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Windows 8 tablets to go quad-core? Intel talks next chip

Will Windows 8.1 get a lift from quad-core tablets? It looks likely.

HP Envy x2 tablet with keyboard dock. Will it get a quad-core 'Bay Trail' chip? Chance are pretty good it will.
HP Envy x2 tablet with keyboard dock. Will it get a quad-core 'Bay Trail' chip? Chance are pretty good it will.

Intel discussed the next-generation "Bay Trail" tablet processor today at its annual conference in Beijing. Expect to see a new crop of faster yet still power-efficient Windows 8 -- and likely Windows 8.1 -- tablets later this year.

An "entirely new Atom microarchitecture...will [enable] the most powerful Atom processor to-date, doubling the computing performance of Intel's current-generation tablet offering," Tan Weng Kuan, vice president and general manager of the Mobile Communications Group, Intel China, said today at IDF Beijing.

Bay Trail will allow designs "as thin as 8mm (0.3 inches) that have all-day battery life and weeks of standby," Tan said.

Maybe most importantly, Bay Trail will pack four redesigned Atom processor cores that get closer to mainstream Intel processors in performance. Some of that extra horsepower comes courtesy of an out of order design (like current Core processors) and Intel HD 4000 graphics.

Bay Trail -- and the Avoton server chip -- represent the first redesign of the Atom microarchitecture since it debuted in 2008.

And like Ivy Bridge processors found in laptops today, Bay Trail will use Intel's 22-nanometer manufacturing process and 3D transistor tech.

So, what can we expect on the tablet front? New product lines from the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer, and Lenovo. And enticing product updates like HP's Envy x2. That design, which has been generally well-received, would get a nice boost from a quad-core Bay Trail and HD 4000 graphics.

Lenovo's Thinkpad Tablet 2 is a candidate for an update too.

The next Atom is expected to appear in tablets for the 2013 holiday season, according to Tan.

In related news, Kirk Skaugen, Intel senior vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group, said that forthcoming 4th generation Intel Core "Haswell" processors are now shipping to PC makers and will launch later this quarter, as CNET previously reported.