Intel targets smartphones, tablets with new Atom processors

Intel Atom logo

Intel has made a major move into the smartphone market with the launch of its long-anticipated Moorestown platform now officially renamed the Atom Z6 Series.

The new platform combines a second-generation Atom processor with a new Platform Controller Hub (PCH) MP20 to create a system on a chip offering strong performance with low power demands.

Intel has long held sway in the desktop and laptop markets, but despite a number of attempts to produce a chip frugal enough to suit handheld devices, it has thus far failed to make any significant headway.

However, the Z6 Series changes that, with low-power processors ranging from 1.2GHz to 1.9GHz based on x86 architecture.

Despite being a late arrival in the mobile space, Intel will no doubt feel confident of success given the ongoing demand for high-end smartphones and the recent emergence of the tablet market.

But while Intel holds a comfortable 80 per cent share of the computing market with AMD the only competitor of any consequence the smartphone market is far more competitive, and Intel's rivals have had a significant head start.

At present, most smartphones are powered by Arm chips, and it looks like the tablet market is following the same pattern, with the proprietary A4 chip inside the Apple iPad built on Arm underpinnings.

However, Intel believes tablets powered by the Moorestown platform will have the edge over Arm-based devices in terms of both performance and battery life.

Intel says it has worked hard to keep power consumption as low as possible, with the processing elements of the chips having been split into 19 power islands, each of which takes responsibility for a separate task, with sectors not in use automatically turned off.

The company claims an Atom-based smartphone would be good for 10 days on standby, 48 hours of audio playback, five hours of 720p video or six hours of 3G calls.

"The specific focus of Moorestown is entering the smartphone segment but it also does very well, it scales very well in the tablet segment," said Pankaj Kedia, the director of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group.