Intel's Diamondville chip to be based on Silverthorne processor

Chip for ultra-low-cost, low-power notebooks is due to ship next year

Intel Corp.'s Diamondville, a new chip targeted at low-cost and low-power notebooks, will be built around the core of Intel's upcoming low-power Silverthorne processor.

The Diamondville, which is scheduled to start shipping next year, is intended for low-cost computers for emerging markets, such as the Classmate PC and the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child Project, Intel has said.

"Diamondville is the progeny of Silverthorne -- a derivative of Silverthorne," said Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group, in an interview last week.

Silverthorne, a new 45 nanometer, low-power, microarchitecture-based processor, is fully compatible at the instruction set level with Intel's Merom architecture, according to Chandrasekher. Merom was the code name for Intel's current Core 2 Duo processors for notebooks. "Whatever software runs on Merom will run on Silverthorne without the need to recompile it," Chandrasekher said. He expects that software compatibility with PCs will be a key differentiator for devices built around Silverthorne.

"What we have done is changed the microarchitecture dramatically -- effectively tore it up and redid it -- to get to lower power," Chandrasekher said. Menlow, a chip set for mobile Internet devices (MID) and ultramobile PCs that is scheduled to ship in the first half of next year, achieves Intel's low-power target of 0.5 watts for chips for Internet devices, he added.

Intel plans to target Silverthorne at a variety of other applications, such as automotive and consumer electronics applications, including set-top boxes and DVD players.

"These segments are in addition to MIDs and are new spaces for us, and we have not participated in them, either because the [low] power was not there or because the [low] cost structure wasn't there," Chandrasekher said.

When it ships next year, Menlow will support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WiMax and GPS in silicon. Intel is not delivering cellular communications or advanced protocols such as High-Speed Packet Access on its chips because there are other vendors that can do that part better than Intel, according to Chandrasekher. Device makers can get it either on a module or as silicon and add it to the devices, he said.

Intel is also unlikely to integrate communications functionality into the Silverthorne applications processor, because a majority of customers want the flexibility select their modems based on which geographies they are designing their products for, Chandrasekher said.

As it targets the mobile Internet and consumer electronics markets, Intel will also be introducing products faster than before, according to Chandrasekher. "We believe that this is a critical piece for winning in these markets," he said. Intel is scheduled to deliver one new product a year, with Menlow to be followed by another product, code-named Moorestown, in 2009. Consumer electronics and phone makers change their designs every year as they look for something new and dramatic, Chandrasekher added.

Getting Intel's chips into new markets like consumer electronics and the mobile Internet however takes more than silicon, and requires Intel to offer reference designs to its customers. "It is as much of a platform sell or more than what we ever did for the Centrino, so from that standpoint our investment in it is higher at the platform level," Chandrasekher said. Intel is avoiding designing a standard motherboard with all the features in it, however, because that would limit innovation from device manufacturers, he added.

It's unclear whether Intel is planning to use its "Intel Inside" branding strategy for the new markets, which already include large and established companies and brands. "If it makes sense for us to brand these devices, we will consider it," said Chandrasekher, adding that Intel's primary consideration is to get the products done right. "If we have a product here that we feel deserves a brand, then we will visit that equation at that point of time," he added.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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