Intel digs deeper into tablet market with Moorestown

Intel claims its new generation of low-power Atom chips will bring a new level of computing to tablets and smartphones

Intel has set its sights on the burgeoning tablet computing market with its latest Moorestown chips, which the company believes will help break rival Arm's dominant position in the handheld device market.

The company on Wednesday announced a chip package based on the Atom Z6 series processors that will go into mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The Moorestown chips will include a low-power single-core Atom processors that run between 1.2GHz and 1.9GHz, and graphics processor cores capable of displaying high-definition video.

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Intel, which is mostly known for its chips in PCs, previously sold handheld processors with its portfolio of Arm-based XScale processors, which it later sold to Marvell Technology in 2006. Intel is now pushing its x86 architecture, which are mostly found in PCs, into the handheld devices with Moorestown.

Tablet computers are mobile devices with touchscreen and screen-based keyboards that allows users to watch video, surf the Internet, play games and read e-books. Arm processors go into most smartphones today, and now have moved upstream to tablet computing.

Arm has an early edge in the tablet market, with many top computer makers opting to use the company's processor designs to power tablets. Apple's iPad is powered by an internally designed A4 chip based on an Arm processor, while Dell and Lenovo have shown tablets based on Arm designs.

Intel has set its eyes on tablets and smartphones as use of the Internet access grows and reaches billions of devices in the years to come, said Pankaj Kedia, director for Intel’s Ultra Mobility Group. Intel has made significant power reduction and performance improvements with Moorestown that should make the company competitive in the handheld market.

"Tablet -- you can call it a media device or a coffee tablet device -- but it happens to be a computing device," Kedia said.

Intel is claiming advantages that could gives Moorestown tablet an edge over its Arm counterparts, including better performance and longer battery life. Moorestown has fine-grained power management features that accelerate common tasks like video and browsing, but are comparable to tablets based on Arm processors.

On a tablet with a seven-inch screen with a 5200 milliamp power battery, the chip helps tablets provide seven days of music time, more than 10 hours of standard-definition video playback and more than 10 of browsing time. The chip's graphics core will be able to encode video at 720p and decode video at a 1080p resolution. Users will be able to play back around five hours of 720p video and around four hours of 1080p video.

Tablets will also include PC-like performance capabilities, including multitasking and multipoint videoconferencing, Kedia said. For example, a tablet based on Moorestown will allow for three-way videoconferencing.

Kedia did not announce companies that would be releasing tablets based on Moorestown. However, AT&T in March announced it would ship a Moorestown-based tablet based on an OpenPeak design later this year. The device comes with a seven-inch touchscreen, and measures 9 inches by 5 inches and only 0.59 inches thick, the and weighs just 1.15 pounds. More devices will show up during the second half, Kedia said.

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