Intel Atom Roadmap  (Source: PCWatch)
Next-gen Atom CPU will integrate a GPU core and memory controller

The netbook world today has many different systems available for consumers. The common thread among many of today's most popular netbooks like the ASUS Eee PC and the new Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is that most use the Intel Atom processor.

An Intel roadmap that surfaced at the Intel Developers Forum 2008 shows that Intel plans to bring the next generation Atom processor to market in Q3 2009 -- roughly a year from now. PCWatch reports that the new Atom will carry the codename Pineview and will be offered in both dual-core and single-core versions.

Today's Atom CPU is based on the Silverthorne micro-architecture, the next-gen Atom will be based on the Lincroft micro-architecture. The biggest difference between the current Atom and the one we should see this time next year is that the Pineview Atom will integrate a GPU core and a memory controller into the die or chip package. Exactly how the GPU core will be integrated is unknown. Roadmap slides at PCWatch show a "1?" for the number of die(s) -- it seems even Intel isn’t sure how the GPU core will be packaged with Pineview at this time.

Pineview Atom processors will connect to the associated I/O chip via Direct Media Interface (DMI) rather than a front side bus like the current Atom processor. Register Hardware reports that its unknown if the dual-core version of Pineview will be available for netbook systems.

Intel has big plans for the Atom processor and hopes to see it used in more places than the computer world alone. Intel expects to get versions of the Atom processor into the embedded market. Intel has also announced that the demand for Atom is far outpacing what it expected.

The higher than expected demand has led to shortages of Atom processors in the market. Low supply is forcing some netbook makers to use processors other than the Atom in lower-end netbooks. Asus is unable to get the Atom is quantities to meet its needs for low-end netbooks and has opted to use older Celeron M processors as a substitute.

Intel's first dual-core Atom processor will debut this month. However, it is questionable if the dual-core Atom will be seen in smaller and cheaper netbooks running Windows XP. Microsoft's recently relaxed XP usage criteria still limits XP usage to single-core netbooks. DailyTech reported in August that the dual-core Atom 330 would be soldered onto the Intel 945GX-based D945GCFL2 motherboard and would support up to 2GB of RAM.

Register Hardware reports that AMD is getting its own Atom competitor ready for the netbook market. AMD's Atom rival is reportedly codenamed Bobcat. Bobcat will reportedly be a single-core 1GHz AMD64 processor core and has 128kb of L1 cache and 256kb of L2 cache. The Bobcat processor is said to draw 8W of power total.

AMDs Bobcat isn’t the only challenger to the Intel Atom in the netbook world. VIA has its 65nm Nano processor that is reported to offer higher-performance in many benchmarks when compared to Intel's Atom 230.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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