Silverthorne becomes Atom

Intel has been talking about its "Menlow" Mobile Internet Device platform and "Silverthorne" processor for the better part of the past year. We even got a chance to sample some prototypes last spring at Computex. This morning, Intel finally slapped a brand on the products and announced them to the general public.

"Silverthorne," the ultra-low-power processor at the heart of the "Menlow" platform, has been dubbed Atom. The Atom processor will show up in devices branded with the Centrino Atom label, which Intel has chosen to denote the "Menlow" platform that encompasses Atom, a low-power chipset with integrated graphics, and a wireless radio. Intel says this new platform is designed for handheld Mobile Internet Devices, but the company's Director of Basic Mobility Platforms, Uday Marty, also points out in a video related to the launch that Centrino Atom hardware will also appear in clamshell-style notebooks as well as desktops. Indeed, the Atom label applies to the "Diamondville" processor, which is expected to show up in forthcoming Eee PC desktops from Asus.

Both Silverthorne and Diamondville are single-core designs built using 45nm process technology, and they're rated for operation at up to 1.8GHz with thermal envelopes ranging from 0.6W to 2.5W. The chips are built using a new architecture Intel says it designed "from the ground up" for mobility and low power use, but they're fully compatible with the instruction set used in existing Core 2 Duo processors. As rumored, Atom chips also feature "support for multiple threads"—likely meaning simultaneous multi-threading, which Intel implemented in the Pentium 4 as Hyper-Threading. All in all, Atom processors feature 47 million transistors each and die areas of just 25 mm². To put this lilliputian size in perspective, Intel says you'd need 11 Atom CPUs to fill the area of a U.S. penny.

Centrino Atom devices are expected to become available later this year. Intel doesn't quote any prices in its official press release, but in another video, the company's Mobile Platforms Group VP Mooly Eden suggests Centrino Atom MIDs should range from $249-399.

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