Intel Plans Centrino Mobile Chip

The processor for laptops and handheld devices will have increased IT management and security features as well as an 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter.
Intel on Wednesday said it would launch this quarter a Centrino Pro mobile processor that includes the company's vPro technology, which increases previous security levels and gives an IT staff the ability to manage a notebook over a wireless network.

Code-named Santa Rosa, the new package includes a Core 2 Duo processor, an improved graphics chipset code-named Crestline, and an 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter. The vPro technology includes Intel's Active Management Technology, which in conjunction with third-party applications provides for controlling PCs from a central location to fix problems. Also built into the platform is technology for discovering a PC even when it is powered off.

The Active Management Technology also includes security features such as the ability to block incoming buffer overflow threats, and to contain infected clients before they cause damage to a network. The platform also makes it possible to set up alerts when critical software agents are removed. In addition, security vendors can make use of the firmware's nonvolatile memory to store information for automatic off-hours virus protection or other software updates.

Other key features in the upgrade include Intel's Trusted Execution Technology, previously code-named LaGrande, which, among other attributes, gives software developers the option of programming to features in the chipset that protect applications once a virus or other malicious code has invaded a desktop system. The features include starting up a software program into a known, trusted state set when the application is first installed, and preventing compromised software from being launched.

The Trusted Execution Technology also offers assigned memory partitions, so an application can be launched into its own contained area, inaccessible from other software or hardware. The third key security feature prevents access to data that's left in memory, a processor cache, or elsewhere in the system when software is closed or crashes.

However, Centrino Pro, which is expected to ship this quarter, won't have features contained in the vPro upgrade -- code-named Weybridge -- which is scheduled for release in the second half of the year for business desktops.

While new for the mobile platform, Intel's vPro software has been available for business desktops since last year. Such technology is often released for wired computers first, and then modified for use in wireless environments. "It's not unusual for these innovations to start at the desktop and migrate to notebooks," a spokeswoman told InformationWeek.

Nevertheless, getting the features into notebooks is pivotal, given that sales of mobile computers far outpace desktops. Centrino Pro "is a key component for enabling IT managers to take the benefits of vPro and apply them across an enterprise, not just desktops," Jim McGregor, analyst for In-Stat, told InformationWeek.

Through 2011, mobile PCs are expected to post a compound annual growth rate of more than 16%, compared with less than 4% for desktops, according to IDC. If that pans out, mobile PCs would account for more than half of all client PCs worldwide in 2011. Pricing for the Centrino Pro was not disclosed.

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