Intel launches configurable chips with Altera
Intel Corp said on Monday it is combining its low-powered Atom processor with programmable chips made by Altera Corp in a bid to get more of its silicon into medical equipment and other embedded applications.
Intel, whose processors are the brains in 80 percent of the world's PCs, is rushing to stake out territory in faster-growing markets as more and more consumer gadgets and industrial devices become computerized and interconnected.
Combining a version of its Atom processor, ubiquitous in netbooks, with Altera's field-programmable integrated circuits allows Intel to offer chips -- known as the E600C series -- that clients can customize to suit their own requirements.
"This is a breakthrough for us as far as being able to have one of our customers be able to develop and program their own specific (intellectual property) in the silicon itself," Intel Marketing Director Jonathan Luse told Reuters.
With the market for traditional PCs seen as maturing, Intel expects demand for embedded chips to grow 25 percent a year over the next four or five years.
In September, Intel unveiled processors aimed at in-car computers and web-television, and last week, the company said it bought CognoVision, a Canadian start-up that makes digital signs, another major destination for embedded silicon.
Since they can be manufactured in large quantities, field-programmable chips useful for several purposes tend to be cheaper than chips designed for very narrow requirements.
Embedded chips will account for about $1 billion of Intel's $44 billion in expected sales for this year. The E600C series of configurable Atom processors is expected to be available in early 2011.
Intel is also rushing to build market share in smartphones and tablets, a market dominated by ARM Holdings Plc, which licenses designs for energy-efficient chips to Nvidia Corp, Marvell Technology Group Ltd and Qualcomm Inc.
Intel says a new chip aimed at tablets, code-named Oak Trail and due out in early 2011, will have improved power consumption and be more competitive.