Shanghai (China) - Modern gleaming chip wafers constrasted with a thousands of year old sword at the Intel Developer Forum today as company executives showed off a 2-billion transistor Tukwilla processor along with the diminutive Atom chip. Hosted in Shanghai, a city famous for skyscrapers clashing with old shacks, this IDF was a spectacle steeped in Asian formality. While there were some juicy technical details released, most of the show has been devoted to pleasing Chinese companies as they rolled out their mobile Internet devices (MIDs).
The first day keynote thumped to a start with a troupe of traditional Chinese drummers. Esteemed Chinese government officials, who had the first several rows of the prime center seats reserved, nodded stoically in approval. Intel Vice President and General Manager of Intel China Ltd, Ian Yang, led the company's executive charge by saying that Intel has a solution for everything from performance-hungry mainframes to power-sipping mobile devices. He added that Intel's computer chips were as majestic and powerful as an ancient bronze sword that was recently unearthed in China.
Pat Gelsinger, Intel's Senior Vice President, told attendees that Intel processors have the power to make everyone a 'Monkey King' as he recounted a fictional Chinese fable of a man who used a stick that could be resized depending on the circumstances. One after another, Chinese company executives were paraded onto stage to announce their latest products or projects and since gift giving is such a big deal in Asia, each exec was given their own Golden Stick of the Monkey King. Yay.
Gelsinger did show off Intel's upcoming Tukwila processor which is a monster 2-billion transistor quad-core chip with 30 megabytes of cache. Due to ship in late 2008, the Tukwila will have dual integrated memory controllers and Quickpath interconnects something which Intel says is faster than AMD's HyerTransport technology. The silicon seems to be progressing as the world's first demo of a Tukwila server running RedHat 5.1 was shown to the public.
But desktop and server processors appear to be taking a back seat at this IDF because Executive Vice President Dadi Perlmutter and Senior Vice President Anand Chandrasekher showed off laptop and ultra mobile (oops I meant to write MID) chips.
Perlmutter said the upcoming Montevina platform, which is due in June 2008, will be branded as Centrino 2. The processors will use about 25 watts of electricity and Centrino 2 laptops will have stutter free HD playback and solid state drives of 32 to 160 GB.
But the Intel keynote was really Anand Chandrasekhar's show because everyone wanted more details about the company's tiny, power-sipping Atom processor. He said the chip will be branded as the Centrino Atom and Atom and that commercial shipments have already begun. Final products should start appearing in your hands in about 60 days.
To get detailed info about the Intel Atom please read our in-depth article here.
The former Menlow and Silverthorn processors are fully software compatible with Core 2 Duo processor and, according to Chandrasekhar, will run the same apps at 10X lower power. At the lowest C6 power setting the processor uses just 100 mw at .3 volts.
"It's an incredibly lazy processor ... but that's a good thing," Chandrasekhar joked as he explained the processor will power up to perform a task and then go back down to the lowest power setting. Regular employees would probably be fired if that exhibited that type of laziness, but that behavior is excellent for processors, he added.
Chandrasekhar teased the upcoming Moorestown platform by showing off probably the smallest PC motherboard in his hand. Smaller than a credit card, the board wasn't actually populated with any chips and he promised to give more details at the Fall IDF in Taipei.
A flurry of companies released their MIDs today in conjunction with the Intel Atom launch, but what makes Chandrasekhar think MIDs will succeed where PocketPCs failed? In a press question and answer session after the keynote, he told reporters that current demographics are conducive to MIDs because people today grew up with the Internet and computers. Apparently he thinks Pocket PCs came just a little bit before their time. My Compaq iPaq gathering dust in my attic would tend to agree.