Intel Adapts to New Reality

Carl Weinschenk

The world of processors is complex. On the business side, however, the dynamic is clearly laid out by experts: Intel’s lead over other vendors is threatened by the transition to mobile devices, which, from the processor perspective, is a completely different kettle of transistors.

In mobile devices, the idea is to trade some of the horsepower in favor of longer battery life and generation of less heat. It is senseless to put a Lamborghini engine in a Toyota Camry.

It’s a big deal, and the companies that make the right choices will thrive and those that take missteps will pay dearly. Most immediately, there are negative advance notices on both the heat and battery life counts on Microsoft’s Surface Pro because, critics say, the wrong Intel architecture is being used.

Reuters reports that Intel has reported progress on its “system on a chip” (SoC) that is aimed at confronting these issues. As the name implies, a SoC packs the capabilities formerly performed by discrete elements into a single entity. This reduces the power needed to accomplish a set group of functions. SoCs are rated by their size. The story says that the one Intel is working on now is 22 nanometers. This, the story suggests, matches up well with its competitors.

CNET offers more details, including the name of the conference: The International Electron Devices Meeting. Brooke Crothers discusses Intel’s initiative: 

Those two devices -- tablets and smartphones -- are sucking up more SoCs every year. That's a problem for Intel because most small devices are based on SoCs from rival ARM. Intel is applying its 22-nanometer "Tri-Gate" 3D chip technology to SoCs for the first time. That newer 3D tech outperforms current 32-nanometer SoCs by 20 percent to 65 percent, Intel said.

A graphic at the end of the story says that Intel research is looking at SoCs as small as 10 nm. Still more details on Intel’s future plans is available at Mobile Geeks.

Meanwhile, Engadget reports that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) signed off on a tablet platform based on Intel’s Medfield SoC. The site says that there are hints that the framework around Medfield is ready for commercialization and may actually be in tablets at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

The processor world is full of strange names and confusing explanations of how the various parts fit together. The basic dynamic is pretty clear, however: Intel is the king of a realm that is changing drastically. The drama is how good a job it does of meeting that change.



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