New Atom platform will cut off graphics players says Intel

Intel's next generation Atom platform, code-named Pine Trail, will ease out graphics chip makers like Nvidia from designing graphic chips around the Atom processor, the company said Tuesday.

Pine Trail is scheduled to start shipping from Intel in the second half of this year, and like the earlier Atom platform is designed for small, low-cost laptops and desktops, known as netbooks and nettops.

The Pineview CPU chip in the new platform integrates graphics and memory controller with the processor core, thus cutting down the number of chips to two from three for the earlier Atom platform for netbooks and nettops.

The I/O (input-output) continues as a separate chip, and is code-named Tiger Point.

The opportunities for third-party differentiation and integration now exist only on the I/O (input-output) portion of the platform, said Sujan Kamran, regional marketing manager at Intel Asia Pacific, in a conference call.

Nvidia said in December that its Ion platform brought together the Atom chip with a GeForce 9400 graphics chip to deliver better graphics, and full-spec 1080p high definition video.

Asked if the move to integrate graphics with the processor could attract anti-trust regulations, Kamran said that there is a growing trend for increased integration on chips of subsystems such as graphics and I/O elements.

The new platform is the most optimized for targeted users, providing reduced power, higher performance, and a lower platform bill-of-materials (BOM) than its earlier platform, Kamran added.

Intel did not however disclose numbers on the performance and power improvements from the new platform.

There is opportunity for third-party devices to connect to Intel's other products, Kamran said.

Intel has close to 300 design wins around the Atom processor for netbooks and nettops. The company expects a strong year ahead for Nettops, with broad adoption of the devices likely. Netbooks are still a growth driver, as large markets are still under-served, Kamran said.

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