Intel held its annual Investor Meeting today, where the chip maker talked software, the state of the business, as well as new hardware and leveraging microarcitecture leadership. This installment focuses on the mobile hardware aspects.
Partway through the Intel Investor Meeting 2011, David Perlmutter stepped on stage for his keynote speech. As the Vice President and General Manager of the Intel Architecture Group, he delved into the advancements that Intel has made in smaller transistor manufacturing, and how those advancements will help Intel to break into the mobile and handheld computing market with low power and high performance SoCs (System on a Chip). During the meeting, Intel stated that it has always been known for performance, but not necessarily for being low power. With their recent advancements in moving to smaller manufacturing nodes; however, Intel has positioned itself to have power efficient processors that are low power and with power to deliver a fluid user experience in mobile devices. David explains that power efficency follows along with Moore’s Law in that as the transistors get smaller (and with Intel’s advancements such as 3D transistors), the chips become much more power efficient. With each successive shrink in manufacturing nodes, Intel has seen higher transistor switching speeds and lower current leakage compared to previous generations:
What as these new power efficent chips amount to, is Intel’s new ability to break into the mobile market and become extremely competitive with the ARM architecture(s). David showed off two examples during the Investor Meeting 2011 in the form of an Android smart phone and 7" tablet powered by 32nm Medfield mobile chips.
The Medfield powered Android smart phone.
An Intel powered Android tablet that will be available to developers soon.
The phone is a hyper threaded, 32nm Intel Medfield mobile processor that runs the Android 2.x operating system and is poised to compete with the current dual core ARM powered smart phones. A dual core version of the mobile SoC is also planned in the future. When questioned if the rumored quad core ARM smart phones would pose a problem for Intel’s planned single and dual core phones, David responded that the number of cores is only one aspect of performance, and is a measurement "much like megahertz was in the ’90s" and hinted not to count Intel’s processors out even when competing against quad core ARM processors.
The tablet did not recieve as much attention as the concept phone; however, we do know that it is capable of running Android Honeycomb, is 7", and will be powered by a very similar 32nm Medfield chip.
Intel projects that by 2015, not only will they have passed 14nm manufacturing nodes (which are planned for 2014) but the SoCs will have 10 times the graphics and computational power as their chips released this year.
From the keynotes at this year’s meeting, Intel is both enthusiastic and confident in their ability to finally dive into the mobile market in force and become a heavywieght competitior to ARM. Their plans to bring the x86 instruction set and power sipping chips to the handset and netbook markets is a bold move, but if their projections hold true may result in a massive market share increase and further innovation in an even more competitive mobile market.