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Intel talks up Moblin 2.0 and Pine Trail

Not only an OS, but a chip to run it on
Wed May 20 2009, 10:00

INTEL PUT OUT a teaser on Pinetrail/Pineview, the next generation Atom chips, and released the beta of Moblin 2.0 to run on them. Both are going to be a very good thing, with a few caveats.

Pineview is the next Atom CPU, coupled with the Tiger Point I/O hub, becomes the Pine Trail platform. You can read our writeup on it here, but there are two key points, both involving integration. If you take the current Diamondville platform, basically an Atom + 945 chipset, you get a 2.5W CPU with about 10W of southbridge based mediocrity attached. Not a good match.


Three does go into two cleanly

Pineview ups the ante quite a bit by integration, but also changes the game. The most obvious shift is that they go from a three to two-chip solution, and unless Intel decided to drop it's usual MO, they will shrink the packages too. Most of the old 945 northbridge is now on the CPU.

What this means is that the Pineview CPU has a bit of a less mediocre graphics and a memory controller built in. The new southbridge has PCIe, USB, SATA and audio built in, so you can make a device with two chips and a DIMM. While this may sound pretty unremarkable, if the 2.0W rumoured power numbers hold up, this is amazing. Remember, that would be a 20 per cent drop in power while adding a GPU and memory controller.

In any case, this basically turns the Atom platform into a chip and an I/O dongle. Nvidia may claim that it has some life left in the chipset business, but this puts a stake in the eye of its mobile ambitions. Then again, during the Q2 CC, Jen-Hsun could always claim that Intel products are part of Ion now too, that would add billions to their bottom line. Nvidia is out of this business as soon as Pineview ships.

That brings us to the more exciting of the two products launched today, Moblin 2.0. Version 1.0 was really impressive if fully baked, see the Clarion MiND for more on that, but could fall short if OEMs didn't do some heavy lifting.

It looks like Moblin 2.0 aims to change that. With the beta release today, Intel has basically poished the UI and made it a lot more comprehensive and integrated. Although Intel no longer directly controls it, the OS still leans on them heavily.


Moblin 2.0 looks like this

The main screen is called M-zone, short for Myzone we are told, but strangely it has the same number of characters. Ah well, that page, the front one above, is basically your home with pics for each app and screen. There are more tabbed screens for social networking, music/videos and all the other things you want to do on a mobile device.

Before you proclaim your love/hate/bemusement with this UI, and express your love/hate/bemusement for [insert your favorite UI here], think about this, any company worth the time it takes to purchase a product from will likely want to leave their own stamp on a product like this. If everyone sells the same MID in a different colour plastic case, it is very hard to differentiate.

Other than a different plastic, the other way to customize a MID is the software. All you need to do is look at all the OEMs who are so desperate to hide the fact that their phones use WinCE that they skin it to the point that it is all new. That is probably the best way to make your box stand out, well the skinning part anyway, skip WinCE.

Moblin is more a set of APIs than a full OS, but it can be the whole package should you chose to go that route. If an OEM wants to skin things and make it 'theirs', they can do so quite comprehensively and easily, the source and all APIs are open. Instead of fighting the OS and layering on top of a slow, buggy and expensive boondoggle, they can use what they need how they need it.

In the end, you will have a lot of Pine Trail boxes that look nothing like the Moblin you see above. They will act nothing like you see above either, and that can be a good or bad thing. There will be lots of choice, and they should all be compatible, expanding the ecosystem together. That is the point of all this, and it is a good thing. µ




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