More Details on the Intel Atom Emergeby Anand Lal Shimpi on March 6, 2008 8:00 PM EST
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In order to appreciate Intel’s Atom you really have to look at its roadmap. It’s much like AMD these days, today’s product may not be very impressive but its roadmap is sound. The first incarnations of Atom and the Menlow platform have failed to impress us at this point, but where they are headed has got us very excited.
In our review of the iPhone we stated the following:
The excitement around the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) died down because no one's hardware/software implementation was really done properly. Well folks, the iPhone is a couple generations away from being a true UMPC, it just needs some faster hardware and more storage space. There's no doubt in my mind that Intel's ultra low power x86 projects are being eyed by Apple for use in future iPhones, it's only a matter of time before we have the power of the first Centrino notebooks in our pockets.
When Apple perfected the smartphone UI it made its performance shortcomings even more obvious. Having a slow CPU in a smartphone isn’t as noticeable if the UI itself isn’t particularly responsive or quick to use, it’s just like being bottlenecked by a slow hard disk - you don’t notice a slow CPU as much in those cases. But when Apple fixed the UI side of things, the slow performance of its ARM CPU became more obvious as you’re able to interact much quicker with your phone.
Intel’s only leg to stand on with Menlow is performance, an area where it does have an advantage over competing ARM processors. However, it can’t yet compete based on power consumption. Through use of Moore’s law allowing for better integration of silicon and smaller, less power hungry transistors, Intel hopes to be at power-parity with ARM (both idle and active) within the next 3 or so years - all while being significantly faster, at least for the next 5.
Intel is effectively promising that in the coming years its Atom processor will enable you to, without sacrificing battery life, have significantly faster mobile devices and phones. We can’t help but be excited about that.