Update: Intel says Pine Trail chips are still on track to ship later this year. Whether PC makers will adopt the platform right away remains to be seen. Atom N450 chips will be more expensive at launch than Atom N270 processors

Intel had been expected to launch its next-generation Intel Atom chips, code-named Pine Trail toward the end of 2009. But now it looks like the company may be pushing back the launch date until until early next year. DigiTimes reports that several PC vendors are indicating Intel decided to hold off on the new chip so that its launch wouldn’t impact current generation netbook sales.

That means the Intel Atom N270/N280 chipset will have been on the market for at least 18 months before the Intel Atom N450 CPU becomes available. But some companies, including Sony have only recently started selling netbooks with Intel Atom processors, and this move would likely give those products a slightly longer shelf life before they’re considered obsolete.

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that the Intel Atom N450 CPU isn’t expected to be significantly faster than today’s Atom chips. It’s primary advantage will be improved energy efficiency. But given that many existing Atom-powered netbooks already get 5 or more hours of battery life, you might not notice too much of a difference when the new chips hit the market. In other words, if you were planning to wait until the N450 processor was available before picking up a netbook, it might not really be worth waiting 6 months or longer. Unless you’re really patient.

On the other hand, this is a rumor being reported by a single source. It could turn out to be false, and Intel could launch its next-gen Atom lineup any day now.

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