Intel has announced the launch of its first configurable Atom-based processors, known as the E600C series, which combine an Intel Atom Tunnel Creek chip with an Altera Field Programmable Gate Array into the same package. The company says that this combined package should make it easier for OEMs to go to market with differentiated, custom-made designs, to meet the evolving needs of embedded device market segments.

The E600C series will go on sale in January, starting with 1.0GHz and 1.3GHz versions built for commercial or industrial applications, with four lower end variants scheduled to be available within 60 days. Embedded computing is a market in which ARM has been an industry leader for a long time and Intel is trying to get a piece of the cake. By combining the strengths of FPGAs in a product that also supports the widespread x86 architecture, Intel could be onto something, though it is likely to take some time before cautious OEMs opt for one of Intel's hybrid chips.

Nevertheless, Intel is ready to take on the challenge. Earlier this month the company also announced a partnership with Achronix Semiconductor -- a relatively small player in the field-programmable gate array (FPGA) market making specialized chips for sectors like networking, communications and high-performance computing. The deal will see Intel dedicating a small portion of its manufacturing capacity to make 22nm FPGA chips for Achronix, gaining experience in the process to possibly reach out to other FPGA vendors down the road and apply the technology on its Atom chips.