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A MID prototype running Linux. (Source: The Tech Report)
AMD and Intel believe the industry's next revolution is in hand held devices

Early last year, Microsoft revealed its ultra mobile computing platform. Smaller than a laptop but larger than a PDA, Microsoft's Origami project set the playing field for others to follow. At the time, Origami was positioned as an Internet browsing device with rudimentary multimedia capabilities. Unfortunately, the Origami project never materialized in any sort of substantial offering, but then again Microsoft has a bit of a hit-or-miss history when it comes to developing hardware.

That never deterred Intel or AMD, two companies with long histories rooted in hardware development, from stepping in where Microsoft left off. Lest there be any doubt, neither company is just picking up Microsoft's pieces; they're going into the ultra-mobile playing field at full throttle.

Almost simultaneously, both AMD and Intel roadmaps indicated the industry would head towards devices that allow consumers to browse the Internet in a full featured manner, but not be constrained to traditional laptop weights.

Intel invested heavily into this ultra mobile personal computer (UMPC) market. Earlier this year the company announced Silverthorne, a mobile processor that it showed off during Computex last week. Silverthorne and the future of mobile computing is so important to Intel that CEO Paul Otellini recently stated to German newspaper F.A.Z. (English),  "The new chip, codenamed Silverthorne is as important as the original Pentium and the 8088 processor."

Silverthorne will be a 45nm processor with a die footprint size smaller than a U.S. nickel. Intel aims to grab up to roughly 20-percent of the mobile phone market with Silverthorne and indicated that Silverthorne can also be used in UMPC. Otellini promises the average price of a Silverthorne-based product will be $100 USD.

AMD is right on Intel's heels with its ultra-mobile technology dubbed Bobcat. According to AMD executive vice president, Henri Richard, Bobcat is positioned for the UMPC market -- above a PDA platform but below a full-fledge notebook.

During his Computex address, Richard outlined the disparity between PDA and mobility processing.  Cell phone and PDAs, which traditionally have power consumption figures labeled in milliwatts, are not powerful enough to run x86 applications.  Likewise, Richard elaborates, x86 processors are just starting to break into single-digit wattage consumption envelopes while still being useful. However, Richard was clear on one thing: AMD will have an x86 sub-5W processor capable of substantial computing power for mobile devices.

Richard would not reveal a date for the Bobcat introduction, but hinted at a post-2008 announcement. Judging from recent AMD roadmaps, Bobcat appears like it will be one of the first fruits of AMD's Fusion project, combining a CPU and a GPU into one chip. 

During another presentation, Intel vice president of the Mobile Platforms Group, Anand Chandreskhar detailed the Intel mobile Internet device platform, or MID. According to Chandreskhar, MIDs are a whole new class of devices and do not belong in the mobile phone or computer category -- though in reality MID sounds incredibly similar to the Microsoft Origami project.  The company's list of Intel partners for MID development includes ASUS, Compal, HTC and Microsoft.

Intel demonstrated working MID prototypes at its Computex this year, indicating how close MID devices are to market. While Intel indicated that MIDs will use a highly customized "light" operating system, one MID on display ran a stripped down version of Windows Vista.

Intel representatives state that MID devices will be ready by 2010 to 2011 and will cost around $500. It is unclear whether or not MIDs will integrate mobile phone capabilities but Chandrasekhar indicated that users "will not be disappointed" when it comes to graphics capabilities. Most of today's top mobile phones cost around $500 and so it's a bit unclear where consumers decide between a MID, a mobile phone or both.



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Interesting fight
By djc208 on 6/13/2007 9:46:27 AM , Rating: 2
For the MIDs to work they're going to need to go cheaper fairly quickly, with more powerful UMPC above them and more capable cell phones below them it's going to be a tough fight if they can't get the prices to the point where people are willing to buy both the cell and the MID, because I can't see them overlapping much unless the flexible screens become available by then.

This could be the push that Google is looking for though, with all their web based apps a decent MID could almost replace a laptop for most basic computer stuff (e-mail, office apps, web browsing, etc.)




RE: Interesting fight
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 6/13/2007 9:54:53 AM , Rating: 2
I didn't want to put it in the scope of the article, but I think Fujitsu and Samsung might be the two closest to a true MID as is. The $799 Samsung Q1 Ultra isn't really functional (I think it actually got recalled) but the $899 one works great.

They really arent that far from a $500 price point -- though I think to get into that $100 device price point something totally different is needed (SOC probably)


RE: Interesting fight
By crystal clear on 6/13/2007 10:40:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
A MID prototype running Linux. (Source: The Tech Report)


If MIDs will be the next big thing,also comes with it Ubuntu Linux.
"Silverthorne will not be able to run Windows Vista"


RE: Interesting fight
By crystal clear on 6/13/2007 10:53:52 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
"a true MID as is"


With a form factor that fits between the UMPC and a smartphone, a 5” screen, flash-based storage, a light operating system.


RE: Interesting fight
By encryptkeeper on 6/13/2007 12:44:14 PM , Rating: 2
Intel aims to grab up to roughly 20-percent of the mobile phone market with Silverthorne and indicated that Silverthorne can also be used in UMPC. Otellini promises the average price of a Silverthorne-based product will be $100 USD.

Intel would be smart to put this Silverthorne technology towards smartphones rather than UMPCs. Those things just aren't making the real impact that smartphones are. UMPCs are supposed to be small enough to take anywhere, but in what? They're too big for pockets, and too big for belt clips (from what I can tell) and they're too small to warrant a carrying bag like a laptop bag (I guess the UMPC bag would look more like a purse, which few guys want to carry for more than a few seconds).


RE: Interesting fight
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 6/13/2007 12:48:53 PM , Rating: 2
Where do guys put their DS or PSP? UMPCs are about the same size.


RE: Interesting fight
By Mitch101 on 6/13/2007 1:21:12 PM , Rating: 2
That all depends on if it has vibrate or not.


RE: Interesting fight
By omnicronx on 6/13/2007 1:29:06 PM , Rating: 1
so i guess you keep it down the back of your boxers eh? ;)


RE: Interesting fight
By Mitch101 on 6/13/2007 1:45:47 PM , Rating: 1
Or in my wife's pocket to jump start her.


RE: Interesting fight
By encryptkeeper on 6/14/2007 9:48:12 AM , Rating: 2
They just always looked bigger in pictures. Whatever.


U.S. nickel?
By splint on 6/13/2007 10:27:40 AM , Rating: 2
I think a die footprint size smaller than a U.S. nickel (assuming larger then a dime) is still rather huge especially for a mobile phone. At 45nm it’s either one badass processor or has a huge cache. Maybe it’s a system on a chip?




RE: U.S. nickel?
By omnicronx on 6/13/2007 1:28:18 PM , Rating: 3
a 45nm chip would be about the size of an average persons pinky fingernail.. if it were only 5watts or so i could easily see this in a small device. the die size has nothing to do with how powerfull it is, smaller die size = more efficient. and with cpus, usually by using less wattage which allows for higher clock frequencies

i just wonder what amd has planned because they are just moving to the 65nm process now.. whereas intel is going to be moving to 45nm process very soon which could give them a jump in this race


RE: U.S. nickel?
By splint on 6/13/2007 2:09:09 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Silverthorne will be a 45nm processor with a die footprint size smaller than a U.S. nickel

Specifically, I was referring to the fact that judging from the technology size and die size you can get a rough estimate of the transistor count. The Core 2 has 291 million transistors on a 143 mm^2 die at 65 nm. The area of a dime (assuming the footprint will be larger than a dime by the article) is 252 mm^2, so a Silverthorne at 45nm and roughly that footprint would be a massive chip in terms of transistor count. Also, I still think a chip that size in a mobile phone is huge, so what gives? Are they referring to the package size?


RE: U.S. nickel?
By Treckin on 6/13/2007 4:31:54 PM , Rating: 3
Its not a mobile phone.
Also, given its 'large' size, the AMD will integrate graphics on die...
If they add to that somewhere like 10 or 20 gb of flash, partitioned somewhat like virtual memory, than the storage and system ram would use the same component.
IMO the real challenge will be the usefulness of these without a fast, reliable, nationwide infrastructure.
These UMPC's, MID's, whatever the nomenclature, are trying to recreate the success of the IPOD...
They fail to recognize, or at least pay no public tribute to, the IPODS reason for success: The only required infrastructure by the end user for the IPOD was a computer. For UMPC's to be useful, there needs to be nationwide broadband coverage. It is almost laughable to put that much computing power in a UMPC, as it can still only load web pages as fast as whatever network they're on runs at.
Perhaps by 2009 Google will have stepped up its free wifi access.
The IPOD could reach those in rural areas, whereas people with UMPC's will not be able to get access there.

Also, I think the size is a major issue, as previously discussed. Where are people going to put these?


RE: U.S. nickel?
By rmaharaj on 6/13/2007 2:01:31 PM , Rating: 1
45nm is the size of individual transistors - the entire chip is much larger.


Windows Mobile
By noirsoft on 6/13/2007 4:25:34 PM , Rating: 2
If they had something in these form factors that ran Windows Mobile, I'd seriously consider it. For the cool factor if nothing else, since I already have a 12" laptop and a smartphone, and don't really _need_ anything in between.

Full Windows is overkill as stated by many others, and Linux is, well, Linix, which means it won't easily run .NET and therefore will not be nearly as easy to write good apps for.




RE: Windows Mobile
By feelingshorter on 6/13/2007 4:53:16 PM , Rating: 1
Speaking of overkill, I wouldn't run anything with Windows Vista on it in one of these devices. Its simply bloatware when you run it on these small devices. Remember the Samsung 800mhz UMPC that was considered "slow"? Its 800mhz! What I care about is the software. If it takes up so much system resources to run just the underlying layer (OS), then there isn't much room left to run the software. Its a waste of battery life. Ubuntu Linux can achieve very good visuals without the massive hardware requirements. I'd agree with you that if they had something in Windows Mobile, or even Linux then I'd jump on the bandwagon. But why would MS do that? Its to their advantage to make Vista bloatware so their brother, Intel, sells more processors.


RE: Windows Mobile
By B166ER on 6/14/2007 2:20:11 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe if we could get an "educational" downsizing of Vista, sure. Drop the expanded security, lip glosss, sparkle, and multimedia extras (unless theyre "integrated into the code itself") and you might be able to get by with it running quite smoothly in a 800mhz rig, 128-256 sys mem (but y'all know how weee do it, 1 gig big babbbyyyy!!) and some 10-20 gig flash or 60 gig 1.5" harddrive. Then we've got .NET support, and many quality features of Vista slimmed down to make a diff. Wont feel like driving a Mercedes to McD's. Hmm, now that I've put it that way, I feel there could be a sooner opportuniy than later for these things.


I disagree
By smilingcrow on 6/13/2007 7:57:31 PM , Rating: 2
“Full Windows is overkill as stated by many others, and Linux is, well, Linux, which means it won't easily run .NET and therefore will not be nearly as easy to write good apps for.”

You’d really base your decisions on buying a mobile device based on whether it runs .NET! As a programmer I can’t say that it has universal appeal to developers. Personally I hope that it doesn’t gain too much of a stranglehold.

“But why would MS do that? It’s to their advantage to make Vista bloatware so their brother, Intel, sells more processors.”

I think this perception is from the distant past. Intel isn’t stupid, they can see that Windows hasn’t penetrated much beyond its core markets (desktop/server/workstation) and will happily support other O/Ss for other segments. As an example OSX now runs exclusively (for now) on an Intel platform.




RE: I disagree
By noirsoft on 6/14/2007 12:36:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
You’d really base your decisions on buying a mobile device based on whether it runs .NET!


Yes. As a .NET developer/dabbler, I will not buy a new device that doesn't allow me to easily write apps for it (even just for kicks to try it out) -- And .NET is the best platform IMO for exactly that.


Difficult positioning...
By B166ER on 6/14/2007 2:11:24 AM , Rating: 2
Ok, so we've all seen Star Trek, and their handheld scanners and info tablets. The world is headed for smaller, smarter devices. The basis for the infrastructure is there, very much unlike, say, hydrogen refueling stations. While wi-fi isnt exactly universal, we're talking what, all of most major metro cities to be covered in 2-3 years? So theres the "I" in MID. But to be truely useful, I need to use it for more. I really find it wasteful, monetarily, to have a home computer/network, and a wi-fi enabled smartphone, laptop, and MID. Let the MID replace something. So what else can we use it for? Gaming? No, no gaming chip of any current or near-future technologies whill allow for such. Multimedia? Maybe, as it truely can be such a powerhouse, albeit a bit of a lugger. Im thinking portable DVD in weight, and I think Kubiki said PSP or DS in size. Works well in a backpack, great for planes. Bugt, the way i see it, My next smartphone should be a bit of a multimedia job itself, if the Touch, and N95, and, umm, errr, iPhone pave the way. My thing is: if it cant do hyou would do normally at home then theres no need for it (coolnees is a factor, and it counts but you go head, try n impress post-prison Paris with this thing..). I do beats, can I run Cubase, or Ableton Live with this thing, albeit slower, wand with way less plubins? Can I process any type of audio whatsoever (Not converting wavs to mp3s, but that would be nice as well)? Are there expansion slots, or a conncetor toa larger display? Firewire???? Can I do any one or two things other than watch a dvd and surf net, that I do nomrally at home on this thing, albeit slower, but at least able to work? Hmmmm... Silverthorne in my side?




By flipsu5 on 6/15/2007 9:54:35 AM , Rating: 2
Computing is something you generally want to do very carefully and reliably, reflecting the operating environment (not mobile), while mobility is something associated with getting ready-made results. So it seems more likely that mobile devices become 'more aware' but not necessarily smarter. Smarts are for the very few servers and the like




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