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Intel challenges ARM with new Quark chips for wearables; shows off Bay Trail, Broadwell

Mark Hachman | Sept. 11, 2013
Yes, Intel has plans for wearable computing.

Intel also has plans for the other end of the spectrum: wearable computing embodied by products like the Pebble smartwatch and Google Glass.

"So yes, we have been working on wearables," Krzanich confirmed.

"The idea is not that Intel will bring wearable products to market, but to come up with devices for Intel's customers to come up with their own products for this ecosystem and drive these products into the market themselves," he said. But Intel will also build some prototypes, so that the company knows what its customers want.  "We could only do that if we had the reference designs," Krzanich said.

Intel announced the Quark family of silicon, the smallest system on a chip Intel has ever produced, Kranich said: one-fifth the size of the Atom and operating at one-tenth the power. It is fully synthesizable, and designed for the Internet of things.  The Quark X1000 will be the first of the lineup.

Intel has reference designs for industrial boards, to connect to machines, back to the Internet. Since the device is synthesizable, customers can put their own logic and peripherals into the design. They won't be able to tweak the core design, however, just attach their own logic at "attach points" integrated into the silicon.

Next up: Intel's Bay Trail
That doesn't mean that Intel ignored the PC.

Krzanich showed off a fourth-generation Haswell-Y device, running at a minuscule 4.5 watts, that does not require a fan. "This provides the battery life, the weight, the thin[ness]," Krzanich said. "Looking back a few years ago, if you said we'd see fanless Core-based processors, you'd be surprised. But they're here."

Krzanich also showed off future Broadwell-based silicon, already powering a PC. Broadwell, which will shift Intel's Core processors to 14-nm manufacturing, will cut their power by 30 percent on today's Core processors. "It's here, it's working, and we'll be shipping by the end of the year," Krzanich said of the chips themselves. (PCs using Broadwell will ship in 2014, he said.)

Krzanich said that Intel's silicon will be in 60 "two-in-ones" or convertible tablets, by the end of the year, with prices as low as $400. And Krzanich went a step further, saying that Atom-based tablets could be priced less than $100.

"Our plans are to have 14-nm Atom at the end of next year," Krzanich said.

Not much in phones, yet
Intel has tried to push into phones with the "Clover Trail+" Atom chip that it released last year. But save for the Lenovo K900, a phone released for the Chinese market, Intel has had little success. In part, that's because Intel is still developing the collection of technologies needed to design an integrated system-on-a-chip that OEMs demand, as it saves board space and power. Intel has announced multi-mode LTE technology that should help it penetrate worldwide markets, but has yet to integrate it with its Atom silicon.


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