With the Spring Intel Developer Forum about to kick off in Shanghai, Intel has high hopes of creating a stir with its Menlow platform, and the Mobile Internet Devices that will be based on it. The big question is whether the market has any interest in MIDs or whether Intel's new baby is destined for the same reception as the Ultra Mobile PC.
I do feel that Intel has learned from the UMPC situation, where the devices created tried to do everything that a PC or notebook could do, but without a decent input method, screen resolution or general processing power. Samsung and Sony did their best to create usable UMPC hardware with the Q1 Ultra and VGN-UX1XN respectively, but in the end neither device could offer the functionality of a good ultra-portable notebook or the portability and battery life of a good handheld.
Unlike the UMPC, the MID will not be designed to offer all the functionality of a full blown PC or notebook, instead each device should be targeted at a particular usage model. This targeted approach should, potentially make each MID more attractive to a particular type of user, whereas UMPC users tended to have to think of uses for their mobile toy.
Of course the real key to the MID platform is the new architecture that Intel has created to drive the devices. The Silverthorne processor, now officially named Atom breaks new ground when it comes to mobile devices. Based on Intel's 45nm manufacturing process, Atom sports a TDP that tops out at 2.5W, which is pretty damn impressive for a chip that will clock to 1.8GHz! By comparison, the current mobile Core 2 Duo 45nm Penryn chips operate at around 35W.
The Atom chip is also inconceivably small, measuring around 8 x 4mm for the die and 13 x 12mm for the package. This means that the devices built around Atom can be smaller than anything previously seen, while boasting higher performance than any of the current crop of handhelds. Atom has also been designed to perform well in a multi-threaded environment, and should easily out perform the A100 chip that was previously used in UMPCs when simultaneous threads need executing.
When I was discussing Silverthorne and the Menlow platform that it forms a part of at IDF last year I was curious about where Intel would go with the branding. I met with Intel again at CES in January and said that if the company didn't apply its Centrino branding to the Menlow platform it would be, quite simply bonkers. Thankfully the decision makers seemed to agree and devices sporting the Menlow platform will be branded Intel Centrino Atom, offering consumers a brand that they know and trust from the outset. Centrino branding was something that was missing from the UMPC devices, and the lack of Intel's recognisable mobile brand couldn't have helped matters.