Intel Intros Bay Trail SoCs for Tablets, Convertibles

Intel officials say the 22nm chips will drive new form factors, including two-in-ones convertible PCs, into the market.

SAN FRANCISCO—Intel executives on Sept. 11 formally launched the much-anticipated Atom Bay Trail chip aimed at tablets, laptops and newer convertible form factors as they look to gain traction in a mobile device market currently dominated by ARM and its manufacturing partners.

On the second day of the vendor's Intel Developer Forum (IDF) here, Hermann Eul, vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile and Communications Group, introduced the system-on-a-chip (SoC) that company executives believe exceeds ARM's low-power designs in both performance and energy efficiency.

The new 22-nanometer Atom Z3000 Series SoCs are based on Intel's new "Silvermont" microarchitecture, which the company has said will enable newer Atom chips to have five times lower power consumption and three times the performance of current Atom SoCs. The result will be processor technology that enables tablets, notebooks and convertible systems that bring together the key aspects needed for mobile platforms, such as high performance, long battery life, strong graphics, security and a good software stack.

"All those elements are important, and it all starts with a great CPU," Eul said. "We all know that all cores are not created equal."

Eul's comments echoed those of CEO Brian Krzanich from the day before, when he stressed the strengths of Intel's research and development capabilities and its manufacturing prowess as key differentiators from other chip suppliers. It also hits on the central theme of mobility at this year's IDF.

Eul noted that the dual- and quad-core Z3000 SoCs include Intel's Tri-Gate 3D transistor technology, 64-bit capabilities, Intel's HD graphics and strong performance-per-watt numbers. It also supports both Windows 8.1 and Google's Android operating system.

In an interview with eWEEK, Douglas Fisher, vice president and general manager of Intel's Software and Services Group, said that an important part of Intel's push into such areas as mobile computing is an architecture that supports multiple platforms. Where once Intel primarily supported Windows, the company's chips now also support Android, Apple's iOS and Linux.

"Intel is blessed with an open architecture that any system runs on," Fisher said.

Company executives are planning for a wide range of devices to run on the SoCs, from low-price tablets (some as low as $199) to Ultrabooks to convertible two-in-ones that can be used as either a laptop or tablet, a form factor that Intel is pushing heavily at IDF. Some systems will have active battery life as long as 10 hours and will have screen sizes ranging from 7 inches to 11.6 inches.

Intel officials said they expect OEMs to start offering Bay Trail-powered systems in the fourth quarter. They have said Bay Trail closes whatever power-efficiency gaps there were with ARM's designs and will help the company make inroads into the mobile device market for tablets and smartphones, and will bring about new PC form factors. In 2014, the company is scheduled to release "Merrifield," the first Silvermont-based SoC aimed at smartphones, as well as the company's 7260 Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. Intel also will launch "Airmont," the 14nm successor to Bay Trail.

In addition to the Z3000 SoCs, Intel also introduced its "Bay trail M" line of chips for entry-level mobile devices based on the Pentium and Celeron cores. The company expects systems ranging in price from $199 for a clamshell device, $250 for a notebook with touch and $349 for a two-in-one.

The "Bay Trail D" line of Pentium and Celeron desktop chips will include three offerings for entry-level systems.