IDF: portable devices steal the show
The motto of the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Shanghai is "Carry Small, Live Large". Chip manufacturer Intel interprets this motto as the vision that, in future, people will only have to carry a small mobile internet device (MID) with them that unifies the functions not only of the MP3 player, camera and smartphone, but also of the PC, game console, and media player. It could be connected if necessary to external resources like HD televisions, large screens, projectors or other stationary devices.
A demo showed an application that allowed the content of a PDA display to be shown on a notebook using drag-and-drop. Other demos showed wireless video streaming to large screen televisions and 3D graphic rendering delegated to a display (or, more accurately, the graphic chip of a notebook).
The goal behind the concept: Intel wants to use "internet connectivity" – a catch-phrase with Intel spokespeople at IDF – to penetrate the market for mobile end devices, previously dominated by companies like ARM.
At present Intel processors and chip sets – including the new Atom platform – still use more power than current smartphone batteries can deliver over a reasonable period of time. According to Intel, this is set to change for chips using a 32nm process.
Intel wants to replace established high-frequency analogue technology used in signal processing for various interfaces with software-based radio. Intel fellow Krishnamurthy Soumyanath spoke as a convinced digital advocate when he stated, "Analogue technology just makes life difficult for engineers". Various analogue circuits and antennas have to be installed in a device so that it can handle Bluetooth, WiFi, wireless USB, and other features. Intel's concept is that the "processor", in the broadest sense, would handle all of the wireless technology in the digital domain. This permits the use of a single transmission amplifier and tunable antenna, even if the device has to use various wireless standards with different frequencies simultaneously.
Many mobile suppliers are taking a similar approach to software defined radio (SDR). However, it requires a significant effort to transfer these analogue functions to the digital domain. Intel has already shown die shots of an amplifier manufactured from 65nm structures. It is supposed to deliver 28.6dBm. The advantage of the concept is not just that Intel can manufacture everything with its own CMOS process, but also that it can unify everything into one "platform on chip" (PoC).
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