Clover trail is already pushing up the daisies

Open source expert Bruce Perens has said that Intel’s Clover Trail, which is supposed to be “Windows only”, is a dead end for other technical and business reasons.

Writing in his blog, Perens said that Intel has killed the chip and not just by making it unavailable to open saucers.

He said that Clover Trail is said to include power-management that will make the Atom run longer under Windows. But that power management was not magic. There is no great secret about shutting down hardware that isn’t being used and this is being done on Linux chips too.

Clover Trail, according to Perens, is not the right architecture for portable devices with limited power budgets. Intel has tried to address this by building a hidden core within the chip that actually runs RISC instructions, while providing the CISC instruction set that ia32 programs like Microsoft Windows expect. But this doesn’t approach ARM’s power efficiency.

Clover Trail is crippled by PowerVR graphics, also known as SGX and Intel GMA 500. Intel doesn’t own the PowerVR architecture, it has just licensed it for Clover Trail and a few previous processors.

There is a lot of bad blood between Imagination Technologies, owner of PowerVR and Linux developers, so Perens might be grinding an ancient axe here. Intel previously used PowerVR in their Poulsbo architecture which Perens said was a disaster.

Perens said that Clover Trail’s target was a future Windows 8 tablet which is the only platform available to the CPU. He thinks that Windows 8 on tablets is going to go tits up and mean that Clover Trail, built with partner Microsoft, might be Intel’s biggest loser since Itanium, built with partner HP.

At least Itanium, had it succeeded, would have offered Intel an exit from the ia32 architecture. Clover Trail offers nothing new or even anything that Intel is likely to re-use in future chips.

He remains hopeful for Valley View, which does away with PowerVR, replacing it with Intel’s own graphics. Intel promises good Linux support for this architecture.