Intel bets on emerging market with new Atom chip

Intel also unveils solid-state drives for new netbook and net-top computers

Betting on the market for small laptops and desktops, Intel Corp. today announced new Atom processors for what it's calling netbook and net-top computers.

Sean Maloney, an Intel executive vice president, unveiled two new Atom processors during a keynote address today at the Computex trade show  in Taiwan. Intel began shipping Atom chips  for mobile Internet devices, which are small pocketable machines, back in April.

The new Atom N270 and Atom 230 processors for small laptops and desktops are the second incarnation of Intel's newly designed 45-nanometer processor.

"We see a lot of demand for more affordable products," said Chris Tulley, a spokesman for Intel. Noting that the majority of households in emerging markets have no PCs, and that the majority of households in mature markets have one PC, he added, "We see an opportunity to have more devices per household and potentially one device per person."

Tulley added that the company expects netbook and net-top sales to outpace growth of traditional laptops and desktops.

A netbook is a relatively inexpensive, small form-factor laptop that is designed for basic applications like Web surfing, e-mail and writing. A net-top is similar, except it's a desktop. Both are designed to use less power than their traditional counterparts but aren't powerful enough for serious power users or gamers.

Tulley said companies like Acer Inc. are both coming out with devices based on the new Atom chips. Maloney showed off net-tops and netbooks based on the new chips at the conference today.

The Atom line -- Intel's smallest chips -- are designed to have a small footprint, enable long battery life and have low thermals and energy consumption. The architecture, which was reportedly designed from the ground up, includes the 45nm "high-k" transistor formula unveiled with the Penryn family of chips late last year.  

In a related announcement at Computex, Intel unveiled the Z-P230 PATA solid-state drive, which will provide flash memory storage for netbook and net-top systems. Intel is slated to ship a 4GB version of the device for $25 and an 8GB version for $45 in the third quarter of this year. A 16GB version of the Z-P230 PATA solid-state drive will be available in the fourth quarter for an undisclosed price. 

Approximately four times smaller than 1.8-in. notebook hard drives and weighing only 10 grams, the Z-P230 features a PATA IDE interface, which will allow Intel to easily plug the NAND flash device into its future mobile PC computing products, according to an Intel spokesman. The solid-state drive includes a read throughput of 35MB/sec. and write throughput of 7MB/sec. The new flash drive uses 1.65 milliwatts of power in idle state and 314 milliwatts in operating mode.

Intel has aggressively stepped up development of its solid-state technology this year. Last week, it and Micron Technology Inc. unveiled a jointly developed 34nm, 32Gbit NAND flash memory chip that will be available in the second half of 2008. In addition, Intel confirmed plans to ship 1.8-in. and 2.5-in. solid-state drives for laptop and notebook PCs with storage capacities of 80GB to 160GB sometime in the middle of this year.

Also at Computex today, Intel unveiled new chip sets  for desktop PCs. The Intel 4 Series chip sets, which include the G45, G43, P45 and P43, will be used with the 45nm Intel Core2 Duo and Intel Core2 Quad processors.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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