These days, it is an amazing thing to look around and see that massive work is being done at both ends of the PC spectrum – the top end, where Intel dominates with their i7 processors, and the extreme bottom end, with their newest Atom platform, code-named Oak Trail.

Intel is determined to own both ends of the market, and the changes at the low end may be more important than those at the top, for if Intel can push enough performance from the Oak Trail platform, while being parsimonious with the energy expenditures, it is just minutely possible that the company can keep the x86 platform in the spotlight, and keep the efforts of the ARM producers in the background, wondering why their plan didn’t work.

Oak Trail is an amazing leap from the original Atom offerings, with the Atom Z670 processor and SM35 Express Chipset, the newest platform consumes less power than its predecessor, it can decode 1080p video, has Flash support and can be paired up with multiple software platforms, including Windows, Android and MeeGo. The Z670 is clocked at 1.5 GHz, and features GMA 600 integrated graphics, a built-in memory controller, and has 512kB of L2 cache.

Of course, for the extreme low power notebook market, there is the Cedar Trail platform, which has all that Oak Trail includes, but adds better support for Blu-ray, including all the additions of the 2.0 specification, and yet to be fully fleshed out offerings like Intel Wireless Display, Intel Wireless Music, PCSynch, and FastBoot.

All of these things will make high quality, small form factor PCs a reality for many, with the ability to carry all one needs easily, and power it for hours without worry of where the next AC outlet is located. If this is sounding like a challenge to iPad2, you’re right. The iPad2 may still win out on overall frugality with power, but what can be done on the Intel products will be much more to the liking of anyone that currently works with a standard PC, requiring much less adaptation, and only slightly more power.

There has yet to be any answer from AMD in this market space, as nothing they have yet announced, or has been leaked, will exist at such a low power state. With the market beginning to move in that direction, including all the Android devices, as well as the iPad which Apple is hoping to make ubiquitous, it only is reasonable to think that AMD will be bringing something to this segment, yet nothing approaches the power envelope of these newest Intel products.

While many may still have their gaze fixed on the i7 and the support hardware, which breathes fire and chews up corporate spreadsheet calculations like midnight snacks, the lower power segment is going to be much more important to most, just as the frugal and fun Mini Cooper is a more attainable goal than any of the creations of Enzo Ferrari are to the driving crowd.

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