Why Moorestown Matters
How big of a deal is Moorestown to Intel? Two of the first factoids Intel dropped at its briefing were these: 1) Globally, there will be one billion more new “connected” users by 2015 than there are today. 2) By 2015, there will be 10 billion connected devices in use. How much of this will be PCs versus non-PCs? In June of 2008, Gartner declared that “the number of installed PCs worldwide has surpassed 1 billion units” and that “it will surpass 2 billion units by early 2014.” Even assuming that Intel’s projection is overly optimistic and that a large swath of these future “connected devices” will be things like gaming consoles, connected cars, or whatever, we’re still talking about multiple billions of connected handheld devices in use. Is this feasible? Considering that the International Telecommunications Unions’ 2009 annual report pegged global mobile phone usage at 4.6 billion units, yeah—I’d say billions of “PC-like” handhelds is totally feasible. Intel might just sell more ultramobile processors in the next five years than it has sold into the PC market over its entire history.
Looking back across the last couple of weeks, taking in the specifics of Moorestown, its evolution, and what information Intel has fed (and not fed) to the press, I believe that this launch is roughly equivalent to the arrival of Conroe and the Core 2 family. Conroe put a final stake through the heart of NetBurst and confirmed Intel’s commitment to abandoning frequency as the central measure and means of processor performance. It led Intel down a different path for desktops and notebooks and allowed Intel to keep up a pace of innovation that competitors have been unable to match.
I believe Moorestown, and especially the Lincroft SoC architecture, will do the same for Intel’s ultramobility pursuits. Silverthorne was simply a warm-up, a prelude. Are there still blemishes waiting to be discovered in shipping Moorestown devices? Almost certainly. It seems very unlikely that even Intel could go from a chip as maligned as the original Atom to a miraculous revolution in just one generation. I suspect if the platform were that good, I’d have a unit in my hand right this minute. It would rival the iPad, cure the sick, game the stock market, and draw the fairer sex like moths to a flame. Heck, I’d settle for any one of those things.
No, the message of Moorestown is not that Intel is suddenly the best mobility platform on the planet. Even company reps admitted that the Moorestown scorecard is mixed. Compared to its rivals, Moorestown is allegedly on par for browsing and standby power, trailing on audio playback, and excelling on video—and excelling so much that direct comparisons are often impossible. Moorestown debunks the common belief that IA is too power-hungry to succeed in ultramobility. As of now, IA is ready to fuel the rocket in your pocket.
With power needs met and performance at least on par with the competition, Intel finds itself with a familiar challenge. If the company can scale Atom on ultramobiles in the same way it scaled Core 2, then the future of ultramobility and perhaps mainstream computing seems all but sure to remain in Intel’s corner. One engineer commented, “Intel sees the Internet as a primary means to the end...and the end itself.” If that’s true, if the race in mainstream hardware is really a race to enable the best browsing experiences possible, regardless of size, shape, or location, then Moorestown seems likely to bring that end within Intel’s reach.