01:52 PM

Intel Mobile Linux Will Cut Price Of Netbooks - Will Atom Bite Into Notebooks?

Tuesday morning Intel (an SVW sponsor) hosted a media conference introducing a new Atom microprocessor code named Pine Trail and released Moblin Version 2 Beta into the community of open source developers.

There was little performance data on Pine Trail, it's primarily a shrink from a 3 chip to 2 chip-set, which will probably result in about a 30 per cent performance boost and extended battery life in new netbooks that come out in the fourth quarter of this year.

The more interesting announcement was the release of Moblin and its user interface, into the open source community. This mobile Linux is optimized for the Atom architecture but will run most Linux applications and Linux middleware. But to get optimal performance software developers will need to optimize their applications for Moblin. Intel says that the port will be very easy.

The user interface to Moblin is smart, it gives easy access to user's Internet activities, especially social networks. Users can see friend updates without having to log in.

More importantly, Moblin will make netbooks a lot less expensive if the manufacturers don't have to pay a license fee for a Microsoft OS. Until MSFT optimizes its OS for netbooks, Moblin should offer a faster user experience.

Intel down played any competition with MSFT, saying its OEM manufacturers wanted an option. Intel has been a long time contributor to Linux to ensure there is always a broad OS choice for its chips. And clearly, Mobil will compete with MSFT to some extent. It might even spur MSFT to produce a Moblin-like experience on netbooks, otherwise it might lose out if netbooks become more like notebooks.

Intel is trying to not make netbooks into a potential PC or notebook replacement because it's margins on notebook chips are so much greater than for netbooks. For example, it repeated that Atom is not designed for high-end games and that future versions such as Pine Trail won't play more than basic games.

But, Atom netbooks aren't that great at streaming video, at least not the ones I've played with. If Intel gives Atom good streaming video capabilities then netbooks might become a potential notebook replacement for more people. Streaming video capability might then become be the trojan horse for cannibalizing notebook sales. And if Intel doesn't do it, Nvidia could do it with its graphics chips for netbooks.

Will Atom-based netbooks become notebook competitors? Can Intel keep Atom down? History shows that low-end technologies will always become ever more powerful.

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You can see a video of Moblin here.

Moblin Zone