For those uninitiated, the Iconia W700 is the prototype of the new Tablet from Acer, that encompasses Ivy Bridge processor. Produced with collaboration between
Apple Intel and Acer, it is one of the biggest tech news as of June 2012. The Iconia W700 runs on ( or rather will run on) Windows 8 and is one of the greatest threat to iPad 3, at least as far as the hardware is concerned. We have a processor that is of an order of magnitude faster than whatever the likes of ARM ( that includes the future Cortex A15) has to offer.
Before we tell what it means to the embedded hardware developers, let me give some more details of the Iconia W700. We do not know which exact Ivy Bridge processor part it comes with, but Intel may have binned the processor parts with best performance and may have undervolted it to get some heat advantage. The Tablet is actively cooled but it will be hard to hear any fan noise, if we are to believe reviewers. The Tablet comes with USB 3.0 and transferring images or data from and external USB 3.0 hard drive is just breeze. The bigger news is the Thunderbolt, which has the potential to turn the Tablet to a Desktop. You can even has an external GPU via the thunderbolt.
Coming back to embedded system design. An embedded system is not as much constrained to size requirement as a Tablet designed for common customers. At many times they even may not require an integrated battery. In such case an Ivy Bridge based embedded platform makes a much better sense.
Ivy Bridge gives a lot of flexibility to the designers in terms of software. You have the choice of running Windows CE, or Linux or even Android on x86.
The only potential downside of the Ivy Bridge for the embedded systems is the need of an additional chipset. It is not like ARM where you need just one chip and you are done. At the same time, we have a much faster integrated memory controller, an integrated graphics that is way faster than the ARM solution.
And if power consumption and TDP worries you, just wait for the Haswell and Broadwell. Things are going to change in 2013 and 2014 – we have for the first time a viable competitor to the Apple’s iPad.