Intel lays ground for larger netbooks
Said to be allowing 11.6in and 12.1in models
Intel has reportedly told netbook makers they can use its upcoming dual-core Atom processor, the N550, in 11.6in and 12.1in machines, and not just the traditional 9in and 10in form factors.
The chip giant hasn't said as much in public - we're relying instead on the testimony of moles from within Taiwan's netbook manufacturer community, mentioned by local newssite DigiTimes.
The N550 will clock at 1.5GHz and each of its two cores will, like previous Atoms, support HyperThreading, allowing the chip to appear to the host OS as a four-core part.
It will also support DDR 3 memory - previous Atoms have been stuck with DDR 2.
The N550 is expected to be accompanied by the N475, a version of the now-shipping 1.83GHz N470 that, likewise, supports DDR 3.
Intel's move is interesting. It has always wanted to place clear blue water between netbooks and notebooks, and limiting the latter's screen sizes was one way to do this.
If the claimed change of mind has indeed been made, it will muddy matters, making it even harder for punters to judge whether they want a netbook or a compact notebook based on Intel's ultra-low voltage Celeron, Pentium and Core chips. ®
Atoms are established enough that people will recognise a turkey of a machine for what it is, bad design rather than a bad chip. There are plenty of people out there who want low cost computers but won't buy a £200 netbook because the keyboard and/or screen are just too small. The kind of people who only need web browsing and email, but not at the same time, and whose idea of a computer game is minesweeper or solitaire/patience.
Before anyone shouts out "Why not get a desktop" a lot of these people want to be able to put the computer away when not using it, something very easily done with a laptop sized system. While it isn't exactly what laptops were invented for it is no less a valid reason, and people would buy them for this no matter what us tech geeks might think of that mentality.
You can see their logic though. Atom was a break from the norm for them, and no one could quite tell how it'd fit into the marketplace. All their favourite OEMs would no doubt snap the chips up, but with no real precedent to work from, they could have come up with some real stinkers of machines that just didn't fit the use cases of the people who bought them. Mid-range laptops could/would have appeared that the early Atoms just couldn't drive adequately (imagine an Alienware gaming rig with Celeron inside and VIA graphics).
PR result: Intel's bold new breed of chips would look like crap because the OEMs over-reached. In that analysis, Intel were wise to rein them in by imposing these limits. Now that netbooks and Atom have been around for a while, and the use-cases are better understood, hopefully that paranoid stance isn't needed any more.
Just maybe Intel have realised that they are in the business of making and selling processors not the business of dictating what their end-users should or should not be buying or doing with them.
I want a SMALLER netbook. IMHO anything with a screen of 10" or larger should not be called a netbook, it should be called a laptop.