By Ed Sperling
The Consumer Electronics Show used to be about cool gadgets and really fast performance. Now it’s about really cool gadgets—the kind that use less energy.
Witness Intel’s big announcements at CES this year. The company showed off its Medfield processor aimed at the tablet market, and it entered a multi-year, multi-device relationship with Motorola based on Atom processors and Android. It even made a big splash about the ultrabook market, which is important now that the netbook market has largely evaporated. At the heart of all of this stuff is lower leakage—remember the finFET—less energy consumption, and reasonable performance.
Texas Instruments made a big push into the low-power Bluetooth market with a low-energy SoC it claims uses 33% less power. The company claims the chip will enable low-power sensors that can operate for more than a year on a coin-cell battery.
Even Nvidia, which has always been about raw performance, is now pitching power conservation through its fifth core—a lower performance, lower-power addition to its four-core Tegra 3 chip. In many ways, this does on a single chip implementation what laptop makers are doing with multiple chip implementations.
While each of these moves separately might be a market test, collectively they speak about a much more important trend in design. Making the battery last is now every bit as important to a design as area, performance, features and cost.