Intel to Launch 'Atom' Mobile Chips at 2008 IDF

The chip maker will debut the first of its Atom processors for mobile Internet devices at its 2008 Developer Forum in China.

Intel is thinking small at its 2008 Intel Developer Forum in China.

The spring IDF, which kicks off April 2 in Shanghai, will mark the debut of the chip maker's much talked about Atom processor-formerly called Silverthorne-for a new category of MIDs (mobile Internet devices) that Intel and its OEM partners have been developing for the past year.

As reflected in their name, the Atom chips only measure 25 square millimeters.

At the show, Intel will show off the first of five new Atom processors,which are based on Intel Architecture and will range in clock speed from 800MHz at the low end to 1.86GHz at the high end. These single-core chips are based on the company's 45-nanometer manufacturing process and contain 512KB of Level 2 cache.

In order to work within a small device, Intel developed the Atom chips with a TDP-an internal Intel term that measures the total amount of heat a chip has to dissipate-of between 2.4 and 0.65 watts. By using low-watt processors, Intel is giving up some performance but also hoping to offer between 4 to 6 hours of battery life with the first generation of MIDs, said Anand Chandrasekhar, senior vice president of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company will also show off a new chip set with these devices called the SCH (System Controller Hub). Formally called Poulsbo, the SCH will support both Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems and will support between 512MB and 1GB of DDR2 (double data rate 2) RAM.

Together, the processors and chips sets form the base for the Centrino Atom platform.

Intel is placing a huge bet that its new processor and platform will open up what CEO Paul Otellini has called a $10 billion market for the new mobile devices. While the Atom processors are designed for these portable Internet machines, Intel is developing a different class of similar chips for low-cost notebooks. (Intel plans to demonstrate two conceptual "netbooks" that use these chips at IDF.)

So far, the chip maker has 25 OEM partners that will deliver 35 different MID designs. Several of these first-generation MIDs will hit the streets by the second quarter of 2008, mostly in China, Japan and South Korea, with a starting price of about $500. The U.S. and European markets will likely follow later.