Intel unveils Quark Atom microprocessors intended for wearable computing

By Graeme Burton
11 Sep 2013 View Comments
Intel CEO Krzanich with Quark chip at IDF 2013

Intel is planning a new range of low-power-consumption microprocessors intended to challenge ARM-based rivals in embedded and wearable computing.

The new Quark range of Atom microprocessors will weigh in at one-fifth of the size of current Atom microprocessors - which are starting to challenge ARM in its core smartphone and tablet computer markets - and use one-tenth of the power, claims Intel.

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Furthermore, it will be x86 compatible with the intention of making it easier for developers of existing applications to work with the new chip architecture.

The new range of microprocessors was announced at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, California this week and will be produced to the company's 32-nanometre manufacturing process technology.

The aim is to produce a range of products that can power smartwatches (without burning people's wrists), and microprocessors that can go into wearable devices, such as Google Glasses.

Most notable of all, though, is that Intel is planning to give users more configurability compared to its standard take-it-or-leave-it end-product approach. The design, claims Intel, will be fully synthesizable with "extension points" so that customers can integrate their own technology with Quark system-on-a-chips (SoCs).

The company is also planning to offer itself as an outsourced manufacturer of custom designs based on its products in a bid to head off rising competition from Samsung, TSMC and Globalfoundries, AMD's manufacturing infrastructure that it spun-off in 2010.

However, according to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, the company will also allow Quark-based products to be produced in the foundries of rival fabs.

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