updated 12:35 pm EDT, Thu July 24, 2008
Intel today introduced what it says is a new class of processor for itself and the wider industry. The EP80579 Integrated Processor is a system-on-a-chip that builds in a main Pentium M processor as well as the necessary interface and memory controllers, communications, graphics, and security all into one part. The technology is efficient that it can shrink the total size of the board and its components by as much as 45 percent compared to what they would require separately, Intel says. It also reduces power by about 34 percent.
The new chip is also billed as faster than the separate components through the use of QuickAssist, a new technique that both speeds up the process of moving data into or out of the processor and which also adds a security component to the design.
Intel's component consumes between 11 watts and 21 watts of power and is designed primarily for a class of device smaller than the Atom. The power requirements are low enough that the Integrated Processor should find its way into Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) and similar-sized "other devices" that are often more capable than smartphones but focus primarily on tasks such as basic web and e-mail access as well as media playback. Set-top boxes for home theater and other consumer electronics devices can also use the technology.
The initial launch lineup will range between 600MHz and 1.2GHz and should be available very soon to hardware manufacturers, though no customers have been named. Most MIDs are or will be powered by Atom processors and should leave the EP80579 to smaller or budget MIDs.
In the future, however, Intel expects to build its system-on-a-chip design using the Atom architecture and says its next-generation platform for the chip, codenamed Moorestown, will improve both performance and battery life as well as give designers more flexibility to create custom shapes for specific devices.
Apple is widely understood to be interested in Moorestown and successors for future iPhones and potentially other, larger handheld devices. The company currently uses Samsung ARM processors for the iPhone 3G, but uses an Intel Pentium M for the Apple TV media hub.