Intel and Nokia make a chip

Finally, a real x86 designed for phones

Nokia IconREMEMBER WHEN INTEL talked about opening Atom CPUs to other companies? I’ll bet you didn’t think one of the first customers would be Nokia.

Think about it, if you want an Atom with your IP in it, Intel will let you do that. Fair enough it is a good chip, and once you get to the next generation Moorestown CPU, power gets down to the point where you can use it in a cell phone. The current Pineview generation will fit in a phone as long as battery life isn’t all that important, but no one is taking them seriously for real phones.

Medfield, the successor to Moorestown, is where things get really interesting. It will be a second generation Atom core along with an uncore that will have a level of integration, and the attendant power controls, unmatched by any x86 products. It will also reach the market about the same time as 3rd parties can put their IP on to the Atom cores.

Getting back to Nokia, you may recall Intel and Nokia had a joint press release that was all full of fluffy words, but lacked most specifics. The one thing concrete that was said was, “Intel will also acquire a Nokia HSPA/3G modem IP license for use in future products.” Why would they need that? How about offering Atom CPUs with integral radios, or at least integral baseband with a complementary radio that has far greater and more fine grained power control than any two discrete components.

If you take Medfield, add in an Intel licensed radio, and make it on a 32nm low-leakage Intel process, you have a mighty fine but generic phone chip. If Nokia steps in and specifies a lot of the added functionality to make a unique chip that is finely focused for high end smart phones, you would call that chip Penwell.

Intel Penwell from Google cache

You can find traces in Google cache

All of Intel’s mobile technology, marketing and ambitions come together with Penwell. It is also where Nokia steps out and shows what they can do in the smartphone space, differentiating their high end phones from the sea of ARM based parts. Nokia will still use ARM, no question there, but x86 is very likely to top the stack.

In the end, Intel makes a core, Nokia uses that to make a SoC that is unique to them, and together, they outmuscle the rest of the field. Moorestown is due in less than a year, Medfield in about another year. Penwell should be out around that time, and the game will have changed. At that point, the x86 vs ARM war goes from lobbing the odd shell at the other camp to vicious trench warfare. I can’t wait.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate