Intel Plans for 22-nm 'Ivy Bridge,' 15-nm Atom Chips

Intel officials continue to think small when it comes to processors. At IDF, they discussed plans for a 22-nm processor next year and Atom chips at 15 nanometers down the road.

Intel's upcoming 32-nanometer "Sandy Bridge" next-generation Core architecture got much of the attention at the company's developer show this week, but executives also gave attendees a glimpse of even smaller chips coming down the road.

During his keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco Sept. 13, CEO Paul Otellini said that the company's "Ivy Bridge" processor, a 22-nm chip, is on schedule and will be delivered in the second half of 2011. The chips are already in sample production, he said.

"Last year at IDF, I showed you the first working wafer with SRAM devices on it," Otellini said during his talk. "This year, I'm happy to report that our first microprocessor designed for 22 nanometers is moving through our fabs as we speak here today."

Intel executives didn't give out much more information about Ivy Bridge, but the timetable for the chip was another indication of how aggressively the company is pushing the continued shrinking of its chips as it seeks better performance and energy efficiency in its products. If the schedule holds, Ivy Bridge will appear months after systems powered by Sandy Bridge hit the market.

The road map also will keep Intel well ahead of rival Advanced Micro Devices, which is due to roll out its first 32-nm processors in the middle of next year.

Also at IDF, Intel reportedly unveiled a road map that showed its Atom chip shrinking to as small as 15 nanometers. Currently the Atom chips are made through a 45-nm manufacturing process.

Intel officials didn't say when the 15-nm Atoms will appear-the next step is to get them to 32 nanometers, then 22.

A chart that Intel reportedly displayed during a technical session at IDF showed a rapid growth of the number the Atom models. Currently, there are six chip models in the 45-nm category. That will grow to 11 at 32 nanometers, 20 at 22 nanometers and 27 at 15 nanometers.

Intel launched the Atom platform two years ago, aimed at netbooks and other small form factors. Now executives are looking to aggressively expand the reach of the Atom chips, into such areas as tablets and notebooks, handheld devices and embedded systems. That said, netbooks still represent the bulk of Atom sales, Doug Davis, vice president and general manager of Intel's Embedded and Communications Group, said in his IDF keynote Sept. 14. According to Davis, Intel has sold more than 70 million Atom units into netbooks over the past two years.

He also unveiled the Atom E600 SoC (System-on-a-Chip), the first in the new Atom E series for embedded devices.