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back to article Intel does fondleslabs with Atom 'Oak Trail'

Intel has announced that it is now shipping its latest low-power platform, formerly codenamed Oak Trail, aimed squarely at Chipzilla's latest market-defining neologism: "Companion Computing". That would be what the rest of the known world calls "tablets". Intel says that the platform, centered around its new Atom Z670 processor …

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Grenade

'...enabling "rich content and Flash-based gaming."..'

That's be a neat trick if they can do it, those two are usually mutually exclusive.

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Unhappy

Eugh...

Now intel are trying to push x86 down our throats in the form of tablets.

It's awful for anything that requires battery life.

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bad battery life?

I have a Villiv S5, and that sucker gets easily 5 hours of battery life playing videos, while using Bluetooth for a BT mouse. That is with one of the older higher power draw intel atoms too. All crammed into a laptop the size of an original Nintendo DS (when it was closed)

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FAIL

"... announcing shipment of Oak Trail and the 45-namometer Z670..."

Intel will never be competitive in the tablet/ultra-mobile/smartphone market until it starts giving its Atom/mobile processors and chipsets the same love Intel currently gives to its desktop and server offerings.

In the tablet/mobile space, it's all about performance per watt.

While Oak Trail does seem to be better suited to this market than the previous Atom kit Intel targeted for the mobile space, Oak Trail still doesn't seem to go "far enough" to be a viable competitor to the latest ARM SoCs out there.

Transistor junction sizes being equal, the x86/x86-64 architecture has **historically** needed to move a lot more electrons around to perform a given operation than an ARM core performing the same task.

I just don't see how Intel can be competitive in the mobile space with a 45nm part; it would have been better if they held off until Cedar Trail was ready at 32nm. And even that might not be enough, given that nVidia's Cortex-A9-based Tegra 2 is already out at 40nm, and will have shrunk to 28nm for the "Wayne" series release in 2012.

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Silver badge

Companion Computing

"Companion Computing" == Please don't stop buying desktops, just 'cos we sold you this. Please. PLEASE!

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Go

x86 vs ARM

One definite advantage of x86 processors is choice. Yes, end-user's choice over what runs on his device and how it runs there. In the past couple of years I've seen a plethora of ARM devices that are forever locked in with their old versions of firmware, unable to be updated. Even the most prominent players on this market, like Motorola and Samsung, "forget" about their older devices, leaving them without newest ROMs, not to mention the smaller companies like Archos. Having to either keep using the defunct Android 1.5 or replace the device, makes the tablet into really nothing more than a game console or a media player of olde. To add insult to injury, patch cycles on those devices are either slow or non-existent, forcing the majority of users to use devices with known and widely exploited security holes.

x86 architecture leaves the choice of OS to the user, while most of available choices for x86 are more mature, easier to upgrade and more frequently updated than their ARM counterparts. Granted, neither Windows7, nor latest Linux flavors are particularly well-suited for solely touch-screen experience, but I dare to hope it's easier to bring touch functionality to a versatile, mature and feature-rich OS, than vice versa (need I to mention lack of cut&paste on certain mobile OS until recently?).

As to the argument that software written for those OSes is not suited for small-screen touch-based form factor - this is true, user-space applications for such devices will have to be rewritten... but same goes for any ARM OS as well - and recent history shows that the road from 0 to 100,000 applications is shorter than a year.

So I, for one, welcome our battery-saving, x86-running, generic OS-supporting overlords... err... fondleslabs.

And please, please don't forget the digital stylus. Taking notes with finger-smudging is not fun.

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Choice?

With an Intel design, you have, at best, one vendor to choose from - Intel. I haven't seen AMD exactly brimming with design-winning low power SoCs, lately. With an ARM design, you have hundreds of OEMs all willing to offer you a part with an ARM core built-in. Want a standalone core? You got it. Want something with a built-in GPU, like a Tegra, or perhaps Mali graphics under licence? You got it. Want something else? You got it. You are free, what's more, to demand a second source - just try that with Intel.

What was that you were saying about choice?

x86 compatibility is so 1990s, though. These days, open source tends to be fairly common - so a recompile to use a different platform isn't quite the outlandish idea it was 15-20 years ago. Binary compatibility hardly means anything unless you run Windows, these days - and Windows is a long way from conquering the smartphone/tablet arena, despite already trying once, with Windows XP Tablet Edition. Rather, the majority of the smartphone/tablet space already supports ARM by default; any other architecture is decidedly also-ran by comparison.

Intel is going to find, sooner or later, that it is subject to the same market forces that crushed opposing architectures on the desktop in the 1990s, and in server rooms in the 2000s: When you have several manufacturers all competing with each other to offer cheap ARM-based parts, and just one Intel offering a non-standard part, it doesn't take a genius to realise that selling your Intel stock isn't a bad idea.

When 64-bit ARMs start hitting the market, that is when the fat lady will sing for Intel.

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@Oliver Jones

The other chap was obviously talking about choice from a consumer's perspective.

Sure, if you're a hardware developer there's going to be a wider choice of configurations you can develop against. The problem is, as stated above, this leaves the consumer at the mercy of the hardware company that made that specific product.

Want to run the latest version of Flash? Better hope Adobe has compiled a version that works on your specific flavour of ARM core.

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Megaphone

SOC...

...involves more than CPU + GPU. Neither AMD nor Intel currently offer one. Windows 7 does not support it.

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FAIL

Re - Choice?

Errrrr - how about the AMD E-series APUs? Single/dual core 64b x86 with integrated HD6310 DX11 graphics? OoO execution. Variants down to 5W including the GPU? Not bad....... and certainly a real alternative to the crippled Atom architecture

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Alert

64 bit ARM

Not needed.

64 bits only needed for multiple VM. Cheaper & better performance to have multiple ARM each with own RAM like Transputer.

32bit Intel CPU can do 16 GByte RAM efficiently via extension scheme supported as long ago as NT 4.0 Enterprise.

64 bit CPU will be less power efficient for normal applications that 32 bit at same speed and geometry.

If intel wants to compete with ARM they need a Single Chip 32 bit Atom that connects direct to RAM, Flash, Radio chip (WiFi/Bluetooth/FM radio etc), ethernet, LCD/Touch screen, camera chip, USB and SD card connector directly.

For 3 years Samsung has had ARM sandwich Soc with all I/O built in and RAM + Flash as two sandwich chips in same BGA module. The Atom is too hot for that.

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Thumb Up

I agree

Until Intel and AMD produce a real SoC, they will not compete in the tablet space.

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