Intel hopes its new Atom will revitalize Windows 8 tablets

Intel chip

Windows 8 tablets are a mixed bag at best, partly because Windows RT is a confusing mess and ARM chips in the Surface are pretty disappointing. However, it’s Intel to the rescue as the chip-maker gears up to introduce its latest Atom processor – the first redesign since the launch five years ago, CNET reports.

The day of the launch is expected to be May 6, where we’ll be hearing more details on the planned refresh, thought to be called Bay Trail (tablets) and Merrifield (smartphones). Like the previous Atom processor, the new version is expected to target low-powered products like smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Products running Bay Trail processors should be here in time for the holidays, while Merrifield will have to wait until early 2014.

Intel said in a statement on Tuesday that Executive Vice President Dadi Perlmutter would be on hand to discuss “Intel’s next-generation Atom micro-architecture targeted at a range of market segments from low power tablets and smartphones, to microservers, the data center, and much more.”

The new Atom will support up to four processing cores and be based on the 22-nanometer 3D transistor design used in the company’s larger processors. This is a welcome first for mobile-optimized chips. The chips will also be able to compete with the likes of Nvidia and Qualcomm, two companies that work with ARM chips and basically rule the roost when it comes to the Android world.

This is good news for Microsoft because current Windows 8 computers running Atom processors struggle with multitasking, a problem area Intel plans to address with this release. Even better, the new processors are expected to be just as kind to battery life.

The technology won’t solely be used in Windows 8 devices as Intel plans on using Atom to power low-cost ($200) laptops that will run Android. Asus and Acer are expected to be two of the manufacturers on board with the idea. The original Atom processor was made famous for running Netbooks, a category now made obsolete by tablets, but from where we’re standing it looks like the next iteration will be a whole different story.