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Intel to put pedal to metal in 14nm Atom upgrade

No more leisurely transitions from Core to Atom, says report – the market won't wait

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When the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) kicks off in San Francisco on September 10, Chipzilla may announce that it will radically accelerate its development of 14-nanometer Atom processors.

So says a report by Barron's, citing "a person close to Intel" who told the financial news service that the chipbaking giant will trim its standard lag in moving a new process node from its Core line of processors down to its Atom line.

Intel's current top-of-the-line process node is 22nm, and Core processors have been available at that node for well over a year; 22nm Silvermont architecture–based Atom chips for the Bay Trail platform for tablets and Merrifield platform for smartphones, on the other hand, won't be available until later this year.

According to Barron's source, Intel's Core chips will be available at the 14nm node in the second quarter of 2014, to be followed a mere six months later by 14nm Atom chips.

With Intel continuing to struggle to move into the mobile market, such a "pedal to the metal" approach to making smaller, faster, less power-hungry ARM competitors is not just a good idea, it's nigh on a necessity.

After such non-starters as Menlow, Moorestown, and Medfield – although to be fair, Medfield has had some design wins – and with the laptop and desktop PC market in dire straits, Intel's next Atom line may be its last chance to crack a market that's dominated by ARM-based chippery.

And, of course, ARM is also making inroads into the data center, as well, so Intel's 14nm Atoms will also need to fight their way into dense servers.

What's more – and as Barron's points out – even if Intel does manage to grab a healthy share of the mobile and dense-server markets, there's a vast difference in profitability between Core and Xeon processors and li'l Atoms.

Intel's new CEO Brian Krzanich, who was selected by Chipzilla's board of directors in May of this year after former CEO Paul Otellini resigned last November, has his work cut out for him. ®

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