Intel's first quad-core Atom chip for tablets coming later this year

Intel says the chip will have double the performance of today's Clover Trail processors

Intel has announced plans to release its first quad-core Atom processor before the end of the year, as the company tries to capture a bigger share of the tablet market dominated today by ARM-based processors.

Code-named Bay Trail and manufactured on a 22-nanometer process, the Atom chip will offer double the performance of Intel's current tablet chip, known as Clover Trail, and be available in products in time for the 2013 holiday shopping season, Intel said at its press conference at the International CES Monday.

Intel has struggled to make its mark on the tablet market, which is dominated by ARM-based chips made by Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia. It hopes Bay Trail will help change that. The chip will enable tablets as thin as 8mm with "all day battery life and weeks of standby," according to Intel.

It showed sample tablets made by Compal, Pegatron and Wistel, all running Windows 8, and presumably it expects bigger name vendors will jump on board before the end of the year.

Intel has also struggled in smartphones, but it's trying to put that right with a new Atom platform that was also announced here in Las Vegas. It's aimed at the market for low-cost Android phones sold in developing countries such as India and China.

"This segment is one of the fastest-growing segments in the mobile device world," said Mike Bell, general manager of Intel's mobile and communications group, at the Intel press event.

The platform includes an Atom Z2420 processor at up to 1.2GHz and an HSPA+ modem from Intel. Despite being aimed at low-cost phones the chip has some fairly solid capabilities, including support for 1080p video and a burst mode for photography that allows phones to capture seven images per second at 5 megapixels.

Intel built a reference design for the chip - basically a sample to show manufacturers what they should aim for -- that has a 3.5-inch, HGPA-resolution screen. Acer, Lava International and Safaricom will announce phones based on the chip later this quarter, according to Bell.

The platform was known internally as Lexington, and its development had been rumored before.

Intel's was one of the more substantive press conferences at CES so far. It also announced the release of a new 7-watt Core processor for ultrabooks that had originally been scheduled for later this year. And it announced that ultrabooks based on its fourth generation of Core processors, due later this year, will all be required to have touchscreens.

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James Niccolai

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