Meet Moorestown: Intel's Atom Platform For The Next 10 Billion Devices

The Experience

Hardware without software makes for a very nifty doorstop. As mentioned earlier, Intel has developed a tight allegiance to the Linux-based MeeGo OS, formerly known as Moblin before Intel and Nokia partnered to develop and promote it more heavily. MeeGo gives Intel the ability to have one environment span across the embedded, handset, MID, and netbook/nettop segments with a unified software stack. Of course, these days you can’t touch a phone platform without first asking about app support and a foofy app store front end.

Well, Intel does have an app store for MeeGo: the awkwardly named AppUpCenter. When AppUp was announced last January at CES, Intel promised that netbook OEMs would be supporting it. However, Intel’s site is still in beta, and it remains to be seen how much third-party support materializes. According to Austrialia’s TechWorld, AppUp passed the 200-title mark last month, and that was with Intel motivating developers with some monetary incentives.

Am I going to declare MeeGo a sure success in the making? Only about as fast as I’ll expect an effective overhaul of American healthcare. In both cases, you’ve got a big player fighting uphill against a much larger, deeply entrenched, and competing infrastructure. I wish Intel all the best on this front, but my money is on Android being a bigger hit. I’m not sure that Nokia’s allegiance to MeeGo, which is now effectively Maemo 6, will be enough to propel into the top OS ranks.

As of today’s launch on May 4, 2010, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen with MeeGo. On one hand, just a week ago, we saw the LG GW990 phone officially vanish into pre-release hell. The GW990 had been the Moorestown poster child ever since CES in January. I should have suspected something amiss in the air when Intel only focused on the Aava Mobile and OpenPeak designs at the Moorestown briefing, almost totally ignoring the GW990. Could this be fallout from Intel’s bosom-buddying up with Nokia and the fact that Nokia released its first MeeGo port for the N900 to developers a month earlier?

Of course, some users won’t care. So long as devices sync properly with user data, whether local or cloud-based, and run the applications the user needs in a way that’s compelling and effective, that will be enough for plenty of buyers. I got to fiddle about with the Aava Mobile smartphone and OpenPeak tablets for a few minutes at Intel’s briefing, and my first impressions of MeeGo were very positive. Is it better than iPhone OS or Android? Am I going to marry it based on the hands-on equivalent of a MySpace posting? It’s way too early for answers. Let’s do some premarital cohabitation with a review unit or two and see where things lead.

I will say this: MeeGo delivers a solid, impressive graphical UI. I’ve seen it multitask first-hand, felt the responsiveness of its touch interface, and admired its wicked 3D navigation models. Yes, I also saw it hiccup once or twice. Despite its Linux roots, MeeGo still has plenty of refinement in its future. To give you an idea, I saw the Aava Mobile reference handset running MeeGo and one photo management app in which one thousand 5-megapixel images were arrayed in a grid on the screen, represented as tiles so small they only looked like colored dots the size of a few pixels. With a few finger drags, the user could zoom into this grid however much he or she wanted, even up to 100% full size. It was like Google Maps meets My Photos.

That was cool, but the part that really blew my mind was when the presenter zoomed all the way out and said, “Now, what if I want to resort these images by their dominant color?” With a couple of taps and the time it took for a quick screen wipe, all of those tiny tiles reorganized themselves into a continuous progression organized by tone gradients. Imagine having this kind of filtering capability according to other content variables, such as the presence of blue sky or human faces—on a phone!

When I asked Intel reps why they were going to market first with a relative no-name like Moblin/MeeGo when Android was seemingly so close to being ready, one team member answered with a wry grin that in a process as intricate and critical as a new platform launch, it made sense to focus first on a software infrastructure that offered Intel the most direct control. No doubt, control and timeliness were also key factors in Microsoft’s omission.

The Archos 9 tablet supports Windows 7 on Silverthorne, so we have a strong suspicion that Moorestown could shake hands with Redmond if developers were so inclined. However, there remains so little momentum behind Microsoft in the consumer ultramobility spaces and so little track record of Windows-on-Menlow success that it’s no surprise Microsoft remains wholly absent from Intel’s platform launch. On the other hand, we did get to see Android running on a handset, albeit one that was dissected and mounted on a lab test bed much like the one below.

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  • silverx75
    Man, and the HTC Incredible just came out....
  • yannifb
    Huh, i wonder how this will compete with Bobcat, which supposedly will have 90% of desktop chip performance according to AMD.
  • descendency
    Why isn't this a 32nm product yet? If your concern (which it would be with said devices) is power consumption, shrinking the die can only help...
  • Greg_77
    silverx75Man, and the HTC Incredible just came out....

    Man, and I just got the HTC Incredible... ;)

    And so the march of technology continues!
  • Anonymous
    well we can only wait till amd gets their ULV chips out with their on die graphics so we can get a nice comparison.
  • Chemist87
    Can it run Crysis?
  • williamvw
    descendencyWhy isn't this a 32nm product yet? If your concern (which it would be with said devices) is power consumption, shrinking the die can only help...

    Time to market. 45 nm was quicker for development and it accomplished what needed to get done at this time. That's the official answer. Unofficially, sure, we all know 32 nm will help, but this is business for consumers. Right or wrong, you don't play all of your cards right away.
  • seboj
    I've only had time to read half the article so far, but I'm excited! Good stuff, good stuff.
  • burnley14
    This is more exciting to me than the release of 6-core processors and the like because these advances produce tangible results for my daily use. Good work Intel!
  • ta152h
    Do we really need x86 plaguing phones now? Good God, why didn't they use a more efficient instruction set for this? Compatibility isn't very important with the PC, since all the software will be new anyway.

    I like the Atom, but not in this role. x86 adds inefficiencies that aren't balanced by a need for compatibility in this market.
  • liquidsnake718
    I wonder how this would stack up in terms of simple benches when compared to the atoms? Definitly for power this one is a sure winner by far but this will be interesting to see since the line between server, desktop, laptop, netbook, and mobile phone processors are getting blurred
  • anamaniac
    I'm impressed, and I hope this goes far. Sounds like some awesome performance for a x86 chip that competes to RISC chips.

    I was considering buying a Sony Satio, but now I may rethink it.
    1366x768 multi-touch S-AMOLED, magnesium case, 802.11 b/g/n, 3G/4G, miniDP, miniHDMI, miniDVI, microUSB, 64GB high quality flash memory, 12MP main camera with a 5MP front facing camera, a new turbo boost that pumps cocaine into the chip until it gets too hot when the performance is needed but puts the chip to sleep in idle, and a Linux based OS specifically tailored to the chip. Sounds like something I would pay a lot for. Complete desktop PC replacement. :)

    Don't disappoint me Intel. I was hoping for 32nm 8 core LGA 1366 chips by now when I originally bought my i7 system, and you already disappointed me.

    Now only if 5GB/month on 3G didn't cost $85/month in my area, never mind the texting/calling plan.
  • technoholic
    Intel will for sure put these advancements in their upcoming Desktop CPU families. Low power consumption + high performance anyone?
  • steddy
    I noticed that on the last page of the article there was a reference to "IA Architecture". Is that a typo, or did you mean to be redundant?
  • JohnnyLucky
    Read the whole article. Read several sections twice. It sure sounds good. Wondering what the monthly fee for service will be in 2015.
  • jesseralston
    As mentioned earlier, has developed a tight allegiance to the Linux-based MeeGo OS, formerly known as Moblin before Intel and Nokia joined hands.
    Missed something here that seems fairly critical to the sentence.
  • Snipergod87
    The next checkbox item is battery life. The reality is that we all charge our phones every night. Occasionally, some unforeseen adventure or bout of brain impairment might result in needing to stretch for three or four days, but it’s rare to need a phone’s standby battery time to last for more than 48 hours

    I charge my phone once every week, i would be pretty angry if it didnt hold a charge longer than 48 hours.
  • erloas
    I also only charge my phone once a week, if that. On the same token my phone is now 2 years old and still holds a charge for a week. A lot of people that charge their phone every day also tend to have phones that won't hold a charge longer then a day or two after a year anyway.

    I also don't see the use of all these MIDs. I hardly even take my laptop out because I have a desktop and other then movement there is nothing the laptop can do that I wouldn't rather use my desktop for.

    MIDs might be ok if they didn't cost an extra $30-50 a month to get access to the internet which I'm already paying $30-50 a month for for my general usage. They might start making sense when someone like Qwest starts included DSL and wireless together for a single reasonable monthly fee so I'm not paying twice for the same thing.

    And unless you absolutely have to know the instant you get an email, and can't go more then a few hours without updating your facebook page, I don't see a daily usage for mobile internet. I probably don't think "boy it would be nice if I could check the internet while I'm out" more then once every couple months.
  • neiroatopelcc
    Articlewill be things like gaming consoles, connected cars, or whatever, we’re still talking about multiple billions of connected handheld devices in use.

    Good luck holding a car in your hands!

    Anyhow, the article seems mighty detailed compared to what we're used to here. Usually only don writes anything this detailed.

    Nice read, though imo the first page looks very much like a bought article.
  • jecastej
    Yeah great news I think about what this all means for me! The ultramobile sector growing so fast and becoming more and more preeminent. So much excitement at your hand disposal. I don't know, call me pessimist but when looking at those charts I think the best years for desktop computing started to decline a while ago, sniff. Why, well because I see that the huge market dictates where the real money goes for development. Up to these days the desktop enjoyed most of the investment and this is because the mass market wanted faster computers for everything. And now a regular laptop is powerful enough for 90% of the task most users do and will sell 2 or 3 or more times faster. Soon smaller mobile form factor PCs will dominate and I guess my beloved desktop and workstation parts will start to cost more and be updated less frecuently. I am sitting in front of a workstation all day long and I desire a faster progression for the workstations and no any sigh of slow down.

    Anyway beside the progress in the mobile and ultramobile sector I picture in the not so distant future an ultramobile CPU with memory and graphics and storage system the size of a phone in a modular and stackable design and you will have some very serious and scalable mobile supercomputing power. But will mobile form factor CPUs ever going to surpass the need for a desktop machine? Has the computing revolution started from the bottom up and I just noticed?