Intel to launch dual-core Atom processor this quarter

Otellini hints at dual-core Atom netbook processor

Intel will introduce a dual-core Atom processor this quarter as it tries to improve the performance of the inexpensive, low-power chips, CEO Paul Otellini said during an earnings conference call on Tuesday.

"The next innovation coming to Atom is on dual-core," Otellini said during the call.

Otellini was vague on details, and did not specify whether the upcoming dual-core Atom would be for netbooks or small desktops. When asked about the possible launch of a dual-core Atom processor for netbooks this quarter, an Intel spokeswoman declined to comment, only saying a few Atom-related announcements are expected.

If the dual-core Atom chip is for netbooks, it would be the first such chip of its kind. Intel only offers single-core Atom chips for netbooks, which include the Atom N450, which runs at 1.66GHz, and the N470, which runs at 1.83GHz. The dual-core chip could bring a much-needed speed boost to netbooks, which are mostly designed for Web browsing and basic productivity applications.

Intel already offers dual-core chips for small desktops, including the Atom D410 and D510.

Intel introduced new Atom netbook chips as part of the Pine Trail platform in December. The chips, codenamed Pineview, integrate the graphics and memory controller inside the CPU. The tight integration has reduced the package size of Atom chips by as much as 70 percent compared to the previous generation of Atom chips, according to Intel. The chips also drew less power than its predecessors.

But while the processors have given netbooks longer battery life, they haven't provided a big boost in application performance.

Intel is also expected to further boost netbook performance by adding support for faster DDR3 memory to Atom. Current Atom netbooks come with the slower DDR2 memory. Intel has not officially announced a move to DDR3, though the move is imminent.

Even though demand for netbooks have levelled off at around 20 percent of all consumer laptops, Otellini is positive about its Atom business.

"I think there will be significant growth in the netbook business year-over-year," Otellini said.

Intel is also putting Atom chips in devices like smartphones and tablets later this year, Otellini said.

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