IDF: Intel's Atom in action with new UMPCs

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Several firms took to the keynote stage at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco today to show off enterprise deployments of Intel's Atom ultra-mobile PC platform..

Atom is Intel's smallest processor, and is designed for low-cost PCs such as the Asus Eee 901, as well as mobile internet devices (MIDs).

Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobile Group, claimed that the current Menlow-based processor is ideal for consumer and enterprise applications on MIDs and mini laptops.

He added that the next-generation Atom processor, codenamed Moorestown, will be aimed at combining MID and smartphone features in a smaller, pocket-sized handheld.

"It will take idle power down by a factor of 10 compared to the current Menlow chip," said Chandrasekher. He confirmed that Moorestown is due to hit the marketplace by or before 2010.

Chandrasekher was joined during the keynote by representatives from Panasonic and BP who demonstrated their current uses of Atom-based MIDs.

Panasonic showed off its Toughbook CF-U1 ultra-mobile ruggedised handheld that will ship next month aimed at the enterprise and government sectors, as well as a Toughbook MCA tablet device for the healthcare sector.

Chandrasekher added that the market for these types of enterprise handhelds is currently worth about $2.5bn.

Curt Smith, director of applications for the chief technology office at BP, said that the oil giant turned to an Atom-based MID from Panasonic as a means of getting power computing to people in the field.

"They needed a screen, keyboard, network, something you can drop, plus eight hours of battery life, and this just didn't exist before," he explained.

BP is currently using the devices to manage the deployment of spare parts from its eight-acre facility in Louisiana which supplies an offshore centre in Mexico.

Employees previously had to locate a part using a handheld GPS system, find the co-ordinates and then go back to the office to enter the data into the computer.

With MIDS, staff can use the GPS to locate the part and enter the data into the handheld on site.

Dr Liu Jiren, chairman and chief executive of Neusoft, China's largest software and services provider, also took to the stage at IDF to demonstrate business use of MIDs.

He showed off a MID currently being used by a hospital in Beijing as a doctor's personal assistant.

"Doctors can use it to access medical records and to see 3D images. They can put scans into it and access the data," Liu said.

"These are not only a consumer product; businesses will find many uses for MID products."

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