As expected, Intel announced its Oak Trail platform for tablets on the eve of its spring Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Beijing this week. The company said that 35 tablet and hybrid designs using Oak Trail are "in the works" and will ship beginning next month.
The Oak Trail platform is a two-chip solution that includes the Atom Z-series processor and a support chip, the SM35 Express Chipset. The Atom Z670 is a 1.5GHz single-core (two threads) processor designed for tablets. The platform supports Android, Windows and Intel's MeeGo operating system. Fujitsu, Lenovo and Motion Computing are among the companies developing Oak Trail devices. The press images also show two hybrid devices with keyboards, the Asus Eee Pad Slider and Samsung Gloria, using the Atom Z670 processor. Intel is also pushing Oak Trail--including a second Z-series processor, the 1.2GHz Atom Z650--for devices used in industrial, medical and retail applications.
The Z-series is smaller and uses less power than previous Atom processors, which makes it better-suited for slate-style tablets without cooling fans. It also has a hardware video decoder that can playback 1080p HD video, HDMI-out and the ability to play Adobe Flash content.
Oak Trail is manufactured using Intel's older 45nm process technology while Intel's laptop, desktop and server processors are all manufactured at 32nm. Later this year Intel will introduce a new Atom low-power platform, Cedar Trail, based on its 32nm technology. This platform, however, will be targeted at netbooks, entry-level desktops and all-in-ones. Cedar Trail will add support for Blu-ray 2.0, a new 1080p video engine, both HDMI and DisplayPort, and Intel technologies such as Wireless Display.
Oak Trail moves Intel a step closer to becoming a player in mobile devices, but it faces tough competition. In this category Intel is up against a long list of incumbents that design application processors based on the ARM instruction set and architecture including Broadcom, Marvell, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Samsung. It also faces competition from an old x86 rival, AMD, which is apparently finding a home for its low-power C-Series APU (Accelerated processing Unit) in hybrids such as the Acer Iconia W500. There are also rumors that AMD is working on adding support for Android.
When we get more details on Oak Trail devices--hopefully at the Computex trade show in June, if not sooner--it will be easier to tell how much progress Intel is really making in this space.