The World Changes, MIDs Ahead of Their Time

Silverthorne lacked integration, which wasn’t a problem for MIDs and netbooks, but it kept the chip out of smartphones. Between 2004 and Atom’s introduction in 2008 the iPhone happened. All of the sudden the clunky MIDs we were reluctantly waiting for stopped being interesting. What we wanted were more iPhones, and iPhone clones. Then came Android and the rest is history. While Atom had tremendous success in netbooks, Intel’s decision to pursue a discrete route first kept it out of smartphones.

Luckily, next on the list after the first Atom was a more integrated one with the goal of dropping power consumption. We saw this with Pine Trail, the netbook Atom that brought the memory controller and GPU on-die. Performance didn’t improve because unlike most integrated memory controllers, this one still connected to the CPU via a FSB.

Intel Atom "Diamondville" Platform 2008
Intel Atom "Pine Trail" Platform 2009-2010

Pine Trail still has all of the bells and whistles of a PC platform however. Take the PCI bus for example. Every 12 microseconds it wakes up and polls every IO on the platform. That kills idle battery life, especially when you’ve got a tiny smartphone battery. Pine Trail is useless for smartphones, and that’s where Moorestown comes in.

If you thought this was the netbook Atom squeezed into a smartphone, you’re very wrong. It’s got a completely different memory controller, a true smartphone GPU (the same core, but clocked higher than what’s in the iPhone 3GS) and a ton of power optimizations that just don’t exist in the netbook version. The chipset is also very different. The PCI bus is gone as is anything that could ruin power consumption. Intel did a lot of optimization and a lot of cutting here. What resulted is something that looks a lot like a smartphone hardware platform and nothing like what we’re used to seeing from Intel.

This is Moorestown.

Craig & Paul’s Excellent Adventure Moorestown: The Two Chip Solution That Uses Five Chips
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  • DanNeely - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    I think you're misunderstanding the slide. It's not saying 1024x600 to 1366x768, it's saying upto 1366x768 on interface A, upto 1024x600 on interface B. Reply
  • Mike1111 - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the clarification. Looks like I really misunderstood this sentence:
    "Lincroft only supports two display interfaces: 1024 x 600 over MIPI (lower power display interface) or 1366 x 768 over LVDS (for tablets/smartbooks/netbooks)."
    Reply
  • uibo - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    I wonder how many transistors are there in a Cortex A9 core? Just the core nothing else.
    For me it seems that ARM could just double or quadruple their core count against the Intel solution while still maintaining lower transistor count.
    Also they could just increase the CPU clock speed, if there is a market for the more power-hungry Intel solution the there is one for the ARM also.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    I would imagine even less smartphone software is written for multi-core now than was for desktop when dual-core CPUs started appearing in desktops. So going beyond 2 cores at this time is probably not a great move. Plus the dual core A9 isn't out to see power consumption yet, but even at 45nm I doubt it will be much below the current 65nm single-core chips if at all, so if Intel is already competitive then ARM doesn't exactly have the power budget to add cores. Reply
  • uibo - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    That actually makes sense. Nobody is going to write multi-threaded apps for a single thread CPU. I'd imagine that the number of apps, which experience is hindered by performance, is not that great at the moment. Games, browsers, UI, database for the info stored in your device - I'm not expecting these to scale perfectly across many cores but do expect a x0% performance increase. Reply
  • DanNeely - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    The real benefit for the 2nd core is probably multi-tasking. Your streaming music app can run in the background on the second core while your browser still has a full core to render web pages. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    Mooresetown has to support a desktop OS. Intel is clearly moving towards wireless computing. They are bringing wireless video. With wireless video you can turn your phone into a desktop pc instantly by adding a wireless monitor and keyboard. What is the point of moving in that direction if you're moving towards a crippled OS? (Not that windows isnt crippled, if you consider obesity a form of cripple.)

    If it needs a pci bus, then emulate one!
    Reply
  • Caddish - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    Just registered to say keep up the good work. Since the SSD antology I have red all of your article like that one and they are awesome Reply
  • legoman666 - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    Excellent article, very well written. Reply
  • jasperjones - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    Anand,

    You mention twice in the article that Apple and Google dominate the smartphone market. This is utter nonsense. The numbers from IDC as well as the numbers from Canalys clearly show that Nokia is the worldwide leader in the smartphone market. RIM is number 2. Apple is in the third place, the first company that produces Android devices, HTC, has the number 4 spot.

    I realize that Nokia's market share in the U.S. is smaller than its global market share. However, even if we restrict ourselves to the U.S. market, RIM smartphone sales are bigger than those of Apple. They are also bigger than the sales of all Android smartphones combined.
    Reply

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