The press and technology blogs made a deal out of the news that Intel’s Clover Trail platform will only support Windows 8, which rules out Linux and possibly Android. We got an update that Clover Trail will actually come with a variant specially made for the Linux and Android platforms, which opens the opportunity for smartphone and tablet manufacturers to use this upcoming generation Atom processor in their devices.
Some might argue that Intel is not a major player in the smartphone and tablet processor market anyway, which is dominated by the likes of Qualcomm, Nvidia, Samsung and Apple. But the relevance here is that Intel might take the spotlight out of RISC-based ARM platforms. The main feature: more efficient power consumption.
According to Intel, the Clover Trail platform will offer notebook computers 10 hours of battery life and a month of standby time in an 8.5 mm thick package. This is comparable to current 10-inch tablets, reports ARS Technica.
This is achieved through an entirely new sleep state not found in existing Atom chips. Dubbed “S0ix” ( as opposed to S4 and S3 states) this “active idle” state enables the device to be continuously connected to the Internet even in a suspended state. This way, the operating system can still receive notifications. Background tasks that use the push API can still receive data.
The chip also offloads accelerated video and audio playback to more efficient parts of the chip, such as the GPU. This way, the CPU power requirements are reduced. Clover Trail will also come with built-in support for other tablet peripherals, such as gyroscopes, magnetometers, orientation sensors, GPS, NFC, and ambient light sensor, thereby reducing the need to process these on a higher (i.e., software) level. The chip also includes an integrated image signal processor that processes photos and videos.
Should ARM-based processor makers be worried? Aside from raw processing power, energy use has always been the biggest deciding factor in the use of tablet and smartphone processing chips. If Intel is able to cinch this with its upcoming Clover Trail platform, then perhaps they can gradually become more relevant in the market for smartphone and tablet chips.