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Intel Unveils New Tablet Chip

April 12, 2011

Intel Corp. announced Monday the release of its new Intel Atom platform — formerly codenamed “Oak Trail” — which is available now and will be installed in new tablet devices beginning in May and throughout the year.

The new microchip, built smaller to use less power than other chips, is planned to be used in more than 35 tablet designs ranging from companies including Fujitsu Limited, Lenovo, Razer, and Viliv. Many of the companies’ designs are already based on “Oak Trail” technology.

Intel, which has been largely pushed out of the lucrative tablet market, is hoping to grab a slice of the tablet pie with the new tablet-based microchip. Until now, most devices have used microchips designed by Apple and ARM Holdings. Intel conceded that it was currently lagging behind rivals and was hopeful that Z670 — Oak Trail’s retail name — would give it an edge.

“You won’t find a lot of Intel based tablets on the shelves at the moment,” Kevin O’Donovan, marketing manager for notebooks and tablets, told BBC News.

However, the company now has a product that can compete with rival technologies, O’Donovan insisted. “2011 is about becoming relevant,” he said.

Intel says one of Oak Trail’s biggest selling points will be its ability to run a number of operating systems including Windows 7, Android, MeeGo and Google’s soon-to-be-released OS.

One tablet maker, Hewlett-Packard (HP), had postponed the launch of its Slate PC tablet until Oak Trail became available.

Some analysts believe Intel may struggle to find a seat in the tablet market.

“I think they have got some serious challenges,” said Gartner research director Michael Gartenberg.

“They continue to beat the drum of performance, but in reality, I don’t think there are a lot of people running around complaining about how slow their tablets are.” Most people “seem to be quite happy with the Arm architecture,” he told the British news agency.

Intel, at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, also gave a sneak peak of its next-generation, 32nm Atom platform — codenamed “Cedar Trail,” — designed for netbooks and entry-level desktops.

“The new Intel Atom ‘Oak Trail’ platform, with ‘Cedar Trail’ to follow, are examples of our continued commitment to bring amazing personal and mobile experiences to netbook and tablet devices, delivering architectural enhancements for longer battery life and greater performance,” said Doug Davis, vice president and general manager of the Intel’s Netbook and Tablet Group.

“We are accelerating the Intel Atom product line to now move faster than Moore’s law, bringing new products to market on three process technologies in the next 3 years,” he said.

Intel’s Oak Trail/Z670 processors use Intel’s 45nm production process. The figure is a measure of circuit track density and broadly relates to processing power and energy consumption. While current high-end microprocessors use 32nm production, the technology is largely limited to laptop and desktop computers.

Intel boasts that the Z670 Atom processor delivers improved video playback, fast Internet browsing and longer battery life, without sacrificing performance.

With significant improvements in power-efficiency and performance, the Atom processor should allow applications to run on various operating systems. The flexibility to run on multiple operating systems allows for more choices on the consumer end.

The Atom processors come with the Intel SM35 Express Chipset and designed with high-speed USB 2.0 for greater performance and Intel High-Definition Audio to enable premium home theater sound.

The platform also provides an excellent solution for tablets in retail, medical and industrial applications. Solutions such as mobile clinical assistants allow medical staff to directly input data into patients’ electronic files and avoid paper filing, resulting in the reduction of errors, better workflow, higher productivity and reduced paper handling.

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