IDF Spring 2007: Intel's handheld surprise

Intel's Spring Developer Forum ( IDF ) is under way in Beijing - and Intel is to launch a fresh onslaught on the handheld market by taking the cloth off a new handheld concept.

That Intel is holding one of its major industry events in Beijing rather than San Francisco is a definite nod to the growing strength and influence of the Chinese tech industry.

Of course, we've been here before with the 'Origami' Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) it concocted in cahoots with Microsoft . But the new handhelds will be based on the McCaslin concept we've previously reported on . According to leaked information, the MIDs - or Mobile Internet Devices - will have screens from 5 to 8-inches with resolutions from 800 x 480 to 1024 x 600. Several videos of the devices have also surfaced on YouTube .

These new devices will run on new dual-core low power silicon codenamed Stealey, based on Intel's new 45-nanometer process to guarantee greater efficiency. Intel is building or converting a rush of fabs to the 45-nanometer process as it seeks to gain even more production and energy efficiency from its product lines. One of these, conveniently, is in China. Some reports - including ours - have previously spelt the new chips' codename as 'Steeley.' However, the slide we've pictured above (2nd picture) clearly shows it as Stealey.

The key development here is that McCaslins are likely to be a lot cheaper than the poor-selling current lines of UMPCs, such as Samsung's Q1 . We reckon the first serious attempts at marketable Steeley-based units will appear at CES 2008.

Intel is also aiming for a battery life of 4-5 hours for the device. Not terrific, but then they'll boast Wi-Fi, WiMax and Bluetooth as well as being able to handle other technologies such as GPS. Intriguingly, several rumours online are pointing to the device running on an über-efficient Linux platform rather than a Windows-based solution, while Intel's slide also reveals a TV tuner.

Intel wants a slice of this market since it's a space dominated by one player - British firm ARM , or Advanced RISC Machines. Originally spun out of BBC and Archimedes educational computer firm Acorn, ARM has gradually risen in influence in the embedded space - so much so that it now accounts for 75 per cent of the embedded market, seen in everything from mobiles to handheld gaming consoles. And, reputedly, Apple's new iPhone.

One of ARM's competitors is Marvell 's Xscale -previously owned by Intel. Clearly though, the processor giant sees its 45nm fabs and McCaslin as the answer to the gaping need for an Intel presence in the embedded market. Of course, Intel will seek to grow influence for McCaslin through its numerous partners.


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.