Intel shows off new laptop platform

Intel's upcoming Calpella platform, which is due next year, focuses primarily on energy efficiency and battery life

Intel this week gave a quick preview of its next generation laptop platform, which could shake up the chipmaker's mobile offerings.

The company gave analysts and users a glimpse of the new platform, codenamed Calpella, at its fall Intel Developer's Forum (IDF) in Taiwan this week. Mooly Eden, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile Platforms group, said during his keynote address at the forum that the platform focuses largely on energy efficiency and longer battery life.

Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at research firm Insight 64, said that if he was a hardware vendor, he'd be eagerly awaiting the 2009 arrival of Calpella. "It's a very different platform than anything they've done to date," he said. "When Calpella shows up, everything inside that laptop will be brand new."

The analyst explained that until now, Intel's laptop platforms have consisted of a CPU and a Northbridge chip, which holds the memory controller and the graphics chip. However, in Calpella, the memory controller has been moved onto the CPU itself. The graphics remain separate but will be packaged with the CPU, giving it better access to the memory controller and the CPU, he said.

"These are all good things," said Brookwood. "If I was a vendor, I'd be excited over this, but a little nervous because everything inside the platform is changing at the same time. With so many balls in the air, it's easy to drop one."

However, he added that since Intel is previewing the platform a year before it ships, most of his concerns are lessened.

The Calpella platform will be based on Intel's upcoming 45nm-based Nehalem architecture. The first Nehalem chips, which will be quad-core server chips, are expected to ship the end of the year. The rest of the Nehalem family -- desktop chips, dual-core, more quad-core and eight-core chips -- are slated to be released over the course of next year. Brookwood noted that the Nehalem chips for the laptop are scheduled to ship in the second half of 2009.

Intel execs showed off the first 8-core Nehalem chip at its Intel Developer Forum in August. A week before the forum, the chipmaker announced that it was naming the new family of chips Intel Core. The first Core chips to hit the market will get the added label of i7, making the full name Intel Core i7.

The Nehalem technology has a new modular architecture, which officials say will make it easier to scale from two to eight cores. The Core chips also are being designed to have two-way, simultaneous multithreading, use Intel's QuickPath interconnect, and have a three-level cache hierarchy.

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