A column in PC World on the launch of nVidia’s Next-Generation Ion (or Ion2 as a lot of people call it) decries the way that the graphics processor (GPU) company has backed away from Ion being a ‘platform’ into just being an additional chip for Intel’s own Atom chipset. There isn’t a whole lot that nVidia can do about that. Welcome to the land of disappearing sockets.
While people speculate on why Intel and TSMC have so far failed to get anyone into production with an Atom system-on-chip (SoC), the one company with a real reason for licensing the processor core finds its latest creation dangling off the end of a PCI Express bus provided by Intel’s Pine Trail chipset.
When Intel launched the first generation of Atom, it was a tiny sliver of silicon that relied entirely on other chips to control a PC. Although you pretty much had to buy the Atom with its support chips from Intel, nVidia encouraged PC makers to dispense with the standard chipset and replace it with the Ion and its built-in graphics.
With Pine Trail, Intel decided to move its own GPU and main memory controller into the Atom processor itself and sell a smaller peripheral controller ‘South Bridge’ device, leaving nVidia with far less scope to have an influence on what an Atom-based PC would look like inside.