In early 2004 Intel assembled a team of engineers to design a core to be used in a many-core CPU. You may remember the following slide from Spring IDF 2005:

 

By 2015 Intel expects to have CPUs with many smaller IA cores, each with very low power characteristics but with the entire chip being very high performance. Intel commissioned its Austin design team to work on one of the cores for this type of many-core CPU.

Also in 2004, Intel commissioned a smaller group from within this team to look at the feasibility of turning one of these cores into a standalone CPU for use in low power mobile applications.

The team tasked with the pathfinding effort quickly concluded that based on the performance, power and cost requirements, it could not rely on any of Intel’s existing microprocessors to base such a CPU on.

The CPU that resulted from this pathfinding effort was Silverthorne, more recently given the name Atom. And today Intel is releasing some more details on the processor, as well as its first successor due out in 2009/2010.

More Menlow Details

The Austin team’s pathfinding effort resulted in the design of the Bonnell core, named after the tallest mountain in Austin, TX measuring only 750 feet. Given that Bonnell was a very small core, naming it after a very small mountain seemed fitting.

The Bonnell core was just that, a core, at first. Once Intel told its Austin team to begin turning it into a standalone mobile CPU, the team had to design a cache and bus I/O for the chip. The resulting chip was Silverthorne, which is a Bonnell core + L2 cache + Bus I/O.

Silverthorne, which is the ultra mobile version of the Intel Atom CPU, is built on Intel’s 45nm process as we’ve mentioned in our architecture piece.

Menlow is the name of Intel’s MID (Mobile Internet Device) platform, it consists of the Silverthorne (Atom) processor and the Poulsbo chipset.

Poulsbo is an entirely new chipset design, it’s a single chip solution that features integrated GPU and I/O controller - it obviously plays all of the standard chipset roles, just in a single chip. Poulsbo isn’t 45nm but Intel isn’t disclosing its manufacturing process just yet.

The integrated graphics core in Poulsbo is also a new design, but Intel isn’t disclosing too much about it yet. It will support full hardware accelerated HD video decode.

The Menlow platform will officially launch in Q2 of this year with products expected within 6 months of its launch.

The Moorestown Update: Atom in Smartphones
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  • PrinceGaz - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    It is a big market, and a small step afterwards to CPU+GPU+chipset in one package. A single chip and cheap simple mobo offering will have the likes of Dell chomping at the bit.

    We might have the likes of GeForce 8800 cards, but the money is made in the integrated markets, especially for corporate purchases.
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