Intel's Netbook Processor Atom Challenged by IBM Alliance

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

IBM will target a 28nm processor design for netbooks and smartphones together with alliance partners Chartered, GlobalFoundries, Infineon, Samsung and STMicroelectronics. The move gives Intel's Atom processor something it hasn't had much of in the netbook market: competition.

In a move that could challenge Intel’s burgeoning dominance as the processor maker behind netbooks as well as its efforts to move into the smartphone space, IBM and a host of partners have announced plans for a 28-nanometer processor designed for mobile applications such as netbooks and smartphones.

Intel has positioned its Atom processor as the processor of choice for netbooks. A recent deal Intel struck with contract chip manufacturer TSMC further positioned the company to move the Atom into the smartphone space.

But IBM’s deal, announced today, gives Intel something it hasn’t had much of before in the netbook space: competition.

The IBM alliance includes contract chip manufacturer Chartered, which has a longstanding existing alliance with IBM; Globalfoundries; Infineon Technologies; Samsung Electronics; and STMicroelectronics. Together, these companies announced that they are jointly developing a 28nm manufacturing process for a low-power mobile chip.

The companies last month made an evaluation kit available to mobile device manufacturers and say production of the chip design is anticipated in the second half of 2010.

IBM says that early results show the 28nm chip provides a 40 percent performance improvement and more than a 20 percent reduction in power in a chip half the size of one produced with 45nm process technology.

That means that chips based on the new 28nm process technology will offer low standby power, faster processing speed and longer battery life.

IBM made the advancements through the use of different materials such as high-k metal gates.

IBM made a similar announcement in September 2008 together with processor intellectual property company ARM and the Common Platform Alliance (IBM, Chartered and Samsung). That agreement called for development of a comprehensive 32nm and 28nm system on chip (SOC) design platform. ARM’s designs remain some of the most dominant in smartphones and other mobile phones today.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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