Atom as Embedded Processor — Intel Weighs In

A couple weeks ago in my post “NVidia’s ION Reference Platform” I noted my belief that the Intel Atom/NVidia Ion skirmish that has gotten some press play is only the opening shot in a wider battle that goes beyond “Netbooks” to all types of embedded devices. Essentially, any device that needs low power and that would normally use a very-large-scale ASIC chip or FPGA is fair game in this particular market.

When comparing the cost to develop custom silicon, or even compared to the slow process of developing with place-and-route on an FPGA, using a combination of a low-power CPU with a capable GPU will enable a lot of applications and devices that would normally have had to retail for thousands of dollars, or would have required unit volumes in the tens of millions. An example here is advanced settop box functionality. What if your settop box not only had the ability to show a program guide and do DVR, but offered console-game quality interactive games, advanced video processing as good or better than an $8000 videophile home theater processor, and a femtocell station?

Intel apparently agrees with my hypothesis— time will tell whether I’m right or not. But I hold that most of the heat and light generated in this fight will be centered around embedded applications of these chips, not in Netbooks.

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~ by opticalflow on March 4, 2009.

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