Intel unveils embedded chipset

New chipset offers lower power and customization capabilities for embedded voice, storage and security applications.

Intel has launched its System-on-Chip (SoC) EP8579 integrated processor, which is said to offer lower power and customization capabilities for embedded voice, storage and security applications. The new product family is the first wave of Intel's revamped SoC design, which the company said adds smarter chip intelligence.

The integrated offering includes based on Intel's Pentium M processor and combines the functionality of four chips into a single circuit, according to Seth Bobroff, general manager of Intel's Storage Group. The devices will boost the performance of smaller Consumer Electronics (CE) and Mobile Internet Devices (MID), which require longer lasting life and tighter processor integration than traditional computing machines, he added.

The EP8579 product line is currently available at prices ranging from US$40 to US$95. The devices offer power output between 11-21 watts. In addition, four of the eight new SoC EP8579 products feature Intel QuickAssist Technology, which accelerates cryptographic and packet processing for security appliances.

Bobroff said Intel's smarter SoC devices provide companies with greater flexibility to construct their embedded products more cheaply and quickly for a particular customer audience. "Instead of one size fits all, we can customize the [new] system-on-chip to best address a specific market or segment's needs," he noted.

In total, the world's largest chipmaker has more than 15 SoC projects in development, most based on the Atom processor. For example, the company expects to roll out SoC products code-named "Moorestown" and "Lincroft" for Web-enabled devices within two years.

Jim McGregor, analyst at In-Stat, said Intel's revamped SoC design is part of a "huge bet" by the chip manufacturer that the Atom processor can be used for high-speed interconnect machines and other CE backend infrastructure.

"This really gets down to getting the x86 [processor] in places it couldn't go before in the embedded market," remarked McGregor. "Intel may not win in all those areas, but they're spreading all their capabilities as widely as they possibly can."

For example, he said Intel would "love" to put embed its SoC devices into digital TVs and set top boxes but could also face major challenges to from established vendors.? Despite previous failed attempts by Intel to break into the embedded arena, McGregor said the revamped SoC's improved low power and performance benefits should appeal to customers. "Intel isn't going to storm the world with these first products, but they are definitely seeding the market for a product family that could go in a lot of places," he added.

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Brian Fonseca

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