With the release yesterday of Intel's Core series of high-performance, power-efficient processors, makers of space-constrained, mobile and other embedded devices now have a new low-cost option for their designs. The multi-core CPUs, dubbed Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7, incorporate Intel's Hyper Threading technology for fast program execution, a DDR3 memory controller and high definition graphics processor. About 200 embedded designs based on the new parts are reportedly available or soon will be.

"These processors will enable more powerful high performance computers in the embedded space," said Eric Heikkila, director of embedded hardware and systems at VDC Research Group. "When these processors are sold into the embedded market, it will most likely be into embedded systems in benign environments that are running high bandwidth applications," such as those used in communications and networking systems, and in military and aerospace applications.

In an e-mail interview yesterday, Heikkila said the proliferation of Hyper threading, Intel's simultaneous multithreading technology, is likely to accelerate the adoption of multicore parts, for which programming is complex. Hyper Threading was previously available only in Atom, Pentium 4, Xeon and the 45nm i7 processors. "Often times in applications where multicore processors are deployed, some of the cores are sitting idle because programmers simply don’t know how to utilize them all at once," he said. "But multicore processors are still used because that’s what Intel and AMD are selling." As multicore processors become mainstream, programmers won't have much choice but to learn how to take advantage of them, he said. "And experience will likely trickle down from high performance applications, the initial market for these processors, and where there is already familiarity with maximizing multiple cores and threads.

Pricing for the Core i3 for embedded applications starts at US$133 in quantities of 1000.