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Intel's future Pentium chip does Windows and Android

Atom is moving on up -- to the Pentium and Celeron branding. And Intel is renaming the architecture too.

Samsung Ativ Smart PC.  More Android-based Intel laptops are coming, the chipmaker says.
Samsung Ativ Smart PC. More Android-based Intel laptops are coming, the chipmaker says.

Intel's Atom is getting a makeover.

In more ways than one. First, when Intel speaks to customers internally about micro-architectures, Atom is out, Silvermont is in, Intel told CNET on Friday.

Second, some upcoming Silvermont silicon will be branded Pentium and Celeron -- which is the value end of Intel's Core-based mainstream chips.

The chipmaker's reasoning is that some variants of Silvermont now offer performance comparable to current mainstream Celeron and Pentium. That's quite different from the Atom of old, which had a reputation -- particularly in Netbooks -- for being slow.

Higher performance varieties of Silvermont will also ship with PC-like attributes such as PCI and SATA.

But here's where it gets interesting. These chips will debut not just in Windows PCs but Android systems too. Laptops, convertibles, detachables, all-in-ones (AIOs), and desktops -- running either Windows 8.1 or Android -- should begin to ship later this year and early next year, Intel said.

Note that the variant of Silvermont aimed at pure tablets will probably not be branded as Pentium and Celeron. Again, the new branding is expected to be mostly limited to laptops, hybrids, and AIOs.

Finally, as a quick refresher on how Silvermont gets the bump in performance: it uses a higher-performance out-of-order design, just like Intel's mainstream Core processors, and integrates a fast Intel graphics chip, also like its mainstream cousins.