FUD Zilla has some interesting background information about Intel's new Atom platform. The site claims this idea first came up about 13 years ago, the first project was codenamed Longbow and was under development in mid-1995. Unfortunately the project was shut down three times by Andy Grove and Ticky Thakkar and the last attempt to create a low-power x86 processor stranded in 1998.
Longbow was supposed to be a low power X86 CPU with a superpipeline Pentium P5 like design. Well, as Andy and Ticky didn’t like it, they shut the project down three times.
Andy Grove was the CEO of Intel at that time and Ticky Thakkar is a key guy involved in the Silverthorne project who became a fellow almost ten years ago.
It took Intel more than a decade to realize that this is the way to go and companies such as Texas Instrument understood this years ago and made a huge market presence with tiny miliwatt chips that you can use for mobile phones and similar devices.