Monday, December 8, 2008

Roadmap of future Intel Netbook chips surfaces

An Intel Netbook processor roadmap has emerged showing technology that extends to the 32-nanometer generation of silicon.

Future Netbook showed earlier this year at the Intel Developer's Forum

Future Netbook showed earlier this year at the Intel Developer's Forum

(Credit: Intel)

One recent version of Intel's handheld and Netbook roadmap shows a chip platform code-named Medfield, which will be based on next-generation 32-nanometer process technology. The roadmap is featured in a report by UBS Securities.

Medfield (2010) will be preceded by Pineview (2009), based on a 45-nanometer process--the manufacturing process currently used in Atom processors. (Note that Pineview has already been mentioned and discussed by other sources on the Web. It is cited in various articles as either a 45nm or 32nm chip.)

(For those keeping track of the confusing swirl of code names, Medfield would be the successor to Moorestown.)

Medfield would integrate the processor, memory controller, multimedia functions, and I/O (Input/Output) into a single chip. The I/O hub has typically been on a separate piece of silicon--as has the memory controller (for Intel silicon) until recently. Like the current Intel Atom lineup, dual-core designs will be offered.

Medfield would also have a PC-based graphics core, the report said.

The report also noted that "the concept of netbooks" will evolve "from from basic web page consumption to multimedia consumption including high-definition (HD) video." Battery life should improve from two to three hours to closer to five hours as wide area network connectivity is added such as WiMAX, 3G/HSPA, and/or LTE. Features such as GPS and touch screens will also be bolted on.

Netbooks are a relative newcomer to the computer industry. They are small--typically with displays less than 10 inches diagonally--weigh less than three pounds, and cheap, usually costing less than $400.

The form factor has been selling well but has become a somewhat controversial design. As this ZDNet video shows, users still aren't quite sure about the utility of the device, since it falls in a gray area between smartphones and ultraportable notebooks.

On the mobile Internet device (MID) front--Intel's platform for handheld devices--the report said that while Moorestown will be based on the Lincroft processor and Langwell chipset, as Intel has indicated in the past, the Lincroft graphics core will come from Imagination Technologies, like the Atom (Silverthorne) Poulsbo chipset today.

Imagination is the same company that licenses PowerVR technology to Samsung, which, in turn, integrates it into silicon used in the Apple iPhone. PowerVR is also used in Intel's Canmore system-on-a-chip (SOC) consumer electronics platform.

Pineview, however, may use Intel in-house graphics, according to the report.

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