IDF: The "Intel iPhone" not such a crazy idea
Earlier today I pondered the possibility of an Intel Atom-based smartphone. It looks like I wasn’t far off - Intel has just shown video of an Atom based cordless home phone.
[UPDATE: The phone-talk just keeps coming here at IDF. Not only is there the Intel-Inside OpenPeak home phone (see below), but I've just watched a video of an Intel smartphone concept here at IDF, using the next version of Atom, dubbed Moorestown. More to come.]
High end phones with crappy processors are a drag – they make you wait between button presses, and generally make the idea of a cheap no-frills phone a good idea. I’ve been using a variety of smartphones and high-end consumer phones lately, and the performance varies drastically.
Whether Intel can rectify this with its Atom chip is still unclear, but today Intel confirmed that the phone is part of the Atom equation.
There was some speculation online in the leadup to the iPhone 3G launch this year, that Apple would go with an Intel chip. That didn’t eventuate, but Intel has been playing with phones for many years with its XScale processor line.
The Intel phone, it won’t replace your iPhone just yet
At the IDF event today in San Francisco, Intel showed a video of an Atom home phone from OpenPeak dubbed OpenFrame. It’s an IP phone – meaning you use it for Voice over IP calls. And it’s a home phone – not the mobile variety you take down the street.
Touchscreen, and look at those icons
Still, it’s a phone, and OpenPeak obviously hasn’t been shy about an interface that hasa cursory similarity to Apple’s baby (as various gadget blogs have noticed). The phone has a touchscreen with large button icons for applications like contacts, weather, family calendar, stocks and voicemail.
|The OpenPeak Atom phone - a "classic x86 architecture" [Image source: OpenPeak.com]|
The device itself looks slick, though apart from the vague interface similarities, it’s a very different beast to the iPhone. The OpenFrame has two parts – the screen, which reminds us of a digital photo frame, and a large handset, which includes a colour screen.
And while the interface looks good, as any smartphone user will tell you (the Touch Diamond comes to mind), good looks don’t necessarily make an easy-to-use phone.
|The OpenPeak Atom phone - includes contacts, weather, family calendar, stocks and voicemail. [Image source: OpenPeak.com]|
Isn’t this overkill for a phone?
OpenPeak is pumping the advantages of Intel software compatibility as one of the big advantages of having a PC-derived chip.
"You’re really looking at your classic X86 architecture shrunken down to an embedded platform," Paul Krzyzanowski. "We don’t have to worry about multimedia applications killing us in the future."
Intel aiming at ARM territory
XScale phones never took off in a big way – one hurdle is the CPU power usage, which is extremely low in phone processors such as those from ARM. ARM chips reportedly operate as low as less than 300 millwatts, compared to up to 3 watts for the Atom, Perlmutter said today.
Nevertheless, Perlmutter did have this to say about the Atom: "In the future we are going to go to something equivalent of ARM based computers."
Whether it's a god idea remains to be seen. We’d love the performance, but the OS will also be a deciding factor in whether the Intel phone ever takes off, we think.
William Maher is reporting this week from San Francisco at the Intel Developer Forum.
Follow our Intel IDF 2008 coverage:
- IDF: Spot the Eee PC
- IDF: “Turbo mode” is back for PCs- Intel claims 5-year life for SSD
- IDF: The "Intel iPhone" not such a crazy idea
- Intel IDF: Spotted, a Centrino 2 desktop
- Intel promises “screaming performance” for Core i7- Live from Intel IDF - Atom, Centrino 2, Larrabee