Earlier this week at their 2011 developer form, Intel demonstrated a processor that blew my mind. It was not a 5-core power saving processor or an insanely powerful chip; instead, it was a processor with such low power requirements that Intel could power it with a solar panel the size of a postage stamp.
Codenamed the Claremont, the new bit of silicon is what Intel calls a near-threshold voltage processor. Basically, this means that the transistors in the chip can draw almost no power when the workload is light enough. The previously mentioned demonstration involved clearly shows how well the concept works, as the processor was able to run a Linux OS with only the power provided by the solar cell.
While the solar cell provided an interesting demonstration, it is not the most practical takeaway from the announcement. Because the Claremont draws so little power when idle, it could have vast applications in the world of mobile technology, from UMPC's running Windows 8 to MIDs, and even smartphones running Android. (Google recently announced that they would begin optimizing Android for Intel processors.) The technology would be especially applicable to always-on devices, as they could draw much less power than current chips when idle.
The Claremont and near-threshold technology, while currently more concepts that would probably need to be optimized for mobile use, still have great potential to improve the lacking battery life in current devices. As far as I am concerned, they can't come soon enough.[Wired]