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Sockets, cores and threads, oh my

Intel's silicon brick roadmap

Netbooks

The Atom (Z5XX Series) chip, with its 47 million transistors, is now one year old. Intel reassured us that netbooks were not cannibalising notebook sales. In other words Atom-powered devices aren't sucking higher revenue sales away from Centrino and Core Duo notebooks, much to its relief.

Intel expects to launch its next mobile Internet device (MID platform), codenamed Moorestown, within the next 20 months. It says this should extend the smartphone market and drive the development of the Communication MID. We can expect new hardware designs, more applications and functionality ranging from GPS and Mobile TV through to Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls.

Moorestown will be comprised of a System on a chip (SOC), codenamed “Lincroft”, which integrates the 45nm processor - Intel did not say Atom processor by the way, graphics, memory controller and video encode/decode onto a single chip, and an I/O Hub codenamed "Langwell", which supports a range of I/O ports to connect with wireless, storage, and display components. Several Intel people said Intel was becoming more of a SOC supplier.

Intel intends that Moorestown will deliver an “"Always Connected" wireless experience, with support for 3G, WiMAX, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and Mobile TV. It will also offer a 10X reduction in electricity needed in idle mode.

Intel also pushed Moblin, the open-source mobile Linux platform it supports, impressing on us that low-cost components, including the OS, are essential for low-cost netbooks and other MIDs. However, the majority of shipped Intel-powered netbooks run Windows XP. The majority of customers have a netbook alongside an existing desktop or notebook.

According to a T-Mobile presenter, we could expect Smart Pads to be a focus for the next six to nine months.

Paranoid Intel powers on

Intel wants to kill the RISC processor market. Eight-core Xeon 7400s will be its latest battering RAM to assault the RISC castle keep doors. Whether it will be enough depends on IBM (Power 6+) and Oracle with whatever the Oracle-ised SPARC people come up with.

At the low-end Intel wants to see Atom everywhere but is eschewing multi-core designs because they'll blow its power envelope away, leaving a hole for Qualcomm (SnapDragon) and other members of the ARM processor army to pour through.

Then, of course there's AMD which is not dead by any means. Otellini's army is not all-conquering and God forbid that it ever should be - death by Intel PowerPoint is bad enough already. ®

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