Intel Drops an 'Atom' Brand

The chip maker?ö?ç?ûs new Atom brand includes its Diamondville chip for low-cost laptops and its Silverthorne processor for mobile Internet devices. 

Intel's latest branding scheme is truly atomic.

Starting March 3, Intel will corral all its processors for MIDs (mobile Internet device) and low-cost PCs under a new brand name dubbed Intel Atom. The platform for these devices, which had been code-named Menlow, is now renamed Intel Centrino Atom.

The two processors that make up the new Atom line are Silverthorne, which is designed for MIDs, and Diamondville, which the company plans to include in low-cost PCs such as its own Classmate PC and the Asus Eee PC.

Since 2007, Intel has been talking about Silverthorne and how the chip and corresponding platform will create a whole new category of portable Internet devices. Several vendors, including Lenovo, Asus, Quanta and Clarion, have already announced that they will build MIDs based on the platform.

The company has been less forthcoming about Diamondville and its plans for low-cost PCs, although the chip is expected to resemble Silverthorne, which is based on Intel Architecture and is built on the company's 45-nanometer manufacturing process. Both processors will have a thermal design power specification-an Intel term that refers to the amount of heat a chip dissipates-of 2.5-watts or less and a clock speed of 1.8GHz.

These processors, especially Silverthorne, need to use as little power as possible in order to work in smaller, more compact devices.

"The Intel Atom processor is based on an entirely new design, built for low power and specifically for a new wave of mobile Internet devices and simple, low-cost PCs," Sean Maloney, the company's chief sales and marketing offer, said in a statement. "This small wonder is a fundamental new shift in design, small yet powerful enough to enable a big Internet experience on these new devices."

With dozens of different processors, chip sets and other products, Intel has sometimes offered a confusing array of brand names and codenames for its various product portfolios. Earlier this year, the Santa Clara, Calif., company announced it would change some brand names and eliminate others in order cut down some of the confusion.

Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight 64, said branding remains an important part of the company's ability to sell its processors, but Intel needs to ensure that customers know what they are getting.

"Intel has to make sure that customers don't confuse these processors with its more expensive models," Brookwood said. "You don't want a situation where people go out and a buy a $300 notebook and think its going to have the same capabilities as the $600 one they bought last year. Intel has to create a difference with its branding so that it doesn't kill its high-end products."