back to article Intel wades into smartphone wars

Intel has introduced its second-generation ultra-mobile Atom processor, and the chip giant is telling the world that its new offering is targeted directly into the heart of today's hottest mobile market: smartphones. Until this week, the anticipated market for the three-chip lineup known as Moorestown was floating unmoored …


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  1. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge

    Can't wait

    A Meego phone based on this would be nice. Fast, "open" (no Jobsian restrictions), probably something that could be hacked into doing whatever I want. A great toy for the hobbiest or tinkerer, and a beautiful PMP or tablet for the comsumer.

    Best of all; no All Seeing Google, Walled Garden of Apple or Hopelessly Inept and Outdated Microsoft.

    Intel smartphone. Who knew?

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge

      re Can't wait

      So why don't you get a Nokia N900 today, if you really want to tinker and avoid walled gardens? OK, it runs on ARM, not Intel, but there are open development tools.

      1. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge


        Because none of my local carriers offer it, and I don't have the cash right now for an unlocked version. It is pretty much "everything I ever wanted in a phone/mobile internet device" but quite simply...out of my price range.

        I do have a request into my local carriers to carry the phone so that I may obtain it subsidised, but I won't hold my breath.

  2. Mikel

    I want to believe

    It's not about the widget - it's about what you can do with it - the opportunity it enables, the potentials it creates. It's about devices that empower the user to do new things, to do the things they do better, that stay out of the way. I really hope this platform has got the power to compete because I don't want to live in a Jobsian world.

    If this has got the grunt and battery life for serious competition and it's as close as you say, one of these may wind up on my desk before Christmas - especially if there's a Linux or Android version. If it's just another ploy like the HP Slate to try and prevent the adoption of the iPad and Tegra2 Android slates, the iPhone and the Android phones, then we're not going to forgive you and you've just done a great deal of damage to the Intel brand.

    Show me, Andy. Show me.

  3. coppice

    How many car batteries to get those run times?

    Anyone can quote long operational times from a battery, if they are sufficiently vague about the size of those batteries.

    1. Captain Save-a-ho

      Car batteries need not apply

      Since they think they can get the idle power down to as little as 100 milliwatts, those battery times don't seem quite so unbelievable. Tom's Hardware has a really technical review of the chip architecture, explaining why the power savings is so dramatic compared to Z5xx and earlier Atom designs.

      I for one welcome our new Smartphone-powering overlords. Competition from Intel in this space can only help us consumers. Having a choice of platforms beyond the Casinoesque universe of Cupertino is a very good thing indeed.

      1. Jerome 0

        Capacity is key

        OP never said the battery times were unbelievable, he said they don't mean a damn thing without knowing the capacity of the battery. I'm inclined to agree.

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  5. Waffles666
    Thumb Up

    Go Intel

    Loving this, my previous smart phones have been touch pro, touch pro 2, N97, touch HD2 and now desire and with each upgrade I have seen how the rise in performance of the chips that power them just makes so much more possible now then 2 years ago. If intel are really hitting the right power consumption then they could provide some real competition to qualcomm and nvidia and we all know that more competition means better products.

  6. Mage Silver badge


    At more than x10 the number of transistors per CPU core I believe this is a better pocket solution than an ARM when I see it in PMPs and Phones.

    Do Intel realise how cheap ARM core chips are? Do they really want to be in the $1 to $10 part of the market competing with Samsung, NXP, Freescale, National Semi, Analog Devices and everyone else that isn't Via, AMD or Intel?

    Meanwhile are Microsoft hedging their bets and porting NT Aka Windows 7 to ARM?

    This might compete in larger 4" screen MIDs/Phones.

    Products is what counts. Not vague hints of loads of customers we can't name.

    1. John 62

      clock for clock

      Atom uses in-order-execution, like an ARM A8, which currently only goes as far as about 1GHz, at least in current devices. Clock for clock Atom and A8 are going to be pretty similar, since the Atom here is quoted as going up to 1.5GHz. The x86 overhead is probably pretty small nowadays compared to the rest of the processor.

      The Coretex A9 will use out-of-order execution like an Intel Core-type chip and hence be potentially much faster than A8. Out of order execution is great, but it comes at the cost of transistors for lots of pipeline logic.

      I'm not knocking ARM or their implementors, they've done a lot of good work, but there isn't a 'secret sauce' that magically makes ARM better than Intel any more than anything that magically makes a Core i7 magically better than an AMD part. Intel was behind AMD in both desktops and servers for a while, but they caught up. Intel could catch up in smartphones too.

      Intel also has the advantage of being very good at fabrication, getting power efficiencies out of die-shrinks that competitors find difficult. Again, though, that's not a secret sauce: Intel just has scale on its side.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

    Keeps those bandwagons rollin'

  8. Charlie Clark Silver badge


    Who needs 1080p on a smartphone? Anything x86 based will be more complex and use more power than an ARM to do anything because it has more processors. ARM's design also lets customers choose which particular functions should be done in hardware letting them sacrifice flexibility for speed.

    Intel's process engineers will no doubt have done a mighty job squeezing everything they can out of the silicon and on tablets they can probably compete reasonably well. Having Windows support will probably help. But, and it's a big but, if they want to compete with ARM on price they will seriously risk cannibalising their other markets like notebooks and even servers. But it will be interesting to see what any real devices are actually capable of.

    @ Mage I don't think MS will port the whole of NT to ARM. More likely that they will have some kind of .NET + drivers environment in development. That would get you Office and Direct X on a tablet and probably be enough.

    1. John 62

      Intel lock-in

      x86 is decoded well by AMD. Even if AMD can't compete on its own in the smartphone market, Apple might be willing to give them lots of money to compete if Jobs so desired

  9. JeeBee

    Let's wait for the reality, eh?

    So LG have dumped their Moorestown Smartphone design already. That says more than Intel marketing can bluff. Comparing last year's ARM Cortex A8 based systems to next year's Intel system is quite disingenuous. Let's see how next year's dual-core ARM Cortex A9 based systems compare...

    Also the power consumption at non-idle isn't really talked about - and I believe this is where Moorestown clearly isn't competitive.

    But I'm sure it will be a success in the tablet market. Up against all those $15 ARM SoCs...

    1. Steve Todd Silver badge

      ARM can manage

      four A9 cores at 2GHz on a power budget of 1.9W. It doesn't look like the Moorestown is in that order of efficiency, and LG dumping it tend to indicate that it's not hitting performance targets either..

  10. Matt Bucknall

    Marketing that only mentions idle-time mW...

    ...usually has something to hide.

    And why Intel feels the need to spread its 'platform' across multiple chips, when most ARM implementers manage to cram most functionality into a single SoC, goodness only knows. It makes sense to do this in PCs and laptops where power dissipation and modularity might be an issue, but not in a smart phone. An SoC results in a far simpler (cheaper) PCB layout, fewer solder joints and higher reliability given the dubious techniques used to mass produce mobile phone hardware.

    Don't get me wrong, I quite like the Intel Atom, but it has its place. Has to be said, as a designer of ARM-based hardware, I'm a bit biased though.

  11. Julian 4


    John 62 "The x86 overhead is probably pretty small nowadays compared to the rest of the processor."

    The x86 overhead never got smaller, what happened is that the processors got bigger; so that when you're dealing with large cores with 10s of millions of transistors the x86 overhead diminishes proportionally.

    That's not true for MID devices since the cortex A9s etc use relatively small multi-core CPUs; so the competing x86 overhead will be a constant factor. Intel can't offer anything that ARM can do better, they certainly can't offer anything that scales like ARM does.

    The question is: why would you want x86, since nothing needs it any more.

  12. mark l 2 Silver badge

    who needs HD video on a phone

    Who needs HD video on a smartphone when most only have a screen of about 5 inches, the whole point of HD video is to look better than SD video on a large screen. You probably couldnt tell the difference between a 1080p video and the same video encoded at 640 x 400 on a smartphones screen and the low res video would require less processing power to decode and result in longer battery life.

    I think Intels major stumbling block to get Atom into Smartphones will be getting the cost down the the same as ARM cores. Phone manufactuers arent going to start paying two or three times more for Atom over ARM cores when there isn't two or three times the profit in doing so

    1. bygjohn

      HD video on smartphones

      Two reasons spring to mind:

      1) You might want to watch an HD programme on your phone without having to spend ages converting it to a lower resolution: just copy and go.

      2) You might want to take an HD video somewhere and play it back through a large screen.

      So in absolute terms you're right, you wouldn't see the quality on the phone's screen, but if you consider how these things might be/are being used it's not a useless facility.

  13. Robert E A Harvey


    Did you really mean 'hottest'? Shouldn't that be the main thing they are trying to avoid?

  14. John 62


    <harry hill>that's what I said, didn't i?</harry hill>

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