Fueling Growth in Ultraportable Devices

By Scott Ferguson  |  Posted 2008-02-01 Print this article Print

"There are always tradeoffs, and in this case, Intel is trying to balance cost and the ability to deliver the power consumption levels needed for the devices that Silverthorne will go into," Spooner said. "In terms of performance, Silverthorne doesn't have to beat a Core 2 Duo or a Pentium or an [Advanced Micro Devices] Athlon."

In an interview, Rattner compared Silverthorne to Intel's Pentium processor, a comparison that served two purposes. First, Pentium was the last Intel chip to use an in-order pipeline and, second -- and more importantly -- the introduction of Pentium helped fuel growth in the PC market.

Intel hopes Silverthorne will fuel the same growth in ultraportable devices.

Silverthorne is also one of the smallest processors Intel has ever built. At 25 millimeters square, Rattner said a person would have to go back to the Intel 486 family of chips to find one as small as Silverthorne.

All of these factors -- the in-order pipeline, the size, the low power consumption -- are important when considering that Silverthorne is being built for portable Internet devices that can fit into a pocket, consume less power and have the ability to render rich media content, such as Web sites that contain Java script.

Intel has said it would begin shipping Silverthorne as part of its "Menlow" platform for MIDs by the first half of this year. The platform includes a new chip set called Poulsbo and some of the vendors that plan to offers these portable devices include Lenovo, Asus, Quanta and Clarion.

While it's too soon to tell how fast customers will flock to these new types of devices or if other major vendors will develop their own MIDs, Spooner said Intel does view Silverthorne as the first piece in building a new computer market.

"Clearly Intel sees something in the platform," Spooner said. "Up until now, these companies have not done a very good job at developing these devices and getting them out into the market. What you saw with Apple's iPhone is that there is an interest in these types of handheld devices and that they could be sold to a fairly broad audience. The biggest issue is price. I think these types of devices have to get down to about $200 before they appeal to a very broad audience. That will take time."


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