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Intel Corp. on Monday unveiled its first central processing units designed for Internet-oriented small form-factor mobile computers. The new Intel Atom processors are likely to show Intel a way into handheld devices, a market that has been relatively untapped by the world’s largest maker of chips.

   

“This is our smallest processor built with the world’s smallest transistors. This small wonder is a fundamental new shift in design, small yet powerful enough to enable a big Internet experience on these new devices. We believe it will unleash new innovation across the industry,” said Intel executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer Sean Maloney.

Intel Atom processors, which were previously code-named Diamondville and Silverthorne, are based on Intel Core 2 micro-architecture, but are tailored for mobile operation and manufacturing cost-efficiency: e.g., they do not feature large caches and do not sport certain peculiarities.

These new chips will be manufactured on Intel’s 45nm process technology and will contain about 47 million of transistors. The chips have a thermal design power (TDP) specification in 0.6-2.5W range and scale to 1.8GHz speeds depending on customer need. By comparison, today’ mainstream mobile Core 2 Duo processors have a TDP in the 35W range and run at speeds of about 3.30GHz.

With personal computing increasingly going mobile and the computer industry rapidly developing new classes of products to connect the next billion people to the Internet, the Intel Atom processor offers customers the unique ability to innovate around the new low-power design. In addition to the mobile Internet device (MID) opportunity, Intel believes the demand for a new category of low-cost, Internet-centric mobile computing devices dubbed “netbooks” and basic Internet-centric desktop PCs dubbed “nettops”, will grow substantially over the next several years. The Intel Atom processor is perfectly suited to meet these new market segments.

Intel said the Intel Atom processor also has potential for future revenue opportunities in consumer electronic devices, embedded applications and thin clients.

In addition, Intel said that it will market its mobile Internet devices-oriented chips under Intel Centrino Atom brand-name. Formerly code-named “Menlow”, Intel Centrino Atom processor technology includes the Intel Atom processor, a low-power companion chip with integrated graphics, a wireless radio, and thinner and lighter designs.

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