Will 3rd Generation Intel Core processors make a big splash?

Intel Corp. in Santa Clara, Calif., has unveiled its 3rd Generation Intel Core processor, which promises performance increases in processing speed, graphics capability, and data throughput, compared to the 2nd Generation Core processor family, which burst on the scene in January 2011 to much fanfare and excitement in the military embedded systems industry.

As Intel announced the 3d Generation Core processors, which the company previously had called Ivy Bridge, embedded computing companies almost immediately started rolling out products such as single-board computers of various form factors, as well as mezzanine-board computers. The military embedded systems companies first to announce products based on the new chip included GE Intelligent Platforms in Charlottesville, Va.; Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions in Ashburn, Va.; Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES) in Middleton, Wis.; Mercury Computer Systems in Chelmsford, Mass.; and Concurrent Technologies in Woburn, Mass.

With a flurry of embedded computing product introductions based on the 3rd Generation Core processor, the best may be yet to come, as Intel officials introduce new versions of the newest chips in coming weeks and months for systems like servers and embedded computing in aerospace and defense, industrial control, medical devices, and similar applications. Intel, by the way, has started referring to embedded computing products as intelligent systems.

Will the 3rd Generation Core processor make as big a splash in the embedded computing industry as the 2nd Generation Core made little more than 15 months ago? The answer is probably not. The 2nd Generation Core processor introduced not only enhanced on-board graphics processing power, but also support for floating-point processing that is especially important for the aerospace and defense embedded computing industry.

At the time of the 2nd Generation Core processor's introduction, Intel rival Freescale Semiconductor in Austin, Texas, discontinued support for floating-point processing on its latest generation of microprocessors, which left defense companies looking for new sources of floating-point processors to tackle difficult digital signal processing for applications like radar processing, sonar, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence.

Intel's introduction of the 2nd Generation Core processors last year took the aerospace and defense embedded computing business by storm. Even through Freescale re-introduced floating-point processing, Intel grabbed a huge chunk of the aerospace and defense embedded processor market once held almost exclusively by Freescale.

The 3rd Generation Core processors from Intel, while introducing formidable enhancements, do not represent the revolutionary change in the embedded computing market that the previous generation of chips did. Nevertheless, the new chip's introduction is cause for celebration among military embedded systems designers. Not only is the quad-core 3rd Generation Intel Core processor family touted as delivering substantial visual and performance gains, but these chips also are the first marketed using Intel's 22-nanometer 3D tri-gate transistor technology.

The 3D tri-gate transistor and architectural enhancements can as much as double the 3D graphics and HD media processing performance over last year's Intel 2nd Generation Core processors. Adding a third dimension enables Intel to increase transistor density and add capabilities. Intel also reworked the 3rd Generation Core's graphics architecture and shrunk the size of the underlying transistors. The 3rd Generation Intel Core processor also adds security, such as Intel Secure Key and Intel OS Guard, and integrated PCI Express 3.0 and USB 3.0.

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February 2014
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