There has been a lot of bloggage of late about Nvidia’s new Ion chipset souping up Intel’s Atom processor with powerful graphics capabilities, or at least more powerful then the Atom currently can manage. This proposed pairing has raised a lot of hopes for a more powerful, well-rounded computing experience on Netbooks, especially regarding gaming and HD video.
Intel, in a move which is not really surprising to Atom-watchers, has apparently shot the Atom/Ion pairing down in flames. Digitimes is reporting on an internal message Intel sent to hardware manufacturing partners, stating the following:
Intel reiterated that Atom CPUs for netbooks and nettops are only available bundled with its 945GSE and 945GC chipsets, the makers said.
When asked to comment, Intel indicated that it has no plans to validate the Nvidia MCP79 chipset on Atom-based nettop or netbook platforms. Intel also has no plans to form a partnership with Nvidia to support nettop or netbook platforms based on the Intel Atom CPU, the company added.
Considering the pains that Intel has been taking of late to try to stop the rising cannibalism going on between their Atom and Centrino chips, they really couldn’t take any other stance on this situation. Intel has been making statements talking down the Atom as a chip for serious computing, relegating Atom driven Netbooks to toys and secondary machines. This has led to the curious spectacle of a company dissing their own product in public. The fact that many manufacturers have started talking about putting Atoms into full sized Notebooks, or trying to, is a nightmare for Intel as they watch the low margin Atom eating up potential high-margin Centrino sales. There is no way that Intel could allow one of the major weaknesses of the Atom chipsets, poor graphics, to be addressed…least of all by a third-party.
The interesting element to all this is that Nvidia has appealed directly to manufacturers, asking them to pressure Intel to allow the Atom/Ion mashup. Now Intel has also gone to manufacturers to nix the idea. I wonder where the manufacturers really stand on the debate? Netbook sales are pushing the sales of both Acer and Asus this year and certainly in 2009. Would they want to be able to offer a more powerful Netbook to further confound the offerings of larger vendors? While leaders HP and Dell still look for traction in the Netbook market, would they side with Intel to protect the Notebook market from amped up Aspire Ones and Eees? What does this do regarding VIA and ARM competitors to the Atom? Could they make use of the Ion chipset to jump ahead of the Atom in terms of power?