Intel bets on emerging market with new Atom chip

New Atom processors for netbook and nettop computers

Laying money on the market for small laptops and desktops, Intel Tuesday announced new Atom processors for what it's calling netbook and nettop computers.

Sean Maloney, executive vice president of Intel, unveiled two new Atom processors during a keynote address Tuesday at the Computex trade show in Taiwan. Intel began shipping Atom chips for mobile Internet devices, which are small pocketable machines, back in April.

The new Atom N270 and Atom 230 processors for small laptops and desktops are the second incarnation of Intel's newly designed 45-nanometer processor.

"We see a lot of demand for more affordable products," said Chris Tulley, a spokesman for Intel. "The majority of households in emerging markets have no PCs and mature markets have one PC. We see an opportunity to have more devices per household and potentially one device per person."

Tulley added that the company expects netbook and nettop sales to outpace growth of traditional laptops and desktops.

A netbook is a relatively inexpensive, small form-factor laptop that is designed for basic applications like Web surfing, email and writing. The nettop is along the same idea but is a small form-factor desktop. Both are designed to use less power than their traditional counterparts but aren't powerful enough for serious power users or gamers.

Tulley said companies like Asus and Acer are both coming out with devices based on the new Atom chips. Maloney showed off nettops and netbooks based on the new chips at the conference Tuesday.

The Atom line -- Intel's smallest chips -- are designed to have a small footprint, enable long battery life and have low thermals and energy consumption. The architecture, which was reportedly designed from the ground up, includes the 45-nanometer "high-k" transistor formula released with the Penryn family of chips late last year.

In a related announcement at Computex, Intel unveiled the Z-P230 PATA solid-state drive, which will provide flash memory storage for its netbook and nettop systems. Intel is slated to ship a 4GB version of the device for US$25 and an 8GB version for $45 in Q3 this year. A 16GB version of the Z-P230 PATA solid-state drive will be available in Q4 for an undisclosed price.

Approximately four times smaller than 1.8-in. notebook hard drives and weighing only 10 grams, the Z-P230 features a PATA IDE interface, which will allow Intel to easily plug the NAND flash device into its future mobile PC computing products, according to an Intel spokesman. The solid state drive includes a read throughput of 35MB/sec. and write throughput of 7MB/sec. The new flash drive uses 1.65 milliwatts of power in idle state and 314 milliwatts in operating mode.

Intel has aggressively stepped up development of its solid state technology this year. Last week, the company and Micron Technology unveiled a jointly developed 34-nanometer, 32-gigabit NAND flash memory chip that will be available in the second half of 2008. In addition, Intel confirmed plans to ship 1.8-in. and 2.5-in. solid state drives for laptop and notebook PCs with storage capacities between 80GB and 160GB sometime in mid-2008.

Also at Computex on Tuesday, Intel unveiled new chipsets for desktop PCs. The Intel 4 Series Chipsets, which include the G45, G43, P45 and P43, will be used with the 45 nanometer Intel Core2 Duo and Intel Core2 Quad processors.

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