Intel plans 15nm Atom shrink

Intel has used its annual Developer Forum to hint at the future of its low-power Atom chips - and they're heading for 15nm.

In its presentation, Intel unveiled the future of the product range - and revealed that it will be making the transition from its current 32nm process to a 22nm process, which will itself be superseded by an ultra-tiny 15nm process.

A shrink in process size brings with it many benefits: by cramming more transistors into the same space, power and performance can be improved - and smaller chips mean less heat and a lower power draw to achieve the same performance.

However, there's one key piece of information missing from Intel's otherwise informative slide: a time-scale.

Instead of dates, a single arrow at the bottom of the slide points towards the 22nm and 15nm end of the table and advises that it's a 'Forecast' - suggesting that Intel might not have the technology at its disposal to start manufacturing the teeny-tiny chips just yet.

Once it does get over the not-inconsiderable obstacles associated with a manufacturing process on such small scales, Intel plans to make the most of it: all four Atom processor ranges - the N-series, D-series, Z-series, CE-series, and E-series - will get ever-increasing volumes manufactured.

A process shrink is a smart move for Intel, as it attempts to make the move into the smartphone market at a time when server manufacturers and nettop creators are looking towards mobile industry giant ARM for their low-powered processors - but it's going to have to hurry up and make the move if it wants to avoid being overtaken by its competitors.