Intel expands Atom’s reach into cars, cellphones

Santa Clara (CA) – Intel said it is adding new Atom models to the Silverthorne core-based Z500 series of processors. The new products will go beyond the so-far disappointing MID product segment and the successful netbook category, now aiming for the in-car infotainment, industrial control and automation as well as media phone markets. The news comes shortly after Intel announced a licensing deal with TSMC.

Intel said it is introducing “specialized” versions of the chip package for embedded applications, ones that address the wider-range industrial-temperature requirements, as well as different package-size choices which are “better suited for in-car infotainment devices, media phones, eco- technologies and other industrial-strength applications.”

The original combo of a 45 nm Atom processor with the more efficient Silverthorne core (as opposed to the more power hungry Diamondville core — which is commonly used for integration in netbooks) as well as the 130 nm system controller hub (SCH) chipset was often criticized for not only being overpriced, but also for being a strange tandem as one of the most advanced small processors coupled to an old graphics chipset. Nvidia recognized this fact and called on Intel several times to open up their Atom platform to alternate solutions, such as their Ion. Intel remained on-target, and we now be finding out why.

The large and relatively power-hungry chipset also seemed to have been a rushed product, one which prevented Intel from taking Atom into more application areas — such as cellphones. While we expected Intel to solve this problem with the second generation of Atom processors and its integrated Moorestown design, Intel apparently saw an opportunity to take Atom into this field now and has introduced a “Media Phone Reference Design” that includes schematics and validated software stacks.

There aren’t many details available about these products except for one name, Z520PT. But, if Intel is targeting media phones with these chips, then it’s safe to assume the 130 nm chipset has been replaced with a significantly smaller and more power efficient solution. The Z520 model runs at 1.33 GHz, supports HyperThreading and consumes 2 watts. As soon as we have more information from Intel about these new processors, we will follow up with a more detailed article.

Intel said the new processors will become available in the second quarter of this year.