With a never-ending need for better battery life and performance from netbooks and eReaders, there was welcome news this week from chipmakers Intel, Nvidia and Freescale on more efficient processors.
Intel released a faster version of its latest “Pine Trail”-codenamed Atom processor, lifting it to a 1.83Ghz clock speed from 1.66Ghz. Nvidia said its new ION separate graphics processor would give a 10x graphics performance improvement over Pine Trail netbooks that just use integrated graphics.Freescale promised faster page turns , higher resolution and longer battery life on eReaders from its new chip.
Intel has so far dominated the high-growth netbook category with its Atom microprocessor, but that position is unsustainable, according to one of its chip rivals, Nvidia.
Chips based on ARM of the UK’s designs are set to drive a new wave of netbooks, smartbooks, Mids (mobile internet devices) – call them what you will – going on sale over the next six months, and Intel is in no position to compete, it claims.
What’s next in personal computing after netbooks? The answer, it seems, depends very much on what directions the makers of microprocessors are taking.
If you were to ask Intel – at its Research Day this week - the answer would be Mids (mobile internet devices). AMD said in a briefing it was “thin and light” or “ultrathin”, while Freescale came up with some interesting-looking “smartbook” concept machines (pictured) at this month’s Computex trade show in Taiwan.
Look out for a new range of lower-cost netbooks this year using Arm-based processors rather than Intel’s Atom chip…but don’t expect to see any of them running Windows.
Linux, yes, Google’s Android operating system, quite possibly, but Microsoft is not yet supporting the new devices, which is something of an irritation to Warren East, Arm chief executive.
Energy harvesting – drawing power from our surroundings – has seemed a tad futuristic, but a new advance by chipmaker Freescale being unveiled today promises practical applications within a year.
Freescale has found a way of tapping tiny amounts of voltage and amplifying them to usable levels.