Intel Readies New Atom Chips

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

Intel has unveiled its next-generation Atom chip platform, which will integrate graphics with the central processing unit for the first time

Intel announced that new Atom chips will start appearing in systems in January, and will for the first time include integrated graphics capabilities and memory controller.

The Atom chip, first introduced in June 2008, as been the key technology driving the netbook market, which has been one of the few segments in the tech industry to perform well during the global recession – thanks to the small size and low cost of the systems – and a lone bright spot in the PC space during the past year.

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Now the chip – the smallest in Intel’s portfolio – will begin finding its way into entry-level desktops, continuing Intel’s aggressive plans for expanding the platform’s reach.

“The Intel Atom processor has fueled an entirely new category of computing over the last year and a half, and we think the growth will continue for devices like netbooks and entry-level PCs built around basic computing and Internet usage models,” Mooly Eden, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel’s PC Client Group, said in a statement.

The new Atom platform should lead to new systems with better battery life, smaller footprints and greater performance, according to Intel.

The integrated graphics and memory controller is an important part of that, the chip maker said. That not only will the integration help with the improved performance, but it will also mean lower power and a smaller overall size, now that the Atom platform will mean two chips (the CPU and chip set), rather than three (the CPU, chip set and I/O controller hub).

Intel has seen rapid adoption of its Atom technology. ABI Research is predicting that Atom shipments will grow into the hundreds of millions by 2011, and both Gartner and IDC say the netbook space will continue to expand. Gartner in November predicted that mini-notebook shipments will reach 29 million in 2009 and 41 million in 2010.

Intel also is courting developers to help expand the Atom-based netbook reach. At the Intel Developer Forum in September, Intel officials introduced its Atom Developer Program, which is designed to make it easier for developers to create and market applications for the platform. Intel on 12 December released a beta version of the program’s SDK (software development kit).

The new platform includes the Atom N450 processor and NM10 Express chip set for netbooks, and either the D410 or dual-core D510 – also with the NM10 Express chip set – for entry-level desktops.

The chips run at 1.66GHz.