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Intel goes Atomic at Greenwash CeBIT

Mobilises for spring chip launches

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CeBIT Intel tried to erase its lukewarm past performance in the ultra mobile market by pushing its standard architecture right down the food chain in a flurry of launches at Cebit this morning.

The firm officially unveiled its Atom platform for low power mobile and internet devices. The 45nm, high-k metal gate built platform will offer clock speeds up to 1.8GHz, with a thermal design power of between 0.6 and 2.5 watts. The Atom processor itself is 25mm - about the size of a one cent coin.

The platform will come in two flavours, the Atom and the Atom Centrino. These had previously been codenamed Silverthorne and Diamondville.

The Atom Centrino will be aimed at "mobile internet devices" offering an "uncompromised" internet experience, as you'd expect from the addition of the more upmarket Centrino branding. The platform includes 512Kb of L2 cache, a lower power chipset, integrated graphics and built-in wireless. A full motherboard based on the platform would be about the size of your hand – even if you've got fairly small hands.

Intel Europe chief Christian Morales demonstrated a Panasonic Toughbook based on the platform, and vendors including Asus, BenQ, Toshiba will also ship by the summer.

Both the Atom and the Atom Centrino are shipping now, with manufacturers slated to ship devices based on the chips within the next quarter.

The Atom will be aimed at ultra mobile PCs, CE devices and something the vendor called nettops, essentially low-end internet centric machines, which are not necessarily that portable.

One demonstration this morning was an Atom-based car infotainment system from Harman/Becker, that included 3G route mapping. Production models of in-car systems are slated for release in 2010.

The five year old mainline Centrino brand also got a facelift today, with Morales revealing that Centrino 2, previously dubbed Montevina, would begin shipping next quarter. Morales promised the platform would offer 30 per cent more performance, along with better battery life. Centrino 2 will come in two flavours, aimed at consumers and business – Centrino 2 and Centrino 2 vPro. Both will offer broad wireless support, including Wimax, and high end graphics. The only real difference is that the business flavour will include Intel's vPro manageability technology.

While the Centrino 2 builds on an area where Intel has had great success – traditional laptops – the Atom platform is pitched at an area where Intel has not exactly flown.

Morales accepted that Intel had failed to crack the ultra mobile/handheld sector in the past. But, he said, because the Atom was a standard Intel architecture it would run industry standard software and operating systems while developers could use the same compilers and tools. "ISVs use the same architecture they're used to", he said.

The vendor did not completely ignore the desktop sector, announcing that it had begun shipping its Core 2 Extreme QX9770 and X48 Express chipset. The four 3.2GHz core high-end gaming CPU carries 12MB of L2 cache, and has a 1600Mhz system bus. Motherboards featuring the components should be available within weeks, with systems appearing next quarter. ®

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