it up the presence of Intel's Atom chip is about to proliferate. If that's the case, Atom revenue---$355 million in the first quarter---is about to go much higher in the years ahead.

Topics: Hardware, Intel, Networking, Processors

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  • I'd love to see the dual core chip

    in the Slate, but IDK how that will effect the battery life. I hope HP is looking into that.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • The old 8088/8086 chips...

    Most folks don't realize, but the old 8088/8086 chip architecture is already EVERYWHERE. It's in microwaves, TVs, DVD players, stereos, and many other electronics. Moving the Atom into this use is only a good logical step in the evalution of modern electroncially controlled devices.
    • No, it is not quite true.

      For embedded device, we used ARM, 6800 and even you can see many devices running z80 and some custom TI chip.

      It is a bit strange to find a embedded device using a x86 architecture because it is to expensive and powerful for normal task.
      • x86 micro-controllers aren't THAT uncommon

        Granted, ARM is MUCH more prevalent in micro-
        controllers, but x86 is also used.
        I don't know where this myth that x86 architecture is power hungry comes from. x86 is
        MUCH more capable. The difference between
        existing x86 embedded applications in use and
        Atom is that Atom is compatible with desktop
        processors while most current embedded x86 is
        8-bit and sometimes 16-bit. (Atom is 32 and 64-
        bit). The ARM instructions are very basic,
        which for most current embedded applications is
        exactly what you want, but as technology moves
        forward more and more ARM will be modified with
        additional instructions. People complain that
        the Atom can't even run high-def video, neither
        can an unmodified ARM architecture. Most ARM
        chips are modified to do specific tasks well.
        While x86 chips are designed to do MANY things
        well. There really is no comparison, each has
        it's place, and each functions better for
        different applications. The fact that the Atom
        is becoming more and more power efficient while
        still maintaining compatibility with modern
        processors is a huge statement to its
        • True but Narg was a bit too optimistic about x86

          I agree that 8088/6 are in use, as some of the later processors, but I think it is relatively small compared, as you say, to ARM, PIC, 68000 series, 6502, 68HC11/12, z80, FPGA based micros, etc. Particularly ARM.

          I think Narg overstated.
  • desperation

    Intel is trying to hold back the tidal wave of ARM-based MIDs & tablets. They have to try, of course, but they will ultimately fail because they can't compete in the power efficiency arena. And with Android as an OS force to be reckoned with, Wintel no longer has a strangle-hold on the hardware ISA.
    • Power isn't as much of a concern for a number of embedded scenarios

      In-car entertainment systems, embedded devices that are plugged into an outlet 24x7, etc. do not necessarily need the level of power efficiency offered by ARM et al.
      • True but other factors...

        Like on-chip ram/rom, I/O, timers and other peripherals, the number of pins, solder options and PRICE may be a much bigger influence.

        Power also means heat which has to be dissipated.

        For all those reasons Atom (as it is currently) may not be the best option.

        Don't get me wrong, I'm rooting for Atom but I just don't think it is there yet.
    • but ARM is clearly inferior to any x86 around here.

      ARM is the equivalent to a early Pentium Pro.

      It is the reason behind many manufacturer are launched custom ARM implementation, for example OMAP but, at the same time, increase the power consumption.

      Just for a example:
      i an Ipad you can play iWorks while in a atom you can install and to use the complete Works.
      • Depends... (certainly not on power)

        Embedded developers look at the external hardware interfaces (number of pins) the i/o types (USB/serial), number of registers, timers, on-chip ram/rom, sockets. Development tools and boards. The Atom doesn't work well as standalone without a chipset. ARMs not super good either but better.

        But the big thing is that an ARM processor is still way ahead of current Atoms' on power consumption. For cell phones and other devices not wanting to have a big battery this may be the most important criteria.

        Also I suspect the ARM is probably much cheaper at this point.
      • Sometimes superiority is irrelevant

        Guidance systems used in manned spacecrafts, whether going to the moon or visiting the ISS, still use processors roughly equivalent to a very early Pentium chip. NASA uses the technology that meets their needs. A heftier processor would be a waste of good technology.
    • I think they can compete on power.

      Intel's main expertise is manufacturing technology. A while back they were reporting that a new yet to be released Atom would consume 50x less power. Intel feels that they can eventually achieve a performance/power ratio that makes sense for cell phones, mp3 players and other small devices.
      • I am not contradicting myself

        I don't believe Atom *currently* comes close to ARM in the power arena but eventually I think they can get close enough that it doesn't matter. Intel thinks so.
  • Is anyone surprised?

    The Atom is capable of running Windows 7 so it is certainly capable of running most any dedicated-function device. If Intel is to continue to compete with AMD at entry-level price-points, it needs something more robust than Celeron and Atom ought to fit the bill.
    M Wagner
  • RE: Intel plans to sprinkle its Atom chip everywhere

    Is he speaking of DC Atoms for netbooks? DC Atoms have been around for about a year on the desktop/nettop.
  • Will this help put the iPad in its place?

    I'm eagerly awaiting Linux-based iPad killers.
  • Atom (x86) versus ARM; hey people, it's the SOFTWARE.

    No one has stated the the "ARM killer" market which Intel wants to go after. It's games. ARM doesn't run x86 games, and Atom does.

    In the telephone world, component cost is huge, and the ARM's RISC design contains vastly fewer transistors. So, even though the ARM processors are built at 65mm and Intel has a big manufacturing advantage (using 45mm), the cores are MUCH smaller -- and cheaper to make.

    Here's how Intel might compete, and even win: MeeGo. The software stack, being developed with Nokia, already has about 30 partners... and they include some big game developers, such as Electronic Arts (AKA EA games). MeeGo is clearly the intention for Netbooks, as well, but it's key target is the smartphone market.

    Commentators who declare that "ARM is inferior" for hardware reasons are without a clue, IMO. The key to Intel's strategy will be the software stack. It's complicated and huge, needing lots of memory... but it will run nearly anything built around embedded Linux with a relatively simple migration process and rebuild (Moblin *AND* qt *AND* Nokia's version of GTK, built into their "Maemo" toolkit).

    ARM currently owns nearly all of this marketplace, due to lower cost. But as the GUIs become more and more slick, MeeGo's support for the huge range of graphics toolkits becomes pretty compelling. Would you pay an extra $20 for a smartphone which could run most of EA Games finest titles, as well as traditional similar "computer" software from Windows, Gnome, and KDE?

    Well, you hang out at ZDNet -- of course you would! :))
    Rick S._z
  • Smartphones?

    The current generation of Atom chips uses about 5 times too much power for a smartphone. Intel is promising that Medfield coming in two years will match ARM here. That remains to be seen, but for now you are going to see very few Atoms in smartphones.
    • OS's

      People say Atom's advantage is it runs x86, but who wants to run Windows 7 on a smartphone? Instead people use Windows Mobile, which runs on ARM.And it is soon going to be replaced by Windows Phone 7, which will be vastly superior, and still run on ARM.
  • RE: Intel plans to sprinkle its Atom chip everywhere

    It will be good for other applications other than netbooks and notebooks