Intel Reveals 22nm Chips And Atom Developer Program At IDF

Think 32nm is hot stuff? That's nothing. Today at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Intel showcased a silicon wafer containing the world's first working chips built on 22nm process technology. The 22nm test circuits included both SRAM memory as well as logic circuits to be used in future Intel microprocessors, and these days, any reduction in process technology size is a fairly significant step forward. And to think--Intel has introduced not one step down, but two in a single year. While we're currently using 45nm chips, Intel has showcased 32nm processors and now 22nm processors within the span of about six months. Paul Otellini, Intel's head man, had this to say about the announcement:

"At Intel, Moore's Law is alive and thriving. We've begun production of the world's first 32nm microprocessor, which is also the first high-performance processor to integrate graphics with the CPU. At the same time, we're already moving ahead with development of our 22nm manufacturing technology and have built working chips that will pave the way for production of still more powerful and more capable processors."

The 22nm wafer displayed by Otellini is made up of individual die containing 364 million bits of SRAM memory and has more than 2.9 billion transistors packed into an area the size of a fingernail. Pretty insane, yeah? Here's a blurb from Intel on its upcoming plans--you know, since 32nm stuff is so early 2009.

"By continuing to lead in manufacturing technology Intel is able to innovate and integrate new features and functions into its processors. Intel's 32nm process is now certified and Westmere processor wafers are moving through the factory in support of planned fourth quarter revenue production. Following the move to 32nm Intel will subsequently introduce Sandy Bridge, Intel's next new microarchitecture. Sandy Bridge will feature a sixth generation graphics core on the same die as the processor core and includes AVX instructions for floating point, media, and processor intensive software."

In other news, the company also introduced the Atom Processor Developer Program. This is a pretty big move in the netbook space, as it's the first to actually encourage developers to code programs specifically for netbook (and in the future, handhelds/smartphones) use. We've long since believed that netbooks needed more software catered to it; as it stands, a netbook is experience is just Windows XP smashed onto a smaller screen with less powerful hardware. Things could be made much more enjoyable with software that was engineered to work on a small panel with an energy-efficient (and admittedly less powerful) processor.

"The program provides a framework for developers to create and sell software applications for netbooks with support for handhelds and smart phones available in the future. Through the program, developers seeking to reduce overhead and streamline the creation of new applications may also license development tools and application modules directly from other independent developers and independent software vendors (ISVs)."

Both Dell and Acer are already onboard with the program, and it sure sounds as if this is just the beginning of future netbook app stores. Now that would be something of interest! Developers can learn more about the program, APIs, validation process and application store framework through Applications for ISV and software developer memberships are currently being accepted. Members will be given access to tools and resources that will aid the pre-development process. The Intel Atom Developer Program software development kits will be available to members in late fall.

Finally, Intel closed out the first day at IDF with a plea for young designers to explore out-of-the-box ideas on mobile computing as part of the University Design Expo. Intel sponsored students from several colleges and universities from around the world to explore creative new ways to bridge technology and design across the areas of user interaction, industrial design, and mobile applications and solutions. The projects have the potential to impact the broad spectrum of mobility – from next-generation laptops to compact, pocketable handheld devices. Everything is on display out at IDF, and we'll be sure to pass along anything that looks particularly amazing.