Faced with continuous decline of its Atom series of processors, the semiconductor giant from Santa Clara is showcasing concept smartphone and tablet designs for 2012.
By all standards, Intel had a dream year – the company achieved record revenue and record profits. However, there was one dark spot on otherwise, a spotless record: Atom line of products.
Intel Atom was introduced in 2008 as a byproduct of Intel receiving back the P55C core from US Army. The second byproduct of that heavily modified and optimized core was Larrabee graphics core, which got canceled and is now known as a HPC-accelerator Knights Bridge / Knights Corner. Intel Atom enjoyed a lot of success in 2008-2010, with a lot of analysts writing stories about the rise of netbooks and how netbooks will mark the end of PC as we know it. Sounds familiar, right?
Fast forward to third quarter of 2011: Intel posted excellent sales and profit results, but the company also marked a 32% decline in sales of Intel Atom platform. Indeed, when we look at Atom as a whole, the product actually declined by over 60% during 2011 alone – as tablets took over the hearts and minds of consumers, sales of netbooks came to a screeching halt.
Intel's answer to tablets is known for quite some time: Intel's second SoC design codenamed Medfield (first one being Cedarview, D2x00 Series). Medfield is manufactured in 32nm process node and is consisted out of single Atom core operating up to 1.9GHz clock, integrated graphics subsystem (it is not known which one, but current Atoms utilize PowerVR SGX545), Image Signal Processor, memory controller and chipset features. Do note that SGX545 is more powerful than SGX543MP2 used inside the Apple's A5 Dual-core chip.
On IDF Fall 2011, Intel showed its prototypes of smartphone and tablet designs, but the Android operating system was not ready for the limelight. Few months after, Android 2.x and 3.x long gone and the company is optimizing for Android 4.x Ice Cream Sandwich operating system.
You can expect the first smartphone and tablet designs coming in the first half of 2012. Second half of 2012 will see the appearance of Windows 8 tablets, where Intel will argue compatibility with full set of applications on Windows 8. Bear in mind that ARM-based tablets won't be able to run software compiled for the X86 instruction set.
Still, Medfield is just the introductionary part and we're not surprised ARM vendors are sound asleep at the market acceptance. Real headache for every member of ARM ecosystem is coming on CES 2013, the 22nm Silvermont – completely new Atom architecture, which will go hand in hand with the next-generation 22nm Haswell architecture for high-performance computers.