SAN FRANCISCO--Recently at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF), EE Times had the opportunity to sit down one to one with Intel’s executive vice president, David (Dadi) Perlmutter, general manager of the firm’s architecture group.
Perlmutter was particularly excited about Intel’s upcoming fourth generation core processor--Haswell-- which has already made significant strides in terms of balancing high performance with much lower power than previous generations.
With that in mind, we asked Perlmutter whether he believed Haswell to be a viable platform for tablets, given requirements for fanless design and all-day battery life.
His answer? “Yes, absolutely,” though Perlmutter qualified this with a clarification, noting that by “tablet” he also meant detachable and convertible PCs.
A Haswell tablet’s performance would require a slightly bigger battery, making it heavier, thicker and more expensive, while fanless cooling would also remain a challenge, but the idea is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility, said the executive VP.
“If you really want high performance, you have to be willing to compromise in areas like TDP,” explained Perlmutter, noting that such a tablet could go fanless if the platform operated in the 3 to 4 W range, something that probably won't occur until at least the generation after Haswell.
While it’s perhaps a theoretical possibility to get down to that level of thermal envelope, Perlmutter doesn’t think it should be treated as a holy grail.
“There’s no sweet spot. There are multiple optimizations for different usages,” he said.
Meanwhile, as Intel gears up to push Haswell into unfamiliar low power territory in tablets and convertibles, the firm is also pushing the limits on the other end of the scale, with its Atom microprocessor.
The firm is looking to leverage its ultra-low power chip in the microserver space, previously the domain of Intel's much larger Xeon processor family.
“We’re going to launch Atom into the space,” said Perlmutter, saying the move would happen “later this year.”
Since Atom is so low powered compared to its approximately 17W Xeon counterparts, it would of course put out less performance, but Perlmutter noted that the big advantage was the consistency in software, allowing Intel’s customers to scale their offerings up or down while running exactly the same software stack.
“You will still apply the same building blocks, fabric and connectivity, making it easier for people to switch back and forth depending on their needs,” said Perlmutter, adding that it was all about building a variety of solutions that were consistent.