Intel's Atom platform was the spark that ignited the netbook revolution and now the company hopes a new version of its low-power CPU will bring Windows 8 slates into the mainstream. Officially launched today, the Intel Atom Z2760 -- formerly code named "Clover Trail" -- will appear on a new generation of lightweight Windows tablets that can weigh as little as 1.5 pounds while measuring just .33 inches and playing over 10 hours of HD video on a charge. 

The dual-core, Atom Z2760 comes as a 32nm SoC (system on a chip) which includes integrated graphics that can play 1080p video and NFC as well as support for Wi-Fi and 3G/4G connections. Able to turbo up to 1.8-GHz and run four threads using Intel Hyper-Threading technology, the new chip also includes support for dual cameras, USB 2.0, LPDDR2 memory and HDMI-out. 

IT departments should also appreciate the Atom Z2760's security and manageability features, including support for Intel's Secure Boot and Platform Trust Technology.  However, if you're looking for vPro support on a tablet you'll need to buy one with a Core Series CPU instead.

At an event today, Intel and its partners plan to demonstrate a variety of Windows 8 slates based on the Atom Z2760. Even before this announcement, we knew that Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet 2, ASUS's Vivo Tab, HP's Envy x2,Samsung's Series 5 Slate and Dell's Latitude 10 would have this next-generation Atom CPU. What remains to be seen is how these devices and others stack up against their ARM-based, Windows RT competitors.

Clearly, Atom Z2760-powered tablets have a distinct advantage over those running on ARM chips, because with full-fledged Windows 8 on board, they can run the millions of desktop applications that have been written for Windows over the years while Windows RT systems can only run new-style Windows 8 apps. However, until we can benchmark shipping products, we don't know whether the Atom Z2760 offers better or worse Windows performance and battery life than its competitors from Nvidia and Qualcomm.