Malaysian team leads the way with Atom


  • Technology
  • Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010

By TAN KIT HOONG intech@thestar.com.my

PENANG: Open up almost any netbook and chances are you’ll see Intel’s low-powered Atom processer at the heart of it.

In fact, the Atom is set appear in a whole variety of devices other than netbooks such as smart TVs from Sony to exercise machines and cars.

Well, a round of “Malaysia Boleh!” is probably in order, because these devices exist only because of the research and development done by a largely Malaysian group of engineers in the Penang-based branch of Intel Malaysia.

While the actual silicon chip is designed and fabricated by Intel in one of their plants in the United States, all other elements of the chip and its related electronics are actually designed and built in this country. This includes the packaging, testing, designing reference boards and manufacturing.

For example, the System-on-Chip (SoC) design for the Atom CE4100 all-in-one chip with integrated multimedia capabilities for embedded devices, were done by the Malaysian team.

The were given the task of integrating the graphics processor with the CPU. Unlike a regular CPU meant for PCs, the CE4100 is embedded into consumer and industrial devices.

They don’t necessarily have Microsoft Windows running and is made to work together with other electronic components that are not often found in PCs, such as a TV set-top box or to control industrial robots used in factories.

“We have hundreds of engineers in Intel Malaysia working on developing new interfaces to the external world, like an HDMI interface for consumer electronics,” said Rob Crooke, corporate vice-president and general manager of the Atom and SoC development group for Intel Corp.

“Intel Malaysia also handles integration strategies and the testing, and we are also the primary manufacturing facility,”

In fact, there of the some 1,800 engineers working at the Intel facility on Penang island and 800 of them are working on Atom-related designs.

In terms of the SoC development team, Malaysia is second in size only to the SoC development team in the United States. Crooke admits that coordinating design teams across continents to design a single product can be a challenge.

“We do a lot of videoconferencing and we also fly technical leaders so they can sit and plan the design together,” he said.

“We also fly people to Malaysia to witness the initial power on of the product in cases where the Malaysian factory is the only final assembler for those Atom products.”

So, next time you turn on your netbook, or use a smart TV set-top box, remember that a Malaysian engineer contributed to making it all possible.

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