New models of the painfully nerdy Google Glass goggles will use Intel processors, rather than Texas Instrument chips, it's reported.
Today, the expensive headgear is powered by a Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 dual-core Cortex-A9 system-on-chip, which is clocked at 1.2GHz and runs 32-bit ARMv7 code. It also includes PowerVR 2D and 3D graphics acceleration from Imagination.
A move to Intel for Glass isn't quite as bonkers as it sounds: the OMAP processor family's future has been shaky since 2012, when TI axed 1,700 staff and moved away from mobile chippery. Today, the silicon slinger has no samples of the 4430 available, doesn't even list the OMAP 4xxx family on its main ARM processor pages (although the 35xx series gets a nod.)
And the cost of the three-year-old TI chip isn't a problem either; the vast majority of the $1,500 price tag on each Glass goes on Google's R&D rather than the materials. Instead, the chipset appears to be at a dead end.
Meanwhile, Intel has up its sleeve its Quark x86 system-on-chip, which apparently has a TDP between 0.4W and 1.3W. And last month it showed off its MICA smartwatch, which has an Intel-fabbed ARM-compatible processor – technology acquired when Intel bought Infineon.
Either of these chipsets can comfortably drive Glass. The key thing for Intel, when it comes to Google's strap-on, is matching the OMAP 4430's low-power consumption – the TI chip has a TDP of just 0.6W – unless Chipzilla wants to sap Glass batteries.
Overall, we assume a modest – perhaps even a custom – Intel SoC will be picked to drive the small 640-by-360-pixel Glass display, run some code in the headband, and leave most of the processing to the Android smartphone in the wearer's pocket, or the cloud.
That's assuming the rumor behind all this speculation is true: the source is a report from the Wall Street Journal, which cites the ever-reliable "people familiar with the matter." The paper doesn't name the Intel part that is said to be replacing the OMAP 4430.
The change will reportedly coincide with Google pushing Glass as a professional device for doctors, nurses and anyone else who needs a head-mounted display – rather than a toy for dreadful hipsters. Some 300 people within Google are still beavering away on the hardware despite wavering support from app makers.
Intel, meanwhile, is looking for any opportunity to gain ground on rival ARM in the battle for the mobile device market. So these whisperings will be right up its street. ®