Intel promises x86 system-on-a-chip by 2008

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Intel promises x86 system-on-a-chip by 2008

Chipmaker prepares all-in-one chips for enterprise and consumer devices.

Intel is preparing to ship its first 'system-on-a-chip' systems for consumer and enterprise computers by 2008, the semiconductor maker unveiled at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing. 

System-on-a-chip technology bundles several computer components with the processor on a single die. Such components could include a gigabit Ethernet processor, graphics processor or memory controller.

Bundling the components allows Intel to cut power consumption as well as the chip's size, allowing for smaller devices.

Intel touted upcoming 45nm processor technology as the enabler for the integrated chips.

As the chipmaker is able to cram more transistors on a single die, it can start using some of them for performance tasks that previously fell outside the scope of a traditional processor.

"We are very keen on pushing the frontiers of high integration. It has always been one of the benefits of Moore's Law that you can choose to take your benefits into the space of smaller instead of just faster," Sean Maloney, general manager at Intel's sales and marketing group, said in a briefing with reporters on Monday.

"45nm enables this to happen. We can use this power, thermal transistor budget to put a whole bunch of extra things in there."

The chipmaker is currently working on system-on-a-chip silicon for the enterprise and consumer markets.

The enterprise market will be addressed by a chip codenamed Tolapai that will combine functionalities currently addressed in four separate chips onto a single die.

It will reduce overall chip size by 45 percent and cut power consumption by 20 percent. The bundling also offers increases in throughput and performance.

Earlier reports have indicated that Tolapai will be targeting embedded systems and applications in the industrial computing market. It will be based on a Pentium M processor.

Tolapai is slated for availability in 2008. Intel plans to release a system-on-a-chip for use in consumer electronics devices such as digital set top boxes, TVs and networked media players around the same time.

Intel expects that the combination of an industry standard x86 processor with audio/video and graphics processors will cut down on the development time for consumer devices.

The system-on-a-chip plans are considered a response to AMD's Fusion and Via Technologies' Geode products, in which the company plans to merge a general purpose processor with a graphics processor. 

But Rob Enderle, a principal analyst with the Enderle Group, said that Intel is primarily seeking to enable small form factor devices.

"For Intel it was less [about] competing against AMD than about people replacing their older stuff with Intel's new stuff," he said.

"The market in general has been soft, so Intel is focused on improving thermal efficiency, power efficiency and reducing the overall footprint of the individual products so that people don't have to re-architect their data centres to get this stuff in."

Intel plans to unveil additional details about its system-on-a-chip strategy on Wednesday at IDF.
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