SAN FRANCISCO – Intel showed stepwise progress rallying the industry around its concept of the ultrabook, a thin and light system it believes represents the future for notebooks and tablets. The advances come in the wake of a mania for tablets driven by Apple's ARM-based iPad and the first details about Windows 8 for ARM processors.
At the Intel Developer Forum here four Taiwan ODMs showed prototype ultrabooks using Intel's 22nm Ivy Bridge chips. The CPUs, first described yesterday, are now available in engineering samples with production slated for early next year, said Mooly Eden, general manager of Intel's client PC group.
Four system makers already ship ultrabooks based on the current Sandy Bridge CPUs—Acer, Asustek, Samsung and Toshiba.
Eden also showed the first working version of Haswell, a 22nm follow on to Ivy Bridge that aims to slash power consumption while maintaining performance. Haswell aims to deliver a 20-fold power reduction to enable a mobile system to live ten days in standby mode on a single charge.
"Haswell will complete the ultrabook revolution," said Eden, showing the prototype chip running in a traditional desktop system.
Ultrabooks require prismatic batteries typically using lithium ion polymer, new chassis materials and flash or ultra thin drives. About a month ago, Intel hosted conferences in China and Taiwan attended by more than 1,300 people to rally supply chain partners around the details of the vision.
To achieve the ultrabook power targets, Intel is driving new power management initiatives among other component makers.
For example, Intel has developed an LCD panel specification that saves system power by storing enough data to serve up a screen image without waking up the host CPU. The spec involves transitioning the panel interface from LVDS to embedded Displayport and putting less than a megabyte of memory in the panel electronics. The scheme could add up to an hour to the average life of a mobile system's battery, Intel estimates.
Separately, Intel described yesterday a broad, emerging PC power management scheme called Converged Platform Power Management that will first be enabled under Windows 8. The approach involves aggressively scheduling power use across the system based on power parameters that components report to the system.
Just how broadly component makers are buying into Intel's power management initiatives is unclear.
In other initiatives, Eden reported two Taiwan system makers—Asustek and Acer—have committed to shipping systems next year that use Thunderbolt, Intel's latest high-speed I/O technology. To date only Apple and a handful of peripheral makers have shipped systems based on the link announced early this year.
"You will see in more and more systems [using Thunderbolt] as we move forward," Eden said.
Eden also invited a Microsoft executive on stage during his keynote to show Windows 8 running both on current Sandy Bridge ultrabooks and on an Atom-based reference design for a tablet. This week Microsoft is detailing Windows 8 at a separate conference in Anaheim, including its support for ARM-based processors from Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.
Mooly Eden shows prototype Haswell chip to paparazzi