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Intel does fondleslabs with Atom 'Oak Trail'

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Intel has announced that it is now shipping its latest low-power platform, formerly codenamed Oak Trail, aimed squarely at Chipzilla's latest market-defining neologism: "Companion Computing".

That would be what the rest of the known world calls "tablets".

Intel says that the platform, centered around its new Atom Z670 processor – which briefly appeared in error on Intel's website in late March – will form the basis of 35 "innovative tablet and hybrid designs" that will begin shipping in May from companies including Evolve III, Fujitsu Limited, Lenovo, Motion Computing, Razer, and Viliv.

If you're not familiar with some of those companies, don't feel bad – you're not alone.

Oak Trail was originally announced at Taiwan's Comuptex in June, and was demoed at last September's Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

Intel noted on Monday that the upcoming Oak Trail–based devices from the companies listed above will run "a variety of operating systems," and that the company's "unique 'operating system of choice' strategy" for Atom will support Google's Chrome and Android, Intel's MeeGo, and Microsoft Windows.

In addition to announcing shipment of Oak Trail and the 45-namometer Z670, Intel also announced that it would be giving a "sneak peak" [sic] of their next-gen 32nm mobile platform, "Cedar Trail", at Tuesday and Wednesday's Intel Developer Forum in Beijing.

"The new Intel Atom 'Oak Trail' platform, with 'Cedar Trail' to follow, are examples of our continued commitment to bring amazing personal and mobile experiences to netbook and tablet devices, delivering architectural enhancements for longer battery life and greater performance,” said Intel's netbook and tablet group honcho Doug Davis in Monday's annoucnement.

In keeping with their new marketing emphasis on "experience" over mere speeds 'n' feeds, Intel's Oak Trail announcement focused on the platform's "rich media experience", including 1080p video decode, improved browsing speeds, HDMI support, long battery life, and "premium home theater sound."

In the inevitable "we support it, Apple's iOS doesn't" dig, Intel also promised that Oak Trail will provide speedy performance when running Adobe Flash, enabling "rich content and Flash-based gaming."

Cedar Trail, Intel says, is currently being sampled to OEMs, with devices featuring it to appear in the second half of this year. In addition to support for Blu-ray 2.0 and improved graphics performance, Cedar Trail also promises lower-power performance and its concomitant longer battery life.

Late last year, Intel CEO Paul Otellini confidently predicted that the company would "win" in the tablet marketplace – but implied that the victory would not be a sudden one. "We take a longer-term view to the tablet opportunity," he told reporters and analysts on a conference call announcing Chipzilla's third-quarter financial performance."

Monday's announcement of the Oak Trail rollout, while welcome news to Intel fans, may not be "longer-term" enough to make significant inroads into a market now dominated by ARM variants. Although it's too soon to tell, those same fans may have more reason to hope that the soon-to-follow Cedar Trail might have the chops to move the Intel architecture into a critical mass of "Companion Computing" devices. ®

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