03:50 PM
Darrell Dunn
Darrell Dunn

Intel Targets A Mobile Internet As The Path For Growth

A new chip architecture, WiMax cards for notebooks, and new devices called Ultra Mobile PCs highlight the Intel Developers Forum.

Intel cranked up its marketing machine last week, responding to criticism that it has lagged in delivering the highest-performing and most power-efficient processors over the past two years. The company showed off a new chip architecture that will serve as the engine for its future desktop, mobile, and server offerings, touted WiMax as the next-generation wireless data technology, and displayed so-called Ultra Mobile PCs, which could evolve into a new mass-market computing device.

A key focus for the company is mobile computing. Intel's mobile business skyrocketed with the introduction of the Centrino platform in 2003 and the proliferation of Wi-Fi hot-spots. It scored another success early this year when it beat rival Advanced Micro Devices to market with the first dual-core mobile processor, Core Duo. That helped Intel win Apple Computer as a customer for the first time.

WiMax everywhere? Sean Maloney, executive VP and general manager of Intel's mobility group,  even has it in his scooter.

WiMax everywhere? Sean Maloney, executive VP and general manager of Intel's mobility group, even has it in his scooter.

Sean Maloney, executive VP and general manager of Intel's mobility group, leaned against a WiMax-enabled electric scooter on the stage at the Intel Developer Forum last week and described how the company plans to build on those gains with a processor that uses Intel's new Core architecture to deliver a 20% performance increase over the Core Duo without needing more power. Mobile computer makers will be able to offer customers a performance boost with a drop-in processor replacement, he said. It also will move Intel's mobile platform from the 32-bit Core Duo to 64 bits.

Intel also is pushing WiMax, a next-generation wireless data technology that provides greater range and faster data speeds than Wi-Fi. In the second half of the year, Intel will introduce a WiMax card for notebooks, even though WiMax standards have only recently been finalized and almost no public hot-spots offer it as a service. Still, Maloney demonstrated concept PCs that feature integrated WiMax and Wi-Fi, a future direction for mainstream Intel mobile platforms.

In the first half of 2007, Intel will revamp its mobile computing platform with the addition of a chipset that will use NAND flash memory to facilitate faster boot-ups, and a chipset supporting new wireless LAN standards like 802.11n.

Shrinking The PC
Intel also believes there's room for new kinds of mobile computing devices, those that "shrink the PC" into handheld systems. One approach was unveiled last week under the Microsoft Origami umbrella (see story, p. 15), and Intel demonstrated some prototype devices of its own. The market for these handheld devices, which will have touch-sensitive screens that range in size from 4 inches to 8 inches, can grow to millions of units a year, said Mooly Eden, VP of the mobile platforms group. That market will get a boost when Intel delivers an ultralow-power processor that can deliver a full day of battery life.

The ability to combine high-performance processors and the latest wireless technologies into new form factors will be increasingly important as the Internet plays an even bigger role in business and personal lives, Maloney said. It's "the place where we go for news, entertainment, education, and to extend our social lives," he said. "The next stage of Internet growth is to make this mobile."

While Intel still dominates the mobile chip market, it has lost ground to AMD. The much smaller rival increased its share of mobile processor market revenue from 8% in 2004 to 12% in the fourth quarter of 2005, according to Gartner. AMD also grew its share of mobile processor units sold from 12.2% in 2004 to 15.1% in the fourth quarter of 2005, Mercury Research says. AMD plans to keep the pressure on by introducing in the second quarter its first dual-core mobile processor, the Turion 64X2. The processor will include DDR2 memory and hardware virtualization.

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