Intel’s Newest Atom CPU Is Already Splitting

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atom-logoThere must be more nuclear physicists over at Intel (s INTC) than I realized; they’re splitting Atoms faster than any scientific team I know of these days. Take their latest bit of research according to DigiTimes: The new Intel Atom N280 CPU is splitting the scene even though it just surfaced at this year’s CES.

Apparently, there isn’t much demand for the slightly faster Atom CPU. My take is that the alleged lack of demand is from OEMs, since their product cycles can be lengthy. Most netbook makers have already long-standardized on the original N270 1.6GHz Atom and there likely isn’t enough benefit from the N280/GN40 chipset combo to make production changes. Aside from using the older Atom for nearly a year, the other likely reason for the N280’s departure is the previously expected Pineview refresh for the Atom.

Intel still isn’t betting on a Microsoft (s MSFT) Windows world when it comes to netbooks, either. That battle rages on, as Intel has reportedly designed a white-box reference netbook. It, too, uses the older Intel Atom and is paired with an 8.9-inch display. The main difference between this device and what you can buy today? It’s powered by Moblin v.2, which is the mobile Linux version that Intel has backed. With Ubuntu 9.04 looking so good on a netbook these days, I’m not yet sure that Intel will be able to make a big dent in the netbook OS war.

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I think Intel as a whole could care less about whether Moblin makes a dent in netbook OS market share. They want netbook OSs to be cheap and useful because every dollar that doesn’t go to an OS vendor is money that could go to driving netbook volume, through either price cuts or marketing.

Moblin helps in that regard because it shows how to make Linux easy for OEMs to configure, quick to boot, and easy to use. If that pushes Ubuntu or some other Linux vendor to improve their product for netbooks, it’s a win for intel. Ubuntu was definitely influenced by Moblin in their latest netbook release. They borrowed from moblin to improve boot times.

Better Linux also puts pressure on Microsoft to keep Windows cheap and lean. Netbooks with XP wouldn’t be as cheap as they are (or even available) if MS wasn’t afraid of Linux gaining a foothold there.

Ubuntu is looking good on netbooks, that’s for sure. I installed it on an HP Mini, and I haven’t wanted to boot into XP for anything.

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