Part of the Wireless and mobile glossary:

What is Intel Atom?

Atom is Intel's family of x86 and x86-64 processors that are optimized for small computing devices, such as smartphones and mobile Internet devices (MIDs). Most netbooks on the market today run on Atom.

Processors in the Atom product family are inexpensive and have low power requirements. These two criteria are essential for smaller devices, to keep component costs down and extend battery life. An Atom processor performs at a level about half that of an equivalent Pentium chip. The trade-off between power consumption and performance is intentional because the target devices for the processor are used mostly for Web use rather than compute-intensive activities like gaming.

Intel is targeting the smartphone market as the ultimate goal for the chip. However, until enough compatible software is available, smartphone manufacturers are unlikely to chose Atom. To that end, the company has developed the Moblin software platform for mobile devices.

Atom v2 is expected in September 2009. Codenamed "Pine Trail," it will feature a dual-chip architecture to lower power requirements and increase performance. A chip called "Pineview" manages graphics and memory, while another called "Tiger Point" controls input/output (I/O). Intel reportedly plans to release a single-chip platform (system-on-a-chip) in 2010.

Learn More About IT:
> Wikipedia offers more detailed information about Intel Atom.
> Intel explains more about Atom's design and potential.
> Pierre Dandemont reviews Atom.
> Intel provides a disclosure fact sheet for Moblin v2 and Pine Trail.

This was last updated in March 2010
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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