Intel launches Oak Trail tablet processor

Intel atom processor close-up Intel's Oak Trail uses a 45nm manufacturing process

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Intel has formally launched its Oak Trail processor, designed for use in tablet computers.

The new microchip is smaller and uses less power than other models in its Atom range.

Despite being the world's largest manufacturer of microprocessors, Intel has been largely pushed out of the growing tablet market.

Until now, most devices have used chips designed by Apple and Cambridge-based Arm Holdings.

Announcing Oak Trail's retail name - the Z670 - Intel conceded that it was currently lagging behind the competition.

"You won't find a lot of Intel based tablets on the shelves at the moment," said Kevin O'Donovan, marketing manager for notebooks and tablets.

However, he insisted that the company now had a competitive product.

"2011 is about becoming relevant," he said.

Multiple platforms

One of Oak Trail's biggest selling points is likely to be its ability to run a number of different tablet operating systems.

Windows 7, Android, MeeGo and Google's upcoming OS will all work on the Intel platform.

Currently, chipsets based on Arm's designs, such as Nvidia's popular Tegra processors, are unable to run Windows.

However, Microsoft recently announced that it would support Arm processors for the next release of its operating system, expected in early 2012.

At least one tablet manufacturer had postponed the launch of their Windows device until Oak Trail became available.

Some observers believe that Intel may struggle to get into the game.

"I think they have got some serious challenges," said Gartner research director Michael Gartenberg.

"They continue to beat the drum of performance, but in reality, I don't think there are a lot of people running around complaining about how slow their tablets are.

"They seem to be quite happy with the Arm architecture."

Tech specs

Oak Trail / Z670 processors use Intel's 45nm production process.

The figure is a measure of circuit track density and broadly relates to processing power and energy consumption.

Current high-end microprocessors use 32nm production, however the technology is largely limited to laptop and desktop computers.

As well as the main processor, the new system includes a second chip, the SM35, to handle various input and output functions such as USB and audio.

The first tablets to use Oak Trail technology are expected to hit the market around May.

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