Intel: Silicon, Wearable Computing and Quark

At its Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, new Intel CEO Brian Krzanich detailed the chip giant’s vision for the mobile future, including wearable computing, an update to Atom processors, and Quark.

Krzanich formally announced Bay Trail, the latest in the Atom series of processors — if you’ve ever used a netbook or some Windows tablets, you’ve run into Atom beforehand. Bay Trail is Intel’s first 22nm system-on-a-chip (SOC) for mobile devices and is, according to Krzanich, just the start point.

“Smartphones and tablets are not the end-state. The next wave of computing is still being defined. Wearable computers and sophisticated sensors and robotics are only some of the initial applications.”

Mobile’s been an interesting space for Intel, because while it’s the dominant player for notebooks, it’s been racing ARM in the tablet and smartphone spaces. If you own a tablet or smartphone, the odds are exceptionally good that it’s running ARM rather than Intel’s silicon.

As such, it’s not surprising that Intel’s putting a lot of resources into the problem; Krzanich also showed off Intel’s next gen LTE silicon in the form of the Intel XMM 7260 modem, running on an Intel Atom processor, although it wasn’t a Bay Trail device; instead it was using the next generation after Bay Trail, currently codenamed “Merrifield”. Processor technology just runs that fast; by the time you’re announcing one product, the next one is already heavily in the development phase.

Then there’s Quark, which is in some ways Bay Trail’s little brother — and by little I mean tiny. Quark will be a low powered SOC roughly one fifth the size of the current Atom range, but using one tenth of the power. The idea is that Quark will run inside wearable computing and “Internet of Things” devices that don’t need a lot of pure processing power — because they’l be passing those kinds of tasks onto heftier processors — but need to be lightweight and have excellent power draw characteristics. Quark reference samples won’t arrive until the end of the year, so it’ll be 2014 at the very earliest before we might see Quark-based wearable gear.

I’m at IDF in San Francisco for the rest of the week, so I’ll have more on Bay Trail and Intel’s future direction over the next couple of days. But finally — Intel uses strange metaphors to entice staff:


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