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The Intel Atom CPU may be the dominant chip in the netbook space right now. But the company is facing competition from VIA, ARM, and to some degree AMD. And now it looks like IBM wants in on the action. IBM and a group of partners is developing a 28 nanometer processor that could power netbooks and smartphones. 

The tiny processor will be designed to use less power and provide better performance than today’s chips. IBM says it offers a 40 percent performance boost and 20 percent power reduction over 45 nanometer chips. The latest Intel Atom processors happen to be based on a 45 nanometer process.

The new chips could be available in the second half of 2010. IBM has already sent out technology evaluation kits to early access partners and other companies that could develop machines around the 28 nanometer chip.

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16 replies on “IBM plans to build an Atom-rivaling netbook CPU”

  1. I think you have completely misunderstood the announcement. It is about the Common Platform partners coming together to create a new 28nm PROCESS for manufacturing any semiconductor product, not just processors. There is absolutely no information whatsoever in the announcement to make you think that IBM is in any way about to start developing new processors.

  2. The question really becomes not ‘can they’ but rather how much horsepower and for what price. The know how is there to make something better, but it is always going to come down to price, power consumption and processing power.

  3. I’m pretty sure that the process technology being technology being touted in the press release will be limited primarily to the applications IBM’s partners- AMD and SAMSUNG- are associated with: GPU’s and Memory Cells. The 28nm process, while certainly going to yield some kick ass products, is still just a half-node or optical shrink of the 32nm lithography. And little indication of any sort of a resurgence of IBM powered personal computing devices. Particularly within the recession economy don’t expect to see any R&D spending on consumer chips outside of further CELL development and future game console design wins from MS or Nintendo. After all if they can’t afford tea and coffee, I can’t see them fielding an entry in a brutally expensive market they’ve long since retreated from.

    https://layofftracker.blogspot.com/2009/04/ibm-cost-cutting-no-tea-coffee-and.html

  4. There is *so* much potential here…that I’m going to do my best not to get excited until I read some solid facts.

    But…wow. Low power, more powerful than an atom…with linux I *almost* don’t care about what platform, if the price, processing power, and battery life are right.

    And I mean…come on, it’s IBM. These will be some quality chips, and will command some of the larger players to partner with them. We could see something based on Power, or Cell, which would pose some interesting coding challenges(SPUs by the bucket are something of a challenge, it seems…).

    It all depends on what this chip actually *is*. Are we looking at something closer to a UMPC? Or a more traditional netbook(Who knows, we may see them ship with HDs larger than 160 gigs…oh be still my heart…)? Could they run Linux? Android? Windows 7? Could it be paired with ION? Could it find its way to more of these Nettop HTPCs, ala Revo and Eeebox 204/6(Where *are* those, btw?!)?

    So many possibilities. I find it hard not to just sit here and dream up a million little boxes, for a million uses…I do think it shows just how bored people are getting with the bog standard netbooks. Almost anything that might change the tune is just eaten up…or I’m just casting my own tech-junkie persona onto others.

    Well, whatever the case, I will *attempt* to not speculate too much. But…but IBM is such a big player, and so bloody *competent* with hardware(Yes VIA, I’m looking at you.)…it’s still utterly exciting.

  5. If the netbook market is to close in on the smartphone space, battery life — and I am talking DAYS of battery life and not hours — will be the key. For IBM to exploit the 28nm fab process is certainly going in the right direction.

  6. Many unknowns.

    How expensive/difficult will it be to produce a chip at the 28 nanometer level?

    What architecture? Do they still have licenses to produce x86 parts? I believe they can make PowerPC and ARM parts.

    What OS would they use if they went PowerPC? There is a linux disto of PowerPC currently available.

    Would they sell it to netbook manufacturers or would one of their “partners” use it (i.e. Apple).

    Go Big Blue!

  7. They should take a shot with an SOC version of CELL. Have the SPUs for ray tracing/3d operations.

  8. PowerPC has historicaly been a good platform for laptops… just think about those long lasting 12″ Powerbook G4 (4h on a charge, that’s over 5 years ago). Sure, the G4 wasn’t made by IBM, but I’m sure they have the skills and talent to make something as good, if not better.

    1. IBM has a tremendous amount of design and fabrication experience for silicon devices – –
      (they still make a lot of their own devices) –
      If they where to put forth their “best effort” – – No telling what we would see.
      – – – –
      And if they wanted to show the world how a GPU should be built. . .

    2. The G4 and the Atom are close performance-wise. If IBM managed to make a 28nm G4 at 2Ghz, It’d be a very dandy Netbook proc.
      The G5 was the reason Apple switched to Intel…

  9. Are we saying that the PowerPC processors will rise again from the ashes?
    Although they could as easily produce something entirely different.

    And using a 28nm process? That could easily be either very fast or very low power.
    Also, IBM is one of the few manufacturers that still has their own fab lines running.

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