Earlier today, I attended a web conference with Intel. The two topics covered were the next-generation Atom platform and the Moblin operating system that’s optimized for Atom chips. There actually was very little detail on the Atom front: Pine Trail is the internal name for the Pineview Northbridge and TigerPoint Southbridge. Essentially, the Atom platform is moving from a three-chip set to two as the memory controller and graphics will be on the CPU die. This is will save space and reduce power, as well as costs, while improving performance. Intel shared no details on clock cycle speeds, power consumption or graphics capability.
But back to Moblin, since that topic dominated more than half the call.
The Moblin demo video wasn’t available until after the call, but it’s worth watching now. The user interface of Intel’s mobile operating system is vastly different from the very desktop-looking version of Linux we last saw. In fact, if you ask me what Palm’s webOS would look like on a netbook, I think you’d see some similarities to Moblin. I’m even reminded of Microsoft’s Origami Experience for UMPCs in some ways. Check the video and see if you like where this is headed since Intel feels it should be ready for OEMs this summer. My initial impression: It’s one of the first, true mobile user interfaces for netbooks and not just another desktop environment that’s tweaked for the small screen.
The focus of the UI is simplicity and easy access to the types of activities one would use a netbook for: web surfing with a WebKit custom Mozilla browser, social networking, and media on the go. As far as application support, Intel states that “thousands of applications” for Linux will run on Moblin without any porting. They say that “PC Linux apps and middleware just run” and that’s precisely what they need. There’s nothing worse than a nice UI on a device but no compatible applications to run on it.
Intel is shooting for fast boot times and a small overall footprint, but we’ll have to wait for the final version to verify that. In the meantime, I’ll grab the download and take a closer look on my MSI Wind netbook. While I do that, have a look at the PDF slide-deck from the call if you want additional details.
Hmm…just last month I was wondering if Ubuntu had quietly caught up to Windows. Both Ubuntu 9.04 and the Windows 7 RC run well on a netbook. Perhaps I overlooked Moblin and spoke too soon?