There’s a very good chance one of Intel’s chips is running your home computer or laptop, but if the company has its way next year, one could be running your smartphone or tablet too. The mobile industry is dominated by the UK company ARM, who’s microprocessor architecture is used by Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments – yep, pretty much everybody.
Intel recently formed a division dedicated to making a processor suitable for mobile use, and rather than continue using their multiple chip setup, they’ve adopted the system-on-a-chip method favoured by ARM. It’s more efficient and uses much less power than the alternatives.
Based on the Atom chip, often found in netbooks, the new chip is called the Medfield and Intel has shipped what it calls ‘reference design’ hardware to manufacturers, allowing them to see what’s possible if they adopt the it. MIT’s Technology Review has had the chance to test the smartphone version, and provided a glimpse of the phone itself.
The phone may never make it to the shops in this form, but Intel say manufacturers are welcome to use ‘as much or as little of the design as they like’. Building on their recent partnership with Google, Intel has installed a specially optimised version of Android Gingerbread on the phone.
Being a prototype device, there’s little point in examining any of the specification, but Technology Review notes it plays HD video, streams live TV and offers ‘fast and smooth’ web browsing. A tablet prototype has also been made, but no pictures have been released.
Excitingly, Intel hopes the first details on manufacturers intending to use the Medfield will come during the CES show in January, with official device announcements following before June.