Intel making PC processors tablet friendly with new Core M chips

Intel's low-power Core M products will be in tablets and hybrids by the end of this year.

Intel President Renee James talks on stage at a Computex keynote

Intel President Renee James talks on stage at a Computex keynote

Intel wants to deliver more performance to tablets while curbing power consumption, and has launched a new Core M line of processors to meet those needs.

The Core M will be based on the architecture used in the popular Core i3, i5 and i7 processors mainly found in laptops and desktops. The Core M line will draw less than 10 watts of power, distinguishing it from other Core chips that draw more than 10 watts of power.

"It's the most energy efficient processor in Intel's history," said Intel President Renee James during a keynote on Tuesday at Computex trade show in Taipei.

The goal is to enhance Core processor performance on mobile products, James said. The chip will be in fanless tablets and thin laptops on sale by the end of the year, she said.

James showed a thin 12.5-inch prototype tablet that was 7.2 millimeters thick and weighed 672 grams. The tablet -- called Llama Mountain -- had a Core M chip based on the upcoming Broadwell microarchitecture. The tablet could be docked to a keyboard to become a laptop.

Asustek Computer will ship Transformer hybrids with Core M later this year, said Jonney Shih, chairman at Asus, during a keynote appearance.

Some tablets like Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 already use Core processors that typically go into laptops. Intel also offers Atom chips for tablets, but the performance doesn't match that of Core chips. PC makers want to offer more tablets and hybrids and are turning to Core chips, especially for business products.

Intel is aggressively pursuing the tablet market, which is dominated by ARM, and is also championing hybrid designs in an effort to rejuvenate the slumping PC market. In the keynote, James said the Core M would allow Intel's partners in Taiwan to create new PC and tablet designs.

It wasn't immediately clear if Core M chips would be available based on the current Haswell architecture in Core processors.

James also said that 130 new Android and Windows tablets based on Intel's Atom chips code-named Merrifield, Moorefield and Bay Trail would become available this year. Intel has set a goal of shipping 40 million tablets in this calendar year, and is on track to meet that number, James said.

An upcoming quad-core Atom chip called Sofia with an integrated 3G radio -- the company's first such chip -- will be available in devices starting early next year. James showed a working unit of Sofia by taking a call on a smartphone with the chip. Intel last week struck a deal with Chinese chipmaker Rockchip to market a custom quad-core Sofia chip to tablet and smartphone makers starting next year.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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