Rumors of Intel Atom’s death have been greatly exaggerated. And Intel has only itself to blame for that. Now it seems that the company is clarifying, or further muddling, its plans for its low-power processor line. Intel is, indeed, axing the Atom but that is true only as far as mobile devices, laptops, and even wearables go. It still has Atoms planned, newer ones based on its Apollo Lake architecture. Those, however, will be heading towards smart cars and smart appliances as Intel tries to make a grab for the IoT market instead.
Intel has had a rather tough time with the mobile market. Due to circumstances and poor business decisions, it allowed Qualcomm, a leader in the competing ARM computing architecture, to take a foothold in smartphones and tablets. By the time it did make a concerted effort to gain a presence in that industry, it was far too little, far too late to make a difference.
The most recent casualty of that failed business was the Atom line of processors, initially intended for the low-power, low-spec, and now extinct netbook product line. But while Intel is practically backing out of the smartphone and tablet race, that doesn’t mean there is no room for a power-efficient chip on the x86 architecture. And it seems that Intel has found the exact niche for it.
Come August 17th at the Intel Developer Forum, the company is expected to unveil a new generation of Atom processors. Those, however, are earmarked for the IoT industry. But that’s not the only market either. Intel has long had its eyes, no pun intended, on imaging technologies, particularly in virtual and augmented reality. It is also expected that Intel will make a grab for that market, introducing its own Remote EyeSight take on the Microsoft HoloLens. Curiously, Intel’s Atom was last seen powering Microsoft’s very own AR headset.
Of course, just because Intel wants to doesn’t mean it will be able to. While relatively more power efficient than its bigger siblings, Atom chips have been traditionally still seen as giants compared to equivalent Atom processors. And that might be a bigger problem in smaller spaces like appliances and headsets.