Intel Atom chip to power smart phones next year

Chip manufacturing wizard Intel is planning to bring its Atom line of processors -- best known for powering the most recent netbooks -- to smart phones in the second half of 2011.

Intel's Atom line of processors will be bringing their own brand of sub-particle action to smart phones late next year, the chip manufacturing wizard promises.

The plan is to bring Intel's upcoming 32 nanometer 'Medfield' processor to the mobile market, eWeek Europe reports. The Atom line of chips is best known for powering just about every netbook built in the last few years. They're not vastly powerful, but they're really small and great for battery life, which should make them rather neat additions to smart phones.

The smart phone chip market is currently dominated by Cambridge-based ARM Holdings, whose ARM architecture can be found in just about every smart phone on the market. Intel is keen to expand into phone territory, and getting some of its Atom chips into mobiles is the way to do it.

We can expect to see Intel Atom chips appearing in 35 different tablet PCs, some of which are already available, according to Intel's CEO Paul Otellini. He also commented that chasing the smart phone dragon was "a marathon, not a sprint". So we can probably expect to see the competition heating up later next year, and into 2012.

It might not sound terribly exciting, but these are the sparkly bits and bobs that keep your mobile running underneath the silky exterior, so it's worth paying attention. We'll be keeping our hawk-like eyes firmly trained on Intel.

In the meantime, see how the best of the current generation of phone chips stand up in our Hummingbird vs Snapdragon head to head comparison.