Intel is claimed to be working on a new range of low-power processors based on its Ivy Bridge architecture, designed to significantly boost the battery life of next-generation Windows 8 tablets.
Microsoft's Surface Pro devices, the second tablet device from the software giant, boast Intel Core i5 processors and feature the ability to run legacy x86 applications and the full-fat version of Windows 8. This comes at a cost, however: while the ARM-based Windows RT-running Surface RT tablets manage around eight hours of battery life, the Surface Pro tablets hit just four under average use.
An easy way to boost battery life is to drop the power draw of the processor. Accordingly, an anonymous 'industry source' speaking to CNET
claims that Intel is shortly to release an ultra-low power version of its Ivy Bridge chip family with a thermal design profile (TDP) of just 10W. Admittedly, that's still significantly more than the average ARM-based system-on-chip processor - but it's almost half that of the company's current low-end 17W Ivy Bridge model.
Were Intel to release such a chip, and Microsoft to adopt it for its second-generation Surface Pro devices, battery life would be improved without too much of a sacrifice to performance. It's far from a panacea, however: the Surface Pro's high-resolution 1080p is another major power drain, sucking up juice far faster than the 1366x768 panel used in the Surface RT model.
It's certainly a start, however, and may convince other tablet makers to dip their toes into the high-performance Core-series tablet market. A 10W Ivy Bridge chip would also help bridge the gap between current models and the upcoming Haswell family, which Intel has already indicated will include low-power 10W models. A 10W Ivy Bridge chip would also provide builders of embedded, small form factor and ultra-portable systems with an alternative to Intel's Atom-based products, offering significantly improved performance for just a little extra power drain.
Intel, naturally, has refused to comment on CNET's claims, in keeping with its tradition of not discussing unannounced products or what it likes to call 'industry speculation
.' As a result, specifications, a release date and pricing - not to mention whether the thing actually exists at all - are all currently unknown.