Intel's Oak Trail processors designed for tablets

Newest iteration of the comany's Atom chips to be used on 35 devices

Intel is releasing an updated version of its Atom processor intended for tablet and netbook PCs that the company claims is 60 percent smaller and more efficient than the previous iteration of Atom chips.

The semiconductor giant has had a tough time trying to make inroads in to the mobile computing market, as its counterpart ARM has been the dominant force in smart phones and tablets.

The Z670 chip, dubbed Oak Trail, is 13.8 millimeters by 13.8 millimeters and has 45-nanometer manufacturing. Intel promises that it is faster, cheaper and, most importantly, less power hungry. All with the claim that it does not sacrifice performance.

Related story:

Intel's mobile struggles continue as it clings to MeeGo

Intel’s major problem in the mobile chip market is that ARM has more efficient functions, which makes it preferable to original equipment manufacturers and consumers because it improves battery life of devices.

The Oak Trail series, with Cedar Trail the next iteration in the cycle later, supports operating systems such as Android, Windows, Google Chrome OS and MeeGo. The ill-fated MeeGo OS was a partnership between Intel and Nokia before Nokia decided to go with Windows Phone 7 as its feature platform and Intel still develops on its own.

Up until this point, no truly mobile device (as opposed to portable, like netbooks) had used an Intel Atom processor, but that will change with Oak Trail. As noted in the Mobile Platform last week, Motion Computing is making Windows 7 tablets that will run on Atom Oak Trail and be designed specifically for productivity uses. Intel claims that 35 Oak Trail devices are coming within the year from the likes of Lenovo, Fujitu, Razer and Viliv.

It remains to be seen if Intel’s Atom processors can make a dent in the tablet market that is dominated by Apple’s iPad, which Oak Trail does not support. Apple uses ARM architecture in its A4 chips, which the company designs and manufactures itself. Research firm Gartner expects the iPad to dominate the tablet market, with at least 50 percent of sales, until at least 2015, Android devices picking up most of the rest.

Microsoft, despite its long partnership with Intel through various Windows platforms, will not have a tablet-optimized operating system until near the end of 2012 at the very earliest, when it releases Windows 8, an OS that is rumored to be a cross between Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7.

The best thing that could happen in the mobile market for Intel, outside of the unlikely exponential growth of MeeGo, would be for Microsoft to grab a significant portion of the tablet market as businesses look to specific tablet devices to fulfill specific tasks.

About the Author

Dan Rowinski is a staff reporter covering communications technologies.


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