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Tablets will be powered by dual-core 32 nm Clover Trail chip

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows 8 is a hot topic.  The upcoming OS is not without controversy -- some bemoan its Metro user interface as the death of the traditional PC.  And others are troubled by allegations from the Mozilla Foundation and Google Inc. (GOOG) claiming Microsoft denied them access to certain APIs, in an effort to cripple their popular third-party browsers in Metro UI. 

On the other hand, many are singing praise for the upcoming platform.  Windows 8 is expected to offer excellent performancesupport for ARM processors, and a host of new features.  Love it or hate it, Windows 8 is inarguably the most anticipated software launch of 2012.

I. Intel Goes Hybrid Crazy

new report by CNET quotes a source close to the world's largest chipmaker, Intel Corp. (INTC) as saying that Windows 8 tablets powered by its chips will ship in November.  Reportedly the lineup will be heavy on hybrid form factors such as the eye catching "Yoga" design from Lenovo Group, Ltd. (HKG:0992). 

Apple CEO Tim Cook says hybrid tablets like the Yoga will disappoint [Image Source: Lenovo]

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) has scoffed at these part-tablet-part-laptop products.  Still, interest in this unique class of devices is high.

The report cites that of the "more than a dozen designs" and "more than 50 percent" will be sporting this alternative form factor.  It appears that Microsoft and Intel are hoping to use the utility of a built-in keyboard as a key differentiator to drive sales.

Intel Clover Trail
Intel's hybrids are expected to be slender and feature-rich. [Image Source: Intel]

The November launch Window will likely be causing Microsoft engineers more than a few extra gray hairs, given the tight development schedule for the ambitious new operating system.

The source comments, "The schedule is tight.  [Look] at what Windows is trying to achieve -- not only with a new OS, but a new OS that needs to run four to five architectures -- three ARM, Intel, and AMD."

(The "three ARM" part likely comes from subtle differences optimization-wise in processor from ARM chipmakers Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM), NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930).)

II. Meet Clover Trail

To compete with the alliance of chipmakers led by ARM Holdings, Ltd. (LON:ARM) and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), Intel will be releasing a new chip -- code-named Clover Trail -- specifically targeting tablet computers.  Clover Trail is essentially a more-powerful dual-core version of Medfield, the 32 nm Intel Atom CPU that has started to pop up in a handful of smartphones by Lenovo, Lava, and other manufacturers.

Medfield gives a rough idea of what can be expected from Intel Clover Trail Windows 8 tablets -- middle of the road battery life and CPU performance.  "Middle of the road" is not necessarily where Intel wants to be, but it's actually much better than many expected, given its numerous power-efficiency-related delays in shipping a smartphone CPU. 
 
And while Intel isn't yet a leader in the smartphone and tablets niche, it looks to become a serious contender for the power and performance crown in 2013 when its 22 nm die-shrink and proprietary 3D FinFET transistor design permeate its mobile chip lineup.

Clover Trail
Clover Trail, a dual-core 32 nm system-on-a-chip, is expected to be Intel's Windows 8 tablet processor du jour.
[Image Source: Wallpapers on the Web]

The CNET report claims that a 22 nm successor is codenamed Bay Trail.  The sources indicate that Intel is more focused on beating ARM in performance than battery life, commenting, "It is a gigantic performer, with similar battery life to Clover Trail. It will also have a lot of security features built in and Infineon [3G/4G] silicon inside."

Intel also hopes to crank of graphics performance.  While the current generation Medfield and Clover Trail chips use on-die intellectual property graphics processing unit (IP-GPU) cores from the UK's Imagination Technologies Group plc (LON:IMG)  -- much like their ARM counterparts -- the next generation is expected to ditch the Imagination IP-GPUs in favor of a proprietary design.

Intel's crowning on-die GPU achievement to date has been its new 22 nm PC-aimed Ivy Bridge CPU.  While a bit behind AMD graphics-wise, Intel's strong power efficiency and CPU computing power help make Ivy Bridge the chip to beat in the enthusiast PC market, though it's facing danger from AMD in the popular budget space.

Much like Intel's smartphone push, don't be surprised if the tablet push is a bit softer than expected for 2012.  2013's Bay Trail (dual- to quad-core tablet chips) and Silvermont (single- to dual-core smartphone chips) are expected to see a much harder push from Intel, though.

Source: CNET



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RE: Hybrid sounds good to me.
By Adam M on 5/14/2012 5:22:45 PM , Rating: 2
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I like the idea of a hybrid tablet/ultra book. Its not like laptops and tablets will disappear. If you don't want a hybrid there will always be other options. The combination of products seems like it will fit my needs perfectly. However, the model pictured above doesn't seem like a good design. I don't like the clam shell.


"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer














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