Intel's Rosepoint elicits hope with a dash of skepticism


Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) officials revealed this week that the company has discovered a way to integrate Wi-Fi connectivity into the low-power Atom CPU, which eventually could enable the production of smaller, cheaper, more energy-efficient mobile devices.

The research initiative, called Rosepoint, presents a processor that comes with a built-in digital Wi-Fi radio so that the wireless connectivity does not have to be on a separate chip.

The company touted Rosepoint at the IEEE Solid-State Circuits Conference this week. The main problem it seeks to solve is how to create a radio frequency chip that can be made as tiny as other computing components. Unlike conventional analog radio circuits, the digital radio designed by Intel can be made smaller (.pdf) as other processing parts become smaller.

"Integration of the radio and application processor would enable smaller form factors for slimmer devices (maybe even miniature wearable devices), and can also reduce the cost of the overall solution," wrote Intel's Yorgos Palaskas in a blog post. "The low cost of such integrated processor+radio platform can further enable a host of new applications towards the vision of the 'internet of things' where devices such as home appliances, sensors, etc communicate with each other, exchange information and can be actuated remotely."

Commercial application of the technology is not expected for least a couple years, but the idea has people thinking. Here is a brief round-up of insights--both skeptical and optimistic--from around the web:

Don Clark, at The Wall Street Journal, made the point that the conventional analog chips remain quite profitable: "There's reason to inject at least a note of skepticism here. A company that has bet its future on billion-dollar factories and the most advanced production processes may be expected to think that they are the most efficient way for producing just about anything. But many makers of analog chips have effectively, and profitably, done just the opposite--reducing costs steadily by using older manufacturing recipes, RF-friendly materials like silicon germanium and factories that were paid off decades ago."

Sebastian Pop, at Softpedia, noted that turning this research project into a commercial reality could take quite a long time: "Of course, to actually make this project a reality, the chip giant needs to come up with some way to miniaturize the wireless components. This is a daunting task all on its own, even without factoring in the coordination and interoperability requirements. Unfortunately, since Rosepoint is little besides a good idea at this point, it will take years for something palpable to come of it, maybe even a decade. When it happens, though, smartphones and (probably) tablets will know what it means to truly need only the barest minimum of parts. Lower power consumption will be just one of the benefits."

Jason Mick, at DailyTechpointed out that some big names in the mobile arena have been working on uniting various components onto a single chip ("systems-on-a-chip" designs) for some time: "Unfortunately for Intel, the chipmaker is pretty far behind. Qualcomm and others have this technology currently in the one-die chip packages. ... Virtually every industry player is moving in this direction, so companies like Qualcomm are not expected to let up, adding Wi-Fi modems on-die shortly. Intel may be forced to accelerate its roadmap as it has accelerated its mobile chip line's die shrinks, or else risk permanently being locked out of the mobile space."

- Caron

Filed Under