Intel developing supercomputer-strength smartphone chip: report

Intel researchers are developing a 48-core processor for smartphones and tablets, something that could potentially give users the capabilities of a supercomputer (or, at the very least, a mainstream PC) in their hands.

According to a report from Computerworld, Intel researchers in Barcelona are "working on finding new ways to use and manage many cores in mobile devices." They expect such chips to be available in about five to 10 years, according to the report, which CNET confirmed with Intel for its legitimacy.

Today, smartphone and tablet chips typically top out at four cores (or five, if you count Nvidia's mini Tegra core). Intel's Atom chip, meanwhile, currently only has a single core.

But adding more cores, Intel said, would allow a device to distribute tasks among the different parts of the chip, making the processor faster and more power efficient.

For example, one core could encrypt an email, while another could run an app, an Intel researcher told Computerworld. Or some cores could run at higher speeds for better performance, while others perform basic tasks at lower clock speeds to preserve battery life.

Distributing tasks among cores is nothing new. Most recently, Nvidia has followed that strategy with its mobile chip, Tegra 3. The processor has four main cores, but also includes a fifth, low-power core to run tasks that don't require a lot of computing power. That helps improve energy consumption, the company aaid.

Still, 48 cores is a big jump from five. It's tough to imagine right now why a phone would need that kind of power, and it could be difficult to write software to address that many cores.

At the very least, though, having such a powerful processor could allow people to truly replace their PCs with mobile devices. The device could contain all of a user's programs and data, and connect to a larger screen when working.

Computer vision, speech recognition, augmented reality and other new tasks require a lot of computing power. As those sorts of programs — and others that we haven't even thought of yet — become popular, the chips powering mobile devices will have to get stronger.

"I think the desire to move to more natural interfaces to make the interaction much more human-like is really going to drive the computational requirements," Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner told Computerworld. "Having large numbers of cores to generate very high-performance levels is the most energy-efficient way to deliver those performance levels."


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The Stav posted a comment   

If my memory serves me, Intel were developing a 60 core chip for desktops and other uses some 4 or 5 years ago.Granted that even with the fabrication size of microcircuitry down to what, 22nm today. That many cores in terms of space, cost and power consumption is just not commercially viable untill a much more radical approach in materials science and/or connectivity is achieved.Then of course there is the software. I believe Linux can be adapted to control or provide functionality for any device, but I don't see Apple or Microsoft coming to this party any time some.Maybe processing cores will not be as we know them now, 10 years down the road. Physical divisions of some bio-chip possibly using a form of Quantum control.Anyway, even on my desktop, 6 cores is underutilised most of the time. I can definitely see advantages in robotic use, but hand held mobile communication/productivity devices. A hard sell indeed.

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