Intel's upcoming Core i-series processors based on the Ivy Bridge architecture are being pitched at Ultrabooks, but the company is now extending the chips to high-performance tablets with Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system.
Intel hopes the new Ivy Bridge chips will make it to tablets, according to a slide from this week's Intel Developer Forum trade show in Beijing. The slide shows one tablet with gaming controllers attached on both sides and another tablet with a keyboard attached to it.
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The tablets will provide "leading performance," Intel said on the slide. The tablets could have processors with up to four CPU cores, low-power memory, and other power-saving features to extend battery life, according to the slide.
Intel until now had established a tablet strategy around low-power Atom chips. The company is due to release its latest tablet chips, code-named Clover Trail, later this year, which will help Windows 8 tablets offer more than nine hours of battery life.
Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge mobile processors have been mainly targeted at a new category of thin and light laptops called Ultrabooks, which is a way for the company to combat its weakness in tablets. Intel is promoting Ultrabooks as an alternative to tablets, as the lightweight laptops let users consume and create content. Intel is implementing some tablet features in Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks, with some models meshing keyboards with features such as touchscreens, quick boot, and instant connectivity.
Intel could not immediately comment on whether any device makers would offer those tablets. Intel has code-named the Ivy Bridge tablet platform Chief River, which is also the code-name for the upcoming Ultrabook platform. The Chief River platform supports USB 3.0 and could also bring Thunderbolt ports to tablets.
Ivy Bridge tablets could be very similar in specifications to Ultrabooks, just without the keyboard, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. Intel could be pushing the high-performance tablets to test new use cases of x86 devices.
"You are looking at an evolutionary step," McCarron said. "Particularly in the x86 space, the evolution is more the convertible-type design where the keyboard is an optional piece," McCarron said.
The tablet may appeal to customers who need the performance of a Core processor, but also need a more highly portable platform than is currently offered by laptops, McCarron said. Tablet use is on the rise in enterprises, and customers may want a high-performing device resembling a tablet with a separate keyboard.
The Core processors have specific on-chip features that provide the processors a performance and security edge over power-optimized Atom tablet chips. In addition to Windows 8, tablets with Core processors will improve graphics with DirectX 11, which is supported on the Ivy Bridge chip set.