Intel To Put Notebook Industry On A Crash Diet

Less than $1000. Only eight-tenths of an inch thick. Speaking at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Intel Executive Vice President Sean Maloney promised forty percent of the consumer laptops built around Intel’s chips will fit that description by the end of 2012. Maloney calls the new category of machines “ultrabooks.”

The obsession with thin and light is part of Intel’s effort to blunt the threat posed by the ARM-based processors built by Nvidia, Qualcommand Texas Instruments that dominate today’s smartphones and tablet computers.

Lower power notebook processors will let computer makers build machines that look much more like today’s smart phones and tablets than yesterday’s notebook computers. Think of Apple‘s MacBook Air as a peak at what’s to come: components such as bulky fans will be left behind.

Server farms built to support all these new devices, meanwhile, will thrive. At least, that’s what Intel is hoping. Maloney figures one Intel-based server will be needed for every 600 new smart phones or every 122 new tablets hooked up to the Internet.

To get there, Intel has put its processors on a crash diet. A new wave of new laptops, such as the ASUS UX21 built around the company’s 2nd generation Core processors will arrive by year-end.

Meanwhile, Intel will be working on a new generation of laptop processors. During the first half of 2012, new “Ivy Bridge” will arrive during the first half of next year, and will rely on a new manufacturing technology that will create processors with features as little as 22 nanometers wide.

In 2013, a new generation of processors, code-named “Haswell,” will slash the amount of power consumed by notebook processors to half of those on the market today.

Intel will also continue to push its Atom processors — now found chiefly in cheap ‘netbook’ computers — into smaller and smaller devices.

Atom will be hustled from Intel’s 32nm manufacturing process to its new 22nm process and then its 14nm process within 3 successive years, Maloney said.

That should let these chips do more work, using less power, as Intel looks to push into the heart of the tablet and smartphone market.

Intel’s next-generation netbook platform, codenamed “Cedar Trail,” based on Intel’s 32nm manufacturing process, will result in netbooks with more than 10 hours of battery life and “weeks” of standby time, Intel asserts.

Maloney also showed off more than ten tablets running Intel’s Z670 Atom processor Monday, with Intel boasting 35 design wins for the processor.

Later this year, Intel will introduce Medfield, and Maloney showed off a Medfield-based machine running Google’s Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” tablet software.

Tablets built around the new chip should arrive during the first half of next year.

Written By: Brian Caulfield