Back in 2011, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) outlined its plans to accelerate the development of its Atom-based CPU cores. The company had planned to launch systems-on-chip, or SoCs, based on its 22-nanometer Silvermont CPU core in 2013 and then expected to follow those up with 14-nanometer SoCs built around a CPU core codenamed Airmont in 2014.
Perhaps more importantly, though, Intel held an event back in May 2013 at which it disclosed the details of its Silvermont architecture. Belli Kuttanna, the chief architect of the Silvermont core, indicated that a disclosure of Airmont would happen in 2014.
While we still have a month or so left before the year is out, it doesn't look as though Intel plans to talk about the Airmont core this year. This begs the question: "What's going on with Intel's Airmont?"
What is Airmont confirmed to be used in?
As of today, we have confirmation that Intel plans to use the Airmont core for the following products:
- Cherry Trail -- a system-on-chip for tablets
- Braswell -- a derivative of Cherry Trail for low-cost notebook and desktop PCs
I also strongly suspect (but cannot confirm 100%) that Intel plans to use the Airmont processor core inside of the Denverton micro-server part that Intel has listed on its public roadmap.
Where else might we see Airmont?
While Intel has indicated that it plans to skip over Airmont and use its successor, Goldmont, inside its next high-end smartphone processor known as Broxton, I don't think the parts listed above will be the last we see of Airmont.
For example, at Intel's recent investor meeting, it disclosed two new mobile chips slated to hit the market in 2016. The first is SoFIA LTE 2 for the low end of the smartphone market, and the second is SoFIA MID, unsurprisingly enough, aimed at the mid-range of the smartphone market. These will be 14-nanometer products with integrated LTE and "quad core Atom" processors. The exact processor cores were not disclosed.
My guess, though, is that Intel is likely to use Airmont for these products. Goldmont is expected to feature new instructions and is likely to offer a significantly enhanced design. Not only does it make sense to reserve the best core for the higher-end parts, but Airmont should be a smaller core, and thus cheaper to make -- critical for the cutthroat low-end and mid-range smartphone chip market.
Airmont has a bright future ahead of it
Given how successful its predecessors were, I'm sure that the Airmont-powered Braswell should do well in low-cost Windows PCs and Chromebooks. Additionally, if Intel was able to fix the platform bill of materials issues that it faced with Bay Trail in tablets with Cherry Trail, then Cherry Trail could help Intel's competitiveness and cost structure in tablets. Finally, the Silvermont-powered Avoton seemed to be a competitive part for micro-servers, so an Airmont-based Denverton should only improve Intel's standing there.
Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.