Intel storage chips point to SoC future

The world's largest chip company wants to build system-on-chips based on the x86 instruction set, and the first fruits of that project are set to be released.

Intel's first system-on-a-chip designed around the x86 instruction set is ready for the world.

The company is planning to announce the catchily-titled EP80579 chips Thursday for its customers building storage and networking equipment. The chips themselves aren't the most exciting products Intel has ever released, but they are the first step in the company's new strategy for making small power-efficient products that have all the components you need on a single chip.

Intel has made so-called SoCs before during its days with the XScale architecture, but after ditching that division in 2006 it reorganized its embedded and mobile efforts around the Atom processor, a low-power chip that can run all the same software as a regular Core 2 Duo chip.

The company's pitch for the mobile computing and embedded market is just that--that its x86-based SoCs will be able to take advantage of a host of existing software and that developers will be able to more easily create software for those devices using familiar tools. The EP80579 family is based on a Pentium M design, the forerunner to the Core Duo chips.

Later this year, Intel plans to introduce Canmore for home entertainment boxes, and sometime late next year or early in 2010 it intends to release Moorestown, an SoCthat might allow the company to break into the smartphone market. The Atom processor out in the market right now isn't a true SoC because it doesn't have all the components like a memory controller, graphics system, and other important hardware units integrated into the chip.

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