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There are more questions than answers

There's a number of companies which specialise in the 'big event'. Apple is, perhaps, the most famous, using its Worldwide Developer Conference as the opportunity to introduce new products to an unwaveringly loyal audience. Intel and Microsoft are other adherents to the approach.
These large, well managed events can be useful, particularly if the company is prepared to explain what it's doing. Where they fall down, in some respects, is where expectations are raised, but not fulfilled.

Intel's Developer Forums (IDF) give the companies it works with an insight into where its technology is going. It's like drawing the curtains back just a fraction. Sometimes you have a clear image, in other cases, all you can see are indistinct images through a mist.
That was the case with last week's IDF, when Intel tantalisingly dangled the prospect of an Atom/fpga combo chip in front of attendees. The project, known as Stellarton, was there and then gone within a few sentences from Douglas Davis, vice president of Intel's architecture group. Apart from saying it would feature an Altera fpga, Davis didn't tell attendees very much more.
So guesswork comes into play. What applications would Intel aim such a device at? FPGAs are great for enabling interfaces; could the company be looking at industrial automation, where engineers have to deal with a range of often proprietary interfaces? And, because fpgas are reprogrammable, the possibility exists of reconfiguring an Atom/fpga combo 'on the fly' to undertake a new task. The part could allow product definition later in the design cycle or allow companies to use their 'secret sauce' in SoCs.
It's an interesting approach but, as they say, there are more questions than answers.

Author
Graham Pitcher

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