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Intel launches Oak Trail tablet chip in attempt to catch iPad

post #1 of 50
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The latest leg in Intel's 'mobile marathon' has come in the form of the newly launched Oak Trail tablet chip from the company as it attempts to catch the current leader, Apple.

Intel formally launched the new Atom chip, codenamed Oak Trail, which is built specifically for tablet computers on Monday, alongside the news that 35 tablet and "hybrid" computers are slated to make use of the chip, the Associated Press reports.

"You won't find a lot of Intel based tablets on the shelves at the moment," the BBC reported Kevin O'Donovan, Intel's marketing manager for notebooks and tablets, as saying. "2011 is about becoming relevant."

The first tablets implementing the new 45nm-process chip are expected to launch in May.

The tablet chip, which will retail under the name Z670, takes its place as the next step in a long-term "marathon" that Intel sees itself running. Last fall, CEO Paul Otellini reassured employees in a company-wide memo that Intel would eventually triumph in the tablet and smartphone markets, just as it did with servers.

"Winning an architectural contest can take time," said Otellini. I am also very optimistic about our opportunity in tablets and smartphones, even though we are not first to market with a solution. Ultimately, we can and will lead.

However, some industry watchers are skeptical about Intel's late arrival to the market.

"I think they have got some serious challenges," said Gartner research director Michael Gartenberg. "They continue to beat the drum of performance, but in reality, I don't think there are a lot of people running around complaining about how slow their tablets are. They seem to be quite happy with the Arm architecture."

Despite having an 80 percent market share of laptops and desktop PCs, Intel has struggled with its mobile offerings. In October, the company conceded that sales of the iPad had "nibbled away" at PC sales margins and had had some effect on revenues.

The world's largest chipmaker also indicated plans to release a smartphone processor later this year, though it has yet to release specifications. Intel attempted to buy its way into mobile with its $1.4 billion purchase of German chipmaker Infineon, which provides the baseband chip for the GSM version of the iPhone 4. According to Gartner, Infineon owned about 5 percent of the market for mobile phone processors and communications chips.

For years, rumors suggested that Apple would transition the iPhone to the Atom architecture, but the change failed to materialize as Intel struggled with managing power consumption.

Rival chip designer ARM Holdings went on record last November saying it is not worried about Intel catching up in the tablet market. [Intel's] Atom designs are just not good enough in terms of power consumption [right now]. Intel knows this, said CEO Warren East.

Buoyed by runaway sales of the iPhone and iPad, ARM announced record revenue and earnings last quarter. ARM provides processor designs for Apple's A5 System on a Chip, which powers the iPad 2 and is expected to make its way into the next-generation iPhone later this year.
post #2 of 50
Intel is going about this the wrong way. The reason they were able to win in all the other areas is because people knew how to develop for x86. The legacy applications built on x86 gave Intel a huge edge.

In mobile, its the complete opposite. Legacy code (and more relevantly, instruction sets) are anathema, because battery life, and not processing power, is king in this space.

If Intel really wants to become relevant, they need to invest a ton of money developing better battery technology, so the inefficient power consumption of x86 chips, vis a vis ARM chips, is not relevant anymore. Only after Intel is able to move the discussion away from battery life, to speed and performance, will x86 even stand a chance against ARM.
post #3 of 50
I'm all for Intel attempting to win through improvements in performance, rather than simply walking into the room and saying, "we're Intel, so we win." if they can bring the silicon to beat ARM-based processors, then bring it on! If they can't, they still get to sell lots of these things to their partners in mediocrity, namely Dell, Acer, and Asus netbooks.

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post #4 of 50
Love these Intel code names. "Oak Trail"? What are they selling? Granola bars?

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post #5 of 50
This is great news, since it will allow to make a truly portable Mac. I mean, 400 to 600 g. 7 inches.
post #6 of 50
Any 1000 pieces price target available?
post #7 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Love these Intel code names. "Oak Trail"? What are they selling? Granola bars?

Gives a whole new meaning to the insult "Wood Pc".
post #8 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by addicted44 View Post

In mobile, its the complete opposite. Legacy code (and more relevantly, instruction sets) are anathema, because battery life, and not processing power, is king in this space.

ARM is, in fact, an ISA albeit an advanced reduced ISA:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_architecture

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post #9 of 50
I don't see why Intel is trying to catch Apple, useful click bait maybe but seriously they are trying catch ARM.

The only far flung notion is that either Apple would switch to Intel, or if Apple stays massively dominant so Intel customers don't really buy much volume. They are unlikely to get Apple's buy as Apple is designing custom silicon which they could not do with an Intel chip. As for everyone else, well Intel has to compete against other shelf variants of ARM chips making volumes even smaller.

One wonders if Intel can justify in the long haul continued dollars thrown at something that may never yield volume sales and return.
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post #10 of 50
Intel is DOA when it comes to this space and they know it. They blew it by selling off XScale and they will never overtake the ARM stronghold in this area.

Intel is feeling it on all fronts with AMD and ARM and they are crapping themselves knowing their overly split stock isn't going to boom ever again.

They could break up Intel into separate branches ala IBM but I doubt they'll ever do that.
post #11 of 50
Quote:
For years, rumors suggested that Apple would transition the iPhone to the Atom architecture, but the change failed to materialize as Intel struggled with managing power consumption.

I wonder if history will reveal Jobs and company tried diligently for Intel to build such a chip previously without success for the product that would eventually become the iPad??
post #12 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by lord anubis View Post

Any 1000 pieces price target available?

I've seen $75 quoted elsewhere for the Atom + southbridge (seriously, they haven't integrated the I/O yet). Of course it will be cheaper in actual use - probably $30 to $40.

Still a lot more than a $25 A5 (and the A5 includes the RAM too).

This 3W CPU+GPU, + ?W I/O hub is going to be more expensive, more power hungry, and have a bigger footprint than virtually any ARM solution out there today. All it has on its side is x86 and Windows 7 - and that's hardly a good thing for a tablet. But there will be people that will buy it, and keep on convincing themselves its what they want and it's good.

It's also highly likely that the GPU on the A5 is far faster than the previous generation GMA 600 on the Atom. This is probably just an SGX535 like the GMA 500. So overall performance will be better on the A5. Never mind dual 1GHz cores versus a single 1.5GHz x86 core.
post #13 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Love these Intel code names. "Oak Trail"? What are they selling? Granola bars?



Glad to hear somebody else finds this code name funny. Thought it was just my lack of proper english.

Well anyway, the style Otellini sounds and talks, make me think, that they are not going to catch up with ARM processors so soon. unless ARM stops all R&D facilities.\
post #14 of 50
oh it's an atom?

Should have put that in the thread title I wouldn't have bothered reading the article then.
post #15 of 50
So Intel boasts about having a monopoly in the desktop/notebook segment, brag about how they're going to use that monopoly to give them a monopoly in the mobile segment, and no-one is questioning? Aren't there laws to prevent such actions?
post #16 of 50
We all know that Apple pulled a fast one on the industry. The ipad is changing everything especially from a business model POV.
Look, intel and MS are sh**** their under ware right know. The ipad is chipping into their space. The ipad doesn't need intel's chips nor does it need windows for the basics that MOST people do on a pc.
No need for Nortons utility, invasive updates and other crap associated with a windows machine.
And what OS would be running on their new atom chip? A certain variant of windows.And windows is a beast of an OS that needs lots of ram, fast front side bus and god chip speed. So you ain't going to get the FULL WINDOWS running properly on some low powered tablet cause you're just asking for performance issues. And guess what? Who the hell needs windows anyway. Seriously folks, the average person has entered a paradigm shift thanks to Apple's ipad. They turn it on and they go go gadget!
post #17 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Love these Intel code names. "Oak Trail"? What are they selling? Granola bars?

I find that amusing, too. Maybe they are going for the Sierra Club/Greenpeace crowd?

"Fallen log" may be more appropriate.
post #18 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by addicted44 View Post

Intel is going about this the wrong way. The reason they were able to win in all the other areas is because people knew how to develop for x86. The legacy applications built on x86 gave Intel a huge edge.

In mobile, its the complete opposite. Legacy code (and more relevantly, instruction sets) are anathema, because battery life, and not processing power, is king in this space.

If Intel really wants to become relevant, they need to invest a ton of money developing better battery technology, so the inefficient power consumption of x86 chips, vis a vis ARM chips, is not relevant anymore. Only after Intel is able to move the discussion away from battery life, to speed and performance, will x86 even stand a chance against ARM.

If Intel develops better battery technology others will either copy or develop similar technology and then the competitors chip products with better power efficiency will be even further ahead. Intel needs to make more power efficient chips if they want to be relevant in the mobile marketplace.
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post #19 of 50
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Originally Posted by zunx View Post

This is great news, since it will allow to make a truly portable Mac. I mean, 400 to 600 g. 7 inches.

An full-blown OS X version running on ARM would be much more interesting if that's what you are after. If Apple were interested in a true OS X netbook (which they aren't), they'd built one long ago, based on the older Atoms.

If the previous Atom updates tell us anything, this new Oak Trail generation of Atoms is going to be just as slow as the previous ones, just a little bit more power efficient, but still nowhere near the power efficiency of ARM SoC's. Cortex-A9 based chips have already overtaken Atom in terms of performance (except for some use cases), and the speed they at which they are developing doesn't bode well for Atom.

I've said it all along by the way: the Atom has been a huge success and a great accomplishment on Intels behalf. Just not because of the technology, but because they managed to re-package 5 to 10 year old technology under a spiffy name that sounds 'new' and 'cool', and got everyone to buy into it.
post #20 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Love these Intel code names. "Oak Trail"? What are they selling? Granola bars?

Most names from intel chips are biblical references or places and things out of the holy land...
post #21 of 50
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Originally Posted by mbarriault View Post

So Intel boasts about having a monopoly in the desktop/notebook segment, brag about how they're going to use that monopoly to give them a monopoly in the mobile segment, and no-one is questioning? Aren't there laws to prevent such actions?

No, there aren't.

There are laws against doing certain things to leverage your monopoly in one area to get into another area, but simply saying "we have a monopoly in A and we're going to take over B" isn't illegal.
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post #22 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by addicted44 View Post

Intel is going about this the wrong way. The reason they were able to win in all the other areas is because people knew how to develop for x86. The legacy applications built on x86 gave Intel a huge edge.

In mobile, its the complete opposite. Legacy code (and more relevantly, instruction sets) are anathema, because battery life, and not processing power, is king in this space.

If Intel really wants to become relevant, they need to invest a ton of money developing better battery technology, so the inefficient power consumption of x86 chips, vis a vis ARM chips, is not relevant anymore. Only after Intel is able to move the discussion away from battery life, to speed and performance, will x86 even stand a chance against ARM.

Apple is the king of battery tech, don't fancy Intel's chances much.
post #23 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

Intel is DOA when it comes to this space and they know it. They blew it by selling off XScale and they will never overtake the ARM stronghold in this area.

Intel is feeling it on all fronts with AMD and ARM and they are crapping themselves knowing their overly split stock isn't going to boom ever again.

They could break up Intel into separate branches ala IBM but I doubt they'll ever do that.

What if Intel were to swallow their pride and buy Marvell nee XScale -- then apply their expertise in miniaturization, manufacturing and economy of scale?
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post #24 of 50
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Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

No, there aren't.

There are laws against doing certain things to leverage your monopoly in one area to get into another area, but simply saying "we have a monopoly in A and we're going to take over B" isn't illegal.

Umm... that's exactly what I was saying, they are going to use their monopoly in desktop/notebook to (attempt to) take over mobile.
post #25 of 50
Quote:
Intel formally launched the new Atom chip, codenamed Oak Trail, which is built specifically for tablet computers on Monday, alongside the news that 35 tablet and "hybrid" computers are slated to make use of the chip, the Associated Press reports.

"You won't find a lot of Intel based tablets on the shelves at the moment," the BBC reported Kevin O'Donovan, Intel's marketing manager for notebooks and tablets, as saying. "2011 is about becoming relevant."

The first tablets implementing the new 45nm-process chip are expected to launch in May.

I am wondering what this actually means. I am by no means a computer scientist, programmer, or hacker. But when I read this all I can think is that these companies are still nowhere near ready, or able, to compete with Apple head on.

My question is this. Is 'Oak Trail' a chip design change/modification? (i.e. Akin to Apple's chip design changes/modifications to ARM's architecture.) If so, and if this is the first we've heard about it (is it??), wouldn't launching it next month give zero time for programmers to properly optimize the OS/apps; yielding an even more beta feel to it?

If this is in fact the case, it's very obvious that there is still a long ways to go before anyone catches up to April 12, 2011 Apple. Am I missing something here?

Thanks and I apologize for any incorrect or improper use of terminology.
post #26 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

What if Intel were to swallow their pride and buy Marvell nee XScale -- then apply their expertise in miniaturization, manufacturing and economy of scale?


I think the problem is that x86 instruction set uses too much juice. Miniaturization of the silicon doesn't address the problem. The only thing that could level the playing field would be some battery chemistry breakthrough where you only need to charge it up once a year so that the efficiency of the code is not such a critical aspect of the design. At that point the legacy x86 guys could compete.

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post #27 of 50
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post #28 of 50
I wouldn't exactly count Intel out. AMD was gaining on Intel rapidly until Core2Duo chips came out. They have an enormous research budget to develop new chip advancements.
post #29 of 50
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Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I think the problem is that x86 instruction set uses too much juice. Miniaturization of the silicon doesn't address the problem. The only thing that could level the playing field would be some battery chemistry breakthrough where you only need to charge it up once a year so that the efficiency of the code is not such a critical aspect of the design. At that point the legacy x86 guys could compete.

I wasn't clear -- I meant that what if Intel were to begin (again) supplying ARM chips and apply their expertise to that effort. They could become the best OTS ARM chips.

In its days of dominance, IBM had the philosophy:

"If someone's going to compete with us -- it might as well be ourselves".
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post #30 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbarriault View Post

Umm... that's exactly what I was saying, they are going to use their monopoly in desktop/notebook to (attempt to) take over mobile.

And as I said, that's not illegal.

Specific actions can be illegal. For example, if they told Dell that they could not buy Intel chips for their desktop systems unless they used Intel chips in their smartphones, that would be illegal.

But simply using a monopoly in one area as leverage in another area is not per se illegal (for example, it is 100% legal to use the profits from one market to fund entry into another market).
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post #31 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by josephwinters View Post

Most names from intel chips are biblical references or places and things out of the holy land...

Let me be the first to say ... blech!

Why can't people keep their religion to themselves? Since no one religion particularly dominates the rest, it's pretty much a sure thing that wearing it on your sleeve will offend the majority of people you deal with in a given day.

In business especially, religion has no place and literally no upside beyond limiting your sales to "non-christians" or whomever isn't in your little group.
post #32 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by d-range View Post

An full-blown OS X version running on ARM would be much more interesting if that's what you are after. If Apple were interested in a true OS X netbook (which they aren't), they'd built one long ago, based on the older Atoms.

That is correct. Sort of. Apple is NOT interested in the ipad being a netbook or in a netbook just being a cheap shadow of a laptop. Especially just to do it because some folks think they should or because every other company is going that way

In the future, when the parts are there to make an ipad that is more powerful, more storage etc then it will likely happen to at least some degree. But it will be when Apple thinks it is ready, how they want to do it and so on. And probably a good 3-5 years away.

Considering all the articles about what folks are doing with this toy, including Adobe "There's nothing wrong with Flash, Jobs is just a jerk" Inc and their new Photoshop add on apps, I'd say that the ipad and Apple's plans are just fine.
post #33 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

Let me be the first to say ... blech!

Why can't people keep their religion to themselves?

You are asking to be kept from the truth.
post #34 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

What if Intel were to swallow their pride and buy Marvell nee XScale -- then apply their expertise in miniaturization, manufacturing and economy of scale?

Well, swallowing their pride is probably too hard to do.

They really don't need to buy anybody. They can just license the IP from ARMH and produce a nice Cortex-A15 + PowerVR545MP + LTE MCM SoC in late 2012 at 32 nm. Marvell isn't going to help them with that really.

They essentially lost 2 design cycles since Monahans. Their 65 nm, 45 nm and 32 nm nodes were basically homerun nodes, all of which basically fabbed zero ARM chips. If they built ARM SoCs for mobiles starting in 2007, they would be the dominate ARM SoC producer right now.

Today, like MS, they basically have to wait another year or two minimum before they can leverage their whole fab prowess. And it may be too late. They basically have turn on a dime now, and I don't think they are institutionally capable of doing it anymore.

Part of the problem is that the Atom architecture sucks. Really really sucks. They bet that SMT would be a big win! Similar to IBM's PPE in the PS3 and xbox 360. In hindsight, not so great a decision I think. They really need to get Atom TDP to less than 1 W TDP, if not 500 mW. Even with Oak Trail, it doesn't even come close and won't be a good fit for slate tablets or smaller.

If they started out with a target of 500 mW TDP for Atom back in 2008, x86 powered phones could be the dominant platform today. They just can't get there with the current Atom microarchitecture.
post #35 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post

I don't see why Intel is trying to catch Apple, useful click bait maybe but seriously they are trying catch ARM.

The only far flung notion is that either Apple would switch to Intel, or if Apple stays massively dominant so Intel customers don't really buy much volume. They are unlikely to get Apple's buy as Apple is designing custom silicon which they could not do with an Intel chip. As for everyone else, well Intel has to compete against other shelf variants of ARM chips making volumes even smaller.

One wonders if Intel can justify in the long haul continued dollars thrown at something that may never yield volume sales and return.

Framing this as "trying to catch iPad" isn't such a reach. At the moment the iPad is virtually synonymous with the nascent and exploding "tablet market." If quite a few analysts can be believed, the iPad is going to retain the lion's share of that market for the foreseeable future.

So Intel is confronted with a fundamental shift in the computing landscape, one that is largely represented by the iPad, for which they have no appropriate chipsets. So, yeah, I think you could say they are "attempting to catch the iPad", in that they better be able to provide something that runs a very popular tablet pretty soon or risk getting locked out of the next big chip market altogether.
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post #36 of 50
Atom is slower, more power-hungry, and more expensive to purchase and implement. Those are just a few of the reasons why Apple ditched Intel for their iOS devices. The same reasons why Atom probably won't ever break out of niche player jail.

From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_atom):

"Embedded processors based on the ARM version 7 instruction set architecture (such as TI's OMAP 3 series [...] based on custom ARMv7 implementations) offer similar performance to the low end Atom chipsets[dubious discuss] but at roughly one quarter the power consumption, and (like most ARM systems) as a single integrated system on a chip, rather than a two chip solution like the current Atom line."

Intel will milk the legacy Windows + Office market for all it is worth. The x86 architecture is designed specifically for Windows, an enormous resource hog. Ballmer knows this, and says he is trying to drag Microsoft into the 21st century by porting Windows 8 to ARM. But his real goal is to blame Intel for Microsoft's lack of success in pad computing.

Ballmer will demo an ARM-based craplet running Windows 8 during next year's CES keynote. He'll say "It runs xx% faster than the junky old Intel craplets we tried to sell you suckers for all these years. You were right not to buy that Intel e-waste. Buy this one instead."

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post #37 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by sagan_student View Post

My question is this. Is 'Oak Trail' a chip design change/modification?

You'll have to back up a little more. Oak Trail is just a code name for Intel's Atom x86 SoC platform. So think about what's inside a netbook. For netbooks, it's typically a 2 chip solution (CPU chip + I/O & GPU chip) and supporting hardware like RAM and other IC packages. So for Oak Trail, Intel has put the CPU, GPU, memory controller all on the same die. Similar to what's inside a lot of ARM SoCs.

Since Intel is integrating so much stuff into one chip, it'll allow OEMs to design handheld devices around them like a tablet or mobile internet device.

As far as catching up to iPad, no, it's not catching up. Intel won't be doing that until they abandon the Atom architecture or design a 1 W TDP SoC. Since it runs Windows, most of these devices won't be as easy to use, and it's Atom architecture, they'll be thicker, heavier and have less battery performance. Not much has changed.

Microsoft obviously is taking matters into its own hands by porting Windows to ARM. If they port Office to ARM, that'll be a big turning point. Intel simply has to wake up.
post #38 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

You'll have to back up a little more. Oak Trail is just a code name for Intel's Atom x86 SoC platform. So think about what's inside a netbook. For netbooks, it's typically a 2 chip solution (CPU chip + I/O & GPU chip) and supporting hardware like RAM and other IC packages. So for Oak Trail, Intel has put the CPU, GPU, memory controller all on the same die. Similar to what's inside a lot of ARM SoCs.

Since Intel is integrating so much stuff into one chip, it'll allow OEMs to design handheld devices around them like a tablet or mobile internet device.

As far as catching up to iPad, no, it's not catching up. Intel won't be doing that until they abandon the Atom architecture or design a 1 W TDP SoC.

Thanks for taking the time and clarifying that for me, appreciate it.
post #39 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by josephwinters View Post

Most names from intel chips are biblical references or places and things out of the holy land...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

Let me be the first to say ... blech!

Why can't people keep their religion to themselves? Since no one religion particularly dominates the rest, it's pretty much a sure thing that wearing it on your sleeve will offend the majority of people you deal with in a given day.

In business especially, religion has no place and literally no upside beyond limiting your sales to "non-christians" or whomever isn't in your little group.

Only the processors designed in Israel are named after places in the Holy Land. Intel often code-names the processors after geographical locations close to the design center that designed the processor. Some examples are the Klamath Pentium 4, designed in Oregon, was named after the Klamath River in Oregon or the Bonnell Atom, designed in Austin, TX was named after Mt. Bonnell, an Austin landmark.
post #40 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

Let me be the first to say ... blech!

Why can't people keep their religion to themselves? Since no one religion particularly dominates the rest, it's pretty much a sure thing that wearing it on your sleeve will offend the majority of people you deal with in a given day.

In business especially, religion has no place and literally no upside beyond limiting your sales to "non-christians" or whomever isn't in your little group.

And yet by making this statement you are wearing your religious views on your sleeve.

I'm sorry but there isn't a single person on this planet that doesn't worship something be it a god or science or superstar or money or whatever.

Religion is everywhere in many forms.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton

Love these Intel code names. "Oak Trail"? What are they selling? Granola bars?

I just hope it's not Poison Oak.
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