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Intel Aims Dual-Core Chip At Mobile Market

New Napa platform promises better graphics and virtualization
For Intel, mobile means growth. Processors used in laptops already are the main source of revenue growth as Intel prepares to release a new mobile-computing platform in early 2006 that uses a dual-core chip.

Intel expects that as many as one-third of all its PC microprocessors shipped next year will end up in mobile platforms that combine the chips with graphics, wireless, virtualization, and other technologies. The company's next-generation Napa mobile platform will be available in the first quarter of 2006 and will use its first dual-core processor designed from the ground up for mobile applications, code-named Yonah.

Intel's efforts over the past few years in the mobile market have been successful in terms of both volumes shipped and in creating strong brand recognition. The Centrino brand has become nearly synonymous with mobility. In the first quarter of this year, Intel brought out an enhanced Centrino platform, which helped the company continue its momentum.

Intel's mobility group saw revenue grow to $3 billion in the first quarter of 2005, up more than a third from a year earlier. In contrast, sales of processors for use in desktop PCs and servers are stagnant.

Along with the dual-core Yonah processor, the Napa platform will have a Calistoga graphics engine, wireless LAN capabilities, and virtualization and active-management technology. Yonah will utilize a shared 2-Mbyte, Level 2 cache, with the ability to allocate memory resources dynamically to the processing cores, depending on work demands. The Calistoga graphics will provide the same level of performance as Intel's desktop platforms.

Mobile processor "demand is on the high end of expectations and is a global phenomenon," says Sean Maloney, executive VP and general manager of Intel's mobile platforms group. "The market is hot and we're feeling good about our product position."

Maloney also says that after about five years of struggle and setbacks, Intel's cellular-phone efforts are expected to gain momentum this year. Intel expects to end the year with an annual run-rate of about 30 million processors shipping into the cell-phone market.

Intel sees increasing synergy between the laptop-computer and cell-phone markets, and Maloney says the company plans to merge the manufacturing technologies used in both areas over the next three years.