Intel has been publishing research for about a decade on what they call “3D Trigate” transistors, which held out the hope for both improved performance as well as power efficiency. Today Intel revealed details of its commercialization of this research in its upcoming 22 nm process as well as demonstrating actual systems based on 22 nm CPU parts.
The new products, under the internal name of “Ivy Bridge”, are the process shrink of the recently announced Sandy Bridge architecture in the next “Tock” cycle of the famous Intel “Tick-Tock” design methodology, where the “Tick” is a new optimized architecture and the “Tock” is the shrinking of this architecture onto then next generation semiconductor process.
What makes these Trigate transistors so innovative is the fact that they change the fundamental geometry of the semiconductors from a basically flat “planar” design to one with more vertical structure, earning them the description of “3D”. For users the concepts are simpler to understand – this new transistor design, which will become the standard across all of Intel’s products moving forward, delivers some fundamental benefits to CPUs implemented with them:
Leakage current is reduced to near zero, resulting in very efficient operation for system in an idle state.
Power consumption at equivalent performance is reduced by approximately 50% from Sandy Bridge’s already improved results with its 32 nm process.
Yesterday I got a sneak peak at the new Intel Classmate PC, both the clamshell and convertible models. These new models are significant upgrades from the previous version. While I never really wanted my own mini-laptop, I now have Classmate envy.
Highlights that mattered to me included (drum roll please):
10.1 inch screen to replace the tiny 8.9 inch screen – as a result the keyboard is bigger, accommodating adolescent and even adult fingers. Honestly, the previous design was just too dang small. My fingers were all over each other.
Ruggedization (is that a word?) – now designed to withstand accidental drops from desk height, with a water resistant LCD, keyboard, touch pad, HDD shock protection using the accelerometer to detect falls, and a really nice rubberized surface making it easier to hold onto.
Retractable handle – while I’m on the topic of holding it… may I say that I really don’t understand why other PC vendors don’t put handles on their laptops. My Panasonic Toughbook has one and I love it.
eReader interface – while I’ve never used my Kindle (really, not once), I do think I’d take advantage of the eReader capability of the Classmate. The accelerometer flips the content to portrait and the touchscreen allows you to “flick to scroll.” You can also highlight and take notes directly on the page. The eReader feature was what Wired magazine picked up on in their Classmate product review.
Netbooks are one of the hottest consumer product categories in the consumer technology industry at this moment - at least from an industry perspective. And yesterday, after Apple's iPad announcement, consumer electronics analysts immediately started commenting and sharing their views via blogs, and twitter.
But what I've been missing is the consumer view. Let's take a look at how interested consumers are in small computers like netbooks in general, and how this has changed in the past year.
Note: I realize that the industry may not see the iPad as a netbook but both the netbook and the iPad serve the same consumer need: an easy to carry, multifunctional mobile Internet device. So consumers are likely to compare and contrast them in the product purchase consideration cycle.
What we see is that consumers are mostly interested in netbooks as a second or third PC that they could use while on the go, or that they consider giving one to their children. Netbooks serve a distinct purpose, for more insight please see the report 'Netbooks Are The Third PC Form Factor' by my colleague J.P. Gownder.