Intel is quite clearly serious about offering competition to ARM in the embedded market, and has just announced a new Atom processor series that offers a unique selling point: an integral FPGA.
Billed as 'the first configurable Intel Atom-based processor,' the Atom E600C series combines an Intel Atom 'Tunnel Creek' chip with an Altera Field Programmable Gate Array - offering, the company claims, significantly more flexibility for ODMs and OEMs.
By adding in the FPGA, customers are able to make fundamental changes at a hardware level without having to go through a hardware revision cycle - which means lowered development costs and faster time to market.
Doug Davis, Intel's vice president, claimed of the launch: "Our customers’ needs are continually evolving and they look to Intel to provide leading-edge products and technologies that will help them differentiate and compete in the markets they serve. Our new configurable Atom series helps to address these customer needs and provides greater flexibility with a simplified product choice, through one vendor."
Therein lies the rub, of course: there's nothing to stop customers licensing one of ARM's chip designs and combining it with an FPGA themselves, but it means dealing with two companies - and Intel is obviously betting heavily on there being a sizable quantity of ODMs and OEMs that would prefer to work with a single firm.
Embedded computing has long been the domain of industry leader ARM, which has recently had some scathing things to say about Intel. Clearly, Intel is hoping to fight back - and a combined CPU/FPGA single-package SKU could well be just the thing.
Previously rumoured under the codename 'Stellarton,' the Intel Atom E600C series will initially comprise the E665CT, E645CT, E665C, and E645C chips, and become available for ordering priced between $61 and $106 (around £38.21 to £66.40) in batches of 1,000 in the next two months. A further two processors, E625CT and E625C, will hit the channel in the first quarter of next year.