Crack Atmel sales engineer Stuart Cording brought to my attention a teardown of the new Microsoft Surface 2 tablet. While it looks very much like the legacy Surface RT, it is a complete redesign. There is another nice teardown over from my pals at iFixit.
I was delighted to see that the Surface 2 contains two Atmel chips. There is one of our high-performance touch controller chips, the mXT1664S S-series, and our 32-bit AVR chip, the AT32UC3L0256. I have a soft-spot for the AVR 232-bit UC3 chip. It’s got all the cool peripherals and low power from the XMEGA family, but it is a 32 bit chip. I know everybody loves ARM chips and we make a whole bunch of ARM architecture chips, including the SAM D20, but UC3 is a pretty sweet little chip itself, as evidenced by Microsoft’s selection of it in this cost-sensitive consumer application.
The S-series touch chip is a capacitive touch controller chip that provides high performance. It is based on the 32-bit UC3 AVR part, so if you want to write assembly code, you only have to learn once instruction set to use both chips that Microsoft picked. Look to see our T-series chips start to show up on tablets. It raised the performance bar even higher, with precise 0.2mm stylus accuracy, as well as hover and gloved-hand multi touch. We did a little video demo and I asked the engineer if it could do multi-touch with one glove and one stylus and he proved it could.
So keep an eye out for more Atmel touch hardware in tablets, phones, and car dashboards. We had one engineer tell us that while we did have superior hardware, our touch algorithms were also far superior. So you can image how good you can make your display with good hardware and firmware from Atmel.