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Intel ships Apple-bound Atom, hints at 2009 notebook platform

post #1 of 27
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At the spring edition of its bi-annual Developer Forum, Intel has released the first Atom processors, some of which should reach Apple's ultra-mobile devices. The company has also provided first clues as to the future of the Centrino platform that will form the basis of next year's Macs.

The semiconductor firm's Atom range is now shipping with five processors that cover the entire range of very small computers rather than the small initial offering that was mentioned during a preliminary unveiling last month.

Four of these models are intended for sub-notebooks and ultra-mobile PCs that can afford larger batteries and cases than conventional handhelds. The first models will run at clock speeds between 1.1GHz and 1.86GHz and will consume between 2 and 2.4 watts of power in normal use -- less than a tenth of the power used by a typical Core 2 Duo notebook processor, which uses 35 watts. All but the 1.1GHz chip will support Hyperthreading, a carryover from the Pentium 4 era that can provide some (though not all) the benefits of dual cores by running two program threads at once.

However, a fifth processor is destined for the smallest of devices, according to Intel. Running at just 800MHz, the most portable version of Atom will use just 0.65 watts of power and is built to run without ever needing active cooling. This is primarily built for a new class of devices known as Mobile Internet Devices, or MIDs, which are pitched as a cross between portable media players and Internet communicators.

Every processor will have access to a System Controller Hub chipset that links the Atom to the rest of the handheld and also accelerates all of the device's media playback, including 3D visuals, HD video, and sound.

The shipment will likely prove critical for Apple and helps define its mobile strategy for 2008. Late last year, AppleInsider exclusively revealed that the Mac maker would use the UMPC platform extensively in a range of devices, which may include the company's in-development tablet device. At the time, Atom and its accompanying Centrino Atom platform were only known under their respective Silverthorne and Menlow codenames.

Those who prefer larger portables will also have a significant upgrade to look forward to next year, according to a presentation by Intel Mobility Group manager Dadi Perlmutter. While shy on details, the executive reveals that a 2009 update to the Centrino mobile chipset -- so far nicknamed "Calpella" -- will feature much more intelligent power management that extends to wireless networking. When only used lightly, a Calpella-based notebook will ramp down power to its Wi-Fi radio to conserve energy.

The platform will also have stricter security measures and should upgrade the integrated graphics hardware. This comes in addition to improved memory support and overall performance that will ship with the Nehalem processor architecture the same year.

While Apple has often used different wireless chipsets in its computers, the Cupertino-based company has used all other components of Intel's Centrino platform in its iMacs, Mac minis, and MacBooks since switching to Intel's architectures in 2006 and is expected to continue using successors to Centrino for the foreseeable future.
post #2 of 27
This all sounds good to me. Though, from what I hear, it won't be going into an iPod or iPhone for a while. I wonder if Apple has something else up its sleeve to take advantage of the smallest of these processors.
post #3 of 27
You guys are full of it. You so confidently rabbit on about Apple using this processor but you have no evidence. You "exclusively reveal"... your own opinion and speculation!

Really, you guys are a joke.
post #4 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by merdhead View Post

You guys are full of it. You so confidently rabbit on about Apple using this processor but you have no evidence. You "exclusively reveal"... your own opinion and speculation!

Really, you guys are a joke.

Well, it seems to keep bringing you back to the site!

But if you are really that upset, I am sure there are other web sites to visit on the Internets if you look really hard...
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post #5 of 27
Basically, when the current generation of processors are in sleep mode the processor polls many different services at random time intervals to see if it needs to do anything. The way they are saving power is by synchronizing the processor polling, so that the processor polls all of the hundreds of processes it needs to at the time time and is using much less power the rest of the time. This means that 95% of the time that the computer is idle it is using about half the power that it normally would during its rest state, and the other 5% of the time the processor polls all the services at once so the power spikes up to roughly the consumption level of today's processors at rest state. The result is that the processor uses dramatically less power when asleep.
post #6 of 27
Great news. Thanks! Could these chips be used on the iPhone and iPod touch? That would mean the full Mac OS X inside as well. What are the prices of these chips? Thanks.
post #7 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by zunx View Post

Great news. Thanks! Could these chips be used on the iPhone and iPod touch? That would mean the full Mac OS X inside as well. What are the prices of these chips? Thanks.

No... they have far too great power consumption. Even Lincroft, it's 2009 sucessor for the Moorestown platform is too high. The 32nm sucessor to Lincroft due in 2010 may be suitable, however the wide variety of low-power ARM processors available then won't have stood still (There are some amazing ones on the horizon)

The Atom Z series ranges from $45 to $130
post #8 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post

Well, it seems to keep bringing you back to the site!

But if you are really that upset, I am sure there are other web sites to visit on the Internets if you look really hard...

So I should leave the site because it has an idiotic idea (or two)? When it sticks to news it does fine, even rumours are fine. But when it tries to prognosticate it makes itself look silly.

When will it explain why Apple would go with a larger, more power hungry, less flexible processor from one source when it's already designed systems around ARMs? Intel will never be able to match hundreds of companies that support the ARM and are very unlikely to let companies fabricate custom chips with the Atom, which is key to getting the level of integration required to keep size and power consumption low. It just doesn't make the slightest bit of sense.

Maybe, if you don't like my comments, you could go elsewhere.
post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by zunx View Post

Great news. Thanks! Could these chips be used on the iPhone and iPod touch? That would mean the full Mac OS X inside as well. What are the prices of these chips? Thanks.

They already run OS X, just on an ARM processor. Putting an Intel chip in there won't make any difference to the features of OS X on those machines. It'll just make the battery life sharply lower and the devices larger.
post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by merdhead View Post

So I should leave the site because it has an idiotic idea (or two)? When it sticks to news it does fine, even rumours are fine. But when it tries to prognosticate it makes itself look silly.

When will it explain why Apple would go with a larger, more power hungry, less flexible processor from one source when it's already designed systems around ARMs? Intel will never be able to match hundreds of companies that support the ARM and are very unlikely to let companies fabricate custom chips with the Atom, which is key to getting the level of integration required to keep size and power consumption low. It just doesn't make the slightest bit of sense.

Maybe, if you don't like my comments, you could go elsewhere.


OK, Thats fair. Maybe I was just feeling a little cheeky.
But you must admit, ranting about a rumor site spreading rumors is a little pointless--there are plenty of technology sites that leave the wild speculation to others. Besides, we really have no way of knowing what inside information AI is getting or how reliable it really is. I'm not sure why you are so sure that this was a prognostication and not at tip or a leak...

Now, on to the question at hand, why would Apple use the Atom? The implication is rather straightforward. For the coming Newerton/iTablet they want options that have more power than the ARM chips in the iPhone family but less power draw than the chips in the MBAir. Ta-da, the Atom.
Quote:
...why Apple would go with a larger, more power hungry, less flexible processor from one source when it's already designed systems around ARMs?

You make it sound like Apple has never designed systems around Intel's chips...
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post #11 of 27
If you want more power, you just clock the ARM faster, the iPhone and iPod clock them at about a third or a half of their top speed. They could also use a four core version. And the whole point is that the Atom chip just doesn't cut it, it doesn't matter who does the design, it won't perform.

Its not just a matter of having a faster processor, that's easy. The hard part is power consumption and form factor, and in that respect the Atom has got little hope. Its main benefit is that is is x86, and that matters only for a particular segment of the market, mostly people who run Windows.

The only place you might see this processor is in the Apple TV box.
post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by merdhead View Post

They already run OS X, just on an ARM processor. Putting an Intel chip in there won't make any difference to the features of OS X on those machines. It'll just make the battery life sharply lower and the devices larger.

As far as I know, the main advantage of the Intel Atom chip is that it runs a full --and I mean full-- operating system. A full Mac OS X, which means opening and editing native Keynote and PowerPoint files, for instance. As far as I know, you cannot open native Keynote or native PowerPoint presentations on an iPhone or iPod touch now to make a full blown presentation like you can do with a Mac laptop, for instance. Right?
post #13 of 27
The only place this will go is in a follow up to the Apple TV, or the mythical Apple Tablet (if this is a bigger iPod Touch, I expect it would use a faster ARM to be honest).

However an interesting factoid is that the GMA500 graphics inside the Atom's SCH is based upon PowerVR SGX (Series 5). The iPhone uses PowerVR MBX (Series 4).

One thing it can apparently do is decode full 1080p BluRay bitrate video. Sadly it's graphical output can only handle 1366x768. However a next generation AppleTV, whilst still being 720p output, could at least support 40mbps+ H.264 decode within the chipset, rather than using an external graphics chip that can only achieve about 6mbps right now.

Contrary to the rubbish spouted in Anandtech's otherwise thorough review (although the Tech Report's article is better overall, if shorter) I don't think Apple were miffed at having to use ARM in the iPhone. Anand is a real x86 lover, and seems to think that engineers actually like x86, whereas any low-level engineer who's used ARM and x86 will spout on about how ARM is really nice. Also Apple have ARM experience coming out of their ears, since the Newton, the iPod, many of their wireless products, and so on, were/are based on it.

In 2010 the iPhone will not move to Moorestown - it will still be too large, it will still use too much power, and it won't be competitive with the ARM based products available then. Multi-core ARM11 (MPCore) and Cortex A9 based SoCs will be available then, and will be very desirable for even high end smartphones.
post #14 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by zunx View Post

As far as I know, the main advantage of the Intel Atom chip is that it runs a full --and I mean full-- operating system. A full Mac OS X, which means opening and editing native Keynote and PowerPoint files, for instance. As far as I know, you cannot open native Keynote or native PowerPoint presentations on an iPhone or iPod touch now to make a full blown presentation like you can do with a Mac laptop, for instance. Right?

That's a software issue - the software would need to be ported to Cocoa Touch for a start. It would also need to be altered significantly to run well on a 480x320 display.

Also the Atom isn't that fast. The 800MHz variant will perform like a 400MHz Dothan, which would be like a 500MHz G4. Mac OS X wouldn't be nice on that.
post #15 of 27
I'm going to have to go with our merde, the headline is completely unsubstantiated other than sweeping assumptions made by the writer. Even if Apple uses a chip that's like it, which is total speculation, they might not use that particular revision. Intel codenames proliferate quicker than rabbits.
post #16 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmadlena View Post

This all sounds good to me. Though, from what I hear, it won't be going into an iPod or iPhone for a while. I wonder if Apple has something else up its sleeve to take advantage of the smallest of these processors.

I'm about to buy a ASUS Eee PC. Until Apple releases something similar in size and weight, I have no choice. The iPhone is a great product but handling over 100 e-mails a day is not practical for me. I currently use AT&T/Cingular and it sucks which is another reason an iPhone is not in my future until other cell phone companies can offer it.

I have severe neck and back problems and lugging around my new MacBook is a problem.

The MacBook Air is nice but I need smaller, two pounds or less and a lower price. The Mac mini price would be OK but no more.

The ASUS Eee PC certainly is not Leopard but it is very usable for web-based e-mail and web browsing.

I would rather have an Apple device with ASUS Eee PC size keyboard, a comparable or better LCD and a reasonable price. I dislike buying a PC but the size and weight issues are compelling for me.
post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by zunx View Post

As far as I know, the main advantage of the Intel Atom chip is that it runs a full --and I mean full-- operating system. A full Mac OS X, which means opening and editing native Keynote and PowerPoint files, for instance. As far as I know, you cannot open native Keynote or native PowerPoint presentations on an iPhone or iPod touch now to make a full blown presentation like you can do with a Mac laptop, for instance. Right?

There's no reason why the iPhone can't open Keynote or Powerpoint presentations, someone just needs to write the software. I wouldn't be surprised if that came out soon with the release of the SDK.

Processors have no impact on what software you can write except in two respects: speed and word size. Word size is whether it's an 8, 16, 32 or 64 bit processor. Other related factors such as memory size, additional hardware (eg 3D graphics processors), storage, etc also have an impact. Whether a processor is x86, ARM or PowerPC makes little or no differences except in code size and efficiency.
post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by merdhead View Post

So I should leave the site because it has an idiotic idea (or two)?

What is silly about speculating on the use of the latest line of Intel processors by a manufacturer whose line already uses them?

Quote:
Originally Posted by merdhead View Post

When it sticks to news it does fine, even rumours are fine. But when it tries to prognosticate it makes itself look silly.

It isn't AI that looks silly.
post #19 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by jouster View Post

What is silly about speculating on the use of the latest line of Intel processors by a manufacturer whose line already uses them?

It isn't AI that looks silly.

Yes it is, the headline makes it look like Apple is going to use them, when there is no evidence they will, other than AI proclamations.
post #20 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by merdhead View Post

There's no reason why the iPhone can't open Keynote or Powerpoint presentations, someone just needs to write the software. I wouldn't be surprised if that came out soon with the release of the SDK.

Processors have no impact on what software you can write except in two respects: speed and word size. Word size is whether it's an 8, 16, 32 or 64 bit processor. Other related factors such as memory size, additional hardware (eg 3D graphics processors), storage, etc also have an impact. Whether a processor is x86, ARM or PowerPC makes little or no differences except in code size and efficiency.

Fine, you go tell Apple to write versions of Keynote, Pages and Numbers for ARM. I'm sure they have lots of programmers floating around who aren't already tied up on projects. Same goes for third party apps like VLC, Flash Player or Quicken, whose publishers would love to divert significant development resources to a new version just because you think they should. Others of us wouldn't mind being able to just run the Mac apps that already exist. Not to mention wanting some of the very basic OS features that don't exist on the iPhone/touch platform, like cut, copy and paste, a windowed interface or even a built-in Finder.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

Yes it is, the headline makes it look like Apple is going to use them, when there is no evidence they will, other than AI proclamations.

What makes you think they won't? Since Apple went Intel, I don't think there's been any significant Intel hardware that Apple has snubbed. And Atom is big.
post #21 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hattig View Post

However an interesting factoid is that the GMA500 graphics inside the Atom's SCH is based upon PowerVR SGX (Series 5). The iPhone uses PowerVR MBX (Series 4).

One thing it can apparently do is decode full 1080p BluRay bitrate video. Sadly it's graphical output can only handle 1366x768.

Bear in mind that the resolution limit exists only when Silverthorne is paired with Paulsbo (which has GMA500). The processor can be used with other chipsets and, surely, with discrete graphics like the AppleTV already has.

I think you're right that this will be used in AppleTV to save cost and reduce heat, but that doesn't imply a reduction in ability.
post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post

What makes you think they won't? Since Apple went Intel, I don't think there's been any significant Intel hardware that Apple has snubbed. And Atom is big.

AI writes as if it's a certain thing. As such, the ball is in their court to argue that case. For what it's worth, I don't think Apple has used any E-series processor or related chipset in a shipping product, that's one entire series of significant Intel hardware that Apple "snubbed", your word.

I would love to see Apple use this processor in something, but right now, I don't think it makes sense to use it in any current Apple product line. It's way too power consuming for iPhone (probably takes more power than the old 3G chipset) and way too weak for Air. The iPhone's UI size would make it hard to use existing OS X software without making some big UI changes. If they make something like a touch screen UMPC, maybe that would be great.
post #23 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post

Since Apple went Intel, I don't think there's been any significant Intel hardware that Apple has snubbed. And Atom is big.

Apple has yet to use a single desktop-class Intel processor. Mobile and Server only.
post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post


OK, Thats fair. Maybe I was just feeling a little cheeky.
But you must admit, ranting about a rumor site spreading rumors is a little pointless--there are plenty of technology sites that leave the wild speculation to others. Besides, we really have no way of knowing what inside information AI is getting or how reliable it really is. I'm not sure why you are so sure that this was a prognostication and not at tip or a leak...

I don't know if you are talking about Intel or Apple? In any event I think many here underestimate just how nice ATOM is. Yes it is slightly more power hungry than the ARM devices out there. On the other hand the power rating is for the chip set with puts a slightly different spin on the numbers. For something like an iPod Touch Maxi or a Newton 2 it is a doable power number.

The big advantage from what I can see is the devices address space. ATOM has the potential to remain viable for a long time.
Quote:

Now, on to the question at hand, why would Apple use the Atom? The implication is rather straightforward. For the coming Newerton/iTablet they want options that have more power than the ARM chips in the iPhone family but less power draw than the chips in the MBAir. Ta-da, the Atom.

Yes that is certainly part of the equation. When you speak of power though you need to really focus in on what you mean. Frankly ATOM will never be as powerful as ARM on a performance per watt basis. For many devices that is all that really matters.
Quote:
You make it sound like Apple has never designed systems around Intel's chips...

The other part of this equation is the prospect of custom designed silicon tailored to Apples needs. Such an approach could lead to power savings and performance focused on Apple's specific needs.

Dave
post #25 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

I don't know if you are talking about Intel or Apple?

It doesn't matter. The OP's position was that AI was simply making things up when it stated that Atom was destined to be used by Apple. That is possibly true, but far from the certainty that his rants indicated.
I don't know how one could be certain that AI did not get a tip from someone who may have knowledge from Apple or Intel or some other source...

As I see it, there are only three possibilities.
--AI is just making this up
--AI has good info from a tip
or
--AI has bad info from a tip
Even hindsight will only enable us to narrow it down to two of these three.

Quote:
Frankly ATOM will never be as powerful as ARM on a performance per watt basis. For many devices that is all that really matters.

Sure. Well, mostly for small, battery powered devices. I do not know the overall size or battery prospects of the much discussed TabletMac (if it will exist at all) but if it is going to be able to run full OSX programs like Keynote then plain performance--not performance per watt--will be most important.
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post #26 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I would love to see Apple use this processor in something, but right now, I don't think it makes sense to use it in any current Apple product line. It's way too power consuming for iPhone (probably takes more power than the old 3G chipset) and way too weak for Air. The iPhone's UI size would make it hard to use existing OS X software without making some big UI changes. If they make something like a touch screen UMPC, maybe that would be great.

That's exactly it. It's not meant for anything in the current product line. A lot of people including me are hoping for a UMPC. I owned an NEC MobilePro some years back. By today's laptop standards, so laughably underpowered that it barely registers as a computer. But it had a full Mobile Office suite and keyboard and was quite useful, not to mention a delightful below two-pound weight.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FuturePastNow View Post

Apple has yet to use a single desktop-class Intel processor. Mobile and Server only.

That at least makes some sense. Not a lot, but some. Desktop processors are too hot for the iMac but not powerful enough for the Mac Pro. I wouldn't mind seeing a mid-range headless Mac that more people can afford, but that's not a terrible product gap like between an iPhone and a Mac.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

Yes that is certainly part of the equation. When you speak of power though you need to really focus in on what you mean. Frankly ATOM will never be as powerful as ARM on a performance per watt basis. For many devices that is all that really matters.

For other devices, it matters far more that it can run a full OS and applications without needing them rewritten from the ground up. As much as I like my iPod touch, I disagree with people who claim that it qualifies as a computer. In the strictest sense, it is. But It lacks so much functionality compared to even a Mac mini that I can't accept it. And my touch has been jailbroken and has two screens of icons in the springboard, so it's not as limited as most.
post #27 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Macs_since_1984 View Post

I'm about to buy a ASUS Eee PC. Until Apple releases something similar in size and weight, I have no choice. The iPhone is a great product but handling over 100 e-mails a day is not practical for me. I currently use AT&T/Cingular and it sucks which is another reason an iPhone is not in my future until other cell phone companies can offer it.

I have severe neck and back problems and lugging around my new MacBook is a problem.

The MacBook Air is nice but I need smaller, two pounds or less and a lower price. The Mac mini price would be OK but no more.

The ASUS Eee PC certainly is not Leopard but it is very usable for web-based e-mail and web browsing.

I would rather have an Apple device with ASUS Eee PC size keyboard, a comparable or better LCD and a reasonable price. I dislike buying a PC but the size and weight issues are compelling for me.

What is it about the size that is a problem? If you have a bag that you can carry a letter sized note pad in, that bag will haul the Air.

eee is a nifty device, and while it has some features the Air doesn't, it's only a tiny fraction of what the Air is in several other ways, 1/4th the screen area, 1/8th the fsb, maybe a quarter or less the CPU power (1 core, 900MHz), 4 or 8 GB "hard drive" storage, a smaller than standard keyboard. I think there's a chance that Apple will introduce a portable somewhere between an Air and an iPhone, my impression is that it's most likely a compact multitouch tablet about the size of a Newton, not a large palmtop with a physical keyboard.
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