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IDF Spring 2007: New ultramobile processor unveiled

Intel uses Beijing IDF as prime opportunity to unveil a new class of processor for ultramobiles.

Intel is designing from the ground up a new class of processor, codenamed Silverthorne, for ultramobile computing, Anand Chandrasekher, the chip giant's head of ultramobile development group, revealed today at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing.

It's the first processor Intel has ever produced that can run Windows while being small and energy-efficient enough to suit palmtop devices. The new CPU is slated to arrive in production devices in the first half of 2008.

Chandrasekher claims it's not only the raw computing power of the new chip that will finally give handhelds 'real' internet access and the ability to surf the same sites as a desktop PC. He says the non-standard, non-x86 architecture of current palmtop processors is "one of the roadblocks to making mobile internet possible."

"There are tens of millions of internet applications out there," he claims, "and all of those are designed to run on Intel architecture."

And Intel architecture is what the Silverthorne runs. It's a direct derivative of the 45nm Penryn-class Core 2 processors due later this year. Over half a dozen Silverthorne devices were on display during Chandrasekher's IDF keynote speech, all of which were palmtop-size and running full Windows Vista.

Chandrasekher gave a live demonstration of the power of the new platform by showing a standard YouTube video streaming live to one of the smallest devices, which was only a shade larger than a smartphone PDA such as the HTC Titan.

Also revealed in more detail was the 2007 ultramobile PC platform, previously codenamed McCaslin. This is the platform that devices such as Samsung's Q1 Ultra will be running.

The interesting thing about the two accompanying CPUs - officially known as the A100 and A110 - is that they are 90nm parts, as opposed to 65nm. Even more interesting was the pointed dodging of questions regarding the iPhone, but it seems clear that McCaslin will power Apple's mobile internet device when it appears later this year, unless Apple has managed to re-engineer and recompile the version of OS X that iPhone will run.

The worrying thing about that is the power consumption of McCaslin which, while low, is still at an average of 1.5W with a thermal design power (TDP) of 12W. This doesn't bode well for the iPhone's battery life.

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