Intel Atom for tablets: Oak Trail to appear in 35 designs

Intel Atom
Intel has previously tried making inroads into the MID and tablet space, here at IDF in 2008

Intel has introduced the next-generation of its Atom processor technology, previously codenamed Oak Trail.

The tech is designed to power tablets rather than netbooks, and we previously saw it in action inside several prototype designs at CES in January.

The new 45nm Intel Atom processor Z670 is at the heart of the platform, which also includes the Intel SM35 Express Chipset. The transition to a two chip architecture is designed to improve performance and power management.

Aside from the usual performance advantages, the new platform is designed to give manufacturers economy of scale, with support for Windows 7 and Android as well as Intel's OS partnership with Nokia, MeeGo. It's also designed to get back at ARM's huge advantage in the tablet market.

"We see huge opportunity here," explained Kevin O'Donovan, strategic marketing manager for Intel in Europe. "We see tablets and netbooks being complementary devices to your primary computing device. It's a cumulative growth for the IT industry.

"This year we have about 35 designs in the pipeline, you'll see more and more designs coming into the market.

"As we go from 45nm to 32 to 22nm in the 2013 timeframe we will have a competitive advantage in these markets."

Intel has previously tried to get into the smartphone market with Atom, but as yet has no launches to speak of. Will it have more success in tablets?

When asked about this O'Donovan was hardly coy, saying that "2011 is about Intel becoming relevant [in tablets]."

"Three or four years ago if you'd have said to people tablets were as big as they are, you'd have been laughed at – tablets had been out for years. Then Apple did what they did."

New Atom for netbooks also in 2011

The Oak Trail platform is designed to enable thin form factors of all types but is a fork in Intel's Atom roadmap; current-generation netbooks run the Pine Trail platform, which will transition to Cedar Trail by the end of 2011.

Oak Trail runs parallel to these plans. Intel says that there will be as many as 65 new tablet designs this year from various vendors and that it remains committed to Atom.

Given ARM's domination of the phone and tablet market, Intel finds itself playing catchup in a way that it hasn't had to since the processor wars were dominated by AMD on gaming performance.

However, Intel believes it can also have a slice of the operating system market. "We do believe that Apple, Google, Microsoft and MeeGo will be the ecosystems of the future," said.

The next generation of Atom to be launched is already sampling. It's called Cedar Trail and as O'Donovan explains, it's aimed at more innovative, ultra thin netbooks based on 32nm technology as we head into 32nm.

"As we head into 2013 with 22nm you'll see a lot more SoC (System on Chip) features with more wireless technology and security features," he added.


Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.