November 3, 2004 12:14 PM PST

Intel devising chip line for consumer electronics

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sold into the wider consumer electronics markets.

Over the past few years, however, Intel engineers have managed to reduce power consumption with the Pentium M line of notebook chips. Promoting chips based on its own architecture, rather than ARM's, has distinct advantages for Intel. For one thing, Intel won't have to pay royalties. The IA-32 chips can also take advantage of the manufacturing processes and ideas created for the main Intel lines.

"They've got excess (fabrication plant) capacity, and this is one way to use it," said Kevin Krewell, editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report, an industry newsletter. Software compatibility also eases headaches for software developers.

Calving off a new line of chips in this manner is not new for Intel. Lower-priced Celeron processors are, architecturally speaking, about the same as the more expensive Pentium 4 models. The difference is that the Celerons come with less cache, run at lower speeds and generally get the latest enhancements at a later date. Similarly, the Xeon chips for servers are Pentium 4 with more cache and a few extra features.

By contrast, the Pentium M is an IA-32 chip, but it differs more substantially from the current Celerons, Xeons and Pentium 4s. Developed by a team in Israel, the chip is a cross between the older Pentium III and the Pentium 4 with some additional features.

The Pentium M, in fact, is rapidly becoming the Cro-Magnon to the Neanderthal that is the Pentium 4. Although the Pentium M sells in far smaller volumes than the Pentium 4, derivatives of the line will migrate to, and likely become the dominant, chip in the Intel desktop lineup in 2007 and beyond.

Burns did not elaborate on the technical details of the consumer electronics chips or whether they would evolve from the Pentium 4 or Pentium M lines. However, he noted that power and energy consumption is a major issue in consumer electronics.

So far, Intel's attempts to get into consumer electronics have been checkered. At the beginning of the year, it trumpeted a chip that it said would allow TV manufacturers to create $1,800 projection TVs. It canceled that project last month.

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