Intel announced its all-new, low-power Atom processor just before the CeBIT trade show last week. Previously known by its Silverthorne and Diamondville codenames and based on Intel's advanced 45nm manufacturing process, Atom has been designed to provide full ISA compatibility with the incumbent Core 2 Duo mobile CPUs powering the majority of mid-priced laptops today, but with an under-load power-draw that's around 10x lower. Its power characteristics, then, make it an obvious candidate for the burgeoning MID (mobile Internet device) and entry-level laptop markets.
Basic specifications suggest that, on a clock-for-clock basis, the Atom will provide similar performance to a first-generation Centrino Banias (Pentium M) CPU - more than good enough for web-browsing and seamless Flash-created file playback, for example.
The kicker here is that the Intel Atom's diminutive die-size, around 25mm², makes it incredibly cheap to manufacture, lending itself well to powering low-cost laptops that are ideal for price-sensitive emerging markets or, frankly, for users looking for an inexpensive second or third laptop for the home.
ASUS' 350,000-selling mobile Eee PC has shown there to be significant demand for ~£200 laptops, and the company has already announced that second-generation Eee PCs will feature the Atom processor.
We can expect to see a slew of Eee PC-like, Intel Atom-powered sub-£200 laptops hitting the shelves in Q2 and Q3 this year.
Small, light and inexpensive are the mobility watchwords for 2008.