Intel details Clover Trail tablets: three weeks on standby, 10 hours of use, ‘full’ Windows 8 experience
You only have to look at the tidal wave of Ultrabooks to know that Intel design specifications can carry a lot of influence with manufacturers. That’s why the chip-maker’s claims about its latest reference tablet, built around a dual-core Atom Z2760 processor (aka “Clover Trail”), likely give us a broad hint of what to expect from devices like the forthcoming Lenovo Think Pad 2, ASUS Vivo Tab and Samsung ATIV Smart PC.
In particular, Intel has shown us slides claiming that the dual-core 1.8GHz chip with Imagination SGX545 graphics will offer the “best Windows 8 experience” on a tablet with “compatibility and support for traditional apps and peripherals.” And if you think that sounds like a subtle jibe at ARM-based tablets running Windows RT — a version of the OS that doesn’t even try to play nice with existing software — then you could be right. To be fair though, the point of RT is to offer superior portability, and that’s why Intel is also keen to emphasize that Clover Trail won’t impact too heavily on your freedom of movement. Tablets should come in below 1.5 pounds (680 grams — similar to the RT spec and much lighter than a Windows 8 Pro tablet) and 8.5mm in thickness, with built-in 3G, 4G and NFC. You shouldn’t need to carry a charger either, since a new power management system promises a distinctly un-laptop-like three weeks on standby and a full day of “active use” — defined as being at least 10 hours.
Windows 8 tablets won’t be like Windows 8 Pro machines, however, so don’t go expecting USB 3.0, or a guarantee of 1080p visuals (most Clover Trail devices we’ve seen are 1,366 x 768) or souped-up security — the Atom Z2760 is very much an evolved Medfield processor, with similar silicon and firmware, rather than a shrunken laptop chip.
Needless to say, what really matters is how well manufacturers adopt this design and what price points they manage to hit. Intel says that at least 20 different Clover Trail tablets are already in the works, and early price tags seem to be around the $799 mark — a hefty demand for sure, but perhaps one worth paying for those who need full-fledged Windows 8 and true portability at the same time. RT tablets, meanwhile, will have to come in much cheaper than that in order to be worthwhile.
The issue of whether or not the ARM edition of Windows 8 will support both desktop and Metro-style apps has been pretty hazy. Some have claimed it would, others that it wont and, even when they’ve issued denials of the nay-sayers, Microsoft has stopped short of saying that ARM hardware would offer a desktop mode for non-Metro apps. Well, buried in a post about improving power efficiency over at MSDN blogs was a passing reference to “both desktop and Metro style apps” running on “System on Chip (SoC) architectures.” Some, including the well regarded Mary Jo Foley, have read this to mean that desktop apps will indeed work on ARM-powered Windows tablets. Now, this seems to make sense since all of the SoC coverage has been focused on the powerful new RISC chips getting crammed in new slates and smartphones, and we’ve heard that Win8 and Windows Phone 8 will share the same kernel. But, there is one tiny wrinkle in this narrative — Intel will have its own SoC solutions soon enough thanks to Medfield, so the passage could simply be a reference to those x86 chips. You’ll find the relevant excerpt at the via link.
Busy days at Broadcom, which has already forgotten about its earlier 5G WiFi announcement and launched a barrage of new chips for set-top boxes and home networking. The line-up supports the latest MoCA 2.0 standard for greater network bandwidth over coax wiring, but even more interesting is what some of the SoCs can do for smart TV and streaming. The BCM7425 dual-tuner HD gateway SoC will support Sling Media’s “place-shifting” platform, potentially making it easier for set-top manufacturers to enable TV streaming to mobile devices. A similar deal has been inked with Myriad over its clever Alien Vue software (shown above), allowing Broadcom-equipped boxes to run apps designed for Google TV and HTML 5 without the need for extra dedicated hardware. In short, if your service provider fails to make TV content smarter or easier to access in 2012, they won’t be able to blame it on Broadcom.
You might think yourself too grown-up to be wowed by shiny, glittery things, but we doubt many will be able to watch NVIDIA’s new Glow Ball tech demo without a smidgen of childlike glee. Built to run on the company’s quad-core Kal-El processor, it shows us the first example of true dynamic lighting on mobile devices and also throws in some impressive physics calculations like fully modeled cloth motion. Instead of the pre-canned, static lights that we see on mobile games today, NVIDIA’s new hardware will make it possible to create lighting that moves, fluctuates in intensity, and responds realistically to its environment — all rendered in real time. The titular glow ball can be skinned with different textures, each one allowing a different amount and hue of illumination to escape to surrounding objects, and is directed around the screen using the accelerometer in your tablet or smartphone.
NVIDIA demoed the new goodness on a Honeycomb slate with 1280 x 800 resolution and the frame rates remained smooth throughout. In order to emphasize the generational leap that we can expect with Kal-El, the company switched off two of the four cores momentarily, which plunged performance down to less than 10fps. That means the simulations we’re watching require a full quartet of processing cores on top of the 12-core GPU NVIDIA has in Kal-El. Mind-boggling stuff. Glow Ball will be available as a game on Android tablets once this crazy new chip makes its way into retail devices — which are still expected in the latter half of this year, August if everything goes perfectly to plan. One final note if you’re still feeling jaded: NVIDIA promises the production chip will be 25 to 30 percent faster than the one on display today. Full video demo follows after the break.
As you’ll no doubt be aware, Qualcomm currently enjoys a stranglehold on processing hardware inside Windows Phone handsets. Its Snapdragon chip stars in both Microsoft’s original and updated chassis spec for the platform, but its hegemony may soon be coming to an end. STMicroelectronics (the ST in ST-Ericsson) boss Carlo Bozotti is cited by Forbes as saying that Nokia will use ST-Ericsson hardware to power at least some of its Windows Phones. The dual-core U8500, a long-time Nokia favorite, is touted as the first such system-on-chip to appear, with its successors helping to populate Nokia’s expansive WP lineup in 2012. The only intel we’ve had so far on Nokia’s initial handsets for the new OS revolved around Qualcomm-based devices, so even if ST-Ericsson is indeed going to infiltrate the Windows Phone ecosystem, it doesn’t look likely to be among the very first Nokias out of the gate.
Qualcomm’s back again with yet another set of impressive numbers. For the second quarter of this fiscal year, the chip giant saw record earnings of $3.88 billion, up 46 percent from the same quarter in the previous year, and collected $999 million of sweet profit which is a 29 percent jump from last year. This is no doubt to do with the 70 percent increase in the MSM7000- and MSM8000-series Snapdragon shipments in this half of the fiscal year (compared to 2H 2010), and it should be noted that this quarter also saw the 100th Snapdragon-powered device announced by a Qualcomm client. Additionally, EVP Steve Mollenkopf reassured us that the recent events in Japan won’t have any significant impact on upcoming shipments, so the 30 Snapdragon tablets in the pipeline should arrive as scheduled. Excerpts from the financial report can be found after the break.